On Saturday, I went to ICE! at the Gaylord Texan near Dallas with my family. My husband and I stayed at the Gaylord for our anniversary before we had kids, but we hadn’t been back there since.
This was our first time going to ICE!, even though we only live about 45 minutes from the Gaylord Texan. We decided to go because we’d rather spend money on experiences vs. more “stuff” that fills our house, and I found a 50% off promo code good through Nov 22.
If you haven’t heard of “ICE!”, it’s an indoor holiday winter wonderland full of ice sculptures and ice slides at four Gaylord hotels in Washington D.C., Nashville, Orlando and Dallas. Each location has a different theme, and the theme changes every year. At the Gaylord Texan, past themes have included Dreamworks characters, Christmas Around the World, Shrek and Frosty the Snowman. This year’s theme at the Gaylord Texan is “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.”
Each location has 2 million pounds of ice sculptures kept in a room at a frosty 9 degrees. NINE DEGREES! Artisans from China carve the sculptures for a month before the exhibit opens. It’s fascinating—read more about it here.
The Gaylord Texan offers companion activities to the ice sculptures like indoor snow tubing, ice skating and a snowball throwing workshop. Guests 21 and over can upgrade their tickets to include the On the Blocks Ice Bar experience. Each Gaylord location has different companion activities to ICE!, so check the website of the location nearest you for the details.
Our Day at the Gaylord Texan
We arrived at the Gaylord Texan around 9:35 a.m. for a 10:00 time slot. Good thing we arrived early, because it took about 15 minutes to walk from the parking garage to the ICE! area.
In case you forget you are still in Texas, just look down at the carpet:
Event employees gave everyone a heavy parka to wear. There are hats, gloves and scarves for sale if you forgot yours.
We posed for a family photo, and then we were on our way. We walked through a large room that had a movie playing about the construction of the ice sculptures. I wish we stayed in there longer, but the kids were ready to see the real deal.
Once inside, we walked along the path to see the sculptures and the story. I thought it would be more like a giant room with various sculptures, but it was really more of a guided path that shows you the sculptures from start to finish.
I’m not going to spoil it for you by showing too many pictures. Some sculptures were clear, others were frosty and some had color (food coloring).
The ice bar was about halfway through the display.
At the end, there are six ice slides. Each side has a shorter slide for kids plus two 2-story slides for bigger kids and adults. This was my daughter’s favorite part! She went down the slides many times. We would have stayed longer, but my son and husband were freezing.
We were only in the 9-degree area for about 20 minutes, but that was enough time to see everything and go down the slides several times.
After the exit is a gift shop and a concessions area.
We had to walk through the snow tubing room to exit. We hadn’t purchased tickets for this in advance because we wanted to see how crowded it would be. It wasn’t very busy, so we purchased tickets for my kids and husband (I opted to take photos instead).
For about $20 a person, you could go down 12 times. According to my kids (and the squeals of delight I heard from other kids), this part was SO.MUCH.FUN!!!
We don’t get a lot of snow here, and the sleds that my kids got last year have remained unused to due lack of snow, so snow tubing (even indoors) was a real treat.
After snow tubing, we went back to the atrium and lobby area. We stopped in the Starbucks for hot chocolate and to split a giant cookie. The Starbucks is located inside the faux Alamo!
It was a great place for a drink because of this view:
We spent some time soaking in the decorations around the rest of the hotel, and we took more photos before leaving.(My oldest was barely tolerating all of these photos, as you can tell).
My family had a great time at the Gaylord Texan. The experience was unique and fun, and it’s definitely worth the price (at 50% off). For my family of 2 adults and 3 kids, it cost $68.12 for the ICE! portion and an additional $90 for the snow tubing for four people. Without the discount, I think the experience is pricey for the amount of time you spend seeing the ice sculptures. The best three words to describe the event: cold, festive and fun.
Will we go back next year? Depending on the theme, we may skip the ice sculptures and just head right for the snow tubing!
