Baby it’s cold inside… at the ICE! A Charlie Brown Christmas at the Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Orlando. Nine degrees, to be precise. But visitors should be prepared to have their heart melted by this classic Peanuts story all over again.
It’s not clear if our two-hour wait to get into the exhibit last Saturday was a testament to the Christmas tale’s popularity or the event proper. Or just poor crowd control. But we were able to dodge long lines at the ICE! ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas display last year, and visited just a week before Christmas.
Some say we appreciate things more if we pay a hefty price, or have to wait for them. And the Gaylord Palms ICE! show, with onsite tickets at $29.99, succeeded on both counts. It was well worth the price, though, given the incredible artistry on display. But if people are going to be subjected to theme park level lines, they should work on providing more entertainment in the queue.
And it was a bit more of a drag because so many of us were wearing and carrying extra layers and coats to brave the icey temps. Despite this, the overall mood was still positive, with the line kicking off in full view of the snowtubing course – giving guests a preview of other fun activities they could explore later.
By the time we finally suited up in our complimentary winter coats, we were prepared to be dazzled. When we experienced the first shot of cold air, we found our favorite blockhead carved, appropriately, from an enormous block of ice, with his iconic, straggly tree, in hand. Snoopy was reclining over his famous dog house next to a pile of glassy bones, with Vince Guaraldi Trio’s Linus and Lucy playing in the background, setting the tone.
Turning the corner, we happened upon a string of uber familiar holiday skaters before sneaking off to experience the On the Blocks ICE! bar. Since we were so late getting into the exhibit, we decided to scrap our other plans for the day and double-down on the Gaylord Palms holiday offerings. The $15.95 tasting included a sample of their Jolly Mint and Merry Margarita drinks, and a Goose Winter Ale. If you liked what you tried, you could purchase a full size version of the drink in the hotel lobby. The Jolly Mint was my favorite.
The chilly temperature kept bar guests from getting too comfortable. There were no stools in this bar – only seats made of solid ice. So we moved along pretty quickly, right back to the cold reality of Charlie Browns’ empty mailbox during the holiday season. And the unapologetic consumerism that sends our hero to the neighborhood know-it-all for psychiatric help.
The ICE! display did an excellent job of bringing this and all of the quintessential moments to life. Along with many of the design elements, like the Chevron from Charlie Brown’s shirt, expertly worked into the background.
I gasped when we entered the “auditorium,” where the characters were frozen in their happy dance poses, with Charlie Brown yelling hopelessly into a megaphone. I couldn’t take it. It was just fantastic, how they captured the energy and excitement of that scene and the holidays simultaneously. Along with two really cool ice slides, pun intended.
From there, we meandered through the “commercial,” Christmas tree lot, which resembled giant, multi-colored popsicles or frozen rock candy. I immediately understood why they kept asking us not to lick the ice. I wanted to, and I’m old enough to know better.
The Linus room was understated, as expected. Just a boy and his blanket, with a story to tell. I had to listen to the audio a few times to hear it all the way through amidst the crowds. Brad joked that I would have risked hypothermia or frostbite to stay in this moment a little bit longer if he wasn’t along.
The final Peanuts room echoed the heartwarming, last scene of the show – when the children finally see the potential in Charlie’s Brown’s sparse tree, repurposing Snoopy’s doghouse decorations to save it, and him. They were frozen in song, with their humming breaking into an energetic rendition of Hark! the Herald Angels Sing. All of the characters, Lucy, Marcy, Franklin, and Peppermint Patty, were centered around Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the little Christmas tree that could, with their mouths agape. Charlie Brown was rotating in his own circle, as if he was poised happily on the record of the Christmas song that kept looping continuously.
From here, visitors transition into the nativity room, which overwhelms with enormous clear ice figurines resembling expertly cut glass. Visitors may need a little more time to take in the subtle beauty and detail of this room. Which, like most ethereal experiences, doesn’t lend itself to good photographs.
The ICE! display was not only a real treat for Peanuts fans, but a brilliant way to introduce this classic Christmas story to a new generation of children. It also gives Floridians a chance to see what it’s like to brave the cold to experience the beauty of the season. Nearly every Christmas special includes a cliched snow scene. But there’s likely lots of people who have never had this experience.
In addition, the hotel and convention center offered lots of other holiday activities, such a snow tubing, that give visitors a chance to retain the faux December experience a little bit longer. I can see why visitors would want to take advantage of some of the packages the hotel offers. Immediately returning to 70 degree weather after viewing a beautiful ice display would surely be a buzz kill. We decided to stick around ourselves to witness the tree lighting in the hotel atrium and revisit the holiday drinks.
On a personal note, this may be the first time in recent years that I can relate to Charlie Brown’s blues during the holiday season. But I am happy to report that the combination of the cold air, which I always associate with Christmas, nostalgia and sentiment inherent in the ICE! A Charlie Brown Christmas display inspired me to go home and decorate my own tree and home for the holidays. It truly lifted my spirits. And I am grateful for that.
Layer Up: If you’ve been living in Florida for a while, you may not be equipped for the cold. But don’t worry – you can layer up with a few shirts, topping off with a hoodie. Layering socks can be just as effective as legwarmers.
Bring a Bag: Keep a bag on hand so you can carry your extra gear while waiting in line.
Buy Advance Tickets: You will not only only save some money, but also ensure your desired time slot is available.
Take Advantage of Package Deals: If you want to participate in some of the other hotel activities, like the Elf on the Shelf® Scavenger Hunt, Alpine Rush Snow Tubing, or the Cirque Dreams Unwrapped Stage Show, you may want to consider some of the hotel and other bundled offerings.
Relive or experience the On the Blocks ICE! Bar samplings with the recipes included below.
- 3/4 oz. Jackson Morgan Southern Cream Peppermint Mocha
- 1 1/4 oz. Hanger 1 Vodka
- 2 oz. Chocolate Milk
Build, add ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice. Garnish with peppermint candy.
Build, add ice and shake. Strain over fresh ice. Garnish with lime.
Have a spirited and happy holiday season!