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“Christmas on the Potomac” ICE! at the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center The South Pole Comes to National Harbor

Jordan Wright
November 19, 2013
Special to The Alexandria Times

Gaylord National's ICE Santa Reindeer

Gaylord National’s ICE Santa Reindeer

Santa and Company won’t get a moment’s rest this holiday season at the Gaylord National Resort.  And neither, it seems certain, will his merry elves.  If you haven’t gotten the Christmas spirit yet, a visit to the resort will kick it into high gear.  Named one of the “Twelve Most Festive Places to Find Holiday Spirit” by AAA, the Gaylord National’s ICE! is bringing a magical Arctic paradise to our region from now until January 5th.

Who cares if the weather is frightful!  Inside this winter wonderland you’ll find twice-nightly indoor snowfalls in the 1½-acre atrium replete with gardens and a small stream set amidst a colonial village and a 60-foot-tall glimmering glass “Tree of Light”.  Sit beside a water fountain to watch colorful waterspouts soar three stories while dancing to Christmas carols every hour until nine at night.

ICE 2013 at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

ICE 2013 at Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

Just off the 19-story atrium is the main event — ICE! – – a breathtaking village of larger-than-life ice sculptures hand-carved from two million pounds of real ice.  This year’s theme interprets Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, “Twas the Night Before Christmas”.   The winter wonderland was created by forty master artisans sculpting 5,000 blocks of ice from China’s Songhua River into the most popular themes of Christmas.

ICE 2013 Slide Room

ICE 2013 Slide Room

Roaming through the enormous white tent you’ll see all the trappings of the holiday in living color – – from adorable mice all snug in their beds (actually giant teacups) awaiting Santa’s arrival, to Santa on his sleigh with his nine not-so-tiny reindeer.  And you needn’t travel to New York when this year’s highlight is the city-in-ice at Christmas.  Just hop inside a bright yellow ice taxi and you’re on your way to Rockefeller Center.  The interactive exhibit is kept at an icy 9-degrees so despite the big blue loaner parkas issued at the door, be sure to wear your hat and gloves.

Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating

Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating

But the Christmas spirit doesn’t end there.  Beneath the tree is a Peeps & Company old-fashioned “Potomac Express Train” for the little ones and Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating center where the whole family can create a gingerbread house or gingerbread family together.  All the sweetest decorations from icing to gumdrops are provided.  A life-size “Gingy” presides over the shop giving out heart-warming hugs to all the children.

Another fun activity is getting up close and personal with King Julien, Alex the Lion and their friends at their Madagascar Crack’ A Lackin’ Cook-in Character Breakfast.  These crazy guys are always ready to party while you dine on Madagascar-themed breakfast items including a Flingin’ Chimps chocolate fountain.  Afterwards join the self-guided interactive scavenger hunt for clues from the Madagascar movie to solve the puzzle.  Shrek, Fionna, Donkey and Puss in Boots are there too sharing the meaning of Christmas.

Up on the rooftop overlooking the Potomac River from the 18th floor, Sunday brunch is served.  Reservations are strongly advised for this event that sells out every year.  The lavish brunch includes delicious savory selections along with gorgeous desserts like Yule log cakes, peppermint whoopee pies, chocolate chestnut s’mores and sticky toffee pudding.  Santa is on hand to pose for keepsake photos.

Christmas - Nighty Tree Lighting Show

Christmas – Nighty Tree Lighting Show

Dazzling light displays are everywhere from Christmas trees throughout the lobby to two million twinkling LED lights.  At night you can even witness the changing colors of the Northern Lights.

The best view and most romantic spot for viewing the snow cascading down is two stories above the garden level at the Old Hickory Steakhouse bar where you can pass the time while sipping Yule time spirits.

To purchase tickets to ICE! and ‘Brunch with Santa’ or to check on schedules for the hotel’s free events visit for information or call 301 965-4000. 

Potomac Express in Atrium

Potomac Express in Atrium

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