I donned a hard hat for a sneak-peek walk through the wintery nine-degree tent as ICE!® was being carved, and got some really great tips to maximize a day at this amazing seven-week event that runs from November 10, 2017 to January 1, 2018.
BRINGING MAGIC TO LIFE
What does it take to transform two million pounds of ice into bricks, walls and six foot-tall fantasy characters? The Gaylord employs 40 master ice-carving artisans from Harbin in the People’s Republic of China. Harbin is the eighth most populous city in China, and the frigid winters give the town the nickname Ice City.
According to ice sculptor Xiaodong Zhai, one of the biggest industries is ice carving due to the extreme weather. Speaking through a translator, Zhai said that when he was little, he “was always carving things,” first wood, then ice. He said it takes about two days to carve a life-size or larger figure, while carving some of the smaller animals may take only a couple of hours. Fun fact: Many of the workers who come to the Gaylord Texan are second or third generation ice carvers.
Zhai and his fellow sculptors are working with ice blocks about four by five feet, which come wrapped in plastic. A specialized team creates blueprints, and each drawing includes the number of colored ice (where food color is added to the ice formula) and clear ice blocks needed to carve characters from the classic Christmas poem. ICE!® presented by Pepsi and Lexus includes five ice slides to play on inside the wintry tent, and the Gaylord Texan offers free parkas for the tour. Trust me though, you’ll enjoy your time in the ICE!® a lot more if you bring a hat, a warm coat and boots.
MORE FROSTY FUN
Outside the ICE!® tent, you’ll find 12 lanes of snow tubing hills guaranteed to be packed with snow that’s made fresh each morning.
The Glacier Glide Ice Skating Rink is a real 6,000 foot outdoor ice rink, perfect for a Yuletide glide or as a way to work off Thanksgiving dinner!
Santa’s Snow Throw is a must for kids raised in the Dallas-Fort Worth area because when was the last time you had a beautiful, round, fluffy snowball to hurl at a specially-created target?
Snow tubing, ice skating, and Santa’s Snow Throw are available for a separate admission fee.
When you’ve done all you can outside, visit an exclusive Build-A-Bear workshop and make a new furry friend to make memories with. Then if you’re up for it, Snowburst the Gaylord Texan Polar Bear will lead you on a self-paced holiday scavenger hunt.
Create a work of art gingerbread house at the Gingerbread Decorating Corner, sponsored by Hallmark Channel’s Countdown to Christmas. Of course, you can also enjoy cookies with Mrs. Claus, and photos with Santa (times vary).
Although all those activities are available for additional fees, there’s no charge to wander the Gaylord Texan’s Atrium, which is decked out with two million lights, 15,000 ornaments, trains, and everything you could want for a Lone Star Christmas. Let the Instagramming opportunities commence!
NOT JUST FOR THE KIDS
The On the Blocks Ice Bar (located inside ICE!® ) is a little bit of fun for guests 21 and older. Mixologists will craft samples of two special drinks, and your prepaid ticket also gets you a full beverage. Plan ahead as tickets for On the Blocks have to be purchased before you enter the tent (because credit card technology won’t work at nine degrees!).
Come help the elves find the key to Santa’s workshop in Santa’s Christmas Cottage Escape Room. Although kids can enter with an adult, the activity is not recommended for the little ones.
To maximize your enjoyment of ICE!® and all the action, the staff at the Gaylord Texan recommend making a night (or two) of it! You can do all the outdoor and ICE!® events one day, start the next day with a festive holiday brunch, and then take in the indoor sights and activities. You can even let the Gaylord Texan staff do all the work for your holiday meal –– the exhibits and the hotel are open on Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Come fully charged: the super cold temps will drain your phone batteries!
Layer: no matter what the weather outside, you’ll need at least two layers of sturdy fabric between yourself and ICE!® Bring winter coats, hats, and gloves –– you’ll be glad you did. Even with the parka, I found I got cold about 15 minutes into my visit. Also, Closed-toed shoes are a must (and sturdy, non-slip boots are best).
Don’t do Denim: If you plan to play on the ice slides or snow tubes, remember that—just like when you ski—cotton and denim will become damp and heavy. If you wear jeans, plan a change of clothing just in case.
Hunt for bargains: Peak times are Friday and Saturday evenings. Value Days run early weekdays November 10 through December 15, so if you can go a little early, you’ll save about $10 on each ticket.
Images Courtsey: Gaylord Texan Resort and Convention Center