|A life-size nativity scene carved entirely out of ice|
Every winter, I get a little jealous when people visiting colder climes start sharing photos of ice sculpture festivals and ice hotels. In Texas, Mother Nature does not keep the outdoors cold enough for us to enjoy such things. December weather is all over the place. Some Christmases, it's been warm enough to wear shorts. On another, more magical Christmas, snow flurries fell from the sky, causing my children to abandon their half-unwrapped gifts to run outside. When I heard about the Gaylord Texan Resort hotel's ICE! Winter Wonderland, I knew that it would be the perfect mini-getaway during our holiday school break. Gaylord Hotels has four locations around the USA, each with a different themed ICE! exhibit.
|Which list are you on?|
At first, the high ticket prices — $33 for adults during peak hours — gave me pause, but a quick query of friends assured me that it was worth it. They even talked me into paying an extra $15 each for the Fast Pass option since some said they waited 90 minutes in line for this popular attraction.
|Don't worry if you don't have a coat. They'll loan you one... which makes finding your family a tad difficult.|
The exhibit hall is kept at a chilly 9°F (-13°C) which is ideal for Frosty the Snowman but not so good for people. Thank goodness that warm, knee-length parkas are included in the admission price. They had them in all sizes for both kids and adults. We also brought along hats, scarves and mittens as my friends recommended since those are not provided. In fact, we even wore our regular winter coats underneath the borrowed parkas just to make extra sure we didn't get too cold. At least it wasn't windy since we were indoors. Unlike way up in the frozen North, we were walking on carpet instead of trudging through snow, so my feet didn't get numb either.
|Piling into Santa's frozen sleigh|
Expecting everything to be plain white ice, like the kind from my home freezer, I was surprised by the abundance of colors and the clarity of the clear ice. Much more impressive than the tabletop ice sculpture at my wedding! Two million pounds of ice are custom made offsite using a special recipe and then delivered to the Gaylord in 36 truckloads over the course of 3 weeks. White ice, similar to the home freezer-type, is frozen quickly so that it maintains a cloudy look. The clear ice is created by slowly freezing highly filtered, de-ionized water. It takes 3 days to freeze a 400 pound block of ice. The water in the colored blocks are dyed with food coloring and then stirred constantly so that the color is even throughout the block. The many blocks are assembled using water which freezes on contact to act as the glue.
|Master carvers from Harbin, China create these frozen pieces of art|
The artisans behind these masterpieces come from Harbin in northeast China. The town is famous for its yearly Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival which is the largest in the world. While the rest of the sculptures were already completed, there was one work in progress so that visitors could watch the master carvers in action. I thought it was fascinating, especially how closely the piece followed the schematics posted on the wall.
|Be sure not to lick the ice while posing|
The exhibit was not huge, but it took us about an hour to go through — mainly because I stopped to take photos and examine all the details. What I shared in this blog is just a few of them.
|Toys from Santa's Workshop|
Part of me wanted to linger, but part of me wanted to get out of the cold. I'm sure that everyone who lives somewhere that actually gets cold is laughing at me at this point. Please understand that where I live, the city literally shuts down if there's a smattering of snow or hint of ice on the ground. We are not equipped to deal with freezing temps.
For those visitors who wanted to stretch out their time in this humongous walk-in freezer, there were something to do for both kids and adults.
|This ice slide is a far cry from the burning hot metal slides of my Texas childhood.|
|For adults who have always dreamed of bellying up to an ice bar.|
Eventually, I realized that my family had left me to huddle up near the exit, so I tucked away my camera. A free hot cocoa was included in our Fast Pass ticket, but we skipped it because the line was long. I am not the only cold weather wimp in Texas. After returning our borrowed parkas, we headed to the adjoining exhibit hall to enjoy Santa's Wild Workshop Snow Tubing which was an additional cost ($19 for 12 runs).
|Whee! Snow tubing|
This room was thankfully much warmer because the only snow was on the 12-track tubing hill. While my kids were big enough to do it all themselves, including carrying the tubes uphill, I saw parents with younger children use double tubes. Santa's Snowball Throwing Workshop with real snowballs, a rarity in this part of Texas, was in the same hall, but I didn't see anyone doing it.
|Festively decorated atrium of the Gaylord Texan Resort hotel|
The rest of the Gaylord Texan Resort was dressed up for the holidays. There were enough family activities to make a full day visit as long as you have the money to fund it all.
- Glacier Gliding Ice Skating on the 5,000 square foot outdoor rink - $17
- Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt - $12
- Build-a-Bear Workshop - price varies
- Gingerbread Decorating Corner with Gingerbread Man meet & greet - $30-$69 for a kit
- Cookies & Milk with Mrs. Clause - $20/child and $5/ required adult
- Rudolf's Holly Jolly Breakfast - $20/child and $38/adult
- Photos with Santa - $30 and up for photo package
See link for full details.
|This gingerbread house took up an entire table|
Since it was December 31, I thought this would be a fun place to ring in the New Year and booked one of the Lone Star Christmas Overnight Stay packages which includes admission to various holiday activities. We didn't buy separate tickets to the adults only New Years Eve party in the resort's club but had a fun evening nonetheless enjoying a late family dinner at one of the many restaurants.
As long as we were in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, we rounded out our family mini-break with a stay at Great Wolf Lodge, literally across the street from the Gaylord, to enjoy their indoor water park, a visit to the nearby LEGO Discovery Center, and a day at the Fort Worth Stockyards to watch the cattle drive and play in the cattle pen maze. All in all, it was a wonderful way to transition from one year to the next.
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