Christmas is coming to Gaylord National from November 26 to December 31. From interactive Christmas movie scenes to ice bumper cars, there’s guaranteed to be holiday fun for folks of all ages.
“It’s truly a Christmas theme park,” says Niko Nickolaou, senior director of special events at Gaylord National. “There’s lots of exciting thrills and experiences. I’m always excited to present and create new things for our guests, because it creates this [everlasting] emotional souvenir.”
Nickolaou is especially excited to unveil Gaylord National’s newest Yuletide attraction — an interactive experience entitled “I Love Christmas Movies.” The attraction teleports visitors full-body into scenes from Christmas-time classics, such as “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” “Elf,” “A Christmas Story” and more.
“You could be in Gimbels [from “Elf”] with Etch A Sketches and Buddy,” Nickolaou explains. “You can go into ‘Christmas Vacation,’ where you’re standing outside the front of the house — where you plug in the lights on the house and ‘Hallelujah’ plays.”
The interactive scenes are all about immersion, featuring props, audio and more to plunge visitors into the depths of these unforgettable holiday scenes — creating an experience that stretches far beyond a simple photo-op.
“We’re looking to tie signature classic movies to the [Gaylord National] experience, to really get everybody excited about Christmas,” he continues.
There’s also a ton of other activities to get into. There’s snow tubing and ice bumper cars for the adventurous types, a Christmas Village housed inside where you can make gingerbread houses and meet Santa — and even a light show to cap off a full day of Christmas joy and spirit.
Nickolaou makes two things pretty clear: one, that he adores his job and two, he’s in the business of memory-making.
“Everything we do stems back to creating family, multi-generational memories — something that lasts for a lifetime, that kids can take and pass down from generation to generation. You [can make] a day out of it and create those Christmas memories and emotional souvenirs.”
I asked him about what it means to his family to put these kinds of events together — to have him in the business of Christmas memory-making. He laughs and jokingly (half-jokingly?) mentions his kids are his research and development team.
“My kids don’t describe my job as, ‘He works for a hotel,’” Nickolauo explains, beaming. “My kids say I deliver Christmas.”
“When it comes to Christmas day, you’re able to sit there and see [your kids] open presents, and there’s something you can’t describe,” Nickolauo continues. “There’s this twinkle in their eyes, and that twinkle means everything.”
“I always [strive] to see how we can create that twinkle [for] others — whether it seems something incredible like a light show, connecting with films that family members love, or even connecting with Santa. Seeing the kids’ and parents’ faces where [you see] that joy: You know these moments are going to last a lifetime. That’s what I do.”
So if you’re on the hunt to make some lifelong holiday memories with loved ones, look no further than Christmas at Gaylord National — there’s bound to be that twinkle wrapped inside.
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