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Our experience at Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac: Best Christmas activities in DC region

By: | December 18th, 2016 | 4 Comments

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Tis the season to be jolly, and jolly you will feel at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac. Gaylord offers some of the best Christmas activities in DC. It is just minutes from downtown Washington D.C. In the National Harbor and is the region’s #1 holiday attraction. At just an hour from our home base of Baltimore, it makes the perfect family destination for a weekend getaway or even a day trip to get into the Christmas spirit. The resort is decked out with Christmas decorations, has an incredible ICE! Exhibit depicting Christmas Around the World, has nightly atrium fountain and light shows, and has many fun activities for the whole family to enjoy, especially the kids. Our visit to Gaylord National was one of our Christmas presents to our children, since we wanted to give them gifts of experiences rather than material items this year. Last year we enjoyed Christmas in NYC, and hope to take them each year somewhere new for a memorable holiday experience. Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac was a huge hit with the kids (and us) and was a great way for us to spend quality time together, making memories that we will always cherish. We took tons of photos because the resort is so beautifully decorated, and looking back at them will remind us of the fabulous time we enjoyed together as a family.

Christmas activities in DC

Christmas trees line the lobby at the Gaylord National for Christmas on the Potomac and make for great family photos

Christmas in DC for kids

Daddy’s little princess was so happy to be at Gaylord National for Christmas on the Potomac

Washington DC Christmas decorations

Beautiful Christmas decorations in Gaylord National’s lobby make Christmas on the Potomac a memorable experience

We have visited Gaylord National in previous years just for the day, but this year we decided to stay the night and take full advantage of the whole experience. As Starwood Gold Elite members, we were eligible for an upgrade to an Atrium view room, which we highly recommend when coming to experience Christmas on the Potomac. The balcony makes the experience so much more fun!

Gaylord Ice at National Harbor hotel room

Atrium view room at Gaylord National with private balcony

National Harbor Christmas decorations at Gaylord National Atrium

View of atrium from our balcony at Gaylord National and perfect spot for evening fountain and light show

We were able to enjoy the light and fountain shows from our private balcony overlooking the atrium and were singing and dancing up there with the best seats in the house. The atrium shows are every evening at 6, 7, 8, and 9pm and include fountains dancing to Christmas music, laser lights, and magical snowfall. The kids were so excited to see the snowflakes falling and were fascinated by the dancing fountains. Since the show is every hour, we also were able to experience it from the atrium, but I preferred the balcony since we were free to dance like no one was watching. 😉

Christmas events in DC 2016, Christmas events in DC 2017

Light and fountain show in atrium of Gaylord National for Christmas on the Potomac as seen from our atrium room balcony

Gaylord National is one of the best Christmas events in DC

Waiting for the atrium show to begin at the dancing fountain at Gaylord National for Christmas on the Potomac

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

Time as a family at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac brought out sheer joy on our children’s faces!

You don’t have to be a guest at the hotel to enjoy the free atrium shows, so people from all over the region come to enjoy them as well as to experience ICE. Visitors can enjoy food and drinks in the Belvedere Lobby Bar which overlooks the atrium and has impressive views of the Potomac through the atrium’s giant glass wall. In our pre-children days, we enjoyed cocktails in the Belvedere (which has a fantastic view of the sunset) while watching the fountain show.

Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family photo world travel adventurers Atrium tree

55 ft suspended Christmas tree in Gaylord National’s atrium is lit up for nightly fountain and light show

Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family photo world travel adventurers Atrium train ride Potomac Express

Fountains dance to Christmas music during nightly fountain shows in the atrium at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac

Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family photo world travel adventurers Atrium Potomac Express train

Potomac Express Miniature Train for kids inside the beautiful atrium at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac

The atrium also has the Potomac Express miniature train for children 12 and under to ride ($5 per ticket) and several restaurants and shops. There are also elves hidden throughout for the Elf on the Shelf scavenger hunt which had us hunting throughout the hotel, and was much more challenging than we had anticipated. Our kids got so excited every time they found an elf, and then turned in their booklets at the end for a giant coloring and activity book prize.

Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family photo world travel adventurers Potomac Express train atrium

Our kids enjoyed riding the Potomac Express Train at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac

Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family photo world travel adventurers Scavenger hunt Elf on Shelf

Elf on the Shelf is a fun activity the whole family can enjoy at the Gaylord National for Christmas on the Potomac

Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family photo world travel adventurers Elf on Shelf scavenger hunt

This little elf on the shelf (or tree) was hidden very well in Gaylord National’s atrium

The main attraction at Gaylord National that draws people from all around is the ICE! Exhibit, with over two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures in vivid colors and two-story tall ice slides that both kids and adults can enjoy. We were thrilled about the theme this year- Christmas Around the World, which is right up our alley as world travel adventurers. We loved seeing and reading about how the holidays are celebrated in other cultures and countries, many of which we’ve visited. A walk through ICE! Also includes a visit to the North Pole to see Santa and his elves, Frostbite Factory where artisans from China carve the ice before your very eyes, and ends with the most beautiful nativity scene we’ve ever witnessed carved out of crystal clear ice. It truly is a wonderful way to end the exhibit, remembering the true reason for the season, the birth of Jesus Christ.

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

Gaylord National’s ICE! Is the region’s #1 holiday attraction

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

Gaylord National ICE’s theme was Christmas Around the World featuring beautiful depictions of cultures across the globe

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

Our daughter was fascinated with the ice sculptures of how people dress in other cultures at Gaylord ICE!

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Santa reindeer Christmas tree

America was represented with Santa, Rudolph and a Christmas tree at Gaylord ICE!

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Mexico

Mexico exhibit at Gaylord ICE for Christmas on the Potomac

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Ice slide

The 2 story ice slide was the kids’ favorite part at Gaylord ICE!

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Ice slide

Even toddlers can enjoy the ice slide at Gaylord ICE- just a shorter one

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers North Pole Santa

Who doesn’t want to visit the North Pole? You can at Gaylord ICE!

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Parade of toys

Parade of Toys at Gaylord ICE’s North Pole

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Santa sleigh reindeer

Our daughter was happy about sitting on Santa’s sleigh at Gaylord National’s ICE!

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Santa naughty or nice list

Have you been naughty or nice this year? Check Santa’s list at Gaylord ICE!

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Teddy bear

There are several spots throughout Gaylord’s ICE for fun photos like with this huge teddy bear seat

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

We were too cold to stick our heads through these ice holes for a photo at Gaylord ICE!

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Frostbite Factory ice carving

At Gaylord ICE’s Frostbite Factory you can watch ice carving live

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Ice carving

The kids loved watching the live ice carving at Gaylord ICE!

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Nativity scene

Stunning nativity scene at Gaylord ICE reminds us of the true reason for the Christmas season

Remember to dress very warm when coming to ICE! It is a bone-chilling 9 degrees inside the exhibit, which is the perfect temperature for both carving and preserving the ice sculptures. A blue parka is provided to everyone who enters, but make sure to still wear your own warm coat, hat, scarf, gloves, and warm boots. We also used hand and toe warmers in our gloves and boots which is a good idea especially for the kids. We saw some people dressed in snow pants which is something we will do on our next visit, since 9 degrees is freezing cold even when bundled up well.

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Blue parka

Prepared for the 9 degree ICE exhibit in our blue parkas at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac

A word of warning, you may not want to bring children under age 3 to ICE! Our 2 year old son did not like being bundled up in all the layers-it’s a struggle just to get him to put on his coat on regular cold days, so making him wear a coat plus parka with gloves, hat and scarf was just a little too much for a stubborn toddler. He fell over at one point just like the kid from A Christmas Story and was not feeling very merry. However, once inside he was mesmerized by the colors and had to be reminded multiple times not to touch the ice. We ended up carrying him out kicking and screaming at the end because he wanted to go down the tall slide reserved for bigger kids (he thinks he’s an adult) and wouldn’t take no for an answer. If you have a mellow toddler, then you should be fine, but our wild little guy was a handful. Our 4 year old daughter loved it and did not even complain about being cold until the very end, and by then we were all ready for some hot cocoa and cookies over in Christmas Village.

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

Our 2 year old was not so sure about being bundled up for Gaylord’s ICE exhibit

As soon as you leave ICE you enter Christmas Village, which is a wonderland of Christmas activities geared for families and children and an impressive selection of holiday gifts. Our kids enjoyed riding the carousel and tea cups, and the kids got a good laugh seeing Daddy squeeze into a kid-sized tea cup and mommy almost toss her cookies after all the spinning around and around and around.

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Ornaments

There’s a huge selection of Christmas ornaments for sale in Christmas Village at Gaylord National

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Carousel

Our daughter was all smiles on the carousel at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Tea cups

The teacups at Gaylord National were fun for the kids but adults beware of the spinning!

My favorite part in Christmas Village was the cookie decorating in the Gingerbread House, where we each decorated sugar cookies to look like ugly Christmas sweaters. We all got our creative juices flowing, although our son mostly got the icing flowing directly into his mouth instead of onto the cookies. Our artistic daughter loved decorating her cookies and being able to eat them afterwards. The kids also got a photo with the Gingerbread Man who hangs out inside the gingerbread house.

