I'm happy to see Frosty the Snowman. The sight of him makes me feel warm inside, even though I'm freezing outside at ICE!
Frosty is the central character of ICE!, the elaborate ice-carving attraction that's back for the holidays at the Gaylord Palms resort in Kissimmee. Icy versions of Frosty, decked out with magic hat, and his friends appear throughout the exhibit, re-creating scenes from the "Frosty the Snowman" animated special that first aired in 1969.
It's a great fit — far superior to the last two rounds of ICE!, which were based on "Merry Madagascar" and the very green "Shrek the Halls." Those DreamWorks productions were spinoffs that put popular characters into holiday settings. Frosty is an original, made for the season and inherently chilly.
DreamWorks now owns the rights to Frosty, so he's welcome in these parts under a corporate agreement with Gaylord.
This year's ICE! has vibrant coloring in the ice, the soundtrack from the TV special and features that move to keep things interesting.
The attraction's popular ice slides appear early in the walk-through, which is a smart move. It appears before young visitors start getting bored. The four side-by-side slides are surrounded by the bright, frozen facades of the Town Square. Characters built into the downward slopes add even more energy to the space.
Behind that is a bright red train engine, hauling coal, that's built to be good photo opportunity. Who knew black ice could be so appealing?
Next is another photo stop: a clever carving of ice to look like a campfire. By this point in ICE!, folks are just about chilled to the bone and willing to take off their gloves on the off chance that the blaze is putting off heat. (It's not.)
Remember, it's only 9 degrees Fahrenheit in there, more than 20 degrees below freezing. Although bulky hooded parkas are provided, bare hands and heads are not advised. Bring layers of clothing to supplement whatever you're wearing on a typical sunny day in Florida.
And don't brush off the offer of that parka. Being comfortably warm enhances the ICE! experience.
I saw a woman with open-toed shoes entering the display. The ICE! staff tenderly informed her that frostbite can affect exposed skin within 10 minutes. That's a risk I wouldn't take. (You're also asked not to sit on or lick the ice.)
In the Frostbite Factory section of ICE! is an addition called "Artisans in Action." Four of the 40 carvers from Harbin, China, that have molded the 2 million pounds of ice into art are stationed there, still working away on creations. Oversized instructions illustrate how the pieces come together.
ICE! wraps up its Frosty storyline before it reaches the finale, a nativity scene. Crystal-clear ice is used — no coloring at all — for the popular manger setting, which includes a massive angel.
ICE! also follows another Central Florida tradition: Exit through the gift shop, please. Gaylord has put together a large retail establishment featuring cold-weather garb — sweatshirts, scarves, gloves, hats, socks — that could assist the flip-flops crowd. There's also a wide selection of Christmas decorations.
There looks to be more snowman stuff this year — not just Frosty goods, but maybe a salute to his cousins. There's also a selection that's more religious in tone — and then some curious overlap. A small snowman has "Jesus is the reason for the season" written on his belly.
I'm not arguing that message, but I'm not remembering snow in the New Testament either.
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Where: Gaylord Palms, 6000 W. Osceola Parkway, Kissimmee
When: 10 a.m. daily through Jan. 5; closing times vary
Cost: $29.99 for ages 13 and up; $16.99 for ages 4-12. Online, advance and Florida-resident discounts available at website.