Places to Go - ICE! with the Grinch at the Gaylord National (National Harbor, MD)


Last year, the National Harbor's newish megahotel, Gaylord National, premiered ICE! and tickets sold out throughout the winter. We didn't go, but reviews and opinions differed widely. Some people considered their stroll though a nine degree ice chamber the highlight of the holiday season, others frowned on the long lines and low temperature. This year I decided that we needed to experience it for ourselves. So I bought tickets for a Monday afternoon (luckily, at 4:30 pm no lines had formed). And, WOW!! the sculpture were breathtakingly beautiful!! There is something so decadent about watching your children slide down a huge ice slide despite the fact that we live in area that rarely receives heavy snowfall. Actually, decadence pretty much summarizes the whole experience. According to the Gaylord's website, in order to create this much ice the hotel utilizes "a special "recipe" (yes, this ice has a recipe!), and it arrives in approximately 36 truckloads over a 3-week period... 2 trucks a day for 15 days, which is about as fast as the ice factory can produce it. Large blocks of ice are delivered on pallets via refrigerated tractor-trailers, then moved into place by forklift." After ice creation occurs, the Gaylord National flies in "dozens of artisans . . . from Harbin, China to craft this elaborate attraction out of nearly 2 million pounds of ice. It takes them nearly an entire month of 12-hour shifts to transform the refrigerated tent where the exhibit is held into a remarkable icy wonderland." (Can you imagine working 12 hours a day inside a 9-degree freezer, transforming two million pounds of ice into another country's version of a breathtaking winter wonderland? I can't, but I digress).

I loved it. Every decadent hand-crafted detail. ICE takes "made in China" to a whole new level. It's the Chinese-crafted American Versailles. But cold. And two of my three children loved it as well, especially since the Grinch is one of their favorite Xmas icons (not-surprisingly T was not a fan, he's still too young to trade warmth for beauty).

So go!! But be careful when you go, despite timed tickets, on weekends wait times can exceed an hour (read a negative review in the comments section of this KidFriendly DC post). Oh, and by the way, they loan you winter parkas to wear, but I'd consider wearing long underwear too. Warmth is good. Tickets are expensive - $24 for adults, $13 for children 4-12, plus $10 to park if you buy an online voucher, it costs $12 if you pay for parking at the event.

After you visit ICE!, you can make a day of it at the on-site ice skating rink (this costs extra) and/or riding the children's train in the hotel's lobby (which also costs extra). Nightly tree lightings occur at 6:00 p.m. followed by indoor snowfalls at 6:15. For more information click here. Photos with the Grinch and/or Santa are available for an extra fee.


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