If you thought the vodka luge at your cousin’s wedding was impressive, you’re way overdue for a holiday visit to the Gaylord Palms.
Nearly 30 tons of specially formulated ice are trucked in to create the massive, magnificent sculptures for ICE!, a delightful and popular stop on Orlando’s holiday to-do list of attractions. This year’s theme – Frosty the Snowman – is a generation-spanning winner.
Characters from the Rankin/Bass classic cartoon are spot-on; just try and walk 10 feet without hearing someone shout “Happy birthday!” And the frigid temps are (for many, at least) a novel departure from Central Florida’s averages this time of year. Indeed, nine degrees makes SeaWorld’s Antarctica attraction seem downright balmy.
A team of 40 artisans creates a themed winter wonderland from 26.4 tons of ice — Photo courtesy of Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center
In place are all the colorful and brilliantly sculpted features ICE!-goers have come to expect, including an exquisite crystalline nativity. And new this year: visitors can see the artisans in action in the “Frostbite Factory!”
Each year, the Gaylord imports a brilliant team of 40 artists from Harbin, China, to create the sculptures for ICE! Harbin is home of the world-famous International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival – the largest of its kind in the world.
Though these pros make short work of the designers’ plans, 60 percent of the attraction will be replaced during its 44-day run. In other words, they stay busy! The Harbin crew makes it look easy – newsflash: it’s not – and visitors will marvel watching as they create different pieces for the exhibit.
Classic Rankin/Bass characters like Professor Hinkle and Hocus Pocus are captured expertly in ice — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Four different artists will rotate shifts inside, along with two members of the construction team who help prepare the ice – which will eventually comprise a teddy bear, a Christmas train and a Chinese dragon – for sculpting and placement.
At 21 feet, the moon atop this year’s slide section is the tallest in the exhibit. Themed on the Town Square from the Frosty cartoon, its colorful bricks, Christmassy touches and quaint, purplish silhouettes evoke the whimsy of the season and, as one soars down the icy, two-story chutes, the carefree essence of childhood. It’s a toss-up to say whether the kids or adults enjoy it more.
A view from the top: visitors come ready to slide! — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
Beyond the expansive freezer, cocoa, sumptuous themed cupcakes (from Orlando's own Gigi’s) and photo-ops with Santa are available for purchase. Explore the property afterward to enjoy lush atrium landscaping alive with seasonal touches. A towering, 54-foot Christmas tree helps set the stage for the nightly Luminescence show, featuring a band, singers and aerialists.
Baby, it's warm "outside." Performers soar overhead during the Luminescence show in the atrium — Photo courtesy of A.D. Thompson
For a change-of-pace from a character breakfast, opt instead to rise early for an ICE! VIP Guided Tour and enjoy an artisan meet-and-greet/Q&A and behind-the-scenes look at ICE!
Tour includes a warm-up cocoa after the walk-through and an exclusive 11x17 conceptual ICE! art print along with all-day admission. Feel free to come back after you’ve warmed up! $79.99 per person; $265.99 for a family of four. Call 407-586-0373 for information and booking.