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Cookie decorating

Cookie decorating in the Gingerbread House at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Cookie decorating

Our son decided to eat the icing straight from the tube instead of put it on his cookie at Gaylord’s Christmas on the Potomac

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Cookies

Our ugly Christmas sweater sugar cookie masterpieces at Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Gingerbread man

The kids were so excited to meet the Gingerbread Man at Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Gingerbread house

The kids wanted to eat the candy on Mrs. Claus’s gingerbread house at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac

There are additional activities that we did not partake in since we had a very busy agenda for a one-night visit. Other holiday activities include cookies with Mrs. Claus, Photos with Santa, Build-a-Bear Workshop, Breakfast with Charlie Brown & Friends, and Cask & Cocoa (wine and chocolate pairings). The hotel also has seasonal spa specials including a Christmas Cocoa Facial, Mint to be Massage, and Joy for the Sole foot soak treatment which all sound blissful. Since this visit was all about the kids, we did not try out the spa, perhaps another time.

For those without kids or who just want a romantic night away from the kids, Gaylord National makes for a great date night. There’s a rooftop lounge called Pose with floor to ceiling windows and a wraparound terrace to enjoy the gorgeous skylines of D.C. & Alexandria with a live DJ on weekends. I snuck up there to see what it looked like while Bertaut stayed in the room with the kids, and it was a happening spot with a huge crowd doing the wobble on the dance floor. We’ll have to come back sometime with Grandma to keep the kids company after bedtime because we love to dance!

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Pose rooftop lounge

Pose rooftop lounge at Gaylord National has a live DJ on weekends and is free to hotel guests

The last but not least item on our agenda at the Gaylord National was visiting the indoor pool and whirlpool, which is always one of the highlights for our kids on hotel stays. The pool is heated and the whirlpool was blissful during the cold winter weekend, so we all enjoyed a morning swim before we checked out. There’s also a small arcade and a fitness center if you feel the need to burn off those Christmas cookies.

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Pool

Morning swim in the indoor pool at Gaylord National

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers Arcade

Arcade near the pool at Gaylord National

On your way out make sure to drop off a letter for Santa in the Kids’ Christmas corner in the lobby, where kids can watch The Polar Express while parents check in and out. Our little munchkins had so much fun that they fell asleep on the chair while waiting for Daddy to get the car. That to me is a sign that they had a great time!

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

Kids’ Christmas Corner at Gaylord National for Christmas on the Potomac

While in the National Harbor, make sure to take a quick walk to see the gorgeous and enormous Christmas tree with twinkling lights that change colors. You may also want to check out the Capital Wheel, a huge observation wheel that will give you phenomenal views of the area.

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

Make sure to see the National Harbor’s beautiful Christmas tree just a short walk from Gaylord National

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

The National Harbor’s Capital Wheel looks beautiful lit up behind decorated trees at Gaylord National

MGM National Harbor also just opened and has a conservatory decorated as a winter wonderland for the season. We were so busy with all the activities at the Gaylord that we didn’t make it to MGM this visit, but I’m sure we’ll be back to check it out another time. We hope you enjoy a magical and fun-filled holiday if you choose to visit Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac. We don’t know of any other local attractions with so many family-friendly Christmas activities all under one roof. Our kids had a blast and were showing some serious love to each other and to us, which is what it’s all about after all. Happy holidays! If you enjoyed this post, please consider subscribing to our RSS feed and email newsletter so you don’t miss any of our travel tips.

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

These little cuties were being so sweet to each other at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac

ICE! Christmas Around the World Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac National harbor luxury resort DC holiday attraction family activity world travel adventurers WorldTravelAdventurers

The love was overflowing at Gaylord National for Christmas on the Potomac

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DC's top holiday attraction Gaylord National's Christmas on the Potomac ICE

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Disclaimer: Gaylord National provided us with complimentary tickets to ICE and the holiday attractions and a discounted rate for our overnight stay but all opinions are our own.

About Bertaut & Alexis

Our experience at Gaylord National Christmas on the Potomac: Best Christmas activities in DC region
Travel addicts and proud parents of two young kids who make exploring the world a priority while working full time. Bertaut & Alexis enjoy traveling like millionaires without spending a fortune and share their tips on how to get luxury for less.

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  • Victoria Yore

    This looks epic! Really enjoy the photos showing the experience

    • BAT

      Thanks Victoria! Glad to read you liked it! Love all your work BTW!

  • Man you guys were spoiled! I am loving those blue jackets. Reminds doing the Ice Bar in Australia (slightly different experience for you!)

    • BAT

      Haha slightly different experience with the kids

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