Winter Staycation: ICE! Grinch Exhibit

Like every year, I was planning a winter staycation and honestly couldn’t figure out where or if we should go anywhere. I was just planning to give birth in October, then be homebound for at least 6 months before traveling or taking baby anywhere, especially in the cold. But my husband had visited MD for a work conference, and told me to look into Christmas on the Potomac at the Gaylord Convention Center in National Harbor, MD. After looking at their website, I knew this would be an amazing idea for a winter staycation!

Gaylord Convention Center 


This hotel is huge. It’s larger than life, with a beautiful atrium overlooking the restaurants and activity down below. The feeling of being outside, yet still being inside is one that I really, really enjoyed in the winter time. Winter in NJ just means you’re stuck at home, or indoors. But this hotel never made me feel like we were ‘stuck’. It was a very enjoyable experience.

When planning any staycation in the month of December, it’s very hard to avoid the most crowded days being the holidays. But I really do try not to book anything on or around Christmas Eve because that is when everyone else is traveling too. In the past, we always come in on or after the holiday, as the crowd is leaving. The rates are cheaper also. This year, our stay was December 19 – 21 which meant we arrived Thursday evening, and left Saturday- when everyone else was just starting to arrive. We missed the incredibly huge crowd of the weekend.


ICE! Exhibit

Christmas on the Potomac is special because each year the Gaylord hosts an ICE exhibit, featuring a movie or character. This year it featured Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. My kids have sort of a vague idea of who the Grinch is, but they do know Seuss because of reading books at school. This exhibit includes a walk-through Ice sculpture show, snow tube ride, gingerbread decorating and other small activities, perfect for the ages 10 and under.

Each of these activities are individually priced or you can purchase packages. When booking the room reservations, I chose the rate that included the main ICE show. Then I bought everything else separately, as they had child/adult rates. We did all of the activities, but you don’t have to. Keep in mind this exhibit is open to the general public, so it can become crowded at times, especially the weekends.

Activities we enjoyed were:

  • ICE! Grinch Show – They give you special blue jackets to wear when walking through this exhibit, because temperatures are below O degrees F. It is very, very, very cold in there. Be prepared with hats, gloves, layers, especially the little ones.
  • Ginger Bread House Decorating
  • Storytime with Mrs. Claus – I missed this one but my kids thoroughly enjoyed the fresh chocolate chips and milk being served.
  • Snow tubing – it is indoors and very fun. Only one rider per tube. But with purchasing one band, you can go unlimited number of times.
  • Toy train ride –  very small train ride, perfect for ages 5 and under.
  • Scavenger Hunt – They had clues set up throughout the hotel atrium and lobby, my kids loved playing detective and winning a prize at the end of it.
  • Cirque Du Soleil – this was the main attraction in the atrium. The show was great, not too long. You can even view it on the balconies around the hotel, but sitting up close is worth watching too.
Beautiful gingerbread display at the entrance
Writing christmas cards at the lobby – free activity


Gingerbread House Decorating


ICE Exhibit featuring the Grinch


We did eat breakfast at the hotel both days, at the buffet. It is an extensive buffet with many choices, but it is expensive. If you can book the room with a breakfast rate, it’s worth it. We also had lunch at the hotel, which was just okay. For dinner, we ate at Amina Thai which is one of our favorite Thai places in MD.

Dinner at Amina Thai 

My kids really enjoyed staying here, and they didn’t want to leave. The hotel property is beautiful, and decorated extra special for the holiday season. It does get a bit crowded over the weekend, but it is great fun for the family and I can’t wait to go back during the warm weather too.

If you’re planning to go or have been to this location, please do share in the comments! 🙂

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