10 Tips to Enjoy Gaylord Texan's "Lone Star Christmas" and ICE!
Everything's bigger in Texas, y'all. And that includes Christmas at Marriott's Gaylord Texan Resort in Grapevine, Texas.
Gaylord Texan’s 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, plus endless holiday lights make every turn festive. This is truly Christmas on a Texan scale!
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 most 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 holiday activities as possible, and opted for the Play All Day Pass, now called the Play and Save Pass. Current Play and Save prices can be found here. This pass allowed us to participate in every activity in the resort!
The Elf on a Shelf Scavenger Hunt
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!
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 adored the prize she received upon completion.
Lone Star Christmas Tip 1: This activity is 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 parents. We saw several younger teens completing this together without parents, which was probably a fun break for both the teens and their parents.
Lone Star Christmas 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.
Lone Star Christmas 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.
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!
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!
Lone Star Christmas 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 a bit longer during weekends.
Lone Star Christmas 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!
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.
The exhibit’s theme during our visit: Christmas Around the World!
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. Sledding down an icy slope while balanced on the parka's tail was a fun change from ordinary sledding!
Lone Star Christmas 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 at least 15 minutes longer with a base layer.)
Lone Star Christmas 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!"
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!
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!
Lone Star Christmas 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. So bring your photography A-game!
Lone Star Christmas 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. The Play All Day Pass dictates the cookie experience; individual activity tickets offer the options.
Cookies & Milk with Mrs. Claus
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.
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!
Lone Star Christmas 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. We hope your visit is just as magical!
Happy holidays, from our family to yours!
Distance from DFW Airport:
5.1 miles, 10 minutes
While you’re in the area, don’t miss → Our One Day Guide to Fort Worth Stockyards Station
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