One of our family’s favorite holiday traditions is going to see ICE! at the Gaylord Hotel at National Harbor. We’ve been every year since it opened and each year, I have been dazzled and amazed at the amount of creativity and detail that goes into ICE!

This year, we were invited to experience Christmas on the Potomac at the Gaylord at a media event. There were more Christmas activities than even we could soak up in one day! We started off by tackling the scavenger hunt that led us around the lobby and atrium of the hotel. Thank goodness Jodi and Thien-Kim and their families were with us, or I think we’d still be wandering around there. (Hint: The hotel staff can point you in the direction of the next clue, because I don’t think Jodi and Kim are still there.)

After we claimed our scavenger hunt prizes, we headed across the street to the ICE! tent. This year’s theme is Shrek the Halls. (Can I tell you how much I love Shrek?) It’s 9 degrees inside the display, so bring a hat and gloves, but they provide you with a nice warm coat to wear while you’re inside.

This year’s ICE! display was my favorite yet. There was a GIANT sculpture of Dragon (check out Jean’s post for pictures because my camera battery died) and lots of scenes of Shrek, Fiona and the triplets getting ready for a very ogre Christmas. As usual, my kids had to drag me out of the ice slide room because they were getting cold (but I was having a lot of fun)!

After ICE!, it was time for us to decorate a gingerbread house and meet Gingy (“Not my gumdrop buttons!”). The last time my kids decorated a gingerbread house, I almost had to call the National Guard. It was nice to see we’ve progressed in maturity in the last few years. All gingerbread was decorated and not a single punch was thrown.

After we packed up the gingerbread, we headed back to the ICE! tent for the Character Meet and Greet where we cut a rug with Puss in Boots, and took photos with Po from Kung Fu Panda, Alex from Madagascar and the man of the hour himself, Shrek.

There was lots more Christmas for us to experience, but sadly, homework was calling and we had to head homeward. Each night in the atrium of the hotel, there is a tree lighting, snowfall and dancing fountain show which is spectacular. We’ll definitely go back for that another night.

There’s a train ride in the atrium this year too – the Potomac Express. And can I just say, the Santa at the Gaylord? I’m pretty sure he’s the real deal. You can get your picture taken on his lap while you’re

You can find all the information on holiday events at the Gaylord on their website. Most of the activities have admission costs, but the tree lighting and snowfall does not. We were given complementary admission to all the activities for the day (thank you, Gaylord!), but we would make the trip to Christmas on the Potomac either way. It’s a festive way to kick off the holiday season.