We've got ice underfoot in the tropics
It's hard to get sympathy from our Northern relatives when we complain that it's so sunny and pleasant, making it hard to feel the seasons change. This is especially a gripe most transplants in Florida have when the holidays roll in. Starting this weekend, there are some outlets for the ice-starved: an outdoor ice rink in balmy Tampa and an indoor ice sculpture fantasy land at an Orlando resort.
Hard as it might be to believe, they’ve figured out how to build an outdoor ice skating rink in Curtis Hixon Park in tropical Tampa. It opens Friday and runs through Jan. 2. Cost is $10 for 90 minutes, which includes skate rentals.
The 44- by 100-foot rink is made of sand, a sheet of plastic and tubes filled with a substance colder than freezing, which circulates through a chiller. The rink is open 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and noon to 8 p.m. Sundays. The rink will be closed Thanksgiving Day, open 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Dec. 24, and 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Christmas.
Over at Orlando's Gaylord Palms, they are once again rolling out a winter wonderland with 2 million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures by artists brought in from China. ICE! officially opens on Saturday and runs through Jan. 2. This year they've added SNOW! with 40 tons of real snow creating a North Pole Carnival attraction where kids can make snowmen and snow sculptures, take aim at a snowball target range, build igloos or make snow angels.
I toured ICE! a few years ago and got a great Christmas card photo of our family. It has marvels like a Polar Express-style train, except this one's made of ice and you can walk through it. There were life-size Nativity scenes and for the kids, ice slides with a web cam that lets you call Grandma to log on and see the kids sliding down an ice chute.
It's only 9 degrees in there so visitors are given parkas on loan, but you are advised to wear closed-toed shoes.
You can even join the Orlando Polar Bear Club in December, when they will do their third annual variation on the Northerners who take icy swims. Dressed only in their bathing suits, the club members will (very quickly) tour the attraction at 8:30 a.m. Dec. 4. Those who complete the freezing tour will receive a certificate and membership into the club plus an “after-glow” reception with coffee and cocoa. The $19.99 ticket also allows you to return to the attraction that day, we assume with your clothes on. A portion of the proceeds will be donated to Children’s Miracle Network. For tickets or more information, go to www.orlandopolarbearclub.com or call (407) 586-4423.
Tickets to the ICE! attraction range from $9.99 to $25.99 depending on the type of ticket and day of the week. Entry to their related SNOW!, a North Pole Carnival, is $7.49 Monday – Thursday and $9.99 Friday – Sunday with the purchase of an ICE! ticket. Discounted tickets are available online at www.gaylordpalms.com/christmas. For reservations and further information call (407) 586-2000 or visit the hotel's web site. The Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center is located at 6000 W Osceola Parkway in Kissimmee.
--Sharon Kennedy Wynne
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