Photo: Courtesy of Gaylord National Resort
Photo: Courtesy of Gaylord National Resort

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer Comes to Life at Gaylord ICE!

Two million pounds of hand-carved ice, four ice slides and an indoor winter wonderland kept at 9 degrees Fahrenheit are just a few of the attractions you’ll experience when visiting the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center’s annual ICE! holiday display. Marvel at this year’s theme of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer-inspired ice art carved by artisans hailing from Harbin, China. On Tap caught up with Elizabeth Penn, Gaylord’s Director of Special Events & Entertainment, about this year’s theme and the story behind ICE!

On Tap: What makes ICE! different from other holiday experiences in the DC area?
Elizabeth Penn: It is the only walk-through attraction where you can see larger-than-life, colorful ice sculptures that tell a holiday story in a 9-degree exhibit. This year’s theme is Rudolph, and visitors will get to see 12 different vignettes that will tell the story of the 1964 TV special.

OT: What are some signature pieces of this year’s event?
EP: A few unique elements include a large Rudolph [and] guests can push a button to make his nose glow; various Bumble the Abominable Snow Monster scenes; and our slide room, which is themed to the Island of Misfit Toys. We also end the attraction with a breathtaking Nativity scene.

OT: What other events will be taking place alongside the attraction?  
EP: New this year, we’re introducing a 25-minute holiday musical in our atrium called JOY – A Holiday Spectacular Show. In addition to JOY, we have a new tree lighting ceremony with laser lights, new LED stars, dancing water and an indoor snow flurry. Also, visitors will get to explore our Christmas Village.

OT: Who are the artists behind the ice sculptures?
EP: We bring in 35 artisans from Harbin, China to carve our ICE! attraction each year. They are extremely talented and bring their own tools, which have been passed down generation to generation, to carve the show.

OT: Explain ICE!’s ties to Harbin, China’s Ice Lantern festival.
EP: [We] wanted to bring that experience to the United States. Our ICE! show is a much smaller version of the International Ice Festival. We showcase more Americanized holiday experiences, but still incorporate many of the elements that they would do in Harbin, including using lights in the ice to illuminate parts of the attraction.

Experience ICE! featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer for yourself at the Gaylord from Saturday, November 18 to Monday, January 1. Tickets cost $32-$39 for adults, and $24-$32 for children. Various times. Check www.nationalharbor.com for more details.

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center: 201 Waterfront St. National Harbor, MD; 301-965-4000; www.nationalharbor.com/gaylord-national/

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Natalia Kolenko

Natalia is a George Mason University alum who studied Journalism and Environment Science and Politics. She combines her background in news reporting with her love for music, art and culture to write pieces on a variety of topics. Addicted to travel, X-files and concerts.