Two million pounds of ice are transformed into every imaginable Christmas icon at Marriott's Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee, Florida. Yes, ice in Florida! — 36 truckloads, to be exact. Beginning in November and continuing into the first week of January, ICE is a star attraction of the Florida holiday season.
A Unique Holiday Show
This winter-season event features literally tons of ice sculptures that have been hand-carved by artists from Harbin, China, and depict scenes of holiday celebrations from around the world. The shaped, cut, illuminated, and often colored ice takes over a large portion of the resort's convention center. To give you an idea of the size and scope of the attraction, it boasts 1,500 fluorescent tubing lights frozen within three different types of ice: clear glass-like crystal ice; white snow-pack-like ice, and colored ice.
During your walking tour, you are literally surrounded by ice sculptures depicting characters and scenes from the holiday season crafted into a series of themed areas.
Proper Attire Is Required
Even though this is sunny Florida, come prepared for being in a chilly 9-degree-Fahrenheit environment. All guests are provided with calf-length, hooded winter coats in all sizes to fit everyone from infants to large adults. Visitors are required to wear long pants and closed-toe shoes (no beachy flip-flops). Hats and gloves are recommended for your comfort and are available for purchase.
The ICE Tour
The self-guided, walk-through tour of ICE begins with a short five-minute video that explains how the ICE show came to America and how it is assembled each year. The video explains what it takes to make these intricate creations and how they are preserved to survive in Florida's temperate climate. Then you'll actually walk on a bridge that is made completely of ice and is large enough to hold five to 10 people. Perhaps the most dramatic and powerful ice sculpture is the crystal-clear, life-sized replica of the Nativity scene.
There's also an elaborately set dining room scene created completely of ice with no detail spared, including the family cat.
Things to Do at ICE
The kids can have their photo taken with the 10-foot-tall ice sculpture Santa Claus, complete with his red suit made of ice, but the highlight of the day will be the ice slides. That's right, youngsters and the young-at-heart can glide down five large ice slides. There's no sled required — you just sit on your parka, fold your hands across your chest, and go. Children must be able to walk up the stairs on their own in order to ride the slide. Everyone can also zoom down a snow-covered hill on inner tubes.
If you are lucky, you may see one of the artisans working on a sculpture at the Frostbite Factory, the carving zone that showcases the artisans live.
Although tickets can be bought at the door, it's highly recommended that you purchase them online in advance to guarantee admission at the time you want. They are nonrefundable but may be exchanged for another day or time slot. Several different combination tickets are available, such as ICE plus snow tubing, Play and Save, and unlimited-access passes. Florida residents enjoy discount prices. Parking is available for a fee.