A winter wonderland
Ice is cold. It's hard, and it's definitely pretty at times. But who knew ice could be so cute?
This year, for the first time, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor hosts "Ice!" -- 15,000 square feet of carved, colorful ice scenes under a big white tent. See blue penguins with pointed noses and orange feet, baby polar bears alongside their mama, lamps shining along a bridge, all made of ice. The wonderland starts with a D.C.-centric room that includes the Lincoln and Jefferson memorials, the White House, the Washington Monument and the U.S. Capitol. A sleigh big enough for the whole family to sit in makes for a perfect photo opportunity, and four two-story ice slides make for a fun ride or two.
A Victorian tableau showcases a piano, a clock, a Christmas tree and a kitten sitting on a table. Santa is here, too, big and burly in his bright red suit, as is a 25-foot angel. In the final room, baby Jesus lies in the Nativity scene.
About 40 artisans from Harbin, China, where the tradition of ice carving runs deep, carefully crafted the figures out of 5,000 blocks of ice, each weighing 400 pounds. The ice came on 35 trucks from an ice plant in Ohio. The carvers worked for about 30 days, and some will stay throughout the holiday season to keep the ice art looking fresh.
So how do you keep an ice wonderland from melting, given Washington's capricious weather?
You create a frigid zone, which is just what the Gaylord has done. At 9 degrees, it's cold under the tent. The Gaylord provides long, warm parkas for visitors as young as 3 years old and as big as XXL, and blankets for babies in strollers. Still, 30 minutes in that temperature is probably as much as anyone can take.
-- Moira E. McLaughlin
Where is it? The tent is in a parking lot across the street from the Gaylord at 201 Waterfront St. There is plenty of garage parking at the harbor. It's a flat rate of $10 to park in the Gaylord lot, nearest to the ice.
The St. George and Mariner garages charge by the hour until 6 p.m., when they charge a flat rate of $11.
Fleet garage charges by the hour, with a maximum of $11. The small garage on the water (which fills up fast) also charges by the hour but maxes out at $6.
What to bring: Hat, gloves and scarf. Wear closed-toed shoes. You will enjoy it more if you are bundled up! Bring a camera, or pay $14.99 to have your photo taken outside the tent and then superimposed onto one of the ice scenes. The tent is carpeted and is wheelchair accessible.
Purchasing tickets ahead of time is encouraged. https://www.gaylordnationaltickets.com. 301-965-4000.
What else can I do? Walk to the Gaylord and grab a hot chocolate. Through Jan. 3, check out the Gaylord atrium, where a 60-foot glass Christmas tree is lighted every night at 6. (Friday's lighting will also include fireworks in the harbor.) There will also be choral performances nightly at 7, a musical water fountain show at 8 and 9 and "snow" falling inside the atrium at 6:15 and 9:15.
Ice skating is also offered through Jan. 10 for $8 at a rink next to the ice tent.