ICE! isn’t another Orlando ice bar. Instead, ICE! Featuring Christmas Around the World is a 20,000 square-foot exhibit of amazing hand-carved ice sculptures at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee. The display area is maintained at a chilly 9 degrees F (-13C), which means no one should show up in flip flops or shorts.
Open from mid-November until after the first of the year, the award-winning ICE! statues are carved by 40 artisans who visit Gaylord Palms each year from Harbin, China. Why bring ice sculptors from the other side of the world? Harbin, China, is famed for its annual International Ice and Snow Festival where more than 2,000 sculptors line a 100-acre walkway. They use ice from the nearby Songhua River to make their artwork.
The ICE! creators are artistic masters. The team spends nearly a month working 12-hour shifts to fashion two million pounds of ice into ice sculptures and ice slides.
Hooded winter coats are provided for adults and children but ICE! attendees also need to come prepared. Closed-toe shoes and pants are mandatory. Pathways are carpeted so no boots are necessary for traction. Gloves and hats are strongly recommended. If you don’t have anything to keep your hands or head warm, pop into the ICE! House gift shop.
ICE! Featuring Christmas Around the World is wheelchair accessible. Take all the photos you want. But expect that your camera lens will fog over temporarily due to the temperature change. If possible, put on a lens cap before exiting.
ICE! ticket prices vary for children and adults and by day and time. The most expensive tickets are closest to Christmas and New Year’s. Do not wait to buy tickets at the last minute.
To play on the ice, consider ice tubing on an eight-lane hill covered in snow. Combo tickets for ICE and tubing are available. So, too, is a ticket for a bucket of real snowballs to throw — only at non-human targets.
A tour of ICE! Featuring Christmas Around the World usually lasts 15 to 30 minutes. If you get involved in tubing and other activities, plan on 1 to 2 hours.
What happens to the sculptures after the holiday season? Think Frosty the Snowman. They melt away and disappear until ICE is recreated next year.
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