In the Fall, my Sunday afternoons are typically reserved for watching football. There have been many instances over the years when Mrs. Cutter has suggested a Sunday activity, only to have me decline (or reluctantly agree to go) due to the Eagles game being on at the same time. But this past Sunday, the Eagles had their bye week. With no game to interfere with our plans, we took the Cutlet to see the Washington DC area’s annual holiday tradition: ICE!
Every year, the Gaylord National Hotel in National Harbor sets up a massive exhibit of ice sculptures. In past years, they have based the sculptures on stories like Shrek or the Grinch. This year’s theme was ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.
The exhibit is notoriously cold. (Yes, an exhibit featuring ice is cold. Who would have guessed?) Before you enter, they give you a heavy coat to put on over your clothes. Considering that we were already bundled up due to the frigid temperatures outside, we were pretty well insulated. It was somewhat comical to see the Cutlet in her oversized coat. It went down to her ankles, and the sleeves were much too long for her arms.
We learned that when they’re in those blue coats, just about every child looks the same. At one point, a mother accidentally reached for the Cutlet’s hand instead of her own daughter’s. This mother was Asian. We are not. After that, we made a point to check that the little girl we left each room with was indeed our own.
We were thankful that we chose this weekend for our visit. Because we went before Thanksgiving, it wasn’t especially crowded, and we were able to walk right in to the exhibit. We noticed that there were queues near the entrance, and I’m guessing that starting next weekend, people will have to wait to go in.
Once inside, we were amazed by the display. Each room of the exhibit portrayed a different scene from the classic ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem. There were sculptures of mice sleeping in their beds, the stockings hung over the fireplace, and of course there was Santa Claus and his reindeer.
Towards the end of the exhibit, they had several ice slides which guests could ride down. The Cutlet had talked about wanting to “whoosh down like a penguin,” but when she got to the top of the slide, she changed her mind. Even after seeing Mrs. Cutter and me have fun going down, she couldn’t be convinced.
Naturally, you exit the exhibit into a gift shop. Normally, we pass on souvenir photos, but the picture they took of us actually came out really well. That was probably because I was wearing a winter hat. The best picture we have of the three of us is from Christmas Eve last year, and I am wearing a Santa hat in it. Apparently, my non-photogenic qualities are greatly diminished when I wear a winter hat.
At $22, it seemed a bit pricey, but since (mostly due to my aforementioned inability to take a good picture) we don’t have many good family pictures, so we figured it was worth the money. As it turned out, spending money would prove to be the theme of the day.
If you want to go to ICE! it isn’t going to be cheap. First, the hotel charged us $16 to park. The tickets to the event were certainly not cheap either – although we got a discount thanks to buying through Groupon. And the Gaylord hotel was filled with several other Christmas-themed activities designed to separate parents from their money.
There was a train for kids to ride in, “Gingy’s Workshop” where kids could meet Gingy from Shrek and build their own gingerbread house (For the low, low price of $55!), and of course, you could meet with Santa Claus.
The Cutlet said she wanted to sit with Santa, so pricey or not (and really, pictures with Santa seem to be plenty expensive no matter where you go), we decided to take advantage of this opportunity. Like many children, the Cutlet has been scared of Santa in years past. At age one, we had to just hold her near Santa Claus because she was screaming and clinging to us. Last year, she wouldn’t go anywhere near him.
We were optimistic that this year might be different. She seems to be grasping the concept of, “If I sit on this guy’s lap and ask him for something, I’ll probably get it on Christmas morning.”
She looked a little nervous at first, but she did indeed hop on Santa’s lap. After Santa talked to her for a little bit, she told him what she wanted, and then smiled for a picture. Mrs. Cutter and I were then invited in for a family picture. When we reviewed the pictures, we found that this family picture also turned out well. (Guess I’ll be wearing a winter hat in all family photos from now on) Wanting a good picture of the Cutlet with Santa, we spent another $22 for this one.
And hey, we even left some opportunities to spend money sitting out there. Starting in December, they have “Brunch with Santa” on Sunday mornings. For the privilege of eating your meal with Santa Claus, adults get to pay $56, while children cost $28. I love brunch buffets as much as anyone, but that’s a lot of money to pay to eat near a fat guy in a red suit.
While expensive, it was a fun time. The Cutlet enjoyed herself, we got a couple of nice family photos, and we were able to get the obligatory visit with Santa accomplished in one day. Not a bad way to spend a bye week!