Last weekend, our family headed to ICE: Merry Magascar at the Gaylord National Hotel as part of a blogger event sponsored by the resort and MomzShare. