Where can you find two million pounds of colorful ice, snap a great picture featuring a photo bomb from Gingy the Gingerbread Man, roar down an ice slide, ride a train, see some snow fall, take your picture with Santa and go on a Scavenger Hunt – without having to load in and out of your car a million times?
Why, at the Gaylord National Resort – home to DC’s one-stop Christmas adventure for kids – seriously.
Last Sunday we headed off to the Gaylord hotel to experience Christmas on the Potomac and we ended up staying for about five hours. If our youngest wasn’t so tuckered out, we could have stayed longer. The list of activities to experience this season at the Gaylord is long and appeals to kids of all ages. First, there’s the most popular ICE! display, which is open now until January 6. Under a domed tent kept at an extremely frigid nine degrees you can experience a very Shrek Christmas. I marvel over how these artists from China can transform two million pounds of ice into a beautiful, creative, funny and magical Christmas displays starring Shrek, Fiona, and everyone’s favorite characters from the movie. The ice slide is our perennial favorite but after about a dozen trips down the five different slides, me and Mr. Wired Momma were ready to move on and I wondered if, even with the extra Gaylord blue parka over my own coat, I would ever defrost and warm up. At that point I was basically thinking about myself – my fingers were so cold – I wasn’t even worrying about the kids (true confession). That’s the catch about heading to the Gaylord, if you’re planning on doing ICE! and a few other activities, is it best to just pack a backpack for the layers because otherwise you’ll get so hot in the hotel but I’m not sure you can bring enough to keep warm inside the ice tent.
We absolutely loved watching Shrek learn about the true meaning of Christmas as we ventured through the dome. Heading to this event is something that requires strategy and planning, beyond just bringing a backpack and lots of gloves, hats and scarves, however. First, it can get really crowded, and waiting in long lines with kids overdressed – is not necessarily something that puts you in the Christmas spirit. Frankly, it doesn’t take long for me to start looking and acting like an Ogre. We were there opening weekend and fortunately most people around the beltway weren’t yet thinking about Christmas, so we managed to bypass the inevitable lines. My best advice is purchase your tickets in advance so you can plan strategically for non-peak days. Tickets are also cheaper on non-peak days ($22.99 for adults ages 13+ on non-peak and $29.99 for adults on peak days. $15.99 for kids ages 4-12 on non peak and $22.99 for kids during peak days). Kids ages 0-3 are free. They also offer military discounts. Non-peak days are Mondays-Fridays and Peak days are Saturdays & Sundays. Before moving on to the other list of activities at the Gaylord, I have to mention the pink ice dragon. At an astounding 40 feet long, she wraps around the last corridor you’ll go through in the ice dome and she’s really a dramatic and beautiful ending to the display. Being a true princess, my fingers were too cold for me to want to get out my camera and snap a picture of her before I left, but trust me – I wanted too. Clearly I need better gloves.
So where too next? Well, on our multi-hour adventure, we participated in the Scavenger Hunt through the Atrium of the hotel. Participating in this scavenger hunt means you’re also purchasing tickets to the DreamWorks character meet & greet, which is located in the dome where the ICE! display is (though the heated part) and gives the kids a chance to take their pictures with Shrek, Po the Kung Fu Panda, Puss in Boots and Alex the lion from Madagascar. Again, this adventure requires some strategy and planning because the line can get pretty long but it’s worth it especially for the little ones who really get excited about life-size beloved characters. My older one absolutely LOVED the scavenger hunt which, admittedly, was pretty tricky and ultimately we didn’t end up finishing (much to her chagrin). Personally I suck at riddles but Mr. Wired Momma is pretty good at them – so he was especially helpful at cracking a few of the clues on the hunt. For this particular adventure, it is $35 per person ages four and up. Again, not cheap, but if your kids are really into these DreamWorks characters or you love the quality time involved in a long scavenger hunt, then this is absolutely worth it.
Then came Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating, tucked nicely inside a lovely Gingerbread House. Gingy himself is hilarious and quite the entertaining dancer. He even coaxed my older one into a few pictures with him, despite her initial resistence because of her laser-like focus on decorating her train cookie. Gingy is also responsible for one of the more hilarious, part creepy photobombs I’ve ever captured. See for yourself:
Anyhow, decorating cookies with Gingy proved to be a welcome break during our busy afternoon. We all enjoyed just resting for a bit while the girls took their time decorating their cookie train, munching on the treats and generally enjoyed taking dozens of pictures with Gingy. If you go and plan a few activities, I’d recommend saving this one for break-time. Located in the lower Atrium of the hotel, decorating with Gingy is $29.95 for the gingerbread kit, frosting and candy.
After we decorated cookies, we finished a few more clues in the Scavenger Hunt and then realized the youngest Wired Momma’ette was on the fast train to tantrum-ville if we didn’t call it a day, so we headed back to the car. Our oldest one could have stayed for hours and definitely didn’t want to miss the indoor snowfall and the nightly tree lighting at 6:30pm. Families can also enjoy brunch with Santa in December, take Santa souvenir photos or enjoy a Shrek Feast, a fairy tale feast including Shrek shaped waffles, a magic fountain bubbling over with chocolate potions and take pictures with the characters.
To learn more about all these events, log onto Christmas On the Potomac. Overall, if you are on the hunt for several holiday activities and want to wrap them all up in one location, this is your best bet – but it’s definitely pricey and requires some strategic planning to avoid crowds and long lines. If possible, I’d encourage you to take advantage of non-peak days but I’m really glad we were able to experience it and already look forward to going again next year. Be sure to “Like” the Wired Momma Facebook page to keep up with more holiday happenings…and some inevitable sarcasm and Scrooge-like comments from moi.
Disclosure: The Gaylord Hotel invited me and my family to a media and blogging day to enjoy all the activities as their guests. My opinions here are all my own.