Lone Star Cristmas and ICE! at the Gaylord Texan Resort are an annual attraction in Grapevine, the self proclaimed Christmas Capital of Texas. If I were limited to a single word to describe this scene it would be opulent.
As you enter the hotel, you are entering “Lone Star Christmas.” The open, central area of the hotel is extravagantly decorated with garlands and wreaths, bows, baubles and thousands of lights. The multi-story Christmas tree is central and striking. All around are displays that evoke a childhood sense of wonder, most notably: a multi-level electric train running through a mini winter scene, a two story gift being wrapped by an elf with the help of a candy cane crane, an 8 ft tall gingerbread house, giant gingerbread men and gingerbread village, among others.
This year we planned a daytime visit because we had morning tickets to ICE! However, in the past we’ve visited at night. I will say that although it’s an impressive and worthwhile daytime visit, the addition of millions of lights twinkling after dark is quite magical. If you’re not planning to visit the ICE! show, you might wait to do Lone Star Christmas at night.
A few years ago, a couple of days after Christmas, we rounded up the whole family while were were all in town for the holiday. We walked around, enjoyed the lights, sights and some warm beverages while we spent some time catching up and enjoying each other’s company. It was a sweet night, the scenery invoked the holiday spirit while being both an indoor (a.k.a. warm) and affordable, multi-generational something to do together.
Our M.O. that night was free-fun and we were plenty entertained with the ambiance and one another. However, there are many activities available at an additional cost per activity. Some of the activities available this year include: Photos with Santa, Milk and Cookies with Mrs. Clause, Elf on the Shelf Scavenger Hunt, Snowball Throwing, Gingerbread Decorating and a a 12 lane snow-tubing hill, among others. The schedule and ticket prices can be found on the Gaylord Texan’s Lone Star Christmas page.
ICE!® featuring Christmas Around the World (2015)
This frigid, maze-like walk through display includes an impressive TWO MILLION pounds of ice sculptures hand-carved by over 40 Chinese master artisans. The sculptures are made of a combination of white ice, colored / dyed ice and clear ice and is housed in an area refrigerated at 9°F. The Gaylord’s website has an informative article about the making of, should you want to share some of this with your kiddos before you head out.
We went on a Tuesday at 11am, which proved to be an ideal time because lines were minimal, which is helpful with impatient preschoolers. By the time we exited the display 40ish minutes later, the lines were building. My sister went once during peak hours, back in the days when her teen was a tween, and the wait was well over an hour. I don’t think our little ones would have managed that well.
Once you’re through the line, before entering the display, event staff distribute large parkas. They’re an over-coat, long enough to cover your rear for the ice slides. I read somewhere that it’s recommended to dress warmly, bring gloves and hats. We had warm coats with hoods and pockets, I thought that would be enough with the additional parka. I was wrong. I second the recommendation to bring gloves and hats, especially for the little ones. 9°F is REALLY COLD!!! If you’ll be taking photos, keep your camera/phone and your hands warm between shots. It wouldn’t hurt to wear digital touch gloves if you’re using a phone. I was the one taking photos in our group and the back of my exposed hand was tingling and burning the rest of the day. It was minor, but still!
In addition to the cheerful holiday scenes of cultural traditions from around the world, the display includes enchanting sculptures of the North Pole, including Santa, a Parade of Toys and larger-than-life ornaments. There are a couple of fun interactive sculptures such as Santa’s sleigh that you can sit in, and a silly elf face-in-the-hole for photographs. An ice sculptor is always present in one display, working, to give a peek into how it’s done.
The two-story tall ice slides, which were located between the world scenes and the North Pole, were fun for us big kids but our toddler was just barely too short and our cautious preschooler was too intimidated to ride.
As you wind your way through the display, the experience ends with an impressive full nativity scene of beautifully carved and lit crystal clear ice, which has a lovely inspirational quality.
Immediately upon exiting the refrigerated rooms there is a concession area with hot cocoa and mini-cupcakes that are way too temptingly adorable to resist. Be prepared to either indulge or quickly distract your littles because it’s a pretty safe bet they’ll ask for some. We bought the cupcakes to eat after lunch but decided to wait on the cocoa because besides pending lunch-time, there was no seating, a carpeted floor and a mess we didn’t want to risk with these kiddos.
After our cupcake purchase, we wandered into the area where the snow-tubing hill and snowball throwing activities were located. Our kids were too young (and hungry) to be interested, so I can’t say much about them other than they looked fun and are better suited to elementary aged children.
Before exiting the attraction all together, there is a sizable gift store, full of shiny ornaments, toys and other Christmas paraphernalia. We quickly made our way through this because we didn’t want to risk curious little fingers breaking things. However, if we’d been with the teen instead, we might have stuck around a while and perused or purchased, it was an enticing scene.
Know Before You Go
• Parking: There is a $19 parking fee that includes in/out entry for the day. With a validated ICE! ticket the parking is discounted to $10.
• While the Lone Star Texas Display is free aside from parking, ICE! is relatively expensive for families on a budget. To minimize cost consider visiting during off-peak hours, look around for coupons, like this one that’s available Dec 11 – 17. and if you anticipate snow tubing or doing multiple events, purchase the ticket combos.
• Again, dress warmly for ICE! Bring hats, gloves and scarves for the kiddos, which are otherwise unnecessary for Lone Star Christmas.
• ICE! runs 11am – 8pm, scheduled every half hour. November 12, 2015 – January 3, 2016. Tickets can be purchased here and run: Ages 3 and under FREE, Child(4-12) $11.99 – $16.99, Adult(13+) $21.99 -$29.99, Seniors(55+) $19.99 – $26.99
• There are restaurants on-site with Gluten-free options. We found the kid meals too expensive to justify for our picky eaters so we headed to the nearby El Phoenix.
• Make a note of your parking spot. The garage has a bit of a tricky layout, it’s easy to get discombobulated.
How to get to the The Gaylord Texan Resort
1501 Gaylord Trail, Grapevine, Texas 76051
If you pay a visit, let our readers know how it went in the comments below. We’d love to hear the age ranges of your brood and how they liked it or anything you wish you’d known before you’d gone.