By Sherry Robinson
Times Staff Writer
No matter where you go in Florida this holiday season, you won't find any place cooler than the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee.
That's because, for the seventh year, the resort is presenting ICE!, a colorful and c-cold trip through a simulated North Pole winter wonderland where the indoor temperature hovers around 9 degrees.
A stroll through the thrilling, chilling display will show you brightly colored ice sculptures of children frolicking in the snow, a group of polar bears romping in an Arctic forest in frozen-solid water, even a pop-eyed Santa waiting for kids to visit his icy throne. Each one makes a great photo op.
Being a thin-blooded Floridian, I had NEVER been this cold in my life. By the end of the 30 minutes that it took me and my family to cover the entire exhibit, my hands and face were nearly numb. (Love the complimentary hot chocolate served to each guest at the end of the exhibit!) Here is what you'll see, plus a few tips to get you through ICE! without turning into a human popsicle.
How'd they do that?
All of the scenes were carved from 2 million pounds of distilled water turned ice by a team of 40 artists from China, said Keith Salwoski, Gaylord's public relations director. The artists spend about a month in Kissimmee creating the attraction, and 10 remain behind to freshen up the ice throughout its 51-day run, which ends Jan. 3.
Same every year?
Scenes rotate out every couple of years, Salwoski said, and more colors are added. But some scenes are repeated, including the stunning nativity at the end. And though there are some parts that guests are allowed to touch, for the most part you must keep your hands — and tongues — off the ice.
My kids loved the life-sized carousel complete with organ music and elegant animals to sit on — although one of them said he wished it actually revolved like a real merry-go-round. But they really enjoyed the ice slides — sort of like frozen water slides — that allow kids (and some adults) to play penguin for a few minutes. Beware, though: You can freeze your bottom off if you're not careful about how you approach the slippery slope. The key to enjoying this and the other displays is a bulky blue parka that the ICE! folks lend every visitor. Pull it down over your legs to make your sliding experience a smooth one.
Take your gloves . . .
Sure, you can buy some at the gift shop but there are plenty of other Christmas goodies to buy there. Instead, bring your own from home. And a nice stocking cap and scarf aren't a bad idea either.
. . . Skip the sandals
Wear jeans or some other long pants and closed-toe shoes. Layering is a good idea — a long-sleeved shirt under a sweater or light jacket will help the blue parka keep you feeling toasty.
30 minutes or less
That is Gaylord's advice and really, it is about all you'll be able to do, especially the little ones. The employees get rotated out of the ice houses every 45 minutes so that they don't turn blue.
Make it worth the drive
Because the ICE! exhibit doesn't take long to see (once you go through, if you go out, you can't go back in without another ticket), you should plan another Kissimmee area activity after your tour ends. There's actually plenty to do at the resort, including searching for gnomes, seeing a stage show or taking holiday pictures around one of the many beautifully decorated Christmas trees. You could take your kids to play at the LEGO store in Downtown Disney, or play a round of miniature golf at Disney's Christmas-themed Winter Summerland course.
Sherry Robinson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 893-8305.