A holiday spectacle at Gaylord Rockies Resort in Aurora
Special to the Daily
If you go …
What: Gaylord Rockies Resort & Hotel
Where: 6700 North Gaylord Rockies Boulevard, Aurora; a two hour and 15 minute drive (if traffic is light) from Vail. It’s about 8.5 miles from Denver International Airport.
Cost: Rooms start at $215 per night. Cirque Dreams Holidaze tickets start at $29 and the show continues through Jan. 4. ICE! tickets are $13.99 for children, $24.99 for adults and the exhibit continues through Jan. 5.
More information: Visit http://www.mariott.com/gaylord.
Over the past few years, our family has tried to shift the focus from presents to presence year-round, but especially come Christmas. As such, we booked a night at Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center the Friday night before Christmas to soak up a bit of holiday magic together. With Grandma and Grandpa along for the fun, we made a few memories sure to outlast a vat of slime or an LOL doll’s pesky tiny pieces.
“Majestic” is the best way to describe the 1-year-old Gaylord Rockies in Aurora. Our two kiddos, ages 3 and 5, simply uttered a well-merited “whoa” with wide eyes as they looked down into the enormous lobby that features a bridge over a babbling brook, a water fall, rock walls and even a red train caboose. Decked out with enormous moving colored lights, a giant Christmas tree and plenty of other festive touches, the resort is all dressed up for the holidays. There’s no shortage of fun for families, either; there’s on-site ice skating, ice tubing, ice bumper cars, gingerbread decorating and even a Christmas village. Our staycation included two must-dos, both of which will continue at the resort through early January:
Cirque Dreams Holidaze
When it comes to cirque shoes, Cirque Dreams Holidaze has it all: extravagant costumes, your favorite holiday songs, and some seriously jaw-dropping balancing and aerial acts.
Mesmerized, our 5-year-old didn’t take her eyes off the stage once during the 75-minute show, though she did keep elbowing us to make sure we’d seen the 8-foot gingerbread man or the towering polar bear. Our entire family held our collective breath multiple times as the circus acts performed their feats, ranging from a slack-wire unicycler to two acrobats performing feats on aerial silks and even a wildly popular interactive set with audience members playing holiday bells and showcasing dance moves they likely didn’t know they had. It was worth keeping the kids up well past bedtime.
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ICE! featuring ‘Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer’
The story of “Ruldolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” comes alive through vibrant colored ice sculptures at the ICE! exhibit. Forty ice sculptors traveled from Harbin, China, to carve the display out of 2 million pounds of ice. Our kids enjoyed looking at the sculptures and hearing the story read aloud, but it was the two-story tall ice slides that really got them grinning. The intricate crystal clear nativity scene at the very end of the exhibit is especially stunning. The exhibit is a chilly 9 degrees, but not to worry, they hand out blue parkas to everyone (non-negotiable). Consider bringing mittens or gloves and a hat, as well.
If you want to continue the Rudolph theme, fuel up at the Rudolph Holly Jolly Breakfast before or after your visit to the ice sculptures. Our kiddos enjoyed the tasty buffet but not nearly as much as the high fives by the abominable snowman, Bumble, and plenty of hugs from Rudolph and his reindeer pals.
Tips and Tricks
The hotel was quite busy the weekend we were there. With 1,501 guest rooms, you can imagine what the lobby looks like at check-in time (4 p.m.). Try to arrive early and request an early check-in, if possible. From the looks of it, the check-in line was worst from about 4:30-5:30 p.m. so be prepared to wait.
We didn’t have to wait in line for ticketed events, like ICE! and Cirque Dreams Holidaze, but the lines for ice skating, ice tubing and ice bumper cars got pretty long when we visited, so consider showing up right when it opens at 10 a.m.
Even if you don’t eat at Mountain Pass Sports Bar, one of the six restaurants there, at least duck in for a drink to gawk at the 75-foot HDTV — yep, Colorado’s largest. If the waits are long at the dining options or you want something more casual, check out the food truck options (there were three the Friday night we stayed) on the convention side of the resort.
Don’t forget your swimming suits. Arapahoe Springs features indoor and outdoor pools and hot tubs and even three waterslides (two indoor, one outdoor).
Consider bringing Grandma and Grandpa along for the fun, and then you’ll have built-in babysitters for a date night complete with a romantic stroll through the sparkling trees and interactive light show outside. Word has it there are some 3 million lights at the hotel, and we don’t doubt that number one bit. Combined with the rest of the holiday sparkle and fun, Gaylord Rockies is certainly an experience everyone will remember.
Caramie Petrowsky is the former Vail Daily A&E editor and owner of SkyWrite Communications & Content, a boutique content creation and public relations company. She lives in Aurora with her husband and their two children.