I love Christmas. Everything from decorating the tree to baking cookies just makes me so happy. Once Halloween passes, I eagerly start counting down the days until I can start decorating my house and put up the tree. I usually wait until the day after Thanksgiving before any Christmas decorations go up but I’ll be honest, I just don’t think one month (give or take) is enough time to enjoy all the pretty lights and decorations. I wanted to have my tree up earlier this year but when we were about to bring it down from the attic, I decided I wanted a real tree. Then this weekend I decided I didn’t want to wait any longer and brought out the artificial tree. I’ll try for a real one next year. Instead I’m just filling up our family time with holiday cheer and starting new family traditions. Last weekend we were invited out to experience ICE! at the Gaylord National Hotel for Christmas on the Potomac and it was the perfect way for us to kick off our holiday season.
As soon as we stepped foot into the hotel you could feel the Christmas magic in the air. The hotel lobby and atrium was beautifully decorated for the holidays and since this was my first time visiting, I was in awe at how gorgeous the hotel is.
I was in for a real treat once we headed up to our room.
Not only was the room immaculate and spacious but we had a balcony with the perfect view of the nightly holiday light show right from our room.
Our first night we headed down to the atrium to enjoy the show right in the middle of all the action.
On our second night, we were little exhausted from all the day’s activities so we enjoyed the show from our balcony in our cozy pajamas.
Since the weather was gorgeous we spend the our first day exploring the hotel, the waterfront area and even did a little shopping at the Tanger Outlets. We made it back in time for the holiday light show and then it was off to bed for my two elves. We had a big day planned for Saturday so I wanted to make sure they were well rested.
Saturday morning we kicked off our day with Breakfast with Charlie Brown and friends. Both my husband and I loved the Charlie Brown specials when we were growing up and they’ve been staples in our house for many years now so enjoying breakfast with some of these beloved characters was a fun way to kick off the day.
The breakfast buffet was delicious and had everything you could want from eggs to pancakes to fresh pastries. The kids both ate plenty of food and enjoyed it all. The characters, well that’s another story. My oldest happily posed with them all while my little one would only participate if I was holding her. She’s still warming up to giant life-sized characters. She’d much rather wave to them from across the room than pose for a picture with them.
Once breakfast was over we headed over to the main attraction ICE! We were given the Play-All-Day pass which gave us access to ICE!, their holiday rides, The Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt and a chance to decorate cookies at the Gingerbread Decorating Center.
ICE! CHRISTMAS AROUND THE WORLD
We couldn’t wait to get inside ICE! Christmas Around the World since this has been on our to-do list for awhile now. This is the main attraction for the event and it did not disappoint. We bundled up in our own jackets before we went over to grab the famous blue parkas they hand out to everyone to wear inside.
They had sizes for everyone from my little toddler to my husband. I was worried they wouldn’t have anything to fit her because she’s so tiny but it fit her and she looked so cute wobbling around in it.
Once we were suited up we were ready to brave the cold.
Remember it’s only 9 degrees inside and for someone like me who hates the cold, I wasn’t sure what to expect.
I don’t even like going out in the snow here in Jersey but I knew the kids wanted to do this so I figured I’d make the best of it for a little bit. Little did I know I was about to have more fun than the kids. Well maybe not more but just as much fun.
We walked around and marveled at the amazing designs all made from ice. A whole lotta ice. Nearly two million pounds to be exact. It takes 40 artisans that travel 7,000 miles from China to transform 6,500 blocks of ice into all these amazingly detailed creations.
This year’s theme is Christmas Around the World and celebrates different cultures and countries like Mexico, Ethiopia, Great Britain and The Netherlands just to name a few. You can enjoy the exhibit as slow or as fast as you want it’s completely self-guided.
We even got to see an artist at work carving an ice sculpture right in front of us.
Then there’s the slides. Who knew sliding on a bunch of ice could actually be fun! While my youngest wasn’t too keen on the idea of going down by herself, she had fun cheering on her brother and I as we raced down the slides. Even after we toured the entire exhibit, we headed back for a couple more slides. So. Much. Fun. Seriously some of the most fun I’ve had in awhile.
This is the point I wished I brought a small purse (see my tips below) and not my large one. The tour ends with a beautiful nativity scene of all white lights and the ice. It’s simply breathtaking in person.
THE CHRISTMAS VILLAGE
Inside the Christmas Village you’ll find hot chocolate, (the perfect way to warm up after ICE!), rides – there’s a tea cup ride and carousel for the kids, a mini Build-a-Bear workshop, christmas cookie decorating and even cookies and a story with Mrs. Claus.
Our tickets let us explore the rides and cookie decorating which was a lot of fun.
Each cookie kit lets you decorate 6 cookies per kit so keep that in mind when ordering. You may only need one or two per family instead of per person.
THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO
Thinking about visiting ICE! this year? You’re not alone. Quite a few of my friends can’t wait to visit and start a new family tradition. So if you’re heading there, here are a few of my tips to help you make the most of you visit:
- Dress Warm – Remember it’s only 9 degrees inside there and even with that warm blue parka on you still want to dress for the temperatures. We all wore warm clothes our jackets, gloves and then the blue parka on top of that. That kept us warm except for our faces. Next visit I’ll add in some ear muffs, hats and maybe even a scarf.
- Plan Your Visit – While lines were low while we were there, as the weeks go on the crowds pick up. Plan out you trip and figure out when you’re going to go and whether you want to go early in the morning or later in the day where the lines may be shorter.
- Pack Light – You’re going to have a lot of layers on with that blue parka on top. It’s a little heavy and bulky so the less you bring in the better (if you can help it). I carried my Speedy bag with a strap and regretting it the minute I tried fumbling with it over my jacket. I had the baby’s stuff in there and my big DSLR camera but ended up only using my iPhone the entire time. Next time a small and simple over my shoulder bag to hold my phone would be enough. I’ll just head up to our room to grab everything once we’re done at ICE!
- No Strollers – You can’t bring your baby stroller into ICE! We let my youngest walk through most of the exhibit and just carried her when she was tired.
All in all we had an amazing time and cannot wait to go back. This was such a great way to kick off the holiday season and create some priceless family memories.
Have you been to ICE! at the Gaylord National Hotel before?
Disclosure: Hotel accommodations and tickets for all activities were provided by the Gaylord National Hotel. All fun and opinions are my own.