After a two-year hiatus, ICE! at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center is back. The Christmastime tradition had been put on hold due to pandemic restrictions that kept the ice artisans from traveling from Harbin, China, to National Harbor, Maryland. Each year, the event brings thousands of families to the hotel. “With COVID and everything, it seems like people are more eager than ever to travel and make memories with their families,” says Patrice Clayton, public relations manager at the resort.
Catch 10 classic scenes from A Christmas Story in ice form. This will be the first time this holiday flick has been featured at the resort’s ICE! celebration. The first scene guests will embark on is an interactive sculpture of Ralphie’s house. To put the size into perspective, Clayton says that people will be able to take photos on the porch. As they venture farther into the 17,000-square-foot venue, guests will be able to explore the flagpole, infamous pink bunny suit, leg lamp, and more. The iconic giant ice slide and Nativity scene will be back on display, too.
ICE! was started to help drum up business during the holidays. The foot traffic at hotels tends to be slower during November and December, which, according to Clayton, is why Gaylord started the immersive pop-up attraction at its Nashville, Tennessee, location in 2002.
“ICE! has managed to stay so popular throughout the years because it provides a great sense of nostalgia for people and builds memories for our customers,” she says. “The immersive components of the display and the storytelling throughout make it a very unique experience.” The resort has since expanded to include four additional locations, including National Harbor, which debuted the experience in 2009.
It takes over 6,000 ice blocks to create all of the designs. Once the sculptors arrive in mid-October, the crew of 35 ice artisans gets to work almost immediately. It takes over 10,000 hours to carve the 2 million pounds of ice into the arctic figures — so artists are carving until a few days before the attraction opens.
The heaviest and most intricate design to sculpt? The slide room. With four slides, about half of the ice blocks are allotted to this piece to create the ultimate winter wonderland experience.
The venue’s signature blue parkas are a necessity. With people streaming through the venue, the ice tent stays at 9 degrees to keep the designs intact throughout the six-week event. Even with the frigid temps, a small crew continues to make sure the designs stay sharp.
“Every morning … the [artisans] go through and make any repairs, do any sort of detailed chiseling, just to make sure the integrity of the structures still looks just as good as the first day we opened,” says Clayton.
Escape the cold for even more holiday festivities. This year, the resort will debut Cirque: Spirit of Christmas, which Clayton describes as “a Broadway-style show meets Cirque.” Fan-favorite festivities are also back, including ice skating, ice bumper cars, the Snowball Build and Blast, and more.
The beloved DMV tradition is open through December 31. Tickets for ICE! range from $27.99–$36.99 for children ages 4 to 11 and $36.99–$44.99 for guests 12 and older. Guests trekking a little farther can also book one of the hotel’s overnight packages — Christmas on the Potomac and ICE! is Nice — that include tickets to ICE!
This story originally ran in our December issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.