One of the typical complaints about this city is that it tends to empty out during the holidays. Usually this could be a cause for disappointment. In winter, however, it means that in the week between Christmas and New Year’s, there is an excellent chance to attend events and visit places that are typically laden with visitors in the preceding weeks.
One such activity typically full of people that would be much more pleasurable in sparse crowds is Gaylord National Harbor’s biggest event of the year.
ICE! at the National Harbor is a winter delight, a “snow”-covered carnival that will leave children enthralled and parents amazed. It is also the perfect way to spend one of the days between Christmas and New Year’s.
Every year at National Harbor in Prince George’s County, a huge 15,000 square feet structure is erected right in the middle of the resort. The building, specifically designed to house ICE!, is heavily insulated and pumped with chilly air.
For those who don’t know, ICE! is easily the largest collection of ice sculptures in the area, maybe even in the country. In fact, calling it an event of “ice sculptures” doesn’t do the sight justice. It is an entire ice world enclosed in a building with massive carvings, slides 20 feet high made entirely out of frozen water and paths for visitors to walk around. The entire structure contains over two million pounds of ice.
This year’s theme is certain to be popular with children, as it always is, because each year ICE! is based around a well-known kid’s show or movie. Last year ICE! was all about the escaped animals from the movie Madagascar. This year’s winter wonderland is filled with all the funny characters from everyone’s animated favorite, Shrek. Kids at ICE! will walk around large ice creations, some featuring the infamous ogre, others as his sidekick, Donkey. The chilly path at ICE follows the character around as they search for the true meaning of Christmas.
The path and its surrounding landscape took over a month to create and its sculptors came all the way from across the globe. Over 40 carvers were brought to the Gaylord from Harbin, China, a city in the Northeast of the country that is known for its annual international ice festival. The sculptors have been working since early November to perfect the icy masterpieces.
And they are literally icy. To keep everything in mint condition at ICE!, the building it’s housed in is kept at nine degrees Fahrenheit. That’s right, over 22 degrees below freezing. In fact, it’s kept at such a cold level that the staff passes out oversized jackets for visitors to put on before they enter the exhibit. It is recommended guests bring their own gloves and hats.
If you are able to make it during the slower week between Christmas and New Year’s, you’ll also be able to take advantage of ICE!’s much cheaper weekday prices. On Monday through Friday, tickets are $22.99 for adults and $15.99 for kids, whereas on the Saturday and Sunday they are $29.99 and $22.99 respectively.
ICE! is open to the public from 1:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Monday through Thursday, noon to 10:00 p.m. Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Saturday, and 10:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Sunday.
So next week week, with most of this area heading out of town for the holidays, take advantage of thin crowds and visit ICE!.
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