ICE! And The Gaylord National Christmas Celebration - My Family Travels

Head to National Harbor, Maryland, for the Gaylord National Christmas celebration, an event you’ll never forget. Holiday cheer overtakes the expansive waterfront Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center with memorable décor, traditional activities, attractions, and seemingly endless poinsettias.

Three generations don the iconic blue parkas to brave the cold at the Gaylord National ICE! show.
Three generations don iconic blue parkas to brave the 9 degree temperatures inside the Gaylord National ICE! show.

ICE! is the centerpiece event showing November 19, 2023, to December 31, 2023, during the Gaylord National Christmas season. While new to my family, our relatives had attended ICE! for many years at different Gaylord Resorts. Now we know why.

What is Christmas at the Gaylord National Harbor?

Christmas at the Gaylord National Harbor transforms the resort into a winter wonderland filled with festive lights, entertainment, and immersive attractions. One of the main attractions is the ICE! display, featuring intricate ice sculptures inspired by beloved holiday classics. Visitors can explore this frozen wonderland, interact with the displays, and even slide down ice slides.

This holiday event offers a variety of activities for the whole family, including opportunities to meet Santa Claus, enjoy special holiday dining, and partake in festive entertainment shows. “Christmas at the Gaylord National Harbor” typically runs from mid-November to New Year’s Eve, making it the perfect destination to embrace the holiday spirit. It’s a cherished tradition for locals and a must-visit for anyone looking to create magical holiday memories.


A whopping two million pounds of ice are dyed and sculpted each year to bring the five Gaylord Resorts’ ICE! stories to life. For the 2023 Gaylord National Christmas, they cleverly dramatize the “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” story.

Ice sculpture of family having dinner at a Chinese restaurant from the movie "A Christmas Story."
Imagine how much fun the Chinese master ice sculptures had doing this scene at a Chinese restaurant from the movie “A Christmas Story.”

Do not try this at home! Forty professionals from China’s renowned Harbin Ice Festival use chainsaws and hand tools to create the magic. At each Gaylord, the environment is maintained at 9 degrees F. Nonetheless, master carvers must remain on standby to touch up details that soften from visitors’ body heat.  (Pause to meet these artists on the entryway’s touchscreen displays.)

Of course, you’ll capture images of the amazing, larger-than-life ice sculptures. Yet it’s the unexpected sight of family inside a frozen hall — bundled in blue parkas and struggling with frozen cellphone cameras – that’s unforgettable.

Winter-themed activities and attractions abound for an extra fee. Grab an inner tube for high-speed sledding on a frozen tubing hill inside the convention center. Stay indoors to toss snowballs as a hidden elf sends new batches of snow down a chute.

Past the holiday gift shop, drop into the Gingerbread Cookie Decorating workshop. The friendly staff shares tips on how to work with gooey icing, sprinkles, and pre-baked gingerbread persons.

Outside, also for a fee, are bumper cards and a skating rink, with rentals available.


Gaylord National Harbor atrium filled with Christmas decorations for the Gaylord National Christmas events.
Stroll the Gaylord National Harbor atrium to admire the Christmas decorations, dining and shopping options during the Gaylord National Christmas events.

There’s plenty of resort action in addition to the Gaylord National Christmas. All ages will appreciate the resort’s heated, Jr. Olympic-size pool. It overlooks a sundeck and the Potomac beyond. No need to swim, however, when you use the well-stocked fitness room or join the morning yoga class taught around the pool deck. There’s always the video game arcade for the less active in your party.

Explore boutiques, the full-service Relache spa, and plenty of restaurants. We sipped and snacked at the atrium’s sports bar, Harbor Social, while the kids explored walkways draped in garlands and lanterns. The next day, breakfast was at Gaylord’s District grab n’go cafe, and lunch was at the pop-up Taqueria.

Treat the family to the Old Hickory Steakhouse in Gaylord National for a special pre-Christmas holiday celebration. All ages will love the attentive service, excellent Wagyu strip steaks, locally caught and grilled Rockfish. Start with the extravagant cheese platter said to be a favorite of President Andrew Jackson, whose hickory walking stick gives the restaurant its name.


Jefferson Memorial and Lincoln Memorial in gingerbread at Gaylord National Harbor Resort.
Gaylord National Harbor pastry chefs create Washington DC’s top monuments, such as the Jefferson and Lincoln Memorials, in gingerbread.

While the centerpiece of the holiday season is the spectacular ICE!, there is entertainment to gift forward for the holidays. Book in advance for these original live stage shows, scripted and designed by Gaylord’s events team.

Visitors can enjoy these five beloved holiday classics this year:

  • ICE! featuring The Polar Express™ at Gaylord Opryland – Embark on a magical journey inspired by the heartwarming Warner Bros. film as a young child discovers the true spirit of Christmas, emphasizing friendship and bravery on the way to the North Pole.
  • ICE! featuring A Charlie Brown Christmas at Gaylord Palms – Join Charlie Brown as he rediscovers the true meaning of Christmas in this heartwarming tale.
  • ICE! featuring Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! at Gaylord Texan – Step into the world of the 1957 Dr. Seuss classic, with iconic scenes like the Grinch’s mischievous chimney antics, his heartwarming transformation, and the festive Whos’ feast.
  • ICE! featuring A Christmas Story™ at Gaylord Rockies – Laugh along with your favorite characters and scenes from the hilarious Warner Bros. holiday classic in this enchanting ice showcase.
  • ICE! featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer™ at Gaylord National – Experience the magic of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer as you wander through colorful winter wonderland scenes from this cherished holiday story.

