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Have you ever heard of the famous ice sculpture festival that takes place every year in Harbin, China? Did you know that every year talented artisans from this festival descend on the Gaylord National resort in order to bring iconic Christmas scenes to life for families in the Greater DC metro area? If you live in the DC-MD-VA area, you simply must visit ICE at Gaylord National with your kids.
8 Amazing Reasons to Visit ICE at Gaylord National With Your Kids
1. ICE! is just plain cool (or rather cold… pun intended).
My husband and I are huge fans of ICE! We seriously have been coming to this frozen extravaganza for about 7 or 8 years. Every year, the ice sculptors transform about 2 million pounds of ice into amazing scenes from iconic holiday books and movies. In past years the exhibits have ranged from Frosty the Snowman, to the Grinch, to Christmas Around the World. This year the theme is Charlie Brown Christmas and it may be my favorite ICE! yet!
You won’t believe how detailed the ICE sculptures are. You are literally transported into the book, movie, or TV show the exhibit is based on. The reason why the ice sculptors can be so detailed is basically because it is super duper cold inside the ICE tent.
It is so cold you are actually given a blue anorak to wear. We are talking 9 degrees cold. Yipes! Trust me though, with the anorak on, you will be plenty toasty. Just don’t forget to bring you hat and gloves. Tip: Don’t wear your heavy coat under the anorak. If you do, you might not be able to move your arms.
2. Photo Opportunities are Everywhere!
Did I mention that the ice sculptors are so good at what they do that you literally feel transported into the fictional land being portrayed? Don’t forget to bring your camera because you will absolutely want to take a ton of photos.
3. ICE Slides!
One of the highlights of ICE! are the gigantic ice slides. Very slick, but so much fun. I even rode down the slide with Sweet Pea in my lap one year. There are slides for kids as well as older kids and adults.
4. The True Meaning of Christmas.
At the end of the tour, ICE! always recreates the nativity scene dubbed, ‘The true story of Christmas.’ Regardless of whether or not you celebrate Christmas as a religious holiday, it is pretty moving.
Other Christmas Festivities at the Gaylord National
Not content to just leave the Christmas fun to the sub-zero climate, the Gaylord National resort offers many activities for families. Some are free and some have a cost. You can also book a room at the Gaylord National which overlooks the main festivities. We haven’t done this yet, but when Sweet Pea is a little older I am sure that we will.
Here are some of our favorite activities at Christmas on the Potomac:
5. Cookies with Mrs. Claus
You can enhance your ICE experience with a lot of different add-on activities. Cookies and milk with Mrs. Claus was super cute. You are ushered into a semi-private room with lots of funky bean bag chairs. Kids are given a huge cookie and bottle of milk and they listen as Mrs. Claus reads them a story. Afterwards each kid gets their own copy of the book and a chance to have Mrs. Claus sign it. It was totally adorable.
6. Gingerbread House or Gingerbread family decorating
I am so glad we opted to decorate a Gingerbread Family too! My 5-year old really loved spreading the icing on thick and then loading it up with candy pieces. I am not sure we will eat the cookies… ever. However, while we were decorating them, she actually thanked me for bringing her on this adventure. My heart just about melted right there. #parentingwin
7. Other iconic Christmas festivities
There are other activities you might want to check out while you are at the Gaylord National that are officially part of the Christmas Village. Some of them include:
- a carousel
- a miniature train
- Build-A-Bear Christmas workshop and scavenger hunt
- Ice skating
and of course.. meeting Santa Claus himself!
8. Nightly Atrium Christmas Tree Illumination and Cirque Dreams Unwrapped
If you can time your visit for late afternoon, you will definitely be in for a fantastic treat! Every night at 630, 730, and 9PM, the enormous Christmas tree that is suspended in the Gaylord National Atrium is illuminated with an impressive laser, light, and fountain show set to some of your favorite Christmas carols. It is totally awesome.. and FREE (yep.. no cost to watch the show).
A new for 2018 show is Cirque Dreams Unwrapped. This very family friendly show runs throughout the day (check the schedule) and offers limited FREE seating. You can also purchase guaranteed seating for $19.99/person (we did this and it was worth it because we were seated in the first row!). The show itself is like a mini Cirque du Soleil show. It was pretty awesome and my 6-year old was completely enthralled. It was a really fantastic way to add to the already amazing ICE!
Is ICE! appropriate for very young kids?
Well, yes… and no. This is the very definition of an activity where you need to know the limits of your child. Bottom line: it is very very cold inside ICE! Even though you will be wearing big blue coats, your kids will still feel the cold air on their faces. If they are sensitive to that sort of thing… or if they are sick at all, you might want to reconsider. When my daughter was 1 year old, we took her and she seemed to like it ok. However, we took her when she was 2 years old, and she literally screamed the entire time. Screamed. She hated it. She did not appreciate Frosty the Snowman. She hated wearing the blue anorak because it meant she could not move her arms. She hated it.
We skipped age 3 but were back for age 4 and 5.. and other than complaining about the cold on her face, she has absolutely loved it.
Still– before you commit, you just need to know your child and what they can reasonably handle.
If you do go, here are some tips:
- Don’t bundle your young kids up in a heavy coat and then put the anorak on top of it. That is overkill. Your kid will be uncomfortable. Instead, have them wear a heavy sweater or light jacket so that the anorak still allows for movement. Parking for ICE! is basically indoors, so you won’t have to worry about coats for inside the Gaylord National.
- Plan to go at a non-peak time (basically weekdays through mid-month) or on a weekend morning.
- Plan to spend some time at the other festivities the Gaylord National offers during Christmas on the Potomac. The train, snowfall, and fountain show are sure hits with the younger crowd.
- Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center is located at 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, Maryland 20745
- Admission costs are: Peak/General ($44 Adult, $38 Child 4-11) and Value Days ($32 Adult, $24 Child). Kids 3 and under are free.
- No strollers are allowed in ICE! but there is a very convenient stroller park next to the entrance.
Have you been to ICE!? Are you planning to go this year? See you there!
Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas!
Would you like more ideas on Fun Things to Do With Kids during the holiday season? Check out these ideas as well!