The Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor goes all out for the holidays. Their annual Christmas on the Potomac extravaganza has festivities galore that capture the spirit of the season. And the best part is that there are activities for all ages at varying price points (even free!).
The seasonal celebration began this past weekend, and we had a chance to preview it the evening before it opened to the public. But this wasn’t our first time experiencing Christmas on the Potomac; we’ve actually enjoyed many of the attractions for several years — and one not as much. But I went back with an open mind and fresh perspective and, hence, have revised my view a bit.
The Gaylord Hotel itself is still pretty spectacular this time of year. The atrium is transformed into a holiday wonderland with stunning decor all around — long strands of sheer fabric lined with glimmering lights hang overhead, indoor trees and street lamps twinkle with lights and shiny ornaments, and ruby red poinsettias line the walkways. Hanging from the ceiling is a huge Christmas tree sculpture constructed of metal with colorful lights and stars adorning it. Just taking in the whole dazzling scene is an activity in itself.
There are also “dancing” fountains that light up with colors and ebb and flow to rousing music. The Polar Express train offers rides around a small track. A nightly indoor “snowfall” is magical for little ones. And there are several dining options, including a hearty buffet at Pienza Market.
And then there is ICE! The popular holiday spectacle presents a holiday-themed story told through a tour of massive, vibrant ice sculptures, this year featuring “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” If you’ve been reading KFDC for awhile, you might recall the first (and only) time we visited four years ago, I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan.
But four years can make a difference, especially with young children. Back then, Sasha was just two years old and couldn’t get over being so cold. Owen, who was five at the time, kept running ahead, and I couldn’t find him among the sea of blue parkas that everyone wears, and he couldn’t hear me call for him because it was loud.
This time was a much different experience. It was still extremely cold (9 degrees!), but the kids (now 6 and 9) didn’t seem to mind at all, so strolling through the frozen scenes wasn’t stressful, and we could really take in the artistry of the sculptures and follow the whole story.
To boot, we all had fun whizzing down the ice slides. We spent about 30 minutes in the exhibit, then the kids took a carousel ride on the way out. I do have to acknowledge that, since we were there during a preview, it was less crowded. And it was a complimentary tour, so I can’t complain about cost (rates start at $28/adult, $20/children).
So, here’s my new view: If you’re up for splurging on a unique holiday attraction, ICE! is pretty cool — literally and figuratively. But if you don’t feel like throwing down, there is still a ton at Christmas on the Potomac that will give you a warm and fuzzy holiday feeling.
Christmas on the Potomac, including ICE!, runs daily through January 3 at the Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor. As noted, many activities in the atrium of the hotel are free or a small fee. ICE! rates are $35/peak, $28/non-peak dates for adults; $28/peak, $20/peak, $15/non-peak for ages 3-11; free for ages 2 and under. There are discounts for groups and military — see the website for details.