One of my family’s favorite holiday traditions is spending a day at Gaylord National. The hotel is beautiful all year long but at Christmas time it becomes magical.
This year, we spent the night to make the experience even more complete and last longer.
The ICE! exhibit is the main attraction but don’t overlook the huge Christmas Village and other activities the hotel and National Harbor have to offer.
ICE! is a truly awe-inspiring experience. The exhibit has literally tons of hand-carved, larger-than-life, full color ice sculptures spread across multiple rooms.
As you enter ICE! it feels like you are entering the storybook itself with a large title sign and wreath (perfect for photo ops!).
Grab a cup of hot chocolate on your way out!
Tickets are timed entry, but you can stay as long as you like once inside. Or, grab a Chill Pass to bypass the line and enter any time you wish on the day of your choosing.
The Ice Slides
For many kids, the highlight of visiting ICE is the ice slides in the middle of the exhibit. There is even a smaller slide just for the four and under crowd.
My kids loved going on the slides and over and over again. Plenty of adults got in on the action too.
Attractions and Activities
Storytime with Mrs. Claus and the Elf
A “sweet” experience is cookies and milk during story time with Mrs. Claus and Snowflake the Elf.
Mrs. Claus plays the part perfectly. Along with her bubbly sidekick Snowflake the Elf she asks kids about their favorite holiday traditions and reads them
The Night Before Christmas while they enjoy warm, gooey chocolate chip cookies and milk. Storytime ends with all of the kids going onto the stage with Mrs. Claus to play music and sing.
Cookie and Gingerbread House Decorating
Decorating cookies and building gingerbread houses is a time-honored tradition for many families.
Gaylord’s Gingerbread Decorating Corner has several options for cookie and gingerbread house decorating – and best of all they clean up the mess.
My kids had the best time decorating their Gingerbread family of cookies and we then had a ready-made snack for later in the day.
Snow Flow Mountain
Take unlimited rides down the mechanized, conveyor belts that have frozen solid and ride tubes down a thrilling plummet slide or hilly ice coaster at Snow Factory.
Make sure to always purchase these tickets far in advance.
RELATED: Here Comes Santa Claus
Ice Skating and More
This year the Christmas Village features an ice-skating rink in Winter Square. All skating includes rentals and all-day skating so it’s possible to get in a couple of sessions.
As a family with very new skaters, one thing I appreciated was the presence of ice guards who helped struggling skaters and gave mini-lessons to kids who needed help getting started.
I had two brand-new skaters with me and both had a great time after getting a little help from staff getting started.
Ice Bumper Cars
Brand new this year is Ice Bumper Cars. It’s exactly like bumper cars but with whole lot of snow in it!
Slide, spin, and bump your friends and family as you zoom around.
Merry Snoopy Scavenger Hunt
Explore the hotel and help Snoopy deck his house out for the Dog House Decorating Competition in this fun, resort-wide scavenger hunt.
One scavenger hunt booklet can be shared by multiple kids and it’s a fun family activity.
Snowball Build and Blast
Build and toss real snowballs to boost the power of the snowmaking machines and earn points in this experience at Snow Factory, the mechanized, snowy play space.
Staying at the Hotel
If you are able to swing a staycation a night (or two!) at Gaylord National is a lot of fun. Staying overnight meant we never felt rushed and could do more activities than we otherwise could have.
We also loved swimming in Gaylord’s pool, which is a constant 3.6 feet so is kid-safe.
There are also other activities available just for hotel guests, including an ice carving demonstration, silent disco, and special story time with the Elf.
There are some other nice perks like watching the laser light show from the room’s balcony. For families with little ones it’s really nice having a room to go back to for naps or some down-time.
Gaylord National is in the heart of the National Harbor, a bustling shopping and eating area with plenty of activities. Don’t miss the Capital Wheel, an enormous Ferris Wheel with enclosed, climate-controlled cars.
Also explore the beach area by the Potomac, the shops, and the restaurants.
Be sure to check out the Gaylord National’s site to see what else is on, including visits with Santa, a train ride, and several shows.
A visit just to see ICE! is definitely worth a visit on its own, but be sure to at least take a look at other available activities and experiences to be sure you don’t miss out on something you know your child will love!
Good to Know
- Pricing varies greatly based upon when you visit and if any specials are running. There are also several different packages available that have significant savings.
- We suggest deciding which activities you would most like to do (or if you want to do all of them!) and find the package that is the best fit.
- If you have a little one, note that strollers are not permitted in the ICE! exhibit, but there is stroller parking just outside the entrance.
- There were plenty of babies in carries when I visited. We strongly recommend bringing a stroller if your child usually uses one since there is a lot of walking in the hotel.
- ICE! is cold at a very chilly nine degrees. Big, blue parkas are mandatory to stay warm.
- You need to bring your own gloves and hats. Because everyone looks alike in blue parkas we suggest using bright hats or hats with big pom-poms so that you can easily find your kids.
- Parkas are available as small as 2T and if a parent wears a slightly big parka it can be snapped over a baby.
- As cold as ICE! is, with the parka, gloves, and a hat no one in my family has ever gotten uncomfortably cold.
- Park on-site at Gaylord National or in one of the nearby garages. Note that some packages include parking and discounted pre-paid parking is available in the hotel.
- Check out the full range of Christmas on the Potomac events at Gaylord National Resort to ensure you get the most out of your visit.
The Gaylord National is located at 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, MD 20745.