ICE! at Gaylord National: Frosty the Snowman


  • ICE! featuring Frosty the Snowman
  • Where: Gaylord National, National Harbor, MD
  • What: part of the annual Christmas on the Potomac events
  • When: Now through January 4, 2015

The annual Christmas on the Potomac events at the Gaylord National and National Harbor (just outside of DC) have become a family tradition with us. We’ve been every year (except one) since our oldest was born. We missed last year.

The reason why we skipped it last year is because we felt the ICE! attraction was getting smaller and more expensive every year. Plus, we had grown tired of the DreamWorks (Shrek) themes.

This year, I’m happy to say, ICE! is once again a must-do (if only because of nostalgia)! It’s themed to the classic Rankin Bass animated special Frosty the Snowman, and the sculptures are incredible!


If you’re unaware, ICE! is a walkthrough attraction that consists of two million pounds of colorful, carved ice. A total of 36 ice craftsmen (from northeast China) spend a month shaping and carving the ice so they’re exact replicas of Frosty, Karen, Professor Hinkle, and Hocus Pocus.

The exhibit is housed in a climate-controlled tent that keeps the temperature at a brisk 9 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s cold. I recommend gloves. And a hat. And the enormous blue parkas they hand out before you enter. They may not be fashionable, but you’ll be sorry if you don’t have one.

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Interestingly, all of the ice used in this attraction is manmade in a factory and then delivered by truck over a three-week period. Three ice factories are used to produce the 6,500 ice blocks required. Each ice block? Well, each one contains 30 gallons of water and weighs 350 lbs. If you do that math, that’s a lot of water.

Three types of ice are also used. Most of the Frosty scenes utilize white and colored ice (14 different colors are made). The third is clear ice (more on that one in a bit).

At a steady 9 degrees, the ice doesn’t melt. Visitors are encouraged not to touch the ice (obviously), but some of the sculptures that aren’t roped off are just begging to be touched. It looks and feel more like glass than ice. Smooth and dry. It’s remarkable.

IMG_1633 IMG_1628A highlight of ICE! every year is the ice slide. It’s literally a slide made entirely out of ice that you can slide down. In previous years, there were only two slides and long lines. This year, they’ve expanded to 6 slides, and people were moving at a brisk pace. It’s a lot of fun.

IMG_1637Another new addition this year is The Frostbite Factory, which is supposed to be a live carving zone and demonstration area. Sadly, it was empty when we went through, but the idea sounds promising!

Music and audio from the show follow you throughout the exhibit, so if you’re a fan of the show or remember it from childhood, it’s like having it all come to life around you. Just bring mittens.

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The final room (as always) is a huge nativity scene carved into clear ice. After the vibrant color of all the Frosty scenes, this final room strikes a decidedly different tone. Admire it for its religious significance or for the masterful craftsmanship that went into creating it. Or both. Either way, it’s impressive.


ICE! is just one part of Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac event. The jaw-dropping atrium is decorated for the holidays, complete with a synchronized light/music/fountain show, a 60-foot-tall Christmas tree, and hourly indoor snowfall (where it’s kept at a much more reasonable 72 degrees).

For the traditionalist, they offer photos with Santa, brunch with Santa, and a miniature train ride.

For the younger set, they offer the Christmassy DreamWorks Experience, which includes gingerbread decorating with Gingy from Shrek and character meals with the gang from Madagascar.

Ticket prices for ICE! depend on whether you visit at “peak” or “non-peak” times. I’m not gonna lie, it ain’t cheap, but it’s definitely a unique experience you won’t likely see anywhere else. Tickets are available here.

There are a lot of holiday offerings in the DC area. ICE! at Gaylord National has been one of my family’s traditions for a few years now, and it looks like it’ll continue to be. Highly recommended.


(Disclosure: As a member of the media, I was invited to preview ICE! and Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating. All opinions remain my own.)

Jamie is a publishing/book nerd who makes a living by wrangling words together into some sense of coherence. He's the founder and owner of The Roarbots and also a contributor to Syfy Wire,, and GeekDad. On top of that, he hosts The Great Big Beautiful Podcast, which celebrates creativity in popular culture, science, and technology by talking to a wide variety of people who contribute to it.

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