23 Dec ICE! in Florida for Christmas at the Gaylord Palms
What’s 9°F and located in Orlando, Florida? ICE! at the Gaylord Palms, this year featuring Frosty the Snowman! With a little time to kill before picking my parents up at the airport, we decided to head to the ICE! exhibit for a taste of the white Minnesotan Christmas we so dearly miss. We had a great time soaking it all up and the display was definitely chilly and full of icy wonder which helped ease our holiday homesickness a bit.
Nine degrees is definitely cold, but if you grew up in a location where -30°F isn’t that shocking of a temperature and people say it’s warming up when the temp rises above 0°F, it just feels like a brisk day inside the exhibit. I asked my mom (who still lives in MN) if they would like to go see the ice and she almost fell on the floor laughing; she thought I was losing it and had to be joking because “why on earth would they pay to see ice when it’s right outside our doors for months on end?! We will pay to NOT see ice, thank you very much!” We both got a pretty good laugh over that question. But, for all you others who don’t frequent the cold, you will want to wear warm clothes and make sure to put on the flashy blue parka provided. We brought our own jackets with and decided to bypass the parkas, but we were warned by someone exiting the exhibit that we need to get the jackets because it was sooo cold! My jacket does look pretty wimpy, but it’s thermal heated on the inside so I was toasty except for my hands and feet. Needless to say, we got a kick out of everyone’s extreme reactions to the cold.
This year’s theme for ICE! was Frosty the Snowman and over 2 million pounds of ice were hand carved into scenes from the snowman Christmas story. It’s hard to believe most everything inside is made from ice–it is all so vibrant and detailed. From individual sculptures to scenes of towns and even a few ice slides, the winter wonderland is exciting and interactive. You walk from room to room and gaze at sculpture after sculpture. The last room is a nativity scene; it is beautiful and the entire display is made with sparkling clear ice. It is quite amazing to see the detail and size of the many sculptures and it’s easy to forget they are all made from ice. Just remember not to touch or lick any of them–I wonder how many people tried licking a sculpture before they came up with that disclaimer!
So, you might be wondering how all of these sculptures were created. The ice sculpture artists are from a city called Harbin in Northeast China and the ice is created in factories and delivered to the Gaylord Palms in 36 truckloads over a time span of 3 weeks. To make the sculptures, the ice is made in three different styles: clear ice, white ice and colored ice, and it is then cut and “glued” together. The glue is made from compacted snow with water poured over it–when ice is placed on top of the glue it bonds immediately and beautiful sculptures start to form.
The idea for this exhibit came from the Ice Lantern Festival in Harbin–the tradition of carving ice dates back to over 500 years ago. Hunters would place candles inside of ice blocks which created lighted posts to navigate their way through the woods at night. Tradition grew from there and today residents take ice blocks from the Songhua River and carve them into intricate designs. Informal ice carving competitions soon turned into formal competitions that have now been taking place for over 40 years.
To get inside the exhibit, be prepared to wait in long lines as they limit the number of people they let into the ice area at one time. Purchasing tickets in advance and printing them at home (even will call can have long lines) is your best bet for a shorter wait time, and if possible, going towards opening or closing will limit wait times as well. Also, be sure to note there is a rather expensive charge of $19 for parking–that’s not a fun surprise when entering the parking lot!
The Gaylord Palms Resort also has many other Christmas activities you might want to take advantage of while you are there. The resort itself is gorgeous, so we walked over there to scope it out and happened upon a pretty fun performance at the huge Christmas tree. There were performers dancing and singing, a drummer suspended in the air and an aerial acrobat all in front of synchronized tree lights–we stayed for the performance of Carol of the Bells and it was quite a show. Other activities are a ShrekFest meal with the characters from Shrek, gingerbread house decorating with Gingy and various Christmas performances. In the words of my fellow Minnesotans, fun will be had by all!