ICE! comes to the National Harbor

Carvings from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" are on exhibit

December 17, 2010|By Nancy Jones Bonbrest, Special to The Baltimore Sun

For those wanting to kick the holiday season into high gear or simply extend the festivities a bit longer, there's a winter holiday event that is sure to impress.

The ICE! attraction at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor featuring "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" includes 2 million pounds of ice carvings depicting scenes straight out of the holiday classic tale.

"It's a huge hit," said Amie Gorrell, director of public relations for the Gaylord National Resort. "It's so much fun. You actually walk through and see all those famous scenes you recognize from the original story."

The 10 larger-than-life scenes include the Grinch's frozen lair, Christmas Eve in Who-ville, the Grinch creating his makeshift sleigh complete with "reindeer" Max, and the Grinch stealing Christmas from the Who houses. The last scene is a life-size nativity featuring a 20- foot ice angel.

Still, the highlight for many are the four ice slides that stand two-stories tall.

"You literally get to go down the slide made of ice. People say it's their favorite thing," said Gorrell.

The attraction is housed in a tent kept at 9 degrees with 10-inch-thick walls, and visitors are given warm parkas to wear as they walk through. Organizers encourage guests to dress warmly and bring gloves, hats and scarves.

This is the second year for the ICE! exhibit. However, this event is an annual staple at Gaylord's three other hotels, located in Tennessee, Florida and Texas.

"ICE! is a show we'll be hosting for many years to come. Every year moving forward, we will be hosting a different theme," Gorrell said. "They will be famous and recognizable Christmas stories."

Last year, the exhibit attracted 200,000 visitors, and this year is expected to outpace that number.

The Gaylord resort garnered recognition for its Christmas celebration last year and was named one of the "Top 10 U.S. Hotels Decked Out for the Holidays" by and one of the "12 Most Festive Places to Find Holiday Spirit" by AAA.

The attraction takes about one hour to complete with 30 minutes devoted to the walk-through ice feature. The other time is spent at the showcase, "The Art of Seuss," featuring the original drawings, paintings, sculptures and more of Theodor "Dr. Seuss" Geisel. Also, visitors can enjoy "From Harbin to WHO-ville" and learn about the making of ICE!

Many of the Chinese artisans who created ICE! are the same who build displays at the world-famous Harbin Ice and Snow Festival. They arrive in mid-October, and it takes more than 40 days to hand-carve the ICE! attraction.

The exhibit is particularly popular on weekends in December and during the holiday break between Christmas and New Year's Day, so buying tickets in advance is highly recommended. The tickets are sold for a specific time frame, which helps spread the crowd out. If avoiding a packed house is important, Gorrell suggests buying tickets for time frames during the first two hours or last two hours.

The Gaylord also offers up holiday favorites, including a nightly tree-lighting in the atrium with Christmas music, a light show, dancing water fountain and an indoor nightly snowfall. There's an indoor ice-skating rink, Seuss sculpture garden and entertainment such as a brunch with Santa, "A Christmas to Remember" dinner show and more.

While ICE! is the focal point, there's much more to do at National Harbor.

"We're anchored by the Gaylord ICE! Exhibit, but we have so many events here that go on for the family," said Rocell Viniard, vice president and director of marketing for National Harbor. "So it is the perfect place to go for that day trip or even overnight."

There's a holiday market on Saturdays and Sundays through Dec. 19. On Dec. 17, the National Harbor offers a fireworks display at 8 p.m. over the Potomac River with a 65-foot-tall Christmas tree as the centerpiece.

Not to be missed is the quirky water-skiing Santa on Christmas Eve. A 25-year tradition along the Potomac River, this is the third year National Harbor has hosted the event, featuring Santa waterskiing along with his kneeboarding reindeer, flying elves and Frosty the Snowman in a dinghy.

"In my opinion, I haven't seen a destination that has so much to offer for the holidays all in one area," Viniard said. "There's a lot to see and do."

If you go

ICE! featuring "How the Grinch Stole Christmas!" at National Harbor, or 866-947-4624.

Open daily through Jan. 9, the ICE! experience features 2 million pounds of ice with hand-carved scenes straight out of "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" that visitors walk through. There's "The Art of Seuss" exhibit, a "From Harbin to WHO-ville" exhibit detailing the making of the ICE attraction and a "Meet the Grinch" experience.

Hours vary and tickets do sell out, so it is recommended to purchase tickets in advance. Tickets: Adults (ages 13 and older), $24-$29; children (ages 4-12), $13- $18; kids ages 3 and under are free.


National Harbor offers six hotels to choose from. Rates and available dates are available by visiting, which offers a one-stop for browsing and booking hotels on site.

Holiday packages at the Gaylord include:

The "Christmas Memories" Package (select dates through January), starting at $99 per person, based on double occupancy. The package includes overnight stay, one ticket to ICE! and souvenir photo, daily self-parking and resort fee.

The "Grandparent Getaway" Package (select dates through December for Thursday through Saturday arrivals) Starting at $203 per person, the package includes two nights, one ticket to ICE!, one ticket to Breakfast with The Grinch, daily self-parking and resort fee. Tax is additional.

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