Every December there are certain family traditions that we enjoy leading up to the holidays. Some traditions, such as baking Christmas cookies together, are ones that are from my childhood that I’ve loved sharing with our children but through the years we’ve lived in the Washington, D.C. area, we’ve also added some of our own like tickets to The Nutcracker, a trip to see the National Christmas Tree in front of the White House, and always donning huge blue parkas to enjoy the ice slides at Gaylord National Harbor’s ICE!
This year we were invited to a very special media preview of Christmas on the Potomac and ICE! featuring Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town that reminded me why a trip to National Harbor is always on our holiday must-do list. With the festivities running until January 3, it’s the perfect place to go for a family staycation if you’re staying in town or makes a wonderful way to spend time with family visiting for the holidays. There’s plenty of fun for all ages that prolongs the magic of the holidays even after December 25.
If you’ve never been to National Harbor, it’s full of family friendly fun that can easily fill a day without being too far from home. There is plenty of shopping, dining, and entertainment in the area but during the holidays, you’ll want to spend a day at Gaylord National Harbor for Christmas on the Potomac.
1. Be Dazzled a Spectacular Tree
When you first arrive at Gaylord National Harbor, it’s hard to miss the holiday decorations that include a dazzling 55 foot tall Christmas tree plus over two million lights that illuminate the glass atrium that provide water views of the Potomac. This 4000 pound tree took 5 weeks to build and is a breathtaking sight for visitors of all ages. It’s a great way to get into the spirit of the holidays at the start of your visit!
2. Enjoy ICE! Artistry from China During a Visit to Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town
Even though temperatures in the atrium average a toasty 72 degrees during the holidays, you’ll want to bundle up in your coat and slip on the provided puffy blue parka as you prepare to enter ICE! Made 5,740 ice blocks weighing over 2 million pounds, this year’s ICE! featuring Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town is a chilly 9 degrees throughout the 15,000 square feet structure. The attraction brings a favorite holiday tale to life and features 5 ICE! slides that are nearly two stories tall! If you’re chilly, you can definitely work up a sweat walking up the stairs to take multiple turns riding down the ice slides!
After you’re done sliding, stop and appreciate the artistry of the 35 ice carving artists who traveled over 6,000 from Harbin, China to National Harbor where they spent 32 days creating ICE! Located in northeast China, Harbin is known around the world for its Ice Festivals that are visited by 800,000 visitors each year. Ice blocks are harvested from the nearby Songhua River and crafted by more than 2,000 sculptors into thousands of ice structures, carvings and snow sculptures displayed in a 100-acre walk-through Ice Park and full-sized Ice City.
I love that ICE! can serve as a conversation starter about different countries, cultures, and traditions around the world for curious kids to make them global citizens as you watch masters at work carving frozen works of art towards the end of your time at ICE! If you’re making your first visit to ICE! read my tips for attending with your family.
3. Become a Kid Again by Taking a Spin on the Carousel or Riding the Miniature Train
How many times do we embrace our inner child as adults? As you shed your blue parka and seek warmth, listen to your inner voice that is telling you to hop on the carousel or ride the miniature train with your kids. Carousel rides are a new feature to this year’s Christmas on the Potomac and a great place to warm up as you exit ICE! Train fans will love taking a ride on the Potomac Express Miniature Train located in the Atrium with the giant Christmas tree overhead.
4. Feast with Santa and Friends
Fans of Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town will get a chance to greet the characters during Kris Kringle’s Holiday Feast Dinner at Pienza Marketplace. This delicious holiday buffet features wide selection with options for the most sophisticated palates and the pickiest. Parents can choose seafood such as king crab legs, raw oysters, and steamed shrimp with Old Bay, roasts from a carving station, plus loads of vegetables as side dishes while kids can enjoy PB&J, chicken fingers, fries, and lots of other kid friendly fare. Dessert will be hard to resist with delectable treats, all as tasty as they look! If you’re more of a brunch person, brunch with Santa at Old Hickory Steakhouse. Reservations are strongly encouraged and more information about dining options at Gaylord National can be found here.
5. Enjoy an Indoor Snowfall
Plan your visit to include evening hours to enjoy modern and classical Christmas carols that are synchronized to the fountain show below the tree at 6, 7, 8, and 9 pm that concludes with a nightly snow flurry! No coat required as the whole family will be mesmerized by the flakes that fall from the sky multiple times a night.
6. More Fun Than You Can Fit in a Day
The fun doesn’t stop with the activities mentioned above! Additional options include the Gingerbread Decorating Corner where you can enjoy all the fun of decorating without the mess and take photos with Santa that will be cherished for years to comeWith so much to do, Gaylord National Harbor makes a perfect place to have a family staycation where you can enjoy it all and then retreat to the comfort of your room while visions of sugarplums dance in your head. Parents in need of some zen can also swap childcare duties and book time at Relache Spa and indulge in pomegranate-themed holiday spa treatments including a pedicure, massage and facial for some much needed holiday relaxation.
I received complimentary tickets to attend ICE! thanks to a media preview with my family. No additional compensation was received for my review. All opinions are my own. Some photos courtesy of Gaylord National.