I’m here to tell you about my day on Sunday. Jennifer, Lara, and Sunday of MomzShare put together a fantastic event with the Gaylord National at National Harbor for a bunch of bloggers to take their families to ICE! featuring DreamWorks’ Merry Madagascar characters.
To say I was excited was to put it mildly. My kids were as well. I should note here that all the activities you will read about here (except the train and the sangria) were provided to my family at no charge by the Gaylord National. I would like to thank MomzShare and the Gaylord National, because this was one of the more fun days that has been planned for my kids in a long time.
We got to the hotel early and played Spot the Blogger as we wandered around looking at the beautiful Christmas decorations. We also saw some non-blogger familiar faces:
We started with a milk and cookies mixer in the lobby bar that overlooked a fountain and the area where kids can meet DreamWorks characters.
Jack was so excited watching all the characters in the atrium. I don’t think he even ate a cookie because he couldn’t drag his eyes away. Honestly, I was impressed at how much those poor people stuffed in the suits stayed in character, even when there were no kids near them. They did an excellent job.
I was also impressed that Jack did not try to vault over the railing to get to them.
The event organizers passed out Shrek ears to get us in the mood, and Quinn promptly put his on his butt. Well, he watched some other kid put the ears on his butt and then copied him. So he was both obnoxious AND unoriginal. Good show, Quinn.
After our welcome reception, we were free to take off and experience all the stuff the hotel had to offer. For us, that meant straight to the Character Passports line. Well, it meant straight to the exit for the character area where we accidentally started a line in the wrong place and THEN to the Character Passports line. I don’t know why anyone follows us.
The Gaylord did a great job with the characters. As I mentioned, the folks in the costumes were fantastic, but each group also got their own quick stop with each character, so it wasn’t just a mob attacking each character. It was really nicely done. And perfect for photos. Of which I might have taken a few.
You might be able to tell from these photos that Quinn was terrified of getting close to the characters. You can tell that because of his total absence from the pictures. Jack was in complete love though.
We also met Gloria the Hippo and Mort from Madagascar, who alternated with Alex the Lion and King Julian at the meet and greet area.
After our time with the DreamWorks characters, we went on the Puss in Boots Scavenger Hunt. We had a list of clues that led to numbers that allowed us to figure out a clue, which, when given to the lady at the scavenger hunt desk, led to receipt of a coloring book and a magic bean by every kid in the group. It was cool.
Again, the scavenger hunt was well done, with clues that took some thought, but that could be completed by children. Which is really helpful when your parents are just trying desperately to keep track of three kids and five coats and couldn’t possibly be expected to count how many windows are on the upper floor of the gingerbread house building.
What those parents CAN be expected to do however, is use their expert powers of observation. Those powers, honed by Alex’s attendance at dozens of Phish concerts where they were used to to find the best spot for entrance to a venue, shortest line for beer, and that elusive second exit from the parking lot, led us to the building where the characters rested between shifts in the public area.
Naturally, the characters can’t stop to talk or pose for photos here, but it let my kids see them up close again (and see Alex, who they hadn’t been able to see before), which was super fun.
After that, we headed across the street to ICE!, which was, I suppose, the whole reason for being there in the first place. If you don’t know, ICE! is an exhibit made completely out of ice: sculptures, decorations, giant ice slides. It’s really neat. When we lived in Alaska, we went to the outdoor version of this that they have. Only problem was that there was no escape from the cold. Here, once you leave the exhibit, you can warm up.
Also, they give you giant parkas to keep you warm, although hats and your own coat are probably a good idea too. It is COLD in there. Also, it is hard to keep track of three children in a dark space when they are dressed EXACTLY LIKE EVERY OTHER PERSON IN THE BUILDING.
That stressed me out a little. But we managed to keep track of all of our kids, so you probably can too.
For all of you who think that I am kind of a psycho and that poor Alex has to put up with me, I’ll have you know that he did the posing for those last two photos all by himself.
You should know, if you are planning to go, that when you come out of the ICE! exhibit, you are immediately confronted by a skating rink. If you are not going to skate, you should prepare your children ahead of time. I’m just sayin’. We skated, but I can imagine the drama that could ensue if you were not prepared for it.
We mostly skated just so Jack could feel awesome about himself and the rest of us could feel really bad about ourselves.
There is also a train.
Then, while we were waiting for the Penguins of Madagascar to show up in the ICE! tent, Quinn laid down on the ground, which is basically a parking lot. That poor kid was worked.
While Quinn was trying to nap, I made Alex pretend that he’d just come out of a crate that was part of the Penguins set.
I like the Penguins. You have to have a Character Passport to see them, but if you do, they will salute you as many times as you salute them. My kids and Alex even knew which penguins these were, but I have no idea. I just jumped up and down and clapped.
Then you have to exit through the gift shop.
Our last stop of the day was back in the lobby bar where we watched the holiday show that the Gaylord puts on daily at 6:30. While we waited for it to start, I drank a delicious sangria and Jack went back to gazing at the DreamWorks characters from the balcony.
The holiday show features a light and fountains thing with the characters doing a dance in front of the fountain and then it SNOWS inside. And then Jack swings a leg over the balcony railing to try to get downstairs quickly and then Stimey has a heart attack. Or at least, that’s how it went for us. It might be different for you.
So, that was our jam-packed Sunday. We were exhausted by the time we got home, but so grateful to Momz Share and the Gaylord National for a wonderful, family-friendly, wholesome activity-packed day. We won’t soon forget it.
Details for locals:
The Gaylord has a lot of different packages and a la carte options available for ICE! and Christmas on the Potomac, as well as the DreamWorks Experience. I’m not going to lie: it’s expensive. But you can spend the whole afternoon there. We were there from 2 to 7 and didn’t run out of things to do—and we didn’t do everything they had to offer. We honestly had a blast.
ICE! tickets are $19-$35 per person, depending on your age and what day/time you go. Kids 3 and under are free. Parking costs $10. Skating is $12 a person and includes skate rentals. The miniature train is $2 a person or 3 tickets for $5. The Character Passport and Scavenger Hunt are part of the DreamWorks Experience.
Find information about all of the activities at Christmas on the Potomac online. You can also find information about ICE! online. Tweet at the @GaylordNational or find them on Facebook. I suppose if you really wanted to, you could actually make a phone call to ask questions. But that’s just not MY style.