10 Tips to Enjoy ICE at the Gaylord Resorts

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The crown jewel of the Gaylord Resort’s holiday experience is their holiday-themed ICE exhibit that is kept at finger-numbing 9 degrees and features two million pounds of themed hand-carved ice sculptures, ice slides, and also houses approximately three million people at any given time. Kidding, of course, there are only two million people. Seriously though, ICE is a very popular attraction that is quite crowded and sells out during peak times. Enjoying the Gaylord ICE Experience to the fullest takes a bit of strategy, so after going earlier this season with my whole family, here are my Gaylord ICE tips. These tips are based on our trip to the Gaylord Texan Resort near Dallas, though I would assume most of the tips translate to the other Gaylord ICE attractions around the country.

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Avoid ICE weekends and holidays unless you love crowds

I’m going to lead with the best piece of advice to increase the enjoyment of your ICE experience, and that is to try and avoid going on weekends and holidays. I know, easier said than done for families with little ones in school, but I still have to say it. Visiting ICE will be cheaper and much less crowded if you can find a way to go when others aren’t. If we go again, and I hope to, we will try to go on a school day earlier in the holiday season than the Saturday before Thanksgiving that we chose this time around.

Leave those who don’t like crowds off of the ICE invitation list

You may be sensing a theme to these tips already, but assuming you can’t avoid peak dates, at least try to limit the invitation list to those who are okay with some lines and waiting. My husband very much does not enjoy very crowded areas, so while we wanted him to experience this holiday activity with the girls, I don’t think he would sign up to do it twice simply because it was too crowded for him to enjoy.

Those who pay extra for Fast Passes or who are staying at the hotel can go through a shorter VIP access line, but the crowds will be the same once you are in the attraction.

Go to ICE first thing in the morning

Okay, last bit of harping on the crowds, at least for now, but if you can’t avoid going to ICE on weekends and holidays, try to reserve your time slot for first thing in the morning when the crowds are lower and there are just generally fewer people out and about. ICE seems to open at about 10AM, so you don’t have to get up too early to avoid peak capacity.

Make your ICE reservation in advance

Certain ICE time slots do sell out, so make your reservation online in advance so that you don’t risk getting there only to find out that there are no more tickets available that day. The other thing that happens when ICE is sold out is that all the ancillary attractions like snow tubing and ice skating also start to get exponentially more crowded.

Look for ICE ticket deals to save money

At the Gaylord Texan, an adult ticket to ICE goes for $32.99 during peak times, but it can be had for half that amount if you purchase in advance using discounts. I covered these money-saving tips in much more depth on this post, but in summary, if you want to save money on your ICE visit, follow the Gaylord Resort on Facebook as they post ICE discount codes, check Groupon for discounted admission, bundle the ICE ticket with other attractions, and consider going early in the season.

Don’t wear a big coat to ICE, but do bring gloves

Knowing ICE is kept at 9 degrees, we all came prepared for a hike through the arctic tundra, but that actually wasn’t a great plan as they sort of require you to take these massive blue ICE parkas. This is great if you don’t have winter gear with you, but it isn’t that great when you already have a huge coat on and start sweating bullets managing all your gear and a toddler. So, skip wearing big jackets knowing they hand you one, but do bring gloves and potentially a hat. The one exception may be if you are going with a toddler as they didn’t have any tiny-human-sized jackets available.

Not thrilled about being double jacket-ed

May not be impressive to toddlers

There’s never a guarantee that something that is exciting to you will be exciting to a two-year-old, but that is especially true when that something is very stimulating and freezing. My toddler started strong, but by the time she got stuck on the ice slide, it was pretty much all over.

Lean back on the ice slide

I think the coolest part of ICE are the ice slides you can go down as many times as you wish, but there is a trick to going down them successfully (that my two-year-old didn’t figure out). The trick to the ice slides is that you really have to lean back or instead of sliding you just have to scoot down very awkwardly on your rear.

Keep a close eye on your kiddos

While this is always true in a busy environment, it is very easy to lose track of your kids at ICE because in matching blue parkas, everyone looks pretty much the same.

Smile and have fun

As you have probably surmised by this point, our first family visit to ICE wasn’t perfect, but there were some perfect moments in the midst of it all, especially with our almost eight-year-old who didn’t mind the cold, loved the ice slides, and is generally into all things holiday.

If you go with the right people and avoid the absolute peak times, ICE is a pretty special place when you look around and remind yourself that this is all made of ice. If you just rush through it all while trying to keep everyone alive and non-frozen, the beauty and magic of it may be a bit lost on you. My gosh, if that isn’t true for the entire holiday season.

A few other pieces of advice when visiting ICE would be to wear sturdy shoes, don’t go tired or on an empty stomach, don’t bring your stroller, don’t expect your camera phone to work well in 9 degrees, and try not to rush through it all as it will be over before you know it.

I’d love to hear your ICE tips if your family has experienced this beautiful frozen holiday attraction!

 

Editorial Note: The opinions expressed here are mine and not provided, reviewed, by any bank, card issuer, or other company unless otherwise stated.

Comments

  1. The Marriott website has a discount code for Marriott members on non-peak dates, as well as an offer for discounted parking (we are in DC). But I imagine anyone can use the discount code.

    Everyone looks almost exactly the same in their blue parkas. We put a strip of red duct tape on the back of our kids so we wouldn’t lose them in the crowd. I imagine a nice scarf would also work.

    Make sure the family member taking pictures knows which on of the slides you are going down…because everyone looks mostly the same and you could easily miss your kid or be taking a video of a stranger.

    We went this past Monday in Washington DC. The line was long for the 1PM opening, but by the time we got out at 1:45, there was no line at all. We were able to get decent photos with nobody in the way.

    The ICE by us dumped us out into a shopping area where you could also ice skate and other activities for an additional fee.

    Nine degrees is ridiculously cold. And they have blowers going to better circulate the cold air. Without gloves, you will be miserable.

    Make sure you leave time to just explore the Gaylord decorations. They do a nice job.

    We were prepared this year and really enjoyed the experience.

  2. We go every year to ICE in D.C. I would agree that going on early in the day on a weekday is definitely the way to go! We went last Friday when our school district was out and we didn’t have to wait at all. We always buy tickets in advance as well. Next year we are going to stay at the Gaylord for the night and experience all of the other activities that take place in the evening as well!

  3. We actually had a trip to the Gaylord Texan planned to attend all the holiday festivities and I canceled after reading about your visit LOL! I just can’t handle crowds like that and I’m not shelling out a bunch of money to be miserable.

      • We’re still going to Dallas but will now be staying at a Hyatt House instead of the Gaylord and we traded ICE for the new HolidayWonder At Fair Park. I think it’ll be much better/more relaxing for our family 🙂

        • Glad to hear it – important to match activities with personalities/interests. Had I known how crowded it was, we would have never signed Josh up for this trip. It was a poor match! Ha! Have a great time!

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