The Grinch reimaged in intricate ice carvings, superfast indoor snow tubing and a Ferris wheel ride with Santa high above the D.C. area. Sound like fun? You and your family can experience all this and lots more this holiday season at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center.
The almost 2,000-room resort is celebrating Christmas in a big way. The main attraction is the return of ICE!, a 15,000-square-foot room chilled to 9 degrees that this year is filled with Dr. Seuss characters from How the Grinch Stole Christmas hand-carved by artisans from China. But even if you don’t want to shell out for the pricey tickets (or are just averse to cold), there is still lots to do at this hotel and in National Harbor. Here are the highlights:
It took more than 2 million pounds of ice to create the scenes in Dr. Seuss’s beloved holiday tale. Dress warmly, don one of the provided and required blue parkas and stroll through the displays, structures and walk-through carvings. But, before you go, know this attraction is not for everyone. Even though the theme is a kids’ favorite story, beyond two short ice slides (one for smaller children, one for bigger kids and adults) there really isn’t much for kids to do here besides pose for photos — you are instructed before you enter not to touch or lick anything. You may want to leave your cell phone elsewhere as batteries are known to shut off in the frigid temps; a GoPro or action camera is a safer bet. Staff will take a photo of your parka-clad group, though that’s available for purchase. Plan on 15–20 minutes to see everything, or longer if you tend to linger. Tickets start at $33 for guests 12 and over, $25 for ages 4–11 and 3 and under are free.
Cirque Dreams Unwrapped
Held several times per day in the hotel atrium, this 25-minute holiday performance includes trapeze, acrobatics, music and balancing acts that will appeal most to younger kids. You can buy seats for the stage level or fountain level, but even if you don’t purchase tickets you will be able to stand and catch some of the show from the side of the stage or from your hotel room if it faces the atrium. Fountain-level seating costs $17.99, stage-level seating is $19.99.
Adjacent to ICE! is a festive spot with holiday shopping and activities. Most fun is Reindeer Rush Ice Tubing, with riders whooshing down one of four tracks on oversized tubes. $20.99 gets kids and adults unlimited rides on the day of purchase, and judging by the smiles and squeals it’s well worth it. Younger children 52 inches or shorter can take a ride on the Village Express train ($4.99). The Christmas Village also houses a holiday shop with decor, sweet treats, ornaments, souvenirs and more. You can get your photo taken with Santa (prices vary), sing with and hear a story read by Mrs. Claus while enjoying freshly-baked cookies and milk ($12.99 per guest), decorate a gingerbread house, The Grinch cookie or gingerbread cookie ($30–39) or build and dress a Gaylord Hotels bear at the Build-A-Bear Workshop (prices vary).
If you can brave the cold D.C. temps, head outside to this new space overlooking the Potomac River, adorned with strands of lights and decor, and don’t miss the photo opp in front of the group of shiny, oversized Christmas balls. Warm up in front of a fire pit, sip a holiday libation or mug of hot chocolate at the ugly sweater-themed bar Tinsel Tavern or glide around the ice skating rink ($16.99 for unlimited day-of skating, rentals included.)
A short walk away, this massive Ferris wheel soars 180 feet above the D.C. area, giving you photo-worthy views of the Potomac River, National Harbor, Alexandria and The District. Forty-two climate-controlled gondolas can hold six to eight adults; rides lasts around 12–15 minutes, plenty of time to see the area from all angles and capture those selfies. The ride costs $15 for adults, $11.25 for children aged 3–11 and it’s free for kids under 2; discounted admission of $13.50 is available for seniors and those in the military. On Saturdays through Dec. 21 Santa will ride the wheel with guests from 12–4 p.m. For a truly luxe ride book the VIP experience for $50 a person, which includes a leather bucket seat-equipped gondola for up to four guests, Amazon Alexa Technology to hear music, a glass floor, a deluxe photo package and skipping to the front of the line. No matter how you ride, it’s a great way to spend part of a crispy, sunny December day.
Extend your holiday revelry with a stay at the Gaylord and you’ll have access to activities reserved only for hotel guests. The best rooms have a view of the atrium where you’ll be able to sit on your balcony and see the lights, decorations and people-watch. See a live ice carving demonstration in the atrium held by the artisans from Harbin, China, who created ICE!. Stop by the post office right in the lobby next to the registration desk to write a letter to Santa that can either be dropped into the bright red mailbox or hung on the Christmas tree. Attend a silent disco on ice at the ice rink, during which three music channels will pump out tunes to personal, wireless headphones. Sit with Snowflake the Elf in the living room at Mrs. Claus’ house in Christmas Village for a nighttime tradition of story time. And see a nightly holiday show in the atrium featuring laser lights, a dancing fountain, Christmas music and snow. For more information on rates and availability, check the website.
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