ICE National Harbor and Christmas on the Potomac, Gaylord Resort

Updated on November 21, 2023 by Julie McCool

ICE National Harbor and Christmas on the Potomac return to Gaylord Resort in 2023 with fantastic ice sculptures, a spectacular light show, and holiday fun for the Washington DC region.

Looking for a family-friendly holiday treat? Festive activities perfect for kids and families deliver tons of Christmas fun at Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. This is one of the most unique holiday shows near Washington DC and it draws a crowd every year.

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  • Don your Big Blue Parka and head to the ICE! National Harbor tent for a holiday-themed wonderland (details and pics below).
  • Enjoy two shows on stage in the Gaylord's 19-story atrium.
  • Watch a free, incredible laser light show. The light show features a 55-foot suspended Christmas tree, musical fountains, and indoor snow that delights guests nightly.
  • Indoor Tubing on Snow Flow Mountain delivers an adrenaline rush as you slide through conveyor belts and down a two-story indoor hill made of ice.
  • Enjoy ice skating at a tented, outdoor rink in Winter Square.
  • Find the perfect Christmas gift at the Holiday Shoppe.
  • Enjoy snowball and gingerbread house making, storytime, visits with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and more holiday fun.
Giant Suspended Christmas Tree and Stars at Christmas on the Potomac Gaylord National Harbor  MD
Christmas on the Potomac Gaylord National Harbor

Plan an ICE National Harbor weekend getaway for some extra holiday cheer. If you want to be in the middle of the Christmas festivities, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center offers stay-and-play packages throughout the season. In addition, there are more great hotels at National Harbor and lots of activities beyond the Gaylord ice sculptures.

ICE! National Harbor

Every year we look forward to walking through ICE National Harbor, to see colorful ice sculptures expertly carved by artisans. The walk-through display features favorite holiday characters, sculpted from huge, brightly colored ice blocks.

The theme at ICE! National Harbor changes every year, but the focus is always on popular, kid-friendly characters. Over the years we've seen the Grinch, Rudolph, Charlie Brown and the Peanuts gang, and more well-loved stories all sculpted in colorful ice.

The Grinch Welcomes Visitors to ICE National Harbor
ICE National Harbor Grinch

Visitors don big blue parkas before entering the ICE National Harbor tent, which is kept at a continuous 9° Fahrenheit. That chilly temp keeps the beautiful ice sculptures crisp and bright throughout the holiday season.

Take your time walking around the sculptures, despite the chilly temperatures. The ICE walk-through display is fairly short but you can move at your own pace and take as many photos as you like.

ICE! Rudolph Flies Gaylord National Harbor
ICE! Rudolph Flies, Gaylord National Harbor

The festive, themed ice displays provide lots of opportunities to capture a perfect holiday photo. Tip: Keep your cell phone warm between pictures so it doesn't freeze up in the chilly temps.

The one thing you can not do is touch the sculptures. Keep a close eye on kids who may be tempted to reach out over the low rope separating guests from the ice.

ICE! Charlie Brown Christmas
ICE! Charlie Brown Christmas

ICE! 2023 at Gaylord National Harbor

ICE National Harbor 2023 highlights that holiday classic, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. It's so fun to see iconic scenes from the movie rendered in massive ice sculptures.

In keeping with the theme, the ice sculptures capture funny and memorable moments from Rudolph's journey. Who could forget the scary Abominable Snowman!

ICE Abominable Snowman at Gaylord National Harbor Christmas on the Potomac
Abominable Snowman Gaylord National Harbor

The level of detail in the ice carvings is always impressive.

Elves at Work in Rudolph at ICE! Gaylord National Harbor
Elves at Work Gaylord National Harbor

ICE! Slides at Gaylord National Harbor

One of the best interactive areas at ICE! every year is a collection of giant slides also sculpted from the ice. The sliding area changes year to year and also reflects the ICE theme, so it's a great spot for photos and videos.

Ice slides Gaylord National Harbor
Ice slides Gaylord National Harbor

Kids big and small can try out the big slides and there is no limit to the number of times you slide. Fortunately, that long parka adds warmth and a nice slippery surface for comfy sliding.

The final sculpture in the tent features a dramatic, life-size creche carved from clear ice.