If you’re on a budget, be aware of these things that may add to the cost of your day:
- Parking – $15
- Other activities (photos with Rudolph, ice skating, snow tubing, snowball throwing, gingerbread decorating, etc.)
- Family photo ($20 for one photo or $35 for 3 photos including a digital copy)
- Gift shop you have to walk through to exit ICE!
- Build-A-Bear Workshop you walk past after you exit ICE!
- Hot chocolate and snacks
- Buy your tickets in advance online to avoid waiting at the box office.
- To avoid long lines, buy tickets for the first time slot in the morning. During the late afternoons and evenings, many people report waiting in line for 2 hours before entering ICE!
- If you want to be assured not to wait in a long line, splurge an extra $12 for a priority pass that lets you go to a separate priority line, or stay overnight at the hotel to enter the line just for hotel guests.
- If you want to buy combo ice/snow tubing tickets, price it out separately if you have a discount for the ICE! part. For us, it was cheaper to buy ICE! tickets at the 50% discount and pay for the snow tubing separately than it was to buy the ice/snow tubing combo ticket.
- Bring gloves, scarves and hats. The hotel provides winter parkas, but the rest is up to you. It’s 9 degrees in there!
- If you have younger kids, bring a stroller. The walk from the parking garage to the event area is long, and there is stroller parking near the event inside.
- After you go through ICE!, skip the concession stand at the exit. Instead, walk towards the lobby and get hot chocolate and treats at the Starbucks. Can’t beat the view from those seats!
- Take some time to walk around the atriums (there are two). Lots of decorations and photo ops! Don’t miss the miniature village with train and the reindeer in the river.
- If you have time, stop by Downtown Grapevine. It’s only about 5 minutes away, and it’s full of quaint shops and restaurants. We ate at a new-to-us restaurant and enjoyed some sculptures.
- Ticket prices fluctuate based on value days, general admission and peak admission days. Check out the calendar and save money by going on a value day.
- If you go prior to November 23, use the promo code CRAZYSAVINGS or DFWMOMMY for 50% off ICE! tickets (Gaylord Texan location). Check your local Mom blogs for discounts for other Gaylord locations.
- Pepsi discount: PCAN16 for $4 off each ticket (works at all locations on select dates only)
- After you purchase ICE! tickets, you might receive a discount on your ticket printout for the all-day play pass (we did).
- A military discount is available at the box office with a military ID.
- If you can gather a group of 20 or more people, a group discount is available by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 817-778-1000.
- Check Groupon. Gaylord National Resort currently has a Groupon discount, and other locations have offered this in the past.
If you know if any additional discounts, please leave a comment.
Hotel Points and Discounts
If you want to immerse yourself in the festive holiday atmosphere, stay the night at the Gaylord Texan.
- The Gaylord Texan is operated by Marriott and costs 35,000 Marriott Rewards points per night. (Nashville and Orlando locations also cost 35k points per night, but the DC location is 30k points per night). The Marriott Rewards Premier Credit Card currently has a sign-up bonus of 80,000 points after spending $3k in the first 3 months + 7500 points for adding an authorized user. It has an $85 annual fee.
- If you don’t have Marriott points but you do have SPG points, you can transfer SPG points to Marriott at a 1:3 transfer ratio to book a night at the Gaylord.
- If you have the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you can book the Gaylord through the Ultimate Rewards portal with points. I found rates in December for ~20,000 points per night. You can also book the hotel using a travel rewards card like the Barclaycard Arrival Plus and get a statement credit. For more information about these two cards, see this post.
For my family, I’d rather visit the Gaylord as a day trip in the winter and save our Marriott points for an overnight in the summer, when we can use the resort’s water park for free with our stay. (See this post for details on the Gaylord Texan’s water park).
Have you been to ICE!? What are your tips?
Nancy is a contributing writer for Miles For Family. She enjoys traveling to the beach and is a big fan of Disney. Nancy lives near Dallas, Texas, with her husband and three kids.