ICE returns to Gaylord Palms, spotlights Grinch and glow

ICE returns to Gaylord Palms, spotlights Grinch and glow
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After a two-year absence and just in time for a Central Florida cold front, ICE is back at Gaylord Palms.

The Kissimmee resort opened its holiday programming Friday, and at its center is an ice-sculpture exhibit that portrays, in chilling detail, Dr. Seuss’ “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” with Whos, roast beast, Max the antler-enhanced dog and multiple version of the mean one, Mr. Grinch.

“Our guests really cherish this as a timeless tradition. And that has been what the exciting part has been, to kind of welcome them back,” said Niko Nikolaou, senior director of special events and creative for Gaylord Hotels. “Ever since we made the announcement, there has been such an amazing energy through it, and you can see it through social media, through our sales.”

The gap between ICE ages was created by pandemic conditions and associated travel restrictions. The exhibits are created by Chinese artisans who spend more than a month in frozen (indoor) conditions in Florida. There’s a pre-arrival team, a set of builders who form structures, then carvers, then high-end carvers who focus on details.

“Like, the igloo at the front, when you see that, builders really laid that out, carve it. And then when Grinch goes on top of it … that’s a detail carver,” Nikolaou said. And then when you get to the fine details of where the ice actually shows the hairs of Grinch, that’s a detailed carver who has been doing this for decades.”

ICE scenes tell the Seuss story, including the moment where the people of Who-Ville circle in holiday unity as the Grinch’s heart grows. And in the exhibit, it glows.

“The cool thing that we’ve done with ICE is we want to infuse lighting effects into those things, and update things,” Nikolaou said. In the case of that heartwarming scene, “we have carved the ice around a light, and then we’re setting lighting cues toward it,” he said.

That’s also true for the lights in the slide room. The fixtures are frozen inside the ice, not shining toward the ice. The slide room of the Grinch has received a makeover since appearing in other Gaylord exhibits, Nikolaou said. Through customer feedback, the resort found it was one of the most photographed rooms on ICE.

“If you stand in it now, you can see the sleigh that’s going up the mountain and you’ve got these slides racing down underneath,” Nikolaou said. “Our goal was to create more of an exhilarating photo op experience in there. … So that was completely redesigned from what the initial plans were to really elevate it, do something different.”

Visitors tend to spend 25-30 minutes in the exhibit, depending on how many trips down the slide are desired or the amount of time studying the details of the carving, Nikolaou said. The space is kept at a nippy 9 degrees. Gaylord Palms provides protective ponchos, but additional coats, hats, scarves and extra socks are recommended.

Gaylord Palms continued to mark the holidays while ICE was out of action, and some of those activities have been incorporated into the 2022 season, including the “Cirque: Spirit of Christmas” show, snowball stand, ice tubing, “Shine” light show and the Naughty or Nice Escape Room.

The resort was remodeled last year, and its Christmas décor has been enhanced.

“What we want our guests to walk away with is that they see something truly magical in ICE,” Nikolaou said. “But the rest of the property are things that you’re like, ‘Wow, that is just beautiful, unique, different. This is a great photo op.’

“That’s why we put the investment in that tree at the main entrance. … Because it’s just so gorgeous from a towering standpoint, and then how it was designed, it’s truly an art piece,” he said.

ICE admission varies by day, ranging from $29.99 to $39.99. The event runs daily through Jan. 1. For more details, go to