Monday, November 29, 2010

ICE Recap

So we made the 2nd annual trip to National Harbor to see ICE! at the Gaylord National Hotel right outside of DC.  We had a great time last year, so we figured, more of the same, right?  Plus, this year my ILs, my SIL and her husband, along with her IL's joined us and my parents and my brother/SIL.  We bought the 3pm ICE tickets a few weeks ago and made the dinner reservations at the same time.  Everything seemed set for a good day!  Traffic on 295 was light the entire way and we made it down in record time. National Harbor was hopping when we got there but, it was last year too.

However, when we all got up to the ICE bubble/tent, something was different.  There was a HUGE long line of people.  I'm talking like 250-300 people, at least.  And no one was going inside.  There were no signs.  There were a few rude security guys who clearly thought they were quite important and trying to look the part of Secret Service types.  I asked one of them if this line was for people who already had their tickets and they said, yes, it was for the 3pm reservations.  WTH?  I couldn't believe how many people there were. There were some 3:30pm people mixed in too.  So around 3pm, they started telling people with 3pm reservations it was time - well the mob started moving toward the door.  Everyone in line was disgruntled.  Seriously, for $29/adult, you really deserve better service.  It seems most people actually already had their tickets in hand and were able to go right into the line.  Those of us that did will-call had to go in one line and then to the back of the line.  Lovely.  If you bought the tickets online and opted to have them sent to you, it was some ridiculous fee, whereas will-call was free.  Go figure.

Anyway, the LINE.  I will say, once we got into the tent, the staff was MUCH nicer and better informed.  However, what makes me angry about it was that it is set up to make you wait for at least an hour before you even get to go into the ICE.  Granted, I'm sure if you go at an off time, it's not as bad, but seriously, I can't believe that they would take that many reservations for these seemingly peak times.

We went last year on the same day and time and walked in.  Clearly, word has spread.

Anyway, so you go into this long Disney-esque line that loops you through some Dr. Seuss art exhibit and then through a few posters about how they made the ice.  The line did move fairly well, but when it's THAT LONG of a line, that's not something to brag about.  Plus, when you aren't anticipating a line that long, it's frustrating. (How do you give people a 3pm reservation knowing full well that they won't get into the exhibit until well after 4pm??)  Especially when this event is geared toward families - many of which have young children who don't give 2 shakes about some art on a wall.  My kids did pretty well, but we had a lot of people with us to help entertain them.  I saw many an unhappy child in those lines.  And if you have any family members that tire easily, this is a LONG time to remain standing as there is no place to sit or get out of the line and wait. 

Finally, after over an hour of waiting, we made it to the "parka pickup" and we all got garbed in our blue Gaylord parkas.  Some of our crew were saying they didn't know of they'd need the parkas.  After we got in there, they were very GLAD they had them.  So on with the show....

Once we made it into the exhibit, things were better.  Everyone perked up (how can you not perk up in 9 degrees?) and everyone enjoyed it.   The biggest laugh of the day was Piper in her parka.  They only come in a few sizes and the smallest size just grazed the ground when she walked and her hands didn't even come close to reaching the ends of the sleeves.  She looked like a penguin....the cutest penguin!  She didn't mind though - she didn't even seem to notice - she loved it!

Caroline & the Grinch

Piper in Whoville

Bryce made faces like this allllll day! He was so excited and just loved posing for the camera being as goofy as possible.

Look, I made it into the photos for once!

Watch out, mom, the Grinch will take your purse!

Jason in the ice cave
Hey, look a decent family shot! (I need to Photoshop it though.)
We all took a turn on the ice slides - even Piper, who got stuck mid-way down but managed to get down on her own.  My dad has some photos that I want to see of that since I was at the top.  Even Jason took a slide on the ice!

After the exhibit, we made our way over the the Gaylord to see the sights since our dinner reservation wasn't until 6pm.   The kids had a ball watching the jumping fountains and had snacks to tide them over.  Then we headed over to McLoone's Pierhouse for dinner.  The menu looked promising and we were hoping for a good meal.  However, many of us left somewhat unhappy with the food, so I'd highly advise that if you go to National Harbor to NOT visit McLoone's and try one of the many other restaurants.  The service was good but the food for several of us was over priced, especially for the quality. 

However, all in all it was a good day.  The kids told us what a good time they had and I know a lot of that had to do with the company we kept.  Plus, to them, once we got into the exhibit, they forgot all about the long wait.  (And even with Piper's random barfing incident in the Peeps store...more on that later!)

So if you're pondering a visit to see it, I highly recommend trying to go at a non-peak time and being aware of the long wait once you get inside.   We've done it for 2 years now and I doubt we'll be going back.  But there are so many other possible Christmas outings to be had, we don't want to do the same thing every year.

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