AURORA | It might have been normal to think there’s no glitzy draw in the suburban sprawl of the Aurora metro region during the holiday season.
That, however, was before Gaylord Rockies planted roots in what was once dubbed the “middle of nowhere.”
6700 North Gaylord Rockies Blvd. is officially a “somewhere,” and the holidays have arrived at the behemoth hotel and convention center on Aurora’s northeastern edge.
The North Pole’s darling couple is on hand while nearly a dozen Chinese ice sculptors keep tabs on 2 million pounds of ice and a fever-dream circus show lures onlookers from across the region.
This is not just another ho-humbug holiday happening.
Make a day of it at the Gaylord. There’s really that much to do this holiday season.
First, remember comfy shoes. The property itself is 2 million square feet, a fourth of that is in the meeting and convention space. Also remember gloves, hats and scarves. You’ll need those for outside on the bumper cars ice rink, skating loop and ice tubing hill, and also at “ICE!”, the indoor winter wonderland experience that took a month and a small village to build.
ICE!, a self-guided display of ice sculptures, is kept at a chilly 9 degrees, so guests are generously supplied with giant insulated sleeping bag-like coats on top of what they’re already wearing. They’re big, bulky, blue and you’ll definitely need them. Snap a pic to remember the unfashionable occasion, photographers are on standby.
40 artisans from Hariban, China traveled 8,000 miles to make the extravaganza. The sculpture garden theme is the 1964 classic version of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”
Ten of the sculptors stayed behind to tend to the approximate 36 truckloads of ice that shaped all of the familiar characters like Hermey, Yukon Cornelius and of course, Rudolph. Staff at the Gaylord said those artisans keep sublimation — the process of ice turning into gas — from dropping reindeer antlers and Christmas tree ornaments from the display.
One more note on the big blue jackets: They’ll come in handy on the two-story slide, also completely carved from ice, found on the Island of Misfit Toys at the center of the giant sculptures.
The final stop on the ice tour is a nativity scene made with crystal-clear ice.
Afterward, turn in the coats and fact-check Santa’s naughty-or-nice list. He gets in at around 10 a.m. every day (not an early riser). His better half is serving up cookies and Christmas stories down the way in Mistletoe Village. Reservations are required.
The resort’s holiday activities also feature a holiday-themed escape room, with festive puzzles and “Christ-massy clues.” Giving up is not an option, as you’ll have a show to get to on the other side of the property.
Find “Cirque Dreams Holidaze” in the Bubly Theater each evening until Jan. 4. In the 75-minute show, toy soldiers, snowmen, penguins, reindeer, and gingerbread all come to life as very flexible and anxiety-inducing acrobats, aerialists and circus artists.
The costumes are elaborate. The stunts are impressive. The whole thing is wonderfully weird.
A day of holiday memories at the resort — which opened late last year and boasts 1,501 rooms, 10 food and beverage outlets and a 75-feet-long, 14-feet-high LED television screen — comes at a price, just like the high speed internet.
Each holiday event can be purchased separately or in different packaged deals. Packages start at $41.96. The premium package, with every event including the Cirque Dreams show, is $111 per adult and $103 per child. Bumper cars on ice will only set you back $8.99 per person, plus parking.
Christmas cheer, on Aurora’s eastern edge, comes with a price.
Christmas at the Gaylord Rockies in Aurora
• Most events through Jan. 5, 2020
• Tickets start at $8.99
• Full schedule and tickets at ow.ly/MEwF30pX4QH
• 6700 North Gaylord Rockies Boulevard