ICE creche Gaylord National Harbor
ICE! Gaylord National Harbor

Christmas Village Activities at Gaylord National

The fun continues when you leave the ICE tent and enter the Christmas Village. Kids can decorate a gingerbread house to take home, build a custom fluffy friend at the Build-a-Bear Workshop, create and throw snowballs, and join in more activities.

Santa is on hand for photos, and you can join Mrs. Claus for a story, Christmas Carols, and milk and cookies. All Christmas Village activities have additional fees (multi-activity packages are also available).

Making Gingerbread houses at Christmas on the Potomac Gaylord National
Making Gingerbread Houses

All ages can enjoy the two-story tubing run. It's a short but very fast ride on an indoor hill covered in real ice.

Indoor Tubing Hill at ICE! Gaylord National
Indoor Tubing Hill

More Fun in the Gaylord National Atrium

There is much more holiday fun in the giant Gaylord atrium at Christmas on the Potomac 2023. Christmasy decorations and 160 decorated trees are a great backdrop for holiday photos.

Every night, the atrium comes alive with a colorful, laser-enhanced light show featuring a giant, suspended Christmas tree. Lights and music are synchronized with a fountain that shoots 60 feet high. Nightly indoor snowfall adds to the holiday magic.

A Christmas Tree and Laser Lights are Part of the Dazzling Holiday Light Show at Gaylord National Resort, Photo by Chris Militzer
Holiday Light Show Gaylord National Harbor photo by Chris Militzer

On select days, Christmas on the Potomac features two Christmas shows in the Atrium. Both shows are free to watch but guaranteed ticketed seats have the best view.

  • Cirque: Spirit of Christmas dazzles the crowd with acrobatics, contortions, and high-flying thrills.
  • The Greatest Story show in the Atrium tells the story of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christmas Tree Light Show at Gaylord National Resort with Capital Wheel in Background
Christmas Gaylord with Capital Wheel

More Holiday Activities at National Harbor

Outdoor activities at Gaylord National Harbor and nearby add to the festive fun. Head outside to enjoy additional holiday attractions. The Gaylord National Ice Skating Rink opens daily until 5:00.

A short walk away, the brightly Capital Wheel offers a fun ride and a beautiful view, and Santa is there on weekends. Nearby, a giant colorful Christmas tree at the plaza is another excellent photo spot and the site of extra 2023 fun:

  • A nightly tree light show runs every half hour from dusk to 9:00 (-Dec 31).
  • Saturday nights include a fireworks show at 5:30 (-Dec 30)
  • Sunday nights feature free outdoor holiday movies on the big screen (Nov 12 – Dec 17).
National Harbor Christmas Tree and Capital Wheel at night
National Harbor Christmas Tree

Tips for Your Visit to ICE National Harbor and Christmas on the Potomac

  • In 2023, ICE is open daily from November 19 to December 31, including Christmas Day.
  • Tickets for each activity and event can be purchased separately or in a variety of discounted packages. Click for event info, tickets, and hours.
  • Hours for the stage show vary by day, so follow the link to reserve your tickets. In 2023 there are Cirque Shows daily, Nov 19 – Dec 31, and tickets for the 35-minute show start at $22.99.
  • The Greatest Story show is held Wednesday to Sunday, Nov 19 – Dec 31. There are 2 to 3 shows daily and tickets are $19.99.
  • A big blue parka comes with your ICE ticket but bring your own mittens or gloves. You will definitely want to cover the hands of little ones using the ice slide.
  • Cell phone batteries may shut down due to low temperatures in the ICE! tent, so keep your phone close to you when not in use. My iPhone died suddenly near the end of the ICE! display, and wouldn't restart until I plugged it in.
  • Another great family photo spot is just outside the Atrium, backed by the suspended Christmas tree.
Photo Spot at Gaylord National Harbor Christmas on the Potomac
Photo Spot Gaylord Christmas on the Potomac

Gaylord National Resort is at 201 Waterfront Street, National Harbor, Maryland, near Washington DC. It's a wonderful place to celebrate the holiday season.

Find more festive holiday fun in the Northern Virginia and Washington DC region here:

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We attended media previews of ICE! at Gaylord National Resort. All opinions, photos, and text are our own except some photographs are by Virginia photographer Chris Militzer.

ICE! National Harbor and Christmas on the Potomac return to Gaylord Resort with themed ice sculptures, spectacular light show, and festive holiday fun near Washington DC.
Christmas on the Potomac and ICE!