ICE! and the Christmas Village at Gaylord National

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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.  This year’s theme for ICE! is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas.  As you enter ICE!  it feels like you are entering the storybook itself with a large title sign and wreath (perfect for photo ops!) and a big Welcome to Whoville to let you know you are entering a replica of the town where the tale takes place.    Once inside Whoville, following along with the entire story of The Grinch right up through when his heart grows three sizes and the entire town has an enormous feast.  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.

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.

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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.

Feast with The Grinch: 

You don’t have to live in Whoville to feast with the Grinch!  Meet the Grinch and Max while you dine on Grinch-inspired breakfast treats like green waffles.   More typical breakfast foods, like an omelet station, dessert waffle bar and tons more. The Grinch and Max spend plenty of time at each table for photos and hugs.   My five year old was especially thrilled to see Max and give the Grinch a high five after  he was pretty sure it was the “nice” Grinch who wouldn’t steal his gifts.

Ice Skating: 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.

Reindeer Rush Ice Tube Slides: Brand new this year is Reindeer Rush Ice Tube Slides.  These two-story slides go fast and kids absolutely cannot get enough of them.  Fortunately there are four slides so the line moves pretty quickly and kids can get in plenty of sliding with the all-day pass. These slides are bigger and faster than the ice slides in the ICE! exhibit and my kids definitely thought it was a worthwhile add-on.  I had fun too!

The Grinch’s Scavenger Hunt:  Explore the hotel and complete The Grinch’s Wonderful Awful Idea Scavenger Hunt. Solve the clues and puzzles to stop the Grinch from stealing the presents and if successful in your mission you receive a prize.  One scavenger hunt booklet can be shared by multiple kids and it’s a fun family activity.   The prize we got was a clip-on Grinch for backpacks for each child.

Atrium Laser Light Show:  The nightly free atrium laser show is free and fun!  The huge Christmas tree that dominates Gaylord National’s atrium is lit up and the fountain changes color and moves in time to music.  The show is free for everyone.  If you stay at the hotel you can request a room with a view of the show or head down to the atrium to witness the spectacle up close.

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.

National Harbor:  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.

There’s more…:  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!

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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.



Have fun — and stay warm!




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OK Editorial Team

Our Kids has been bringing you more family fun, experiences & adventure since 1999.