ICE! and Christmas on the Potomac at National Harbor (tons of photos)

Happy Holiday Season! The Sunday after Thanksgiving, Eric and I decided to stop by National Harbor to see two exhibits there: ICE!, a collection of ice sculptures ($25 per adult), and Christmas on the Potomac (free, inside the Gaylord Resort atrium).

Having been to National Harbor only once before, I was excited to return and get to know more of it. It’s about a fifteen minute drive in good traffic from my building in Arlington. We arrived to find the grounds full of Christmas trees, like the big one above.

When I was a child, this giant statue called The Awakening was “buried” in the ground at Hains Point in D.C. and my sister and I would go play on it fairly often. The statue was recently purchased and moved to National Harbor. Here’s its arm …

I was happy to see that there are still plenty of kids playing on The Awakening! Unfortunately, the water from the Potomac in this area is somewhat stinky, but that’s life.

Time for ICE! ICE is a collection of ice sculptures inside a tent near the back end of the National Harbor grounds (across from some parking garages).

BRRR! It was pretty chilly. You will be offered one of these big blue parkas for your walk through the exhibit. I highly recommend you take one, not just for the cold, but for another reason which I’ll be showing you later on …

Polar bears frolicking on an ice “pond.” There’s lots of Christmas music playing in here.

I guess he’s tap dancing.

This polar bear looked remarkably like my friend Brad who lived down the hall from me my freshman year of college at Ambler-Johnston Hall! Brad had a knack for refusing to get up to go to class with me and my roommate Jaime. We’d find him dozing on top of his bunk just like this when we’d drop by his room to try to make him get up. His nickname has been Polar Bear ever since.

Deer and ducks by/on the pond. These views are all from a bridge over the pond which was also made entirely out of ice.
Here’s the bridge, and a polar bear ice fishing 🙂

Around the corner there were some sculptures of a Christmas morning scene in an ice “living room”, of which we neglected to take any pictures. There was also an ice sleigh that you could sit in to pose for a picture. There were people everywhere so it was a bit difficult. I was impatient like usual and didn’t want to wait to get pictures of that stuff. Instead we ran further ahead to these funky dancing penguins!

There was an igloo behind the dancers with more penguins. I was definitely glad to beat the crowds to this scene. These penguins remind me of something out of Willy Wonka (if he had penguins)!

An ethereal fiber-optic lighted tunnel leads ahead to the ice castle.

…And here it is, the fantastic ice castle. At either side are two foot tall ice slides!

The view from the top of the ice slides

Woo hoo! This is one more reason to take that parka they offer! To go really fast down the slide, lean way back and lift your feet up a little.

Following the ice castle and slides were more sculptures. This adorable stuffed tiger was randomly tucked in with some other, chillier wildlife.

This teddy bear wuvs me. (I couldn’t resist)

After all of the secular-themed sculptures, more spiritual icons began to appear representing the Christmas story. Here’s the angel, although you can’t really see the wings too well.

Random ice column that glowed blue on and off

Ice nativity scene. This was HUGE and took up a whole room. It was pretty spectacular.

I wanted to climb up on it, but I was afraid the security guard who conveniently appeared around the corner just as I got the idea would yell at me and make a big spectacle

Stable animals keeping watch over the Baby Jesus.

The exhibit wishes you a Merry Christmas as you leave with some ice poinsettias. And that’s the end of it. You turn in your parkas and then you can browse a gift shop. (Eric bought me a pretty snowflake bracelet.) You also have the opportunity to take a computer survey regarding your experience. I wrote that I had a great time but I would have appreciated taller ice slides and more sculptures for the money.

Once we left ICE!, we headed back down toward the water. Eric was just a little excited about eating some lunch.

These miniature Christmas trees line the walkway.

I can never resist an opportunity to play in a fountain!

Eric’s hunger didn’t distract him from a need to practice his kung fu skills.

We decided to eat at Ketchup before the Christmas on the Potomac mini-shows started that evening. Unfortunately we had to wait a long time for our food. You can read all about that in my previous blog post!

By the time we got our meals, I was so hungry I decimated my crab wrap before I realized that most of the ingredients had been left out. These are the remains of Hurricane Hungry Girl

Ketchup’s main gimmick is its variety of odd ketchups. You get this sampler of six to dip your truffle fries in. The ketchups were the best part of our entire experience.

Christmas on the Potomac is a big display inside the atrium of the Gaylord Resort. Hanging in the front window is this large tree made out of “candy glass”. (I don’t believe you can eat it 🙂

One of the things we waited to see was this fountain show. While no match for the Bellagio in Las Vegas, it was fun and splashed significant numbers of surprised people, much to my amusement. 😉 At some points, the fountains shot 60 feet in the air in time with the music! Each fountain show lasts about three minutes.

One of the draws of Christmas on the Potomac is a contest in which you have to find giant stuffed Peeps that are hidden around the atrium. Some of them are in really odd out of the way places, but Eric and I found most of them. Now, you don’t think I’m going to give the answers away, do you? 🙂 But here’s one fella hiding in the bushes!

Looking for all those Peeps was a good way to waste time while waiting for the next “show” which was the nightly lighting of the glass Christmas tree. The show consists of several minutes of lights flashing around inside the tree while music plays. “Northern lights” also shimmer across the banners hanging around the tree.

A few minutes after the Christmas tree lighting show is over, a snowfall begins. We waited around for a while waiting for it to start before we realized it’s in a very small area by the coffee shop in the middle of the atrium. You can’t see it here, but the “snow” is really like foamy dish-soap bubbles wafting down. It does get stuck in your hair though 🙂

There were some other shows involving the fountains and singing choirs, but by this time I was tired and ready to go home and eat some dinner that didn’t involve slowpoke waiters. Here’s the tree down by the river all lit up at night. There’s a stage right next to it where different bands play periodically. When they’re not playing, parents let their kids scamper all over the stage right in front of a huge sign telling you to keep off of it. Hahaha

I had a fun time and thought it was a good way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Maybe they’ll have bigger and better things next year. If you live in the area, try to go on a Sunday or even a weekday if you can to avoid the crowds. Make sure you drive in or take a water taxi over from Old Towne in Alexandria. Just be aware that some of the special shows may not be available on the weekdays.

ICE! and Christmas on the Potomac run through January 10th. You can find more information and purchase tickets here:


2 responses to “ICE! and Christmas on the Potomac at National Harbor (tons of photos)

  1. I loved reading this! It was so fun to see the pictures and then read the accompanying commentary. Eric struck some great poses! Precious, you looked especially beautiful in the ice tunnel, holding the ice column, and at the end with the Christmas tree. I was impressed with how many things to see there were, and I thought the ice slides were a great idea! It looks like you had a blast sliding down. To sum up — Lots of great information, presented in a fun way.Aunt Vinson

  2. National Harbor is downwind of Blue Plains; that might explain the aromas!

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