Monday, November 03, 2008

Santa, Ice, and Everything Nice at the Gaylord Palms Resort

The winter season is upon us – Thanksgiving is just a few short weeks away, and Christmas will be here before you know it. Of course, with the temperature running at an average high of about 79 degrees in mid-November and the palm trees still swinging happily, visitors to Florida may not feel in a very wintry mood. Some might even say Florida’s no place to spend the holidays, with no snow to put you in the holiday spirit. The people over at Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, though, have never heard such nonsense. With their ICE! Attraction opening from November 17th to January 4th, 2009, the Gaylord Palms near Walt Disney World proves that you can still have classic winter fun even in Florida.

A walk-through attraction hand-carved from nearly two million pounds of ice, ICE! will definitely make anyone forget they’re in the Sunshine State. The attraction, which is entering its sixth year, allows visitors to experience a winter wonderland with incredible icy landscapes, slippery ice slides, and three-dimensional sculptures hand carved by a team of artisans from China. Combined with over 1,500 fluorescent and fiber optic lights frozen within the ice in over 18,000 square feet of space, the sculptures create a magical holiday experience like no other.

This year’s ICE! theme is “Santa’s Arctic Blast,” which will feature several scenes starring St. Nick, including an oversized “Santa’s Knee” photo opportunity that kids will love. The ICE! castle and slides have also been upgraded to celebrate Santa’s Christmas Eve flight, complete with reindeer and all. And don’t miss ICE’s yearly signature scene, a life-sized Nativity carved completely out of ice. A favorite among visitors, the nativity features dramatic lighting and a narrated soundtrack that brings to life the story of the birth of Christ. It’s a great way to pause and reflect on the meaning of the season.

Every year, 40 artisans from Harbin, China, spend a month in Kissimmee, Florida, to create the sculptures in ICE! out of nearly 5,000 blocks of ice. The artisans are participants in Harbin’s famous annual International Ice and Snow Festival, where sculptors carve a 100-acre walk-through at Zhao Lin Park with ice taken from the Songhua River.

Visitors to ICE! should beware; this is no artificial winter simulation. It really is cold in there! Kept at a brisk 9 degrees Fahrenheit to preserve the ice, the unique structure housing ICE! is also known as the “Florida Fridge,” one of the first of its kind in North America. So lose the flip flops unless you want to have some really cold toes. Long pants and closed-toe shoes are definitely recommended. However, if your suitcase is lacking in fuzzy sweaters, all guests are provided calf-length, hooded winter coats to keep them warm (coats are available in all sizes). Hats and gloves should also be donned and are on sale in the ICE! House Gifts shop, which also features one-of-a-kind holiday gift items.

Whether you’re a hardy winter expert or haven’t ever seen snow, ICE! is a exciting wintry attraction for all. From the incredible artistry and craftsmanship to the heart-warming holiday scenes, there’s plenty to see and enjoy, so don’t forget a cold-friendly camera! You’re sure to have a lot of fun, so long as you don’t lick the ice – no mater how good it looks.


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