Swing by the Gaylord National for this year’s presentation of ICE! featuring everyone’s favorite reindeer, Rudolph.
The holidays are here which means one thing: the District is full of cheer. There are plenty of holiday markets in different neighborhoods while Christmas themed events such as tree lightings happen each night. Like they say, it’s the most wonderful time of the year!
Enter the one and only ICE! Exhibit that happens each year at Gaylord National. This one of a kind exhibit features two million pounds of colored ice in the shape of your favorite holiday characters — and this year’s theme is Rudolph. We spoke to the Director of Marketing and PR at Gaylord National, Jennifer Cerasani, to learn more about the ICE Exhibit.
District Fray: First question right off the bat, what exactly is the ICE! exhibit?
Jennifer Cerasani: Christmas at Gaylord National is an annual tradition. We really call ourselves the capital of Christmas. ICE! is a 17,000 square foot attraction. It is a walkthrough winter wonderland with immersive characters, carved from 2 million pounds of ice. We bring about 40 artisans from Harbin, China. They spend 33 days and they carve the walkthrough winter wonderland entirely from ice. This year’s theme is Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. So visitors will be able to go through and see this classic story created and carved from 2 million pounds of ice.
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Is there any sort of poll or gathering of ideas for which theme to go with each year?
It is a process, because we need to make sure that it is a great Christmas story that’s going to resonate with our audiences, and then we need to make sure that we can adequately recreate it in this different medium. We start planning it in January, and we begin carving the ice sculptures in October.
We bring in about 6,000 blocks of ice and they’re a mixture from the crystal clear ice to vibrant color ice. They actually are made from deionized water, which is frozen very slowly while it’s moving to inhibit the formation of ice crystals. That allows you to have truly clear ice. And then we also use food grade dye to create the colors and we have to make sure that all of the colors match. So there’s a lot of fine planning and work to goes into creating this attraction.
Are there any particular years that are your favorite from the exhibit?
Oh, I love each and every one. It’s like having kids, you love them all. What I love about this year’s is that Rudolph is the quintessential classic tale. It’s the story of a little guy who was different and bullied. He traveled, met friends and learned to value what made him different [is] actually made him special and unique. I love that story. I think it’s such an important message.
This year we are supporting that message with a partnership with Boys and Girls Club. For the first four Tuesdays, anyone that attends will donate a dollar to the Boys and Girls Club, and we have erected a wall of kindness and we’re inviting our guests to write down what their special thing that makes them unique and different. It is a very powerful message. So, that’s why Rudolph is near and dear. And of course, the slides are so fun.
That sounds amazing. Is this the first year you’re partnering with a nonprofit or a charity?
For this on such a large scale, yes. This is the first year that we’re partnering with the Boys and Girls Club and we call them Twinkle Tuesdays. I think the message of Rudolph, combined with the Boys and Girls Club partnership is a really great way to just share a little kindness and joy for the holiday season.
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For the ICE! exhibit, is there a timeframe that people have to see it by, or is it open all day and night?
We open every day for the public from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. You purchase a times ticket, so you do need to go and enter into the exhibit at that time, but you may stay as long as you would like. Lots of kids go down their slides of millions of times because they just have so much fun. Now, something to call out for those who might not be familiar with ice: the ice is kept in a nine degrees. So we provide everyone who goes into the ice tent with a warm blue parka that they can put over their own coat and that can help keep them warm.
I always recommend to bring gloves, hats and scarves. A pro tip: the cold will drain your phone battery very quickly. So, we’ll always recommend to keep your phone in your pocket and pull it out right when you wanna take those pictures. And there are a lot of great picture moments throughout the exhibit.
For people who are visiting D.C., would you suggest getting an overnight stay or doing a day pass so they can do other touristy things?
It really depends. If you are visiting the D.C. region or sometimes we have families that are kind of meeting up here. Either way, we welcome both. We’ll have people that you know, they visit, they come in, they see the monuments, they go to Arlington Cemetery, then they come to National Harbor, they visit ICE!, they’ll ride the Capitol Wheel. We have a lot of people that meet up and they stay overnight here at the hotel so they can enjoy all of the Christmas attractions. They can enjoy everything that National Harbor has to offer, and use this as their home base.
To keep up with Gaylord National Resort and to learn more about the ICE! Exhibit, be sure to check out their website christmasatgaylordnational.marriott.com. Tickets for the exhibit can be purchased through the site as well.