A few days before Christmas we went to visit ICE at the Gaylord in the National Harbor. We went the very first time they came to town. The Manchild was little and LittleCuteLips wasn’t even thought of. It is a very pricey experience which is part of the reason we hadn’t gone back. LittleCuteLips came home with a free ticket from school and so I decided we would all go. We invited her Harmony and her Mom to join us.
ICE! is Gaylord’s signature holiday attraction and every year they have a new theme. This years theme was the most beloved holiday tale Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer brought to life in this walk-through winter wonderland.
We took a group picture before going in, they offer a cool one with a green screen background for like $30. Nope, no thank you. We were bundled up, I’m talking layers of clothing + ski pants. They keep it a freezing 9 degrees.
They used over two million pounds of ice sculptures hand-carved by 35 artisans from Harbin, China. They have four ice slides, colorful ice sculptures that depict the story of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and a stunning crystal clear ice sculpture scene of the Nativity.
Let me show you how much fun the slides are first.
The girls were so excited, they have never seen anything quite like this.
They used three types of ICE to make everything; Clear “Crystal” Ice, White Ice, and Colored Ice.
The Colored Ice is dyed from nine brilliant colors are used for highlighting and accenting many of the ice sculptures. These giant popsicle-like blocks are made with simple food coloring that is added during the freezing process. Though it may sound simple, there’s a catch… the water must be stirred constantly to ensure a consistent color throughout the block when it is cut.
This deer was so freaking cute and she had the best eyelashes ever.
White Ice looks like compacted snow, makes up a small part of the attraction but is invaluable when carving a snowman. This ice is frozen quickly, giving it a cloudy look, much like the ice made in a home freezer. By freezing quickly, the molecules do not have time to perfectly align.
The level of detail they put into these ice sculptures is incredible. Look how they are sitting, look at his legs standing. They thought of everything.
The various sculptures totally made us feel like we were in the movie.
Let’s talk about the process a little bit; their troupe of ice artisans hails from the city of Harbin, located in Northeast China, they experience relentless winter winds blowing across from neighboring Siberia. While the average summer temperature hovers at a moderate 70 degrees, winter temps fall dramatically to an average of only 2 degrees… sometimes plummeting to -36. Harbin stays below freezing for almost half the year. Eeeek!
The master carvers spend about a month of 12-hour shifts inside a 9-degree freezer, transforming two million pounds of ice into a breathtaking winter wonderland.
The citizens in Harbin cut their ice from the Songhua River for their festival, D.C. residents don’t experience local waterways frozen solid. So, where do you find two million pounds of ice? At an ice factory! I had no idea an ice factory was a thing.
The ice for ICE! is created using a special “recipe”, and it arrives in approximately 36 truckloads over a three-week period – two trucks a day for 15 days, which is about as fast as the ice factory can produce it. Large blocks of ice are delivered on pallets via refrigerated tractor-trailers, then moved into place by forklift.
Clear, “Crystal” Ice is the most difficult to make, crystal ice is created using highly filtered de-ionized water. It takes three days to freeze the 45 gallons of water used to create each 400-pound ice block. By freezing it slowly, the molecules are able to line up perfectly, similar to a diamond or crystal. In fact, this ice is so flawless it is often compared to Waterford Crystal.
This was the last sculpture of the ICE experience; it is the perfect culmination of everything we saw and the reason for the season.