Shrek the Halls, Florida Style, From Our Lovely HOTMOM Jennifer Cohen

Nov 28, 2011 at 9:07 pm |

I grew up in Massachusetts, so I have plenty of memories of building snowmen, going sledding, and being so cold that my face went numb as I walked home from school on those brutal winter days. However, now that I’ve been living in South Florida for the last 20+ years, I have grown accustomed to two seasons: hot and really hot (and humid.)
That’s why it was such a pleasant change of pace to visit the Gaylord Palms Hotel in Orlando, Florida to see their DreamWorks Experience’s Shrek the Halls ICE! and Kung Fu Panda Awesome SNOW wintery holiday exhibits which star the cartoon ogre and other characters from the Shrek movie series.
This gorgeous hotel was created in the style of a turn-of-the-century castle and is quiet impressive. Located just minutes off of I-4, the guest rooms are built around and overlook a beautiful glass-covered atrium filled with lush foliage, flowers, trees and a koi pond. The hotel is all decked out for the holidays and features red and pink poinsettia plants, Christmas decorations and thousands of twinkling lights all around and a giant Christmas tree in the center atrium.
I had the chance to experience all of the cool activities with my husband and our twin 8-year-old daughters, Sydney and Alexandria. Here is a review of our trip:
We started off the morning and ate breakfast at the Villa de Flora which features an interactive character meal they call ShrekFeast. The buffet offers pretty much anything you could want for breakfast including Shrek shaped waffles, pancakes, eggs, an omelet station, fruit, bagels, muffins, yogurt, and even a Shrek-green chocolate dipping fountain.
Coffee and orange juice are served by “town criers”, along with “swamp juice” which is a bright green liquid. The waiter informed our daughters that the swamp juice was filtered through Shrek’s nose. Sydney wasn’t too sure about that but gave it a try and determined that swamp juice is in fact, delicious. (It tasted like a mixture of cranberry, pineapple and orange juice.)
Everyone at the table (parents too!) received green Ogre “ear” headbands and Shrek, Princess Fiona, and Puss in Boots came by for hugs and photos. The kids were also asked to recite an “Ogre Oath to become an honorary ogre for the day. (“I, (name) without fear of dragons or pitchforks, promise to enjoy all the ogre treats until my breath is stinky. Better out than in. So help me Donkey.”)
After breakfast we grabbed our coats and hats and headed to the convention center which is attached to the hotel. Since everything is just steps away, it makes for an easy walk from your room to the attractions.
Ice Ice Baby!
Our first stop was ICE! This attraction took my breath away. Literally! The 20,000-square-foot exhibit is kept at a frigid 9 degrees Fahrenheit. After about 10 minutes on the walking tour, I could not feel my face. My daughters thought it was cool that they could see their breath.
Characters from the movie including Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Gingy and Puss in Boots have been hand-carved from two million pounds of colored ice. The ice sculptures are incredibly detailed and are simply amazing. The award-winning ICE! attraction was carved by a team of 40 artisans from Harbin, China who spend a month in Orlando creating these icy creations. This is not something you see everyday and was definitely something we will not forget.
Here are some tips for ICE:
You must wear closed-toe shoes and long pants. Wear layers of clothes to keep warm and don’t forget to bring mittens, scarves and hats for yourselves and for the kids. (Gloves are available for purchase in the gift shop if you forget.) Heavy, long Smurf-blue (sorry, wrong cartoon!) hooded parkas are available to all attendees in adult, children and infant sizes. You may wish to wear your own hoodie under the parka hood so that you do not have a hood on your head that hundreds of people have worn before you.
There are really cool photo opportunities (literally!) around every corner. Just make sure your camera can handle the freezing temperatures.  (I heard a few people mention their iPhone had frozen up for a while.) As you walk through the tour that features nine different scenes from the World of Far Far Away, you will be surrounded by the giant icy forms. There’s an enormous Shrek along with Fiona holding her green triplet babies. There’s a scene of the three little pigs carrying a Christmas tree, and a life size statue of Dragon, the magenta colored beast (complete with lipstick and large eyelashes) who falls in love with Donkey. Even the trees are made of ice in this frozen fantasy land.
In addition to the frozen characters, there are also are five 30-foot ice slides that the kids will want to go down again and again. Parents can go down too! My daughter Sydney could have gone down the ice slide all day long. She was not the only one! Ethan K., age 9 from South Florida said, “My favorite part was the slides in Ice! They were fun and cold.” His twin brother Spencer said, “Ice was very beautiful and pretty and snow was full of fun and adventure.”
Their mom Marlene said, “Ice was magnificent. It is hard to believe they were able to make so many amazing sculptures from ice. I was especially surprised by the beautiful colors. Snow is just an all around fun time, especially for kids from Florida, who rarely get the chance to build snowmen, throw snowballs or make snow angels.”
Other things to know: The walkways are carpeted and wheelchairs and strollers are permitted. There are a limited number of wheelchairs available for rent if you do not want to bring your own.
