Although I’ve lived in the Washington, DC metro region for 16 years, I actually have very few holiday traditions in the area. That changed though last year when I visited the Gaylord National around the holidays and was blown away by the entire experience.
Located in Maryland’s National Harbor, the Gaylord National enjoys a central location amongst the shops, restaurants and attractions within the destination itself. Situated along the banks of the Potomac, it’s also a naturally beautiful spot, one that is easy to reach and fun to visit. Since I had such a great time last year, I decided to once again visit the Gaylord National to see to what lengths they went this year to celebrate the season, and once again I enjoyed a wonderful evening exploring the property.
From gingerbread decorating to ice sculptures and amazing food, here are a few reasons why I think everyone should include a visit to the Gaylord National this holiday season.
ICE!® featuring Christmas Around the World
The highlight of any visit to the Gaylord around Christmas is this amazing ice spectacular. Every year, artisans arrive in the DC metro area to carve by hand a mind-boggling quantity of ice, somehow creating what is a beautiful finished product. This year the theme is Christmas Around the World, perfect for a traveler like myself. Since I attended last year, I knew to come warmly dressed, but visitors are also loaned special blue parkas to protect themselves against the chilly 9-degree temperature inside the ICE! experience itself. The temperatures of course have to be kept cold to preserve the sculptures, and what an amazing array of artistry it was.
More than 2 million pounds of ice are sculpted into a dazzling wonderland of figures, scenes and even small towns. The experience is also interactive thanks to a series of 5 ice slides that are as much fun as they sound. If you’re curious about how the artists create this wonderland, the Frostbite Factory features a live carving zone, honestly a lot of fun to watch whether you’re a kid or an adult.
Ice! is only the beginning though of the holiday fun at the Gaylord, and I was pleased to see how much they’ve expanded the options for 2016. After you’ve experienced ICE!, be sure to spend some time in their new Christmas Village. While primarily geared towards kids, I guess I’m just a kid at heart because even I had a great time. Order some hot chocolate (needed after your time in the ICE! tent) do some Christmas shopping, decorate your own gingerbread house or just sit back and enjoy the holiday spirit. This area is extremely well done and I was impressed with the experience from start to finish.
The Gaylord National
If you haven’t visited the Gaylord National before, I think that the size of this beautiful hotel will at first take your breath away. They use that scale and size though to feature a Christmas display unlike anything I’ve ever seen before. I can only imagine the time it took to construct the veritable village in the atrium, and that’s actually where two different shows are offered every day. Christmas music plays while the atrium comes to life with lights, lasers, water fountains and even snow flurries. It really is something that should be experienced in person. The second show has a more modern vibe with rock tunes, massive water jets and even snow. Yes, snow. That’s one of the perks that a 19-story atrium allows and the Gaylord takes full advantage of it. There’s also a mini-train ride and other fun ways to spend the time.
Old Hickory Steakhouse
As a confirmed carnivore there’s nothing I enjoy more than a great steak, and from past experience I knew that I’d love my dining experience at the Gaylord’s Old Hickory Steakhouse. Walking into the restaurant, the luxurious and refined decor immediately put me at ease, some peace and quiet after a long day. It’s not stuffy though, the restaurant has a definite modern edge to it, but with style. I already knew how I wanted to start my dinner, by spending some time with the Old Hickory’s resident Cheese Master. The cheesemonger brought the cart of cheese selections to the table, carefully and in great detail sharing the qualities of each one, before allowing me to choose the cheeses I wanted to enjoy. It’s a wonderful start to the meal that’s playful and delicious.
Of course, the Old Hickory is a steakhouse and so that juicy steak was ultimately the star of my evening meal. Accompanied with heaping orders of sides, the expertly cooked filet was perfect in every way, just as I remembered. Great restaurants are marked by their consistency, and I was thrilled to enjoy a meal just as amazing as the one I tried more than a year ago.
The Gaylord National and National Harbor is a fun place to visit any time of year, but around the Christmas season it’s a must-visit destination if you’re anywhere near the Washington, DC region. Personally, I’m thrilled to have finally found my local Christmas tradition and I can’t wait to continue my visits in the years to come.