Gloves. You are going to need gloves.
Ice!, the centerpiece of Gaylord National Resort’s yearly Christmas on the Potomac, is cool. And also cold. At this year’s edition, which celebrates “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” you’ll find a chilled extravaganza containing 12 scenes from the beloved cartoon carved from ice, plus a Nativity scene featuring a 12-foot-tall angel — inside tents that are kept at 9 degrees. Thirty-five artisans from China carved Snoopy’s decked-out doghouse, the loo-loo-looing choir scene and, of course, Charlie’s signature tree. While each visitor gets a distinctive (and very welcome) blue parka to wear for the duration, the coats don’t have pockets, giving everyone the ability to experience what it’s like to wear women’s clothes. So: gloves.
Beyond the frozen figures, Ice! has four frozen slides to careen down. (Tip: Put the coat under your butt so you’ll slide better.) After you emerge from the final tent and return to the balmy winter weather that felt cold before you went into air that was 9 degrees, you’ll find the Christmas Village, which incorporates a hot chocolate stand, an ice skating rink, a carousel, a train and a chance to have some cookies with Mrs. Claus and get a photo taken with her husband (these extras cost extra).
Ice! and the Christmas Village, both of which are outside of the resort’s main building, aren’t the only holiday activities to be found in Christmas on the Potomac. As in the past 11 years, the Gaylord National has converted its atrium into a twinkly light spectacular. Nearly 2 million lights deck the halls, right along with 1,300 feet of garland, 1,500 poinsettias and a 55-foot tree that’s suspended from the ceiling. If that’s not enough for you, there’s an indoor snowfall and laser show that goes off multiple times a night.
A new part of Christmas on the Potomac this year is “Cirque Dreams Unwrapped,” a free 25-minute show in the atrium that’s reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil’s signature weirdness. (While you can see the show from anywhere in the atrium, seats are available on a first-come basis; a guaranteed seat costs $19.99.) Many of the Cirque Dreams performers in this show are on the young side, so audiences get the thrill of seeing what looks like a 7-year-old girl catapult off a seesaw into the arms of what one hopes is her father, or at least someone with a strong protective instinct. There are other performers, including a contortionist, a juggler and, near the end of the show, an impressively muscular aerialist who soars over the audience and occasionally stretches out over the front few rows (he is the reason you want to get there early and get a good seat).
Christmas on the Potomac isn’t subtle, but it doesn’t aspire to be. It’s an explosion of sugar plum fairies and goodwill toward all that combines art, artistry and immense amounts of stuff that glitters to saturate visitors’ hearts and minds with the holiday spirit. If a little Christmas magic is what you want this time of year, a lot of Christmas magic might be just what you need.
Gaylord National Resort, 165 Waterfront St., National Harbor, Md.; through Jan. 1, Ice!: $24-$38; “Cirque Dreams Unwrapped”: free-$19.99.