Photo: courtesy of Gaylord

6 Holiday Activities At National Harbor

For those looking to get in the holiday spirit, look no further than National Harbor, where a host of attractions and events take place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Opportunities abound for shopping and dining – complete with picturesque views of the Potomac River and hordes of twinkling lights to add to the festive evenings. Below are some of the must-see things to do as part of the 12th annual Christmas on the Potomac.


Each year, approximately 35 artisans from Harbin, China travel more than 6,000 miles to National Harbor to create a stunning ICE! exhibit, bringing a Christmas tale to life with over 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice.

“This year, guests will be greeted by more than a dozen scenes from Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas in bright vibrant colors,” says Jennifer Cerasani, director of marketing at Gaylord. “Guests will not only enjoy this classic story, but also four ice slides, interactive photo ops and the breathtaking nativity complete with a 12-foot-high angel.”

To create the theme, the artisans carve 2 million pounds of ice for 30 days within 12-hour shifts, and nearly 6,000 ice blocks are used, each weighing about 400 pounds.

“This is a beloved classic Christmas tale, which appeals to everyone,” Cerasani says. “It reminds us all that the true meaning of the holidays is not the presents under the tree, but the love we feel in our hearts.”

Tickets are $25-$33 for ages 4-11. Kids ages 3 and under are free.

Outdoor Winter Square

This year marks the debut of the Outdoor Winter Square, which overlooks the Potomac River and includes an outdoor ice-skating rink and an ugly sweater-themed bar called the Tinsel Tavern.

“We knew that we wanted to add an outdoor experience for our guests,” says Jenna Buck, director of special events and entertainment at Gaylord. “The question was: what, where and how? Since Gaylord National’s pool deck is underutilized in the chilly temperatures of winter, we thought, ‘Why not move our ice skating rink outside?’ Once the location was decided, we added Tinsel Tavern to the experience that will warm up our guests with hot chocolate and festive holiday cocktails.”

Scheduled throughout are Silent Disco on Ice nights where guests can dance, twist and shout, and skate to an array of holiday tunes delivered to personal, wireless headphones.

Ice Tubing

Another brand-new attraction is the Reindeer Rush Ice Tubing in the Christmas Village.

“Different from snow tubing, our guests will speed down one of four two-story-tall slides while overlooking the Christmas Village visitors,” Buck says.

The cost is $20.99 for unlimited rides on the day of purchase.

The Garden Atrium

One of the highlights of the visit will be the 55-foot suspended Starlight Christmas tree boasting the nightly Christmas Miracles laser, light and music show, located inside the Garden Atrium. This is also the setting for the Cirque Dreams Unwrapped atrium show, a 25-minute Christmas fable featuring breathtaking artistry, music and showmanship from around the world.

Cirque Dreams Unwrapped journeys into the holiday-inspired dreams of a child,” Buck says. “Audiences will be mesmerized by the breathtaking specialty acts, costumes, and creativity.”

Tickets for Cirque Dreams Uwrapped are $17.99-$19.99.

Feast with The Grinch

In keeping with the Dr. Seuss theme in the ICE! attraction, people will have the chance to meet the stars of the special at a special character buffet breakfast. “Families can look forward to sharing special moments with The Grinch and Max,” Buck says. “Guests will be able to sing along to holiday favorites as well as take part in interactive activities as they enjoy their yummy meal.”

There’s also the Grinch’s Wonderful Awful Idea Scavenger Hunt, an adventure inviting kids to follow clues through the resort looking for riddles and puzzles dreamed up by The Grinch as he attempts to steal Christmas.

$40 buffet for those 12 and over; $27 for ages 4-11; Scavenger Hunt is $9.99.

Other Holiday Treats

Other holiday goodies you won’t want to miss include the Gingerbread Masterpiece, where Gaylord’s pastry team spent around 1,000 hours creating an original, 1.5 million calorie gingerbread house, which will be on display in the hotel’s lobby; the Christmas Village, featuring fun shops and the Village Express, where guests can take a magical ride on the classic children’s train; and Sounds of the Season, including special musical performances by regional ensembles.

“Christmas is a time for bringing friends and family together to wish, dream, play and make memories,” Cerasani says. “Young and old, and anyone in-between, will find something to delight and entertain them at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac.”

There’s plenty more to do and see as well. For a complete schedule of events, which will take place through December 30, visit

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center: 201 Waterfront St. National Harbor, MD; 301-965-400;