At the end of the Shrek-themed exhibit is a life-sized Nativity scene made of crystal clear ice depicting the birth of Jesus Christ in a manger, complete with Mary and Joseph, wise men, goats and other animals. It was very pretty and after all of the brightly colored ice, the sparkling clear sculptures were a lovely contrast, however, this nice Jewish girl would have appreciated at least one menorah or a dreidel made of ice (vs. clay). A note to those who celebrate Channukkah or who shop for those who do — in the entire gift shop, there was not one Channukkah item to be found.
Let It Snow!
After being in 9 degrees for a while we went into the Kung Fu Panda Awesome SNOW exhibit which is kept at a milder 55 degrees and did not seem as cold in comparison.  This attraction is set in an Asian-artchitecured inspired courtyard and has 150 red lanterns hanging from the ceiling. SNOW features 130-tons of snow that is made fresh daily and tended to (i.e. “manicured”) throughout the day. Visitors coming from cold climates may not be impressed by the white stuff, but my native South Floridian girls had never seen snow and they were fascinated by the winter wonderland. They had a great time making (and throwing) their first snow balls, building a snow something (it really wouldn’t be fair to call it a snow man; it was more like a snow sculpture), and they loved crawling through the underground snow tunnels and sliding down rolling hills on the all-new 64-foot slide that extends out from a giant pagoda. My daredevil daughter Alexandria preferred this slide “because it is higher and goes faster but both were really fun!”
There is one area that allows the children to throw snowballs at Tai Lung (Kung Fu Panda) and Lord Shen (Kung Fu Panda 2), as well as at some of their evil henchmen. Before we left, Po made an appearance, did a little Kung Fu Fighting with us and posed for pictures with the children.
A few things to know: Even though SNOW is warmer, closed toed shoes, hats, mittens and scarves are necessary. There are not many places for parents to sit so more than likely you are going to be standing on snow.
The perimeter around the snow is carpeted and can accommodate a stroller or a wheelchair. Your children are going to get wet, especially if they sit on the snow for a while, so be sure to pack extra clothes for them to change into.
Be sure to have some hot chocolate after these two chilly activities and thaw out. You may just forget you are in South Florida!
After all of the cold fun, it was time to warm up a bit. We headed to Exhibit Hall E& F for Gingy’s Gingerbread Decorating. Hosted by Gingy, one of Shrek’s high-pitched talking friends.
Participants are able to choose from three different design options to decorate; a gingerbread cookie family (like Gingy!), a gingerbread tree ornament, or a larger gingerbread house. (Prices vary according to your selection.) You’ll receive everything you need in a boxed kit, including icing in a squeeze bag, decorating tips, and a variety of candy including gumdrops, so you can make the gumdrop buttons, just like the ones Gingy loves so much. My daughters had a great time decorating their ginger bread while they ate candy.
At the end of the activity, Gingy came over for a meet and greet and a photo. (Fairy tale photo opps are everywhere as are professional photographers who are happy to take your picture for purchase, but you are also permitted to take shots with your own camera which is nice.)
All of the chilly fun made us hungry so we left the cold behind for a while and ate lunch on a 60’ sailboat at Sunset Sam’s Fish Camp located inside the hotel’s Key West atrium, which made for a unique and fun atmosphere. The girls loved eating on a sailboat inside the hotel and for a casual meal, the food was delicious and reasonably priced for a high-end hotel.
After a busy day we went back to our room and rested for a bit. It was nice not having to get in the car and drive back and forth. Later, that night we went to the DreamWorks 3D Theater Experience to see the brand-new 2011 holiday movie release, Puss In Boots in 3D.
Guests walk the red carpet complete with a paparazzi host who works the crowd before the show. Tickets are $24.95 for adults and for $21.95 for children. The price of admission includes a ticket to the show, 3D glasses, a souvenir picture with Puss and Boots per family, two yummy snack choices per person (we had the macaroni and cheese bites which were so large it was more like dinner vs. a snack), and gourmet chocolate covered popcorn – amazing!). Self-serve drinks were available from Coca-Cola’s new Coca-Cola Freestyle, a touch screen soda fountain which features more than 100 different Coca-Cola drink products and custom flavors that customers can mix and match for a custom drink. The movie was adorable and was a great way to end a busy and fun-filled day.
During our two days at the Gaylord Palms, we never felt the need to leave the hotel and my daughters did not even ask if we could go to the Magic Kingdom or other Disney attraction. ICE! and SNOW was a unique family fun get away that offered something for everyone.
The Gaylord Palms Resort is located at 6000 W. Osceola Parkway in Kissimmee, Florida. The Dreamworks Experience ends January 2, 2012 and tickets are available to everyone, not just hotel guests. Various hotel and activity combination/add on packages are available. For details, pricing and tickets, call 407-586-2000 or visit

I grew up in Massachusetts, so I have plenty of memories of building snowmen, going sledding, and being so cold that my face went numb as I walked home from school on those brutal winter days. However, now that I’ve been living in South Florida for the last 20+ years, I have grown accustomed to […]