Kissimmee: The Coolest Place to Be During the Holidays

By: Alan Macher

A white Christmas in sunny Florida? Yes, it's true - during the holidays, the Gaylord Palms Resort in Kissimmee hosts the spectacular ICE! event.

Imagine a winter wonderland of holiday scenes hand-carved from 2 million pounds of ice - in warm, sun-drenched central Florida.

When visitors walk through the doors of ICE!, the spectacular holiday attraction at Gaylord Palms Resort and Convention Center in Kissimmee, they'll be treated to a white Christmas, Florida style. ICE! features frolicking polar bears, Santa's workshop and slippery slides, among many other frozen delights.

Temperatures outside may average a balmy 70 degrees, but inside the 20,000-square-foot "Florida Fridge," as the huge structure housing ICE! is dubbed, it's kept at a chilly nine degrees. But not to worry - if you didn't pack your winter jacket (this is still Florida, after all), Gaylord Palms has plenty of oversize hooded coats to keep you warm.

As the Orlando area's "coolest" family holiday attraction, ICE! dazzles visitors with larger-than-life, three-dimensional ice monuments and sculptures, some more than 25 feet in length. Forty artisans from Harbin, China, created the remarkable ice designs; it took them nearly a month to complete the work.

Almost 80 percent of the sculptures are made up of glass-like crystal ice, so flawless that it is compared to Waterford Crystal. Other sculptures feature white ice, which is more like compacted snow; and colored ice, dyed with brilliant colors. Adding to the colorful displays are more than 1,500 florescent lights frozen within the ice sculptures.

So the next time you drop a few ice cubes into your drink, think of this: The two million pounds of ice needed to create this amazing attraction consist of nearly 5,000 ice blocks. Now that's cool.

ICE! is the highlight of the resort's "Christmas at Gaylord Palms" festivities, which features holiday entertainment and activities for the entire family. A weekly schedule of holiday events and entertainment is available at the ICE! box office.

Throughout the year, Gaylord Palms is a delight for children and adults alike. The Cypress Springs Family Fun Water Park showcases a multi-level tree house with four waterslides, gurgling springs, oversized water tipping bucket, an outdoor movie theater for animated adventures, live shows and games!.The adults-only South Beach Pool features a sophisticated design lined with tropical palms and poolside cabanas, and the Relâche Spa & Salon includes a state-of-the-art spa, wellness and brand-new fitness center, and a full-service beauty salon.

A massive 4.5-acre glass-enclosed atrium is the resort's signature architectural feature. Within the atrium are Florida-themed environments that depict Key West, with a re-creation of Mallory Square; St. Augustine, with a replica of Castillo San Marcos, the historic Spanish fort; and the Everglades, complete with primitive boardwalks and metal-roofed shanties, among others. Florida design themes even carry through to the guest rooms.

Innovative restaurants, fascinating shops and live entertainment abound at the resort. After the ICE! experience, guests can enjoy Old Hickory Steakhouse, featuring the finest all-natural Black Angus beef and fresh seafood served in a Everglades setting; Sunset Sam’s Key West Grill offering New World cuisine, overlooking a 60-foot sailboat; Villa De Flora, where chefs create market-inspired dishes with Mediterranean influences; or Wreckers Sports Bar featuring a casual menu, 50 HDTVs and a two-story, 37-foot sports screen.

Sponsored listings by VISIT FLORIDA Partners

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