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Gaylord Palms Resort in Orlando is a great place to visit during the Christmas season. We have gone there at least once every holiday season for the past few years.
Specifically, we like to attend three events: The Joyful Atrium Light Show, Cirque Dreams Unwrapped, and ICE! This year’s theme at Gaylord is “Christmas Around the World.”
Joyful Atrium Light Show
After parking (a whopping $22 for self-parking just in case you were curious), we headed straight to the Emerald Bay Plaza, located in the St. Augustine Atrium. There was a short line already formed for the 6:15 p.m. light show, and we did not have to wait very long to be seated.
The light show is choreographed to music and takes place around and on the giant Christmas tree towering in the center of Emerald Bay Plaza. I think this year’s light show was much cooler than last year’s, which was nothing too spectacular.
This year, to go with the “world” theme, the Christmas tree would light up in different colors of the flags representing various countries, and the music also featured sounds from the different parts of the world.
Cirque Dreams Unwrapped
If you study the schedule wisely, for specific showings, the Cirque Dreams Unwrapped show happens immediately after the Joyful Atrium Light Show, which means you do not have to leave your seat to watch both of these shows! To save time and only have to line up once, this is always what we do.
The show is free, unless you want reserved seating for $14.99 (matinee) or $17.99 (evening), which in my opinion is completely not worth the extra money. Most of the show is up in the air with swinging acrobats, so where you sit will not matter!
Have you ever seen someone flung around in circles by the neck? I have now! The show is 25 minutes long and is filled with crazy in-the-air stunts and colorful costumes.
This year, there were two acrobatic acts and a pair of roller-skaters. My son has watched this two years in a row, and he absolutely loves the theatrics and stunts. A cool part is if you stick around after the show, you can take pictures with all the Cirque acrobats!
ICE! featuring Christmas Around the World
ICE! is a seasonal exhibit at Gaylord Palms that features over two million pounds of ice, carved into beautiful and colorful sculptures. The “Christmas Around the World” theme showcased the different traditions of people from various parts of the world.
We did ICE! about two hours before it closed for the day, and there was literally no line! We pretty much got our tickets scanned, collected our big blue jackets, and walked right in.
Even if you take your time, it should take you about half an hour to 45 minutes to go through the entire exhibit.
They will provide everyone with big, puffy light blue parkas to wear, but I suggest really bundling up with thick pants, your own thickest jacket, mittens, scarves, bonnets, the whole deal!
It is a super-chilly 9 degrees in there, which at first seems tolerable, but if you are in there long enough you will really start to feel that numbing, cold-burning feeling, especially on exposed areas of your skin.
In case you want to step out for a bit and warm up, they have a special section where you can exit the ICE! exhibit and re-enter once you’re ready.
There is a fun ice slide you can slide down, which I was able to go on many times without waiting because there was no wait.
(Side note: This may or may not be true, but I heard that you are not allowed to go on the slide unless you are wearing the provided blue parka. If you choose not to wear one for whatever reason, you may not be allowed to go down the slide.)
This year, new from the prior years I have been, there are spots in the Santa’s Toyland area where you can actually sit on and have an interactive experience with some of the sculptures, such as being able to sit on a sleigh made of ice!
In addition to the above, there are other events happening at Gaylord Palms, such as gingerbread house decorating, a scavenger hunt, and snow tubing. My son is too young to take part in these “older kid” activities, but we still find Christmas at Gaylord Palms to be a lot of fun! A few hours here is well worth your time.