When I started planning our Thanksgiving vacation to Orlando I knew I wanted to include as many holiday events as I could, and one that I had heard good things about for years is the ICE! Experience at the Gaylord Palms Resort. Full of ice sculptures and even some interactive elements, this event sounded very “cool” –literally—for my family (and we even survived my husband’s many not-so-cool references it Ice, Ice Baby).
I purchased our tickets ahead of time on the Marriott website (search for Gaylord Palms ICE and it will take you to the correct place). There were discounts available, the best one was for Marriott Rewards members. There is a pre-purchase discount, and it guarantees that you are able to get in on your preferred night. When you purchase your tickets you select a time range to enter the queue—there was not queue when we attended on a Monday night before Thanksgiving, but I imagine it gets more crowded as it gets closer to Christmas.
The exhibit is in the convention center of the Gaylord Palms—and as soon as you enter the resort complex you will see the lights on the building. If you drive be prepared to pay for parking.
As we entered the huge convention center we followed the signs to ICE!—there were some twists and turns but it was well labeled for the most part. What I didn’t realize that ICE! is part of an entire Christmas Village type of set up where Gaylord Palms has all types of Christmas things you can do. Earlier in the day there is a gingerbread workshop you can take part in, Santa is there to hear your wish list, and there is a Christmas shopping area. They also offer a tubing experience for an additional cost.
After scanning our tickets we were given a parka. The temperature inside ICE is a balmy 9 degrees Fahrenheit, so we were prepared with our own gloves, coats, and hats but you also get a very long, warm parka to put over all of that. They have sizes from toddlers to larger adults, so they should be able to fit everyone. And you will be thankful for the extra warmth.
The first thing you see is a video about the tradition of ICE at the Gaylord resorts, along with the Chinese artisans (who hail from an area near Siberia—so they know cold and ice) that create the amazing sculptures. Each year there is a different theme—in 2013 it was Frosty the Snowman and in 2014 it was The Nutcracker.
Once you enter the exhibit space your breath is taken away by the beauty of the ice and the cold of the air. I couldn’t believe the vibrant colors of the sculptures and the artistry involved in creating them—these are not your basic wedding reception ice sculptures, they are works of art. Please note the sign for no touching, licking or sitting on the ICE (I’m so glad no one is licking the ice).
After going through a few rooms of sculptures that follow the story of The Nutcracker, you arrive at the first interactive spot: the ice slides! I knew about these, but I had forgotten and what a fun surprise!! We all enjoyed rides down the slick, icy slides. There are “regular” versions and a special shorter slide for younger kids. It is a bit of a balancing act to get a good ride down, but boy is it fun!!
The next part of the ICE! experience is an area with a lot of photos ops (photos and videos are allowed throughout the experience), as well as a demonstration area with some of the artisans crafting an ice sculpture right before your eyes. It is pretty amazing to watch.
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The final room is a clear ice sculpture of the nativity scene—it is beautiful and the perfect way to end the experience.
You can exit to warm up and re-enter if you like, but there is a point that you go past where you can’t reenter. Once we were finished we went through the Christmas village area, then walked over to the resort to look at their Christmas decorations—which were also beautiful. The Gaylord Palms is a really neat resort with its outdoors vignettes inside the atrium.
This was a fun night and time well spent with my family. All of us enjoyed it from the adults, to the teen and tween all the way down to the toddler (who didn’t want to leave the slides). I would recommend it to anyone who can carve a few hours out of their Orlando holiday vacation. Also, if you have a Gaylord resort near you check to see if they are doing an ICE! event, I know the Gaylord National had the Frosty the Snowman themed exhibit this year.