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ICE! and Snow at Gaylord National

Gaylord National Resort kicks off the holidays with snow and ice.

Deck the halls? Try the entire 18-story atrium at Gaylord National. Photograph by Chris Leaman

>> Check out a slide show of ICE! and Christmas on the Potomac 

The Capital Weather Gang predicted some good snowfall for Washington this year, and if the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center has anything to do with it, they’ll be right.

The National Harbor hotel debuted its Christmas on the Potomac holiday event last night with a real snowfall inside its 18-story glass atrium. But that was just the beginning: The hotel will host more than 800 holiday events and displays this year, running almost continuously through early January.

“Our goal is to own Christmas in DC,” says general manager Phil Coffey.

How exactly? In addition to the indoor snowfall (6:15 and 9:15 nightly), the hotel has plugged in more than two million twinkling lights, erected a 60-foot Christmas tree made entirely of candy-like glass, created a fountain show choreographed to holiday music, hung 150-foot light banners to replicate the colors of the Northern Lights, and even built an indoor holiday train village. Though the tree will be lit every night at 6, the real pageantry will come on the weekends, when dancers and a choir join the festivities at 7 with a short holiday show of carols and traditional hymns.

Then there’s the ice. Or should we say ICE!, the official name of the 15,000-square-foot pavilion containing sculptures made from two million pounds of the frozen stuff. The walk-through display, which sculptors have been crafting since October, includes everything from replicas of Washington landmarks to googly-eyed penguins to gas-lit ice lampposts to polar bears and reindeer. There are also four ice slides where you can practice tobogganing. Walk through Santa’s workshop, where Santa and his ice elves are chiseling ice gifts for kids around the world. Then end in an ice-made Nativity scene complete with wise men, shepherds, Mary and Joseph, and, of course, an ice-cast baby Jesus.

Be warned: It’s really cold in there—nine degrees, to be exact. The Gaylord requires that you wear long pants and closed-toe shoes, but the hotel will provide all guests with hooded calf-length parkas. We wore the parka over our wool peacoat and even remembered to bring gloves, but it still took several minutes to thaw out afterward. Be sure to bundle up little ones well.

Christmas on the Potomac, which includes the tree lighting and indoor snowfall, is free and runs through January 3. ICE! is open daily—even Christmas and New Year’s Day—through January 10 starting at 10 AM; closing times vary. Adult tickets (ages 13 and up) range from $19.99 on weekdays before 4 to $24.50 all day on the weekends. Kids’ tickets (ages four through 12) are $13 all the time; kids under four are free. You can purchase tickets in advance online or at the door.

Want to see more photos? Go here.

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