Every year I see ads for the Christmas wonderland at Gaylord Palms in Kissimmee, FL and I’ve been planning to attend when my son was old enough to really enjoy it and actually remember it. He turned five in the year of COVID and I decided to take a chance and go this year. I figured at least it wouldn’t be as crowded as usual! So we packed up our masks and headed to the Orlando area. If you haven’t been yet, their Christmas events go until January 3, 2021.
Christmas at Gaylord Palms
Gaylord Palms is a pretty neat place even when it’s not Christmas. There’s lots to see and do with their unique Florida themed atriums that feature beautiful plants and greenery, live alligators, a castle, a boat you can dine on and plenty of areas to explore. And their pool area and water park is pretty amazing! The water is heated and there’s huge water slides and a play area plus a giant pool that’s not more the three feet deep so little kids can play in the entire thing.
The whole place is decorated for Christmas and there’s a very large Christmas tree in the middle of the atrium. The tree is the star of the light show where the atrium is lit up with a dazzling light display set to music. There’s so much going on that we managed to only catch bits of the light show, and never quite made it to the Cirque Dreams Unwrapped show, but we did several of the activities and overall had a great time. There’s no box office on site, so you need to buy your tickets in advance online.
The Grinch’s Wonderful Awful Idea Scavenger Hunt
We started our Gaylord Palms Christmas adventure with The Grinch’s Wonderful Awful Idea Scavenger Hunt. For $12 you get a paper booklet that sends you on a scavenger hunt around the atriums and at the end you get a small prize. This actually ended up being one of our favorite activities and was a good way to learn our way around. The book gives you clues and you have to look for the Grinch, or things the Grinch has stashed all around the resort.
Christmas Activities at Gaylord Palms
After the scavenger hunt, we picked up our wrist bands for Snow Flow Mountain so we could go tubing down the ice slides. This is one of the best deals because you can go all day, as many times as you want. There’s two slides- a small one and a big one, and you can do a single or double tube. The line moved pretty fast and it wasn’t too long of a wait. Especially compared to previous years according to friends that have been before. They take a photo as you go down the slide and you can purchase it as a snow globe type keepsake.
Their big annual ice carving display, called ICE!, was cancelled this year, so in place of that is the I Love Christmas Movies walk-through experience. It’s one of the most expensive activities at nearly $30 a person, and to be honest…not really worth it unless you really LOVE Christmas movies. Our five-year-old was not impressed and not happy about the wait time to get in. He also didn’t really know any of the movies besides the Polar Express.
They did do a good job of coming up with something they could keep generally socially distanced. Each area is decorated like a scene (or scenes) from the movie and you are led through the sets by a “Production Assistant” and have to stand on your marks before the scene starts. The sets don’t do much, but a voiceover from the movie plays. It was neat, but had we known exactly what it was, we probably would have skipped it and went down Snow Flow Mountain a few more times.
We did a couple other small activities we also probably could have skipped- gingerbread decorating and the Snowball Build and Blast. We paid $22 for a kit with two gingerbread men, a little tube of icing and a handful of colored ball candies. I was expecting a bit more in the way of decorations! I’d suggest splurging on the whole house kit if you do this one. The snowball activity is $12 and you get one short turn (like a minute or two) to make snowballs from a bin of snow and throw them at targets. It would have been worth it more at half the price. But the kiddo had fun at both, and that’s the important thing!
A Socially Distanced Christmas Wonderland
Overall it was a fun Christmas experience at Gaylord Palms and I’m glad we made the trip. Everyone was wearing masks, and I noticed they were quite diligent about telling people to keep them on. Though some areas were a little crowded, they did a good job of trying to keep everyone socially distanced. The elevator situation was a little tough due to people just wanting to ride by themselves, so the lines got very long. I suggest getting a room on a low floor and using the stairs. We were on the 4th floor and skipped the elevator line most of the time.
We got there on a Friday and the difference between the crowd on Friday and Saturday was obvious. Week days are definitely the best to avoid the crowds. Everything had a bit of a line, but nothing over 15 minutes. I definitely would like to go again! It’s a great little family holiday adventure.