We have been attending ICE! at Gaylord Palms for about 10 years in a row now, with most visits being part of a media overnight. This year is no different. My first personal visit to Gaylord Palms for ICE! was in 2004, the second year in operation. Now ICE! is celebrating the 15th anniversary, with the 2019 theme being The Polar Express. And each year I say that Gaylord Palms keeps elevating the experience but 2019 is just way above. Gaylord Palms ICE! Featuring The Polar Express is my favorite ICE! so far in terms of quality of the storytelling and the amazing trains carved out of ice. For each display, 2 million pounds of ice is carved by artisans from Harbin, China. The attraction lasts about 6 weeks, sometimes a little longer. The displays are beautiful and very temporary. After January 5th, 2020 – the last day of ICE! – the ice sculptures melt away and we wait for next November and a new theme.
The Polar Express is a completely new ICE! theme, the other Gaylord hotels have not offered it yet. Here are photos and video from our visit. This is only of ICE! itself, we will have a separate article about all the other activities at Gaylord Palms now through January 5th – there is a LOT more to see than just ICE! You can find prices and information as well at the links in the article.
I always recommend a hat, scarf and mittens. I wear a sweatshirt and Gaylord Palms supplies a warm parka to wear through the exhibit. It is approximately 9 degrees!
Here is the opening sign for The Polar Express.
And our video of the walk-through along with almost 50 photos!
The first scene is in the boy’s bedroom before the Polar Express arrives.
When I entered this room and saw the train, I knew it was going to be my favorite ICE! ever. I am not in particular a fan of The Polar Express, I have only watched it fully once (and have ridden the attraction many times when SeaWorld had it for the holidays). But this room is just SO impressive.
The conductor is ready for guests!
There are a lot of photo opportunities throughout. That does slow down everyone walking through it. This photo was not taken on the media preview day, but on opening day – the morning was very busy when we visited. We waited a bit for everyone to pass through, and then had an empty room. Guests are let in on a timed basis.
The conductor ice sculptures are terrific.
The conductor holds a lantern.
And you enter into the door of the train.
The Hot Chocolate scene is in the second room.
This is a lot of fun as well! Even though I haven’t watched the movie much, I am very familiar with the music.
There is a great photo op here, with the conducter and seats.
There are four seats and I recommend sitting close to the conductor for the photo op. While the seats are made of ice, the cushion is not. I was surprised that not as many guests were taking photos up here.
Close up on the conductor.
The second train is in this room, though not as fully realized as the other two.
There are also reindeer.
And the slide room is also the most breathtaking ever. The Polar Express can be seen rounding the bend with a great forced perspective.
The slides are more fun than ever! That is based on Jeff’s opinion, I didn’t end up sliding this time (the line was a little long opening day and I was cold after 15 minutes inside).
The Polar Express is noted on the train.
The signs are all themed to The Polar Express style.
There is a small tunnel for kids (or adults who want to crawl).
I am not sure if this is still officially called “Artisans in Action”, but that is what it is. Some of the artisans are around during the whole show to showcase their carving skills and provide touch-ups on the ice.
There is information about how the exhibit is created.
Elves at the North Pole are nearby.
Jeff is in another of the photo ops.
And this room features a large Christmas tree made of ice. I didn’t even realize it was ice at first – though I should know that – and I was told it was is the biggest tree made of ice ever made for Gaylord hotels.
It is quite beautiful.
Santa with the bell is in the room. This is a very popular location for guest photos already.
This is the last full room.
The Polar Express round trip ice ticket in ice.
This is the last scene before the nativity.
There is so much to enjoy if you are a fan of The Polar Express or just beautifully carved ice. It really feels like Christmas when we are there, being that we both grew up in the north with snow and ice.
The nativity has been here all 15 years and is created with crystal clear ice. Surprisingly, this is the hardest ice to create.
This is a guest favorite through the years.
There are shows to see and more during Christmas at Gaylord Palms, and I will write up that article next!
Full disclosure: We were invited for one night to Gaylord Palms to experience ICE! and a few other activities that are part of the holiday season. All views are ours – ICE! at Gaylord Palms is a tradition for us.