Shortly after enjoying a spectacular Thanksgiving feast of turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes, we packed a few light bags. Early the next afternoon, we braved the busy holiday traffic to spend our weekend away visiting ICE! at the Gaylord National Harbor. With my children donning their most festive outfits, we arrived excited to welcome in the holiday season. In the lobby, the bustling crowds asking for an early check-in almost made us second guess our choice of date. Even though this was a much busier time of year than Summerfest was, I was impressed with the captivating winter decor, which made it well worth visiting.
Merry Grinchmas from ICE! at the Gaylord National Harbor
Usually, my holiday weekends involve cozy movie nights at home. We make one main outing to buy a Christmas tree at a local organic farm, but staying in with a warm blanket and the glowing fireplace has become a tradition. I would rather be watching one of our favorite Christmas movies than standing in the cold or trying to find parking. However, for about eight years, I have wanted to visit ICE! to show my children the beautiful display. Finally, this was our chance.
Over the summer at Summerfest, we won the tickets to see the Grinch-themed holiday display of ice carvings in a trivia game. We were excited to book an overnight stay and make a weekend getaway out of it.
Immediately, we went to the ICE! display. It was unlike anything I had seen before! Giant ice sculptures were perfectly carved and dyed to create the story of the Grinch. The detail of every eyelash, outfit, and hair style was astonishing.
With the joyous holiday season arriving, unfortunately greed and gift shopping can easily become the focus. Seeing the story of how the Grinch gained a heart was a beautiful reminder to think of others.
Another powerful reminder of the true reason for Christmas was the beautiful nativity scene at the end of the display. This unexpected, wondrous and pure scene could warm any heart this holiday season.
Ice carvers also created an exhilarating ice slide that sparkled with luminescence. With an exciting rush, each one of us sat directly on the slippery, smooth ice and slid all the way down. Our large blue parkas were used in the place of a sled.
Other Winter Activities at the Gaylord National Harbor
Santa brought magic to the Gaylord with a free photo shoot! Although we expected long lines, we only waited behind one family. I stood behind the professional photographer, while snapping several cell phone photos, which they generously allowed guests to do. A beautiful snowing picture frame caught my attention. For years to come, my children will be looking back at this special printed photo with fond memories.
The highlight of the trip ended up being ice skating. Although everyone was hesitant to step on the slippery ice surface at first, we all worked up some courage. Despite a few falls, it was exhilarating to be active together as a family. Eventually, we all were able to have our hands off the rail. While gliding around the ice skating rink, the lights shone brightly as our faces lit up with joy.
Another event was decorating a gingerbread house. For $30, we received one kit with all the necessary supplies. After spotting the delicious candy to buy by the pound, my family left with some of their favorites, like Coca Cola gummies and more. We spent the evening snacking on these treats and watching the light show from the atrium view balcony of our hotel room.
Purchase tickets for events ahead of time because they sell out fast.
All tickets are non-refundable, but you can exchange them.
Give yourself plenty of time between each activities. Lines may be longer than you expect, or you may pause to enjoy it for longer than you expected.
Timing matters. Write your schedule before you arrive.
As a hotel guest, you can do several events for free. There is a Silent Disco dance party with free ice skating, story time with Mrs. Claus, and more. Even though these are free activities, it can be worth it to pay more to go at a time that works best for you.
All the restaurants are very busy this time of year. Expect an hour wait at the hotel restaurants. Make a reservation ahead of time for any local restaurants or you might not get a spot the same evening you call.
ICE! can get very cold. If you are especially sensitive to cold weather, make sure to bundle up well!