Gaylord Rockies Christmas is more Christmas than we ever imagined!
We make a plan to escape as a family every Christmas, early in the season. It gets us into the spirit of the holidays and kicks off all our “merry and bright” shenanigans. Since we’re in Denver this holiday, Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center was the obvious choice this year. It’s every Christmas-lovers dream come true.
From ice skating and tubing to a 2-million pound ice sculpting extravaganza to an unmatched acrobatics show… the gifts just keep on giving when you spend the holidays with Gaylord Hotels.
With so much to do, you’ll enjoy this complete guide about how to master a Colorado Christmas at Gaylord like a pro!
PLAN TO ARRIVE ABOUT NOON FOR LUNCH BY THE TREE
You’ll arrive before check-in time so leave your suitcase in the car, but there is so much to see and do that we can’t skip a minute!
Head through the lobby and into the Grand Lodge, with towering 75-ft atrium windows highlighting the tallest, most glorious Christmas tree you’ve ever seen.
Here you can indulge in lunch at either Vista Montagne (Italian) or Old Hickory Steakhouse… or enjoy something more simple like Mile High Pizza Station, which is what we opted for.
Personal pizzas came up quickly, and the boys enjoyed them at tables near the tree (while watching World Cup coverage) while Dan and I paired ours with a Christmas cocktail at the giant fireplace (The hearth is 9 ft tall!) only a few steps away.
Before you leave, don’t forget to grab a photo with the caboose, all decked out for the holidays. There is also a chance to grab Sugar Plum Cotton Candy or decadent chocolate chip cookies… but we opted to wait a tad longer.
MAKE YOUR WAY TO GLACIER POINT
Glacier Point is past the lobby area, down toward the Convention Center part of the resort… outside! This is where you’ll find ice skating, bumper cars, a tubing hill and more!
You can grab tickets for these activities before you get there. (We recommend purchasing one of their Christmas Packages and then adding a “Bundle” for even more holiday cheer!) If the hustle and bustle of the holidays got in your way…tickets can be purchased onsite also, as available.
We spent about 3 hours here, ice skating and snow tubing. At one point we had to take a (much needed) 20-minute break while they resurfaced the ice. You can use that time to hit the s’mores stations and warm up by the fire, or head inside and just up the escalator for hot cocoa.
Tubing, of course, comes with a tube (just for one person – not a double). If you have teens and tweens like me, there is a “faster” slide that the staff will point them to. For younger munchkins, there are “slower” slides as well as mats that can be placed at the bottom of the run to keep them from sliding super far. Just note that kiddos must be able to tube by themselves, and there is a height requirement of 40”
Next to the tubing hill is the ice rink. Skate rentals are also included with your skating ticket. Just an interesting note on those, the latches on these skates are awesome, especially if you have kiddos. They buckle down easily and are simple to adjust. This was priceless when my boys wanted to go back and forth 100 times from tubing to skating.
We wrapped up our time at Glacier Point about 30 minutes prior to the timing of our ICE tickets, which was just about perfect. It gave us time to turn in our skates, go to the restroom, grab some water and warm up a little. If you haven’t already checked into your room, you can do that too.
BACK INSIDE, IT’S TIME FOR ICE!
Just down the hall from Glacier Point is Mistletoe Village, the indoor Winter Wonderland at Gaylord Rockies, filled to the brim with holiday activities.
The feature here is the beloved Gaylord Hotels annual tradition of ICE! featuring A Christmas Story. When we attended in 2022 it was a Charlie Brown Christmas theme, but in 2023 the theme is A Christmas Story, and ice sculptures featuring scenes from the holiday classic will be seen.
We were fitted with huge blue parkas and led into the freezing environment (kept at 9 degrees!!!) where all the magic happens! We walked through 10 scenes from the classic holiday cartoon, all carved from colorful ice blocks.
All four of us were in complete awe throughout the entire exhibit… we couldn’t believe the artistry! It truly is all from ice!
It didn’t take long for us to realize that the parkas were to keep us warm, but ALSO to help us sllliiiiiide! Mid-exhibit is a two-story tall ice slide that kids (and adults!) can take.
Elliot loved the slide the most… Cooper’s favorite was a carving of Snoopy and his dog house that you can actually crawl through… and Dan and I adored the last Charlie Brown scene with Charlie and Snoopy, the Christmas tree, and all of Charlie Brown’s friends gathered round singing carols.
Yes, the kids will love it. But don’t forget the master craftsmanship of each of these scenes, with unbelievable detail.
It took 2 million pounds of ice to carve the sculptures covering 20,000 square feet of space. That’s 6,700 massive blocks of ice. If you stacked all the ice blocks used at Gaylord Rockies this year, they would reach higher than 17 Empire State Buildings.
40 ice artisans were flown in from Harbin, China. Harbin is known around the world as “Ice City” because it is home to the world’s largest annual ice and snow sculpting festival. These 40 artists spent 12,000 man-hours on the project!
