The wonderful world of Justice and Mommy aka Mary!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Whoa! It's 9 degrees in Florida!

During our special Christmas Vacation Extravaganza we decided to veer from our carefully planned itinerary and take a side trip to Gaylord Palms- ICE. After hearing about a special discount for anyone with an annual pass for the major theme parks in Orlando, it seemed as though our Busch Gardens and Universal passes were going to provide us with another unforeseen discount and we were happy to take advantage of it. As a single mom on a constant budget, I’m always looking for a discount or coupon for anything and everything.

The road that led to the resort was paved with a-lot of bumps and snags; but, after a forgotten credit card, several sets of bad directions, getting stuck in a ditch and pulled out by a good Samaritan we finally made it to our destination. The resort was quite grand and it was immediately obvious to me that it was made for the upper class.

When we entered the doors, we were immediately met with a rush of cold air and an e-mail station for Santa. You could actually e-mail your Christmas wish to him and watch on the screen as he read your letter. Justice asked for a skateboard and was so excited when Santa sent him a return e-mail within seconds. He couldn’t read it just yet, but he did see his name on there and knew it had been specially written for him by the big man himself.

Just down the oversized hall was the entrance to the exhibit. Quickly we purchased our tickets and entered the turnstiles to wait for our turn to view the display. They only allow a carefully selected number of people to enter at one time, so as to avoid overcrowding and allow everyone to have a good view of the sculptures. Luckily we only had to wait about 15 minutes before we were to enter.

Our group was ushered into a large room with a huge movie screen followed by yet another room with an equally large screen. Santa Clause and Old Man Winter visited us on those screens and gave us a little bit of history regarding the ice display. We learned that ice carving had originated in Harbin China out of sheer practicality. Fisherman would carve lanterns out of ice and set candles inside to provide light during the cold, dark nights. Over time practicality gave way to the human desire for grandiosity and the world famous, annual ice festival was born in Harbin, China.

A team of carefully chosen sculptors had been flown in from Harbin to carve over two million pounds of ice for our enjoyment. They used a variety of tools including chisels and chainsaws to create magnificent, jaw dropping displays and utilized food coloring and special freezing techniques to create a variety of different looks. Truly, I had no idea so much could be done with ice. Normally I just stick a few cubes in my iced tea and call it a day; but, there’s so much more that can be done with it.

After our history and ice carving lessons, we were taken down another hallway where employee’s were handing out shinny blue parkas. The temperature inside the exhibit was a shocking 9 degrees, so we were going to need all the protection we could get. Because this arctic attraction was being hosted in sunny south Florida they knew their patrons were not going to have the proper attire for such cold weather; therefore, providing warm winter jackets was a must. Long pants and closed toed shoes were a must for entrance; however, those two items could not possible provide enough protection from such cold weather.

I could tell Justice was getting very excited by this point, as he was jumping up and down. There was something very foreign and exotic about putting on such strange clothing with hoods and extra padding. Even on the coldest days in Palm Beach County we can usually get away with wearing a sweater and light jacket, so this was quite different. I had grown up in Philadelphia; therefore, I knew what we were in for; but, my dear child has never had the great misfortune to feel anything colder than 20 or 30 degrees and even then he was on vacation up north.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Finally we entered the main room of the attraction. We were instantly blown away by the glistening ice lit with bright lights and appropriately contrasted with black fabric walls which were twinkling with white lights.. The effect was like seeing a bright and shinning star from a ship in outer space in utter amazement. The light from the ice looked even brighter when surrounded by the darkness as I suspect the Christians of this world appear to God in heaven.

The first room was appropriately named Winter Wonderland. We had to pass through an adult sized igloo to get there and it was right then that I knew this experience was going to exceed my expectations. Justice was overly excited and found the chilly air to be invigorating. Is was as if we had been transported to a forest, in some deep tundra far, far away. The trees were carved from solid ice that had been frozen white and bore every detail of a winter wonderland. Woodland animals and life sized deer were peeking about the trees. It was magical, almost like walking through the wardrobe into Narnia.

The focal point of the room was a huge ice gazebo which was perfect for a photo op. Patiently we waited our turn and enjoyed the fairytale like surroundings. When ti was Justice’s turn he quickly jolted up the 4 or 5 steps and jumped onto center stage with his arms spread wide.

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The next room was appropriately named Candy Land. It was filled with whimsical toy trains, oversized lollipops and a massive gingerbread house. We took a bunch of pictures in here; however, it was here that we started to feel the full effects of 9 degrees. Our hands started to creep up our sleeves and we were checking to see that we had all of our buttons buttoned up tight. My nose had lost it’s feeling and I was beginning to remember exactly why I moved to Florida.

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

A little more bundled we entered the Nativity room. They had carved a life sized Nativity from clear ice and incorporated a light show which told the story of the first Christmas. I would have liked to have stayed for the next showing; however, Justice was starting to complain about the temperature and it was a hard point to argue. We snapped one great picture then moved on.

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Finally we had made it to the last room. The one I was waiting for. We were in the SLIDE room! They had created three unique slides made entirely of ice which “kids” of all ages could enjoy. We choose to ride the advanced slide first. As we entered the line we were flanked by huge blue penguins wearing winter caps and scarves. Somehow the solid ice penguins seemed to look even warmer that we were!

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Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Slowly the line moved forward and the cold sunk deeper into our bones. We had stopped moving and generating heat, so the frigid temperature was really beginning to set in. At this point I turned to Justice and asked him
“How do you like it? Do you want to come here again?”
“Don’t you ever take me here again where it’s so cold!”
he told me! I couldn’t believe it. The magnificent ice sculptures and eye catching displays were not enough for him to want to weather such extreme temperatures. I decided that this was definitely a Kodak moment and whipped out my Kodak Easyshare digital camera. It has the ability to take short video clips and I decided to take advantage of that. Take a look at the videos below to see how funny my little man is!





After a few chilly minutes we made it to the front of the line. WHOOSH, Justice went down the sheet of ice. WHOOSH, I went down the sheet of ice. Immediately we hopped back in line, but this time opted for the intermediate slide due to the shorter lines and our increasingly numbing extremities. This slide seemed to be even fast that the advanced slide. It was so much fun, my only regret is we were too cold to ride over and over again.

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Image and video hosting by TinyPic

Cold and now wet we made our way to the exit. We passed by the sign for the North Pole and a couple of Coca Cola bears then exited through a set of plastic draped double doors. Warmth. That’s all I can say for what met us next. I was so cold that as the heat began to seep into my frozen body my hands and feet actually hurt. My face was tingling. These are sensations I had not felt in over ten years and do not care to feel ever again….Unless I’m visiting an ICE display!

All in all I have to say this was one of the most unique things I have done in Florida. Even at full price I think it was worth the money; however, if we visit this attraction again next year I will be sure to wear more layers and bring a good hat, scarf and gloves!
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posted by Mary Gerber at 1/19/2008

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