FX Excursions

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Christmas on the Potomac

by Irvina Lew

Dec 24, 2019

Sgoodwin4813 | Dreamstime.com


“Why this sound sounded merry! It couldn’t be so! But it was merry! Very!” exclaimed The Grinch in Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The Grinch is very much a part of the Christmas on the Potomac celebration taking place at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, a Marriott Hotel, in Maryland.


Christmas on the Potomac. Photo: Irvina Lew

After a nine-mile drive from Union Station in Washington D.C., we arrived at a waterfront destination where the imposing Capital Wheel (a Ferris wheel) is the centerpiece of the community, with movies and Santa rides during the holidays. On the short drive to the hotel — past apartment dwellings and office buildings with ground-floor commercial establishments — I noticed restaurants, a cheese shop, wine shop, market and the waterfront promenade.


The vast lobby of the Gaylord, an almost 2,000-room hotel, welcomed with fabulous holiday decorations and a display with a multitude of gingerbread houses. From the lobby, from restaurants and many of the rooms, guests can view the 1.5-acre Garden Atrium, with a huge, star-shaped tree pointing toward the 19th-floor ceiling. Behind its glass walls, the Capital Wheel is in full view.


Merry aptly describes the multitude of family-friendly experiences set amidst millions of holiday lights and fabulous floral displays. The hotel events are open to the public and some are even complimentary, such as the three nightly performances of the “Christmas Miracles Light Show,” a nightly sound, laser light and dancing fountains extravaganza. Something is always happening in the Atrium, including Capital Blend, an eight female a capella group.


The breathtaking highlight show “Cirque Dreams Unwrapped” is an all too exciting, 25-minute performance with acrobats and flying trapeze artists that takes place footsteps from front row, and then, high above the Garden Atrium stage.

Christmas on the Potomac. Photo: Irvina Lew


Each year, the Gaylord builds an enormous Christmas Village — 35,000 square feet this year — offering child-friendly events and holiday boutiques, including a Build-a-Bear Workshop. New this year is an exciting 15-foot-high, four-lane ice tubing hill called Reindeer Rush.


Tickets and packages of tickets are needed for some activities, such as a private space for creative youngsters to decorate gingerbread houses from a kit or enjoy warm cookies and milk as they listen to Mrs. Claus tell the ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.


The spectacular event is ICE, in a 15,000-square-foot tent cooled to 9 degrees (they give you a parka to top your layers). This amazing display illustrates the story of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas with hand-carved ice sculptures in 13 vibrant colors, including a house-sized igloo in clear ice. Forty ice carvers from the Harbin Ice Festival in Beijing, China, carve the annual display from 2,000,000 pounds of ice. Plus, there’s a new ice-skating rink, Winter Square.


Families visiting D.C. can travel by car/taxi (there’s a metro and bus, but it’s complicated), but it’s best to stay overnight. Overnight guests enjoy certain private-to-guest privileges, such as skating on the outside rink on holiday Saturdays, 9–10 p.m., watching a private ice-carving demonstration by Chinese artisans and starting the weekend at the Grinch Feast, eating green eggs and ham.


Among the holiday family packages, guests who reserve the Christmas Suite enjoy in-room sweet treats, valet parking and a one-hour private photoshoot.


The rooms are spacious and ours had a balcony overlooking the Atrium. Rooms include televisions with cable, free WiFi, a safe and bathrooms with showers, tubs and amenities.


The Relache Spa has 13 treatment rooms, including a couple’s suite. On a lower level, there’s an arcade, fitness center and huge indoor pool. There are shops and food stands as well as three restaurants. At Pienza Market, there’s a terrific omelet maker, an impressive breakfast buffet, and lots of pizza and burger items are on the menu at National Pastime Sports Bar and Grill. At Old Hickory Steakhouse, Patricio was as warm as the bread he served along with steaks and terrific sides. The mini egg nogs and chocolate cream in chocolate cups were perfect.


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