This New For Us Friday, I’m totally excited to share something that I wish every family was able to do, even during this busy time of year.
It’s a New For Us Friday that my family experienced last weekend, and it was seriously so. much. fun.
It was something that we talked about all week long; it was something that the kids told everyone they saw on Monday morning.
It’s something that I’ve wanted to check out for quite some time, but I wasn’t sure the kids were quite old enough (they were!), I wasn’t sure my family could afford it (we could!), and I wasn’t sure it was worth the time during the busy holiday season (it totally was!).
It’s the Gaylord National Resort’s Christmas on the Potomac, and it’s awesome.
Here’s the skinny on why you should pack yourself up and head on over asap:
- Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac: The first time I saw the Gaylord National itself was for Blogalicious this year, and I told my husband that I’d do anything and everything I could to return. The facilities are fabulous. It’s gorgeous. It’s majestic.
So I knew that all dressed up for Christmas, this place would be beyond incredible.
And it was.
I really think that there’s something here for every family, no matter the budget. And it can be a super-cool new-for-you, little-bit-of-holiday something if you want to throw in some sneaky holiday-time learning on the side. Or it could be a super-cool new-for-you, little-bit-of-a-getaway if you want to visit the place after January 8, when the happy holiday stuff will be gone.
The Gaylord National is a quick car trip from most of the DC Metro area and beyond, and they offer some (completely impressive) specials for couples and families–some of which include discounted tickets to events and exhibits. (I’m seriously considering planning a little weekend vay-cay for my family next year or a springtime getaway with my husband for our anniversary!)
And there is a ton more to Gaylord National and the ‘Christmas on the Potomac’ than just the ICE! exhibit that everyone talks about. A whole lot more.
We barely scratched the surface during the afternoon we were there, but we did get a good taste of the holiday awesomeness that is the ‘Capital of Christmas’ on our nearby Potomac.
Check out our photos from the afternoon:
- The Decorations. Beautiful. Breath-taking. Magical. Two million lights. Choreographed to music. Totally free for anyone. And not only is the hotel lobby and gardens beautiful (and right on the water), but the atrium is fab. And there’s a 60-foot tall Christmas tree inside, hanging from the ceiling.
- The Atrium and Gardens. It’s like a little village, and Maddy, Owen, and Cora begged us to let them live there so they could play hide-and-seek every day of their lives. Little stores, restaurants, a fun fountain, and Christmas decos all around. Loved it.
- DreamWorks Character Passport. We were able to meet Shrek! Puss in Boots! Kung Fu Panda! Our Madagascar friends! The workers are so helpful and so patient, and they gently moved each group from character to character, kindly dealing with tons of kids and parents who were over-excited and juggling strollers, coats, and cameras.
- Puss in Boots Scavenger Hunt. Right. Up. Our. Alley. Loved it. Maddy, Owen, and Cora did this hunt in about 20-30 minutes, but they really had a blast. The hunt involves reading ten clues and either figuring out the answer or hunting in the indoor gardens for the answer. It got us reading, thinking, moving, and searching. And my kids were the perfect ages for it–4-8 years–but I think even kids who are a bit older would enjoy it. It was clever. And there’s a prize at the end.
- ICE! Merry Madagascar: So fun. So totally cool–actually, cold. Freezing cold, actually, but still so totally fun. I’m glad we went this year, when Cora was four; I’m not sure she would have been able to hang as long as she did if she were much younger, but I could be wrong. ICE! begins with a short movie about how the exhibit is created, which I truly appreciated. Everyone in our group was glued to the screen–kids and parents alike. It’s all new for so many of us, and it’s really interesting. We learned:
-there are 2 million pounds of ice used to create ICE!
–40 artisans travel from Harbin, China to carve ICE!
–ICE! consists of 5,000 400-pound blocks of ice
-the average temperature inside the attraction is 9 degrees (brrrrr!)
-it takes 30 days to carve the ice and build the attraction
-and so many other interesting facts about ice, the exhibit, and how they do it.
It ends with a walk through the exhibit which was full of our frozen Madagscar friends and which followed the Merry Madagascar story which my kids had just coincidentally watched several times since Thanksgiving thanks to Nanny. And the slide. Oh, the two-story ice slide. So fun. Not at all scary and not at all the wet and freezing nightmare I expected. It was beautiful. Lighted. And our fun blue parkas were our sleds.
Next time, we want to check out:
- The Ice Skating Rink: Too much for our kids after our long day of walking, meeting characters, eating cookies and green ogre milk, and meandering through ICE!, we plan to return to ice rink some time after the holidays for some skating and fun.
- Brunch with Santa: a big buffet. With the big guy in red.
- Brightest Star Fountain Show: We saw the fountain, we heard the music, but apparently there’s a show every night where the water dances to holiday music. SofunIwouldtotallykeepmykidsup.
- Tree Lighting: That huge tree is lit in a big way, and it’s supposed to be awesome at night. Our kids were running on steam by sunset, so we decided to table the lighting ceremony and spare everyone a scary scene.
- Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating: In this cute little gingerbread house, cute little kids can make cute little gingerbread houses that they can take home. And there’s a cute little gingerbread boy–Gingy–who walks around while kids are decorating. So fun.
- Train Rides: We totally missed this, and I’m not sure how or why. But we are going to stalk the train next time, and we’re gonna ride it.
- ShrekFeast: In one of the restaurants, families can eat, drink, and be merry with Shrek and his friends. And there’s a magic fountain with chocolate bubbling over, and guests can solve riddles (we love riddles!) and puzzles (we love puzzles!) to earn ogre ears. F-U-N.
**Please note: Some of the above activities are available to hotel guests only, and some are open to the public. Please see site for more specific information and pricing.
Essentially, we loved it. And we cannot wait to return. Our return we hope will be for a little bit longer than five hours, and perhaps when we have a chance to check out more of the hotel, relax in an atrium-view room, explore more of the kids’ activities, try out the spa or heated pool, walk around the gorgeous National Harbor, or take a water taxi to Old Town Alexandria or Georgetown.
And when we return, we’ll keep in mind some advice that was passed on to me by a good pal (but which I totally and completely forgot about until we were already there): bring the same color scarf for your whole family and tie the scarf around your neck when you’re visiting ICE! Everyone’s wearing blue parkas–and yes, they fit comfortably over your winter coat–but it’s very easy to lose your kids in a sea of blue coats. Having the same color scarf would prevent that.
I also searched high and low for information on what to wear to ICE! as I knew the Gaylord National was kind of fancy-ish but that ICE! had, well, a lot of ice and a huge ice slide. We all wore jeans, warm socks, sneakers or boots (Uggs–not snow boots), and long sleeves. And we brought hats, gloves, and scarves for ICE!, and we were fine. We’ll do the same next time.
Everyone lasted about an hour, and we all slid down the ice slide about 20 million times. It was really comfortable for the first 45-50 minutes, and then the cold set in and Cora stopped wanting to slide and started wanting to leave, and eventually everyone followed suit.
Hopefully visiting the Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac will become a holiday tradition for us, as it was a really, really enjoyable ‘break’ from our holiday norm.
fyi: Many thanks to my crazy-cool friends at MomzShare and my brand-new crazy-cool friends at Gaylord National for inviting my family and me to a special Blogger Family Event at Gaylord National’s ICE!. We received tickets to ICE! and to several events at the Gaylord in exchange for writing about our experiences. This is an unsponsored post, and my opinions here–as always–are my own, influenced only by my three little Merry Madagascar-ICE!-sliding-cookie-eating-ogre-milk-drinking-kiddos.