If you’ve been following our family’s adventures for a little while, you know we’re big fans of Gaylord National Resort. We’ve been there three times during various times of the year and it never gets old. We especially like visiting in the winter because Gaylord celebrates the holiday season like no other! In fact, on our recent visit over Thanksgiving weekend we got to experience the official kick-off for all of their scheduled Christmas festivities. Many thanks to the property for hosting us.
The hotel itself is situated on the shores of the Potomac River, and the views are absolutely breathtaking! While you’ll have plenty to do and see right there on the property, Gaylord National is conveniently located near many of Maryland’s best attractions, like the Capital Wheel and MGM National Harbor. Once inside the resort itself, you’ll be captivated by the 19-story glass atrium overlooking the river. Inside that atrium is where all of the action happens, but more on that later.
Gaylord has a luxurious spa, an indoor pool, a state-of-the-art fitness center, several restaurants, and a posh rooftop nightclub, but what will really keep you coming back is their signature attraction ICE! that takes place every winter. The resort celebrates Christmas on the Potomac with more than 2 million lights and acres of stunning decorations, on top of their super fun holiday activities that kids of all ages will love! From the moment you step out of your vehicle, you’ll know you’re entering a holiday wonderland!
In the past, ICE! has used different themes, like A Christmas Story and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, making attending each year a new and exciting experience. This year, ICE! features How The Grinch Stole Christmas, which is brightly colored and whimsical, setting the tone for all the fun you’ll have! Visitors can walk through interactive ice sculptures and displays to watch the story unfold. (These incredible hand-carved sculptures are made from more than 2 million pounds of ice!)
Also new this year is the Reindeer Rush Ice Tubing that lets friends and family race each other down a 15-foot-high, four-lane ice tubing hill! We had a blast on these super-fast slides! The ice skating rink in Winter Square is also a new addition that my girls loved. There’s a character meal option, allowing kids to eat with the Grinch himself; a gingerbread decorating corner; a scavenger hunt; a Build-a-Bear Workshop center; photos with Santa; and a train ride just for kids!
If that’s not enough, visitors can watch Cirque Dreams Unwrapped, a Broadway-style acrobatics show, in the atrium (I couldn’t look away watching some of these death-defying acts!). If you’re not in the Christmas spirit by the time you leave Gaylord National, I don’t know what will get you there! The grand finale of the night is the atrium light show, when laser lights, a dancing fountain, and indoor snowfall captivate audiences to the sounds of Christmas music. If you go, grab some hot cocoa or an adult beverage at Tinsel Tavern to end the magical evening.
Each of these activities is open to the public and tickets to the various events can be purchased separately or in bundles. But wait! There’s more! The holiday fun continues for overnights guests, and honestly, there is so much to do without the special perks I’m about to mention that it’s impossible to do it all in one day. Gaylord National provides exclusive experiences and activities to its guests that are not open to the public. A VIP Carver Showcase allows hotel guests a behind-the-scenes look at how blocks of ice transform into stunning sculptures. During these private demonstrations by artisans from Harbin, China, guests can even ask questions about the tools, training, and skills of the trade. The Silent Disco on Ice is another fun activity for families, where each person can dance to holiday music delivered to personal, wireless headphones. Finally, Pajama Story Time with Snowflake the Elf is an adorable tradition that gives guests special access to Mrs. Claus’ living room in Christmas Village just before bed.
As you can see, you’re going to want to stay the night, and the rooms are so beautiful that Gaylord National would be worth staying at even if ICE! were not taking place! When we went over Thanksgiving weekend, we stayed in a gorgeous, 1-bedroom suite with views of the atrium. The room décor is sophisticated and the balcony overlooking the atrium is a really unique feature to Gaylord. The 1-bedroom suite offers a spacious living room, dining area, a desk, a separate bedroom, and a fabulous marble bathroom. For maximum holiday cheer however, you can upgrade to a Christmas Dreams Suite, which is adorned with garland, wreaths, lights, and holiday stockings! Guests are treated to in-room goodies from the resort’s pastry chef and a one-hour private photo shoot with a professional photographer at the hotel!
If you’d like to venture outside the Gaylord National for a bite to eat, we’ve got a few recommendations for you. Succotash puts a modern twist on classic Southern dishes and it’s my go-to for brunch. James Beard Award nominee Edward Lee combines his Korean roots and expertise with Southern cuisine to Succotash’s unique menu. Thai Pavilion is elegant, but comfortable, using high-quality ingredients to create authentic Thai dishes. Nando’s Peri-Peri is the home of Portuguese flame-grilled Peri-Peri Chicken. If you’re unfamiliar, the restaurant is known for marinating fresh chicken for 24 hours in Peri-Peri sauce before grilling it over an open flame and basting it to your requested level of spiciness. (The spice is Bird’s Eye Chilli, which grows in Africa, and is so nice it was named twice!)
I don’t think I could name a favorite aspect of our Gaylord National visit if I tried! There is so much to see and do that every member of your family is guaranteed to have fun if you go. The upscale accommodations are inviting, the nearby dining options and proximity to Maryland attractions are unbeatable, and ICE! is hands-down the best holiday party ever!