Fun Family Holiday Events in the Washington DC area

[Note:  This post was written by KFDC Contributor Emily Moise, a local writer and mom of two young children.  She always has excellent recommendations for kids’ activities around the DC area. See some of them here, here, here,]

An oasis of Christmas magic awaits you at National Harbor’s Gaylord Resort & Convention Center. If you’ve never been there, you’ve probably heard of it ICE!, the resort’s annual Christmas event featuring incredible themed ice sculptures. But the ad on your social media feed doesn’t illustrate the scale of the lavish, immersive experience on top of the world-class christmas village and general holiday cheer carried throughout the resort.

My family spent the night at Gaylord before attending the holiday events and it may be our new tradition. We arrived at sunset when the magic is really at its best. The balcony to our room overlooked the entire atrium lit up with a Christmas tree and twinkling lights above us. The core memories created were 1000% worth a night sharing a room with two overexcited kids. We also spied on the amazing Christmas Dream Suites from our room.

The next morning the Christmas village and ICE! – thematically a Christmas Story – were officially open. Plan to start your experience with ICE! – an outdoor exhibition space cooled to an unimaginable 9 degrees. Think of an ice bar or walk-in freezer if you’ve ever been in one, and don your warmest gear. Parkas are also available, but not warm enough on their own, but nice for a family photo.

No words can fully describe ICE! and the stunning, multicolored ice creations that a team of ice carvers from Harbin, China, craft to build them. On your way in there is a small display showing the process and tools used – try to pause and explain things to your kids beforehand – they may be too cold to chat in the exhibition. And if you still need to see a Christmas Storypreview some of the classic scenes to make them more meaningful too.

Hopefully your children won’t be too cold on the ICE! to use the coolest (pun intended) ice slides ever. Otherwise you should go directly snow river mountain inside and plan to park it there for a while. This four-lane tubing slide doesn’t make a mess! The required height is 42 inches and it makes perfect sense when you see how fast the pipes are hurtling down the slope. The smile and the laugh are priceless.

Next we checked out snow factory, where you can build and throw real snowballs, but it wasn’t quite ready for our visit. Temporary disappointment until we saw the next stop was one Visit to Santa Claus – the real one according to my 5 year old (I’m more demanding with my Santas). After the required photo op, we spotted a gingerbread girl named “Cinnamon” and followed her to the Gingerbread decoration corner. My kids chose the prefab houses over cookies.

On the way out of the Christmas village, we greeted Mrs. Claus, who guides 25 minutes Christmas traditions Experiences with story readings, sing-alongs and biscuits with milk. (Tickets must be purchased in advance.) We were bundled to head outside again Ice skating and Ice bumper cars (but not really on ice) but my kids were a bit holiday ready so we decided to call it a day – and a very memorable one at that.

Christmas at Gaylord National runs daily from November 20th to December 31st. ICE! is back after a two-year hiatus so expect it to be a popular event, especially on the weekends. Tickets start at $25/child and $37/adult; under 3 years are free.

More tips & info
* At ICE there are professional photo sessions! and with Santa Claus. Be prepared to pay $25 per photo, or take your own photos where photography is permitted.
* Have a place to store your post-ICE cold weather gear! or run to your car to drop things off once you’re settled indoors.
* Cirque: Spirit of Christmas and The greatest story stage show begin November 25, both being screened in the Gaylord National Atrium.
* Harbor Social is a super kid-friendly resort dining option. There are games everywhere, including duckpin bowling (call to reserve a lane in advance).
* Visit The Holiday Sweet Shoppe at the resort for some goodies and nostalgia.
* Holidays at National Harbor includes a nightly tree light show and fireworks display Saturday nights November 12 through December 17 at 5:30 p.m.

Christmas at Gaylord National
Where: National Port | Oxon Hill, MD
When: until 31.12
Admission: Varies depending on the activity


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