A few years ago, Kanye was filming a music video in Iceland and I joined him and Kim and friends there for my birthday. We had such an amazing time and the whole trip we kept saying our next trip was going to be to Finland (for absolutely no reason), and it has been on my mind ever since. It’s so different from my regular life and usual vacations in tropical and Mediterranean cities. We went right before my birthday on spring break, and it was truly such a magical experience.
We stayed at the Arctic TreeHouse Hotel, which is super charming. It’s this stunning modern design in the middle of the woods on a lake. I’d heard so much about the famous igloo hotel and had initially wanted to stay there, but after learning about what the Arctic TreeHouse had to offer, I was sold. They took such good care of us and had everything we needed nearby or on the property (including tubing right outside, which the kids and myself loved).
The hotel had an incredible traditional sauna, which is huge in Finland. Everyone goes there to sweat and detox, by going back and forth between a freezing cold dip in the icy lake and the sauna to shock their system. It’s supposed to be really healthy and great for lymphatic flow. I was only able to do it twice—my feet were so cold after the second plunge they were numb, and I didn’t think I was going to make it back to the sauna.
The hotel also had a Santa park on their property. Everything in Finland is about Christmas and Santa Claus, so you can imagine it’s absolutely magical for the kids. The first night we arrived at the hotel, an elf paid us a visit and gave the kids letters from Santa inviting them to his workshop. The elf read them a story while the kids were all in their cozy matching pajamas—it was like an adorable Christmas dream.
We went to Santa’s house after the kids visited the workshop, where we had dinner and the kids got to sit on his lap and tell them all their Christmas wishes. They cooked us fresh salmon for dinner—all the food in Finland is so clean and healthy, and almost everything is gluten-free. The hotel even made my avocado smoothie one morning, which I thought was so sweet.
One thing that caught me off-guard about the food is that they eat a lot of reindeer. Almost every restaurant had reindeer on the menu, and one even served bear. I didn’t feel ready to try it, but at Rakas Restaurant in the hotel, I did try reindeer bone broth, which was super hearty and actually delicious. They use all ingredients local to the property, so there’s lots of fish from the lake, wild mushrooms, and berries that they make the best tea out of (like Christmas in a cup).
Other notable restaurants, Roka and Nili, are both located in downtown Rovaniemi. Roka is a more traditional bistro, but the dishes still tasted unique. Nili was the interesting spot that served bear and bear stock. It had distinctive textures like carrot foam and herbal broths made from nettle. When traveling, I like to dive into the local activities and be open to all the food to give myself and the kids an authentic experience.
The kids got to do some true ice fishing while we did a more relaxing activity—arctic floating. We put on these big suits that made us look like Teletubbies and kept us dry like a wetsuit while we floated on the lake. It was freezing out and a bit of a weird sensation, so we only made it for about 10 minutes.
Besides all the food and relaxation, there are some more active things you can do with kids. We visited a reindeer farm, where we got to ride a sleigh pulled by reindeer, which felt like the ultimate winter experience. The kids and I had so much fun tubing down the snowy hills.
Because of my love for Christmas, getting to experience it in April over spring break was really enchanting. The highlight of the trip was seeing the northern lights, which we chased in Iceland but never saw.
Something about Finland is so cozy and homey, yet exhilarating—it felt so pure.