My kids’ first question – how did they color the ice so vibrantly?? The magic was created by a chemist who mixes a special recipe of food colorings to ensure the sculptures maintain their bright colors the entire season.
After winding your way through Charlie Brown and his friends, the ICE! exhibit ends right in the heart of Mistletoe Village. You can shop for holiday gifts, get your picture taken with Santa (and oh! he is an authentic looking Santa!), visit the Build-A-Bear Workshop, decorate gingerbread houses, paint a craft at the Elf Training Academy, grab a bite from Cinnabon or Auntie Anne’s, enjoy the Reindeer Games Scavenger Hunt…and much more.
Logistical Tip: We lucked out with great timing on all our tickets. I wanted to share in hopes that it helps your planning. Our ICE! tickets were for 4pm and our Cirque tickets were for 6pm. This meant we had plenty of time to skate and tube after lunch, prior to ICE! And it also meant we had enough time to grab a quick dinner between the ice and acrobatics shows!
FUEL UP FOR MORE FUN
Oh we’re not done my friends! With more to do, it’s time to fuel up!
We had only about an hour to eat before the next show, so we opted for dinner at Mountain Pass Sports Bar. If that’s your situation also, just let your waiter know so he or she can help to get your food out on time and your bill paid.
If you have a later show, I recommend trying dinner at a more leisurely pace at Vista Montagne or Old Hickory Steakhouse.
Mountain Pass was great. Dan and I had pork plates with two sides… and the boys enjoyed grilled cheese and chicken nuggets. (All while we watched replays of the NY Jets beating the Chicago Bears on the big screen TV. You know I had to throw that detail in!)
TIME FOR GREAT ACROBATIC FEATS
Head back toward Mistletoe Village… before you get there, though, you’ll see the bubly™ theater entrance for Cirque: Spirit of Christmas. Grab your seats before the show begins!
Renowned Broadway Director Neil Goldberg has reimagined a new holiday show exclusive to Gaylord Rockies. The story centers around Noel, a child dismayed and distressed by the hustle and bustle of the holidays.
Trying to recapture her lost love of the season, she is visited by spirits who bring back the true meaning of the season in energetic, dreamlike chapters. We loved every moment of the artists, singers, dancers, and truly unique talent performing in-the-round.
High-flying stunts, mesmerizing balance acts, larger-than-life acrobatic feats … every act kept building and building! We couldn’t take our eyes off the stage!
FINALLY, TIME FOR A NIGHTCAP
Sure, you can end your evening by imbibing at the bar, but we decided on a family nightcap…at the pool. (OK, who am I kidding? Dan and I grabbed another Christmas cocktail also!)
The Arapahoe Springs indoor pool, outdoor pool and lazy river are heated and open year round!
Indoors, the boys took on the water slides. Their report? The orange slide was fun, but the blue slide was The Best! Apparently it’s a few stories higher, super fast, very curvy, and even takes you outside the building!
I opted to enjoy the hot tub while they were on slides.
Then we noticed the steam rising from the pools outside, which could only mean one thing: They were heated!
First, we made our way to the outdoor hot tub. Brrrr. It was a super cold night but the hot tub was perfect.
Next, we tried the outdoor infinity pool with a waterslide. It was heated, but still pretty chilly. So we headed over to the lazy river…which was the perfect temperature.
The air was cold, the moon was shining, and we lapped that lazy river multiple times! It was warm enough to feel very comfortable lounging away on 720-feet of rocky grottos, water jets and festive vibes!
TIME FOR BED
The pools close at 10pm on weekends, 9pm on weekdays… So once we closed out the pool area we stopped at the Marketplace for one final snack (I do have kids, after all!) It was also a chance to see the towering Christmas tree lit up at night!
Finally, we made our way up to the room. There was plenty of space for all of our suitcases, a great bathroom, and comfy beds.
The boys also loved that we had a bird’s eye view of Glacier Point, which was lit up -along with all the Gaylord Rockies property- for the holiday season.
EVEN MORE FOR NEXT TIME
Can you believe with such a jam-packed schedule, we still didn’t do all there is to do for Christmas at Gaylord?
Check out the Gingerbread Decorating Corner and let your Christmas creativity run wild.
Challenge the family at the Naughty or Nice Escape Room. You’ll need to solve all the puzzles and dash away before St. Nick returns, or you might end up with a lump of coal in your stocking.
Settle in as Mrs. Claus reads ‘Twas The Night Before Christmas, sing along to favorite holiday songs, and share a batch of Santa’s favorite snack – cookies and milk.
MORE INFORMATION FOR YOUR CHRISTMAS TRIP TO COLORADO
- YOUR COLORADO VACATION
- COLORADO CHRISTMAS: 17 Ways To Celebrate Christmas Colorado Style
- BEAVER CREEK CHRISTMAS: Your Guide To Beaver Creek Colorado Christmas Fun
- ASPEN CHRISTMAS: 16 Fantastic Aspen Colorado Christmas Adventures
- BRECKENRIDGE: Why We Love Breckenridge Ski Resort (+ 25 More Things To Do In Breck In Winter)
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