REVIEW: Christmas at Gaylord Palms 2017

2017 marks the 15th season of Gaylord Palms Resort’s holiday spectacle, ICE! – and the first year to feature “Christmas Around the World”. This brilliantly inspiring theme spotlights a cascade of global tradition and culture in vibrantly colored, hand-carved ice scenes and sculptures (more than two million pounds worth, to be specific).

But, I may be putting the cart before the horse here. You see, ICE! is merely a portion of what Gaylord Palms has to offer for the holiday season… the tip of the iceberg, you could say. There is a lot more to Christmas at Gaylord Palms than the nine-degree anti-Floridian tundra takeover known as ICE! This event is a genuine festival of merriment that rivals any other holiday extravaganza in the Orlando area; with a slew of opportunities for celebration.

Centrally located in the resort’s atrium, guests will find the six-story Christmas tree, which serves as the visual and performance centerpiece for the event’s festivities. The atrium area plays host to nightly showings of Joyful, and Cirque Dreams Unwrapped, as well as the Sounds of the Season Concert Series.

Joyful is a dancing spectacle of epic illumination. Millions of lights encircle the massive tree and dangle around it from above, choreographed to a spirited score that is exclusive to the event. The 12-minute demonstration is technologically impressive, and a suitable preview to set the tone for the “Christmas Around the World” theme. The entertainment transitions in type and perspective when Cirque Dreams Unwrapped takes the stage beneath the tree. This 25-minute, live performance is nothing short of enchanting. With vibrant costumes and an array of unique talent, Cirque Dreams Unwrapped spotlights rotating casts for unpredictably zany combinations of skits and acrobatics you have to see to believe! With guest rooms overlooking the area, I can only imagine that this would be the optimal choice to take in the Gaylord Palms Christmas experience, but limited complimentary seats are available on a first come, first served basis. Guaranteed seating is also available at a cost, or you can go whole hog with a sweet upgrade to the “Cirque Dreams Unwrapped Dessert Party” for private viewing space from a reserved fourth-floor patio along with a buffet of tantalizing holiday treats (available Saturdays in December). The atrium also provides a festive backdrop for the Sounds of the Season Concert Series, featuring an assortment of a capella concerts throughout the month of December. The series spotlights local talent including Voctave, Gaylord Palms STARS, the Orlando Gay Chorus, and collaborative performance between Opera Orlando, Orlando Philharmonic, and the Orlando Ballet. Concert schedule and pricing is available at Tickets start at $29.99, and include post-performance admission to ICE!

Once your holiday spirit is ignited, follow-up the show with some hands-on fun! Make your way to the Alpine Village, taking in some don’t miss sights along the way – starting with the Christmas Tree Trail, which consists of themed tributes to nine representative nations and their unique holiday celebrations.

Just before arriving at the Alpine Village, kids (and those of us who are young at heart) are welcome to make a pit stop at the Reindeer Express Post Office for some very critical holiday business. For an extra special express delivery, write out your holiday wishes before stamping and scanning your postcard to submit directly to the North Pole. After sending off your message (and tucking away the original for a special memento), you can pay a visit to the “big man” himself at the toy workshop, along with many other friends waiting to greet you within the village. Spend some time with Mrs. Claus as she shares stories and seasonal snacks – or enjoy photo ops with delightful gingerbread friends, Cinnamon and Nutmeg at the Gingerbread Decorating Center. New characters Jack and Jackie Frost join returning favorites, Charlie Brown and friends to greet guests… and rumor has it that the Peanuts crew make fantastic breakfast hosts, by the way!

Winter in Florida comes with some pretty spectacular perks when you celebrate at Gaylord Palms’ Alpine Village, where snow is always in the forecast. Test your snowballing skills at Santa’s Snow Throw or experience the exhilaration of snow tubing on an eight-lane, indoor hill (complete with LED lights and holiday tunes in the evenings).

 During your expedition across the entirety of the Alpine Village, you will find a cornucopia of snacks and beverages – from beloved treats like Krispy Kreme doughnuts to holiday-themed signature drinks (in both adult and all-ages varieties). You’re also sure to appreciate the collection of gifts and souvenirs for everyone on your list at the village’s Market Square. Offering merchandise exclusive to “Christmas at Gaylord Palms”, Build-A-Bear Workshop®, provides a perfect opportunity to capture a timeless memory in the form of a personalized, handmade creation. 

Typically, all of this would really be considered sufficient for an evening out to celebrate the holiday season, but the icing on the cake is yet to come. (Yes, I do realize that the puns are at max capacity. I can’t help mICElf… it’s just too easy. Okay, that one was forced. Let’s move on…)

Once the proper Arctic attire has been bestowed upon you (parkas for everyone!), and you cross through the entryway to ICE!, breathtaking simply isn’t the word for it! Beyond the sudden chill (remember… NINE degrees!!), the colors and size of the ice sculptures – the sheer precision of detail – it’s genuinely something that words and even pictures can’t adequately depict. You’ve barely gotten your second foot through the threshold before the massive dangling baubles of ornaments have already dazzled you. Styled to depict the flags of varied nations, these ornaments surround a giant ice globe draped with a “Christmas Around the World” banner. As you progress through the exhibit, individual scenes bring collections of tradition and holiday merriment to life in vivid detail. Let’s take a walk-through – shall we?

In an almost its a small world -esque nod, a ring of representative characters (who all look remarkably Charles Shulz tributed) encircle an enormous dove of peace…

Now that we’ve combatted the cold with some warm fuzzies, let’s make our way into an extra special winter wonderland… 

Step through the whimsical archway to find the North Pole – complete with elves, toys, and of course – Santa Claus!

Weaving through this holly jolly place gave me a little fit of giggles, I admit. (Regression is perfectly acceptable in this environment!!) Even at my age, I couldn’t resist the various tunnels to crawl through – or “stoop” through, for us short folks!

Photo ops abound as well! (You KNOW these scenes are just screaming to be shared on social media!)

…And the piece de resistance, you might say – the famous two-story ice slides!

So we’ve learned, we’ve played, and we’ve chilled. What’s left to do? Be inspired! End your ICE! adventure by spending a few minutes admiring a truly extraordinary scene that genuinely embodies the season…

Adult admission to ICE! is $28.99; children $14.99 if purchased online, in advance. Ticket prices increase slightly on site, and there is a slight decrease for seniors. Maximize your experience with a Gaylord Palms Resort stay. One-night stays start at $240 (tax, resort fee, and parking additional). Packages include two ICE! tickets for two with the option of early admission, and a souvenir photo. For more information on Christmas At Gaylord Palms, visit

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