Christmas on the Potomac

Christmas on the Potomac

By Jordan Wright (Courtesy photo)

Santa won’t get a moment’s rest this holiday season at the Gaylord National Resort. And neither, it seems certain, will his merry elves.

If you haven’t gotten in the Christmas spirit yet, a visit to the Maryland resort will kick it into high gear. Named one of the 12 most festive places to find holiday spirit by AAA, Gaylord National’s ICE! is bringing a magical arctic paradise to our region from now until January 5.

Who cares if the weather is frightening! Inside this winter wonderland, revelers will find twice-nightly indoor snowfalls in a 1½-acre atrium replete with gardens and a small stream set amid a colonial village and a 60-foot-tall glimmering glass “Tree of Light.” There you can sit beside a water fountain to watch colorful waterspouts soar up three stories or dance to Christmas carols.

Just beyond the 19-story atrium, you will find the main event — ICE! — a breathtaking village of larger-than-life ice sculptures hand-carved from 2 million pounds of ice. This year’s theme focuses on Clement C. Moore’s classic poem, “A Visit from St. Nicholas” (also known as “’Twas the Night Before Christmas”). The winter wonderland was created by 40 master artisans, who shaped 5,000 blocks of ice from China’s Songhua River into some of the most popular themes of Christmas.

Roaming through the enormous white tent, you’ll see all the trappings of the holiday in living color — from adorable mice all snug in their beds (actually giant teacups) awaiting Santa’s arrival to the big man on his sleigh with his nine not-so-tiny reindeer.

And you needn’t travel to the Big Apple when this year’s highlight is the city-in-ice at Christmas. Just hop inside a bright yellow ice taxi, and you’re on your way to Rockefeller Center. The interactive exhibit is kept at an icy 9 degrees, so be sure to wear your hat and gloves.

But the Christmas spirit doesn’t end there. Beneath the tree is a Peeps & Co. old-fashioned Potomac Express train for the little ones and Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating center. At the latter, the whole family can create a gingerbread house. All the sweetest decorations — from icing to gumdrops — are provided for a creative, and tasty, project. A life-size Gingy presides over the shop, giving out heartwarming hugs to all of the children.

Up on the rooftop, overlooking the Potomac River from the 18th floor, Sunday brunch is served. Reservations are strongly recommended for this event as it sells out every year. The lavish brunch includes savory selections along with gorgeous desserts, like peppermint whoopie pies, chocolate chestnut s’mores and sticky toffee pudding. Santa, of course, is on hand to pose for keepsake photos.

Dazzling light displays adorn the resort. At night, you can even witness the changing colors of the northern lights.

The best view, and most romantic spot, is two stories above the garden level. You can pass the time while sipping Yuletide spirits at the Old Hickory Steakhouse bar.

To purchase tickets to ICE! or to check out the schedule for the hotel’s free events, call 301-965-4000 or visit