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ICE! returns to National Harbor (PHOTOS)

Thursday - 11/8/2012, 6:32am  ET

shrek
An ice carver finishes a sculpture of Shrek in the 'slide room' inside the ICE! Pavilion at National Harbor. The slides are on either side of Shrek. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)
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Michelle Basch, wtop.com

WASHINGTON - A holiday tradition is returning to National Harbor: A big white tent full of chilly fun for the whole family.

ICE!, created by the Gaylord National Hotel, is a collection of ice sculptures and ice slides.

Expert ice carvers from the city of Harbin, China have been brought in to build it. Harbin is internationally known for its annual "Ice and Snow Festival".

It takes 40 carvers 30 days to build the attraction from 2 million pounds of multicolored ice.

This year, ICE! is based on an animated holiday TV special called "Shrek the Halls."

"This is a story where Shrek doesn't really know how to celebrate the Christmas holidays, ogres don't celebrate Christmas, but his friends come together and show him the true meaning of Christmas. So our guests will experience that story as they walk through this attraction," says Gaylord National's Amie Gorrell.

WTOP's Michelle Basch was the first reporter to get a behind-the-scenes tour of ICE! She saw "life-size" ice carvings of Shrek the green ogre, Donkey, Puss in Boots and other favorites from the "Shrek" movies.

There's also a nativity scene made completely from crystal-clear ice.

In addition there are five ice slides, and they're not just for kids.

Gorrell says adults often have to be "nudged" to take a slide, but once they do, they don't regret it.

"Everyone turns into a kid again in the slide room," she says.

ICE! opens Nov. 16 and remains open daily through Jan. 6, 2013.

"People are often surprised to know that ICE! is even open on Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day. So after you've had your family meal or you've opened your presents, bring the whole family out," says Gorrell.

Ticket prices start at $15.99 for kids age 4 to 12, and $22.99 for people age 13 and over. Kids up to age 3 get in free, and there are special prices for seniors and members of the military and their families.

The ICE! Pavilion is kept at a constant 9 degrees, so every visitor is offered a special parka to wear during their visit. Visitors are urged to bring their own hats, scarves, gloves and boots to ensure they stay comfy.

More information is available on the Gaylord Hotels website.

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(Copyright 2012 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)