In the early 1900s, European fashions found their way into China not through the country’s commercial center, Shanghai, nor through its capitol, Beijing. New clothing dyes and suit cuts first arrived in Harbin, a city in the far North of China, near Inner Mongolia and Russia. Style immigrated there because taste makers in Moscow followed what happened in Paris, and the rest of Russia followed Moscow. Harbin was the city closest to the Russian border.
Today, the gritty industrial hub of 10 million people no longer glitters with Parisian influence, but still attracts thousands of international visitors. They come to see the Harbin Ice and Snow Festival—the largest such festival in the world. 10,000 workers start building the park in October. All 180,000 cubic meters of ice comes from Harbin's Songhua river.
The festival, now in its nineteenth year, runs from mid-January to mid-February. More than 100,000 people visit the park each year, gawking at the extraordinary array of ice and snow sculptures. Attendees can also sled, ski, tube, take reindeer rides, cuddle with foxes, watch penguins play and snack on frozen desserts.
If you're planning on visiting the festival budget for at least a full day. The grounds are bigger than Disneyland and you'll have to take many breaks from the cold (Harbin often goes weeks at a time in sub-zero temperatures). Bring the warmest boots you own. Thermals are a must. Heat packs for your hands and toes won't hurt either. Admission to the park is about $50/person.