Unwrap the Magic of Christmas: Gaylord Hotels’ Festive Dates Revealed!

Get ready to unwrap the magic of Christmas at Gaylord Hotels! Tickets and packages for ICE! and Christmas festivities at Gaylord Hotels are now available. To make your holiday season even merrier, here are the dates revealed – 

  • Gaylord Opryland: November 10, 2023, to January 1, 2024
  • Gaylord Texan: November 10 to December 31, 2023
  • Gaylord Palms: November 17, 2023, to January 3, 2024
  • Gaylord Rockies: November 17, 2023, to January 1, 2024
  • Gaylord National: November 19 to December 31, 2023

Don’t miss out on the holiday fun – secure your tickets and packages now at Remember, advance online reservations are required for all ticketed events. Get ready to unwrap the magic of the season with Gaylord Hotels!


From the National Harbor mezzanine, you can view the Capital Ferris Wheel and holiday tree made of lights.
From the National Harbor mezzanine, you can view the Capital Ferris Wheel and holiday tree made of lights.

The Gaylord Hotel is just steps from the Potomac River walkway and the Capital Wheel. Soar 180 feet above the Potomac waterfront on this climate-controlled Ferris Wheel. This attraction is most beautiful as the winter sun sets at approximately 4 pm. Get your cameras ready to capture the distant Washington Monument and National Cathedral, among other DC attractions.

After a revolution or two on the Capital Wheel, explore what the National Harbor development offers. Over the holidays, family-friendly activities include photo ops with the multi-million-dollar public art display. Your kids will likely favor a salute with the lifelike US military statues guarding the commercial zone.

Be mesmerized by light projections on the towering holiday tree. That moving glow and the changing colors of the Capital Wheel by the pier frame the nightly 5:30 pm fireworks show. Nightly tree lighting takes place every half hour until 9 pm. A real crowd pleaser, National Harbor is the place to take your holiday card family portraits.

If you’re staying a few days, take advantage of 40 restaurants, such as the healthy Mezzeh where we paused for fresh falafels and salad. Also, Shop early for the holidays at the 160 shops, many within the bargain Tanger Outlets. Families traveling with over-21s will enjoy a stroll through MGM National Harbor. Their restaurants, casinos, and live concerts are Insta-worthy over the holidays.


The Gaylord National Harbor atrium is illuminated by LED projections and more during the holiday ICE! show.
The Gaylord National Harbor atrium is illuminated by LED projections and more during the holiday ICE! show.

Splurge on a vacation stay at the Gaylord National Hotel in one of their Christmas themed suites. It’s guaranteed to put you in the festive mood.

The hotel recently invested $64 million on renovating its attractive, comfortable and spacious guestrooms. In such a large hotel, be sure to request a location near one of the elevator banks if your family has mobility challenges. Choose from large kings or a room with two queen beds, preferably facing the atrium.

Enormous atriums are a signature feature of several Gaylord resorts. You’ll be amazed at how much time you spend on your balcony. Without leaving your room, for example, orient yourselves to the resort’s layout or catch glimpses of the Atrium action down below.

Caveat Emptor: The atrium’s glitter, festive décor, and ubiquitous holiday carols are addictive. The kids may never fall asleep watching the atrium’s story-telling LED light projections.


Family portrait for Christmas card at Gaylord National Harbor Resort, Maryland.
The Gaylord National Christmas decor is ideal for taking that perfect family Christmas card portrait.

A Christmas gift for you: During the holiday season, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center resort fees include WiFi, a fresh-baked cookie from the Grab ‘n’Go market, and two welcome drinks at the Harbor Social bar.

Susan Finch of Atlanta, a Gaylord Christmas veteran, shares this travel tip. “Let the holiday bustle wind down and set out for a Washington DC trip just before New Year’s.”  Susan’s family spends an extra day in DC in addition to the Gaylord Christmas events. Furthermore, “Washington DC has plenty of free things to do like the Smithsonian museums, National Zoo complete with a holiday light display at nightfall, exploring the National Mall and,” she adds, “taking plenty of selfies in front of the White House.”

And the other Gaylords? Even larger, the Gaylord property in Nashville has indoor canals and gondola rides for guests. In the Lone Star State, the Gaylord Texan has a waterpark providing a fun reprieve from the summer heat. The Orlando resort has marine life in its Everglades-themed atrium, while in Colorado, alpine chalet and log cabins define the style.

If this article makes you want to spend Christmas at the Gaylord National Harbor with your family, consider checking out these articles below –

Also, If your family is really into the Christmas spirit, treat yourselves to all four Gaylord Resorts Christmas celebrations this year.

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