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Without Chinese ice sculptors, Gaylord Palms will do Christmas movie exhibit

COVID-19 has put a chill on travel, leading to the pivot to movie scenes.

The sprawling Gaylord Palms Resort has announced a new Christmas movie popup experience that will debut Nov. 13 and will let visitors walk through a scene in Elf or take photos in front of the Griswold house from National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

But what you won’t see this year, thanks to restrictions on travel, are elaborate ice sculptures at the resort’s annual ICE exhibit. Those had been constructed by artisan sculptors flown in from Harbin, China, every year for more than 15 years.

From this 2006 file photo, guests dressed in heavy parkas look at the Nativity scene carved for the ICE! exhibit at Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee. Travel restrictions this year mean there won't be the elaborate ice sculptures that have been featured there every year since 2003. [ GREG FIGHT | Tampa Bay Times (2006) ]

Since 2003, the Gaylord Palms convention center in Kissimmee spent an estimated $1 million a year on a fantastical walk-through display of ice sculptures housed in an insulated tent with blowers preserving the carvings at a frigid 9 degrees. Floridians drove past the palm-tree-lined entrance to line up by the hundreds and wear heavy parkas as they marveled at the Polar Express train carved in ice, a life-sized Nativity scene and toy soldiers made from blocks of ice specially dyed in brilliant colors.

Without the ice sculptors, the resort instead turned to Christmas movies for what it is calling a multisensory experience to interact with characters, sets and moments from holiday favorites including The Polar Express, A Christmas Story, Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and The Year Without a Santa Claus.

An artist's rendition shows the new walk-through exhibit on Christmas movies that will let guests get their picture taken in front of the Griswold house from "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and other classic holiday movies. It runs Nov. 13-Jan. 2 at Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee. [ Gaylord Palms ]

The “I Love Christmas Movies” exhibit will have 13 immersive scenes, “complete with replicas of film props, audio clips and more, making participants feel as if they have stepped into part of the actual story,” the announcement said.

Details on pricing and related events aren’t set yet, but a news release said visitors can look forward to experiences such as ice tubing, scavenger hunts, gingerbread decorating, an elf training academy and holiday stage shows.

The airy indoor atriums at Gaylord Palms will once again be decorated with millions of twinkling holiday lights, towering Christmas trees and thousands of shimmering ornaments. [ Gaylord Palms ]

The airy indoor atriums at Gaylord Palms will once again be decorated with millions of twinkling holiday lights, towering Christmas trees and thousands of shimmering ornaments.

As with all events this year, the management said the Christmas at Gaylord Palms program is being developed in accordance with Marriott’s “Commitment to Clean” program and with enhanced protocols and social distancing measures. Programming will also operate in consideration with the latest local, state and federal requirements.

Tickets for all the events and activities will go on sale in early October. Visit ChristmasatGaylordPalms.com.

Gaylord Palms Resort, 6000 W Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee. (407) 586-2000.

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