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10 Tips to Enjoy Gaylord Texan's "Lone Star Christmas"

Everything's bigger in Texas, y'all. And that includes Christmas at Marriott's Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas.

The lobby greets guests with oversized stone pillars adorned in enormous holly wreaths and ornament swag. Across a foot bridge, the 8-story atrium features a 54-foot tall Christmas tree with two 25-foot toy soldiers standing sentinel. All around the resort, 150 trees, more than 5,000 feet of garland, and 15,000 ornaments make every turn festive. This is truly Christmas on a Texan scale.


This holiday season, we had the thrill of participating in Gaylord Texan's twelfth annual Lone Star Christmas. Check out how we spent our day, plus our tips for making the most of your visit!

Our Day at Gaylord Texan's Lone Star Christmas

The well-known highlight of Lone Star Christmas is "ICE!", but that is just the beginning. Perusing the events menu, we decided to try out as many activities as possible, and opted for the "Play All Day Pass." At $64.99/per person (adults & kids) or $54.99 on off-peak days, this pass includes:

UPDATED 2017 prices: $62.00pp, adults & kids, no difference for peak vs. off-peak days

The Elf on a Shelf Scavenger Hunt

Gaylord Texan Elf on a Shelf Scavenger Hunt.jpg

The concept

Follow clues to locate ten elves hidden around the resort. Then solve puzzles to reveal the elves' names. Complete the hunt and earn a prize!

Our experience

An adorable clue book, a nice walk through the resort, and some funny elf scenes made this an enjoyable activity for our whole family. Seven-year old Mag was completely engaged throughout the hunt, and was enthused about the prize she received upon completion.

Tip 1: This activity appears to work best for ages 4 through adult.

At 7, Mag was able to do much of the puzzle-solving with minimal to moderate assistance. As we observed other families, we noted that kids 4 and up seemed to be enjoying this activity, albeit with more guidance from their parents; kids 2 and under required continuous prodding and prompting from increasingly flustered parents. We saw several younger teens completing this together withoutparents, which was probably a fun break for both the teens and their parents.

Tip 2: Bring a pen or pencil.

Yes, most moms probably have one (or tons!) in their purse, but just in case, it's worth mentioning that you'll need one for the scavenger hunt, and it's not included with the clue booklet.

Tip 3: Be adaptable with start times.

The Play All Day Pass automatically gives you the start time of 10:00 for the scavenger hunt. But to start the hunt, you must collect your materials at the concierge window, which doesn't open until 11:00 on weekdays. So if you're going on a weekday, be ready for a possible delayed start. 


The concept

Tube down a 2-story tall hill covered in real snow. Over 2 million pounds of snow are brought in for this 52-day event.

Our experience

We're from Chicago. We get tons of snow. We go sledding a lot. But we still loved this, especially Mag. The novelty of seeing snow indoors and getting to snow-tube inside a resort has a magical draw.

Tip 4: If possible, visit on a weekday.

We did this over and over and over. And then a few more times. It helped that we were there on a weekday, and never waited more than 2 minutes for a turn. People we talked to said that the wait can be prohibitive during the weekends.

Tip 5: The Play All Day Pass comes with unlimited snow tubing.

This was a pleasant surprise, because Gaylord Texan's website mentions getting a wristband for 12 runs down the snow tube hill. Nowhere did we see mention of unlimited access with the all day pass, so Mag was thrilled by this surprise.


The concept

Don a parka (provided) and walk through an enchanting exhibit of ice carvings. Forty Chinese artisans work for a month to carve 2 million pounds of ice into themed sculptures. This year's theme: Christmas Around the World.

Our experience

We had visited the ice sculpture exhibit at London's Hyde Park "Winter Wonderland" last Christmas, so we thought we knew what to expect with this exhibit. We were so wrong. "ICE!" far exceeded our expectations. The ice carvings were phenomenal; far more colorful and whimsical than those we had seen in the past.

Midway through the exhibit was an ice slide with no wait time. Although it was a bit challenging to pick up decent speed on this slide, sledding down an icy slope while balanced on the parka's tail was a fun change from ordinary sledding.

Tip 6: Be ready for the cold! 

The "ICE!" exhibit hall is kept at about 9 degrees F (-13C). Although hooded parkas are provided, bring a hat, too, as the hood is loose. And don't forget mittens or gloves; the parkas don't have pockets. If you own thermals or any type of base layer, throw them on under your jeans. The warmer you are, the longer you'll want to stay to enjoy this exhibit. (We spent about 30 minutes in "ICE!" but would have stayed maybe 15 minutes longer with a base layer.)

Tip 7: Take lots of pictures - and not just for the usual reasons. 

If you're like us, you might feel a little too cold to linger and read each sign about Christmas in the different countries. So consider taking photos of the signs. That way, as you're warming up with a hot chocolate later, you can read about Christmas in each of the countries represented in "ICE!"

Gingerbread Decorating

The concept

Stop in the gingerbread workshop and decorate your own single gingerbread man, a gingerbread family, a snowman family, or a gingerbread house. Then have your picture taken with Gingy.

Our experience

Gingerbread walls and a themed tree gave the gingerbread workshop a magical Christmas feeling. The decorating experience was just as wonderful: yummy cookies, easy-to-use frosting (other pre-made kits often come with dry cookies and rock-hard "construction" frosting), and a fun variety of candy decorations. Ending the experience by meeting the cuddly Gingy just made our day!

Tip 8: If you have any photography tricks up your sleeve, bring them to this stop.

The fluorescent flood lights used in the gingerbread workshop cast shadows and altered hues in bizarre ways, making it a challenge to capture this magical scene on camera.

Tip 9: Know what gingerbread decorating experience your ticket includes so there are no surprises upon arrival.

There are several options for gingerbread decorating: a gingerbread family (6 cookies), a snow-family (6 cookies), an entire gingerbread house, a house plus family, or a single gingerbread man.

Cookies & Milk with Mrs. Claus

The concept

Mrs. Claus reads a Christmas story aloud while children enjoy their bedtime milk and cookie. Kids each get their own book to follow along in, and can take their book home. After storytime, Mrs. Claus is available for photos.

Our experience

At the end of an exhausting day of Christmas activities, Mag loved snuggling up in a red bean bag and listening to Mrs. Claus' soothing voice. And we parents were just as happy to have a chance to sit and relax, too. Plus, you can never go wrong with a huge, chewy chocolate chip cookie.

Tip 10: Decide on your photo options same-day.

If you are interested in purchasing, or even viewing, the professional photo taken of your child(ren) with Mrs. Claus, check it out that same day at the "ICE!" ticketing booth. We could not access ours online later, despite the photographer having given us a ticket with our access code.

We had an amazing time at Gaylord Texan's Lone Star Christmas! We would make this an annual tradition if we lived close enough.

Happy holidays, from our family to yours!


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