As a holiday gift this year, we gave our children 12 sealed envelopes, one per month, with a different experience in each. Now, I’m a field-trip loving SAHM, so finding 12 experiences that are within 3 hours of us and not something we’ve done together yet was NOT an easy task! But when a friend mentioned her love for the Gaylord and ICE! experience, I knew it was the perfect thing to kick off our year-long gift of PRESENCE.
On Sunday, December 29th, we drove down to National Harbor, MD. It was just about 2.5 hours from us, a very easy drive. We checked into the Gaylord Resort. I first checked in via the mobile app, super easy, but then went to the Mobile App desk clerk and asked if there were any atrium view rooms available. He was so gracious that he upgraded us with no hesitation! We also got an early check in, so by 12:30 we were settled in our room and excited to go venture out into the Harbor. It was such a rainy day, but we still planned to experience the Harbor, and luckily, no one melted (ha) and we were able to eat a delicious lunch, visit the Peeps store, check out The Awakening statue on the sandy beach, visit the Harbor’s humungous Christmas tree, honor the statues of soldiers, and window shop a bit! We then went back to the Gaylord so the kids could work out some wiggles at the large indoor pool. Along the way we got to take in and get excited about the ICE! experiences we had tickets for the next day.
The Atrium level of the Gaylord is worth visiting, whether you are staying here or not! It’s a mini-city complete with live plants (including 30,000 live poinsettias at Christmas-time!), a coffee shop, sandwich shop, boutiques, restaurant, and street vendors selling items like pizza and empanadas! This is also where you access the ICE! exhibits and see the Cirque show. It is also where the evening light show happens, in the 19 story atrium!
Saturday night we experienced the super fun light show, complete with a vocalist singing Noel AND snow! We had an amazing view from our balcony while wearing jammies. We’d never stay here again without an atrium view, it was amazing! We then put the kids to bed and hung out on the balcony with a beer while people watching below. I was in my happy place, ha!
Sunday morning we went to breakfast with the Grinch and Max at “Feast with the Grinch”, a buffet in the Pienza Marketplace. The kids always love a buffet; independence and unlimited breakfast meats and carbs, they love it! The omelet station was wonderful. Fast and HUGE! After breakfast we went upstairs to gear up for the COLD exhibits. I had read other blogs that suggested we really layer up. Mind you, it was almost 60 degrees out, yes, on December 30th! But I did as I had been instructed and we all had layers, snow boots, gloves, hats, and our winter snow jackets. We were cooking. Whoops, ha! So we de-robed (just kept the gloves on) and went first to Reindeer Rush Tubing, a slide down story tall tubing hills. It was so fast, but once you hit the rubber mat you slow down, I had little faith but it happened every time. Whew. This was unlimited for the day of our ticket!
Following tubing we headed into ICE! Featuring Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Each year there’s a different theme, but I hear Grinch was a returning favorite, and we LOVED it! We were given our standard #blueparka to help endure the 9 degree temperature in the exhibit. No one complained about being super bundled up while in here, but for the short time it took to walk through, we agreed the snow boots and heavy coat may have been overkill. Next time, a warm coat but doesn’t have to be a crazy bulky one, gloves, hat and shoes with warm socks or fleece lining will suffice. I had also read that cell batteries die super fast because of the cold temperatures, however, this did not happen to our XR and we took lots of photos (ah, reminder, touch-screen gloves are good to have).
As we stood in awe looking at the ICE before us that just looked like PLASTIC figures, I read some facts to my family: 140 artisans traveled 8,000 miles from China to sculpt the figures, 230,000 ice blocks were used to make ICE!, which is more than 2 million pounds of ice! We also enjoyed the 2-story ice slide (which you can’t go on without the #blueparka). My tip is to lift your legs to get some speed going. Apparently after the tubing I was looking for a thrill slide, who knew?!?!?
Upon completing the ICE! exhibit (took us about 20-30 minutes) my husband brought our winter garb up to the room and the kids and I strapped on ice skates! It’s an indoor skating rink that you access outside the Resort in their Winter Square. This is another activity that is unlimited use the day of your ticket!
We had hoped to ride the Capital Wheel in National Harbor at this time, but it was so foggy out that there was no visibility, and the whole point was to show the children Washington DC for the first time (a glimpse at least). Hopefully next time we can do that! Instead we ventured in the Resort and grabbed a late lunch (we were so full from breakfast still)! And then we ended our experience by seeing the 3:00 show of Cirque Dreams Unwrapped. The performers were from all over the world, the music and talent was incredible! You do not need tickets to see the performance, as it is right in the Atrium, but we did get tickets and had incredible seating, thankfully! We were all SO impressed with every minute of the 30-minute performance! And afterwards, the audience was invited to take photos with them. What a terrific keepsake for us to have!
And that concluded our inaugural Experiences gift. It was THE BEST (almost) 48-hours. We plan to visit the Gaylord Resort late-spring or early summer to see how they decorate it, what show they have, and all of the DC attractions as well. It’s a great central location!
Disclaimer: In exchange for my honest review, the Gaylord National gave my family complimentary tickets to the Breakfast, Tubing, Skating, Ice!, and Cirque. We are SO grateful for the opportunity to have experienced this talked about (for good reason!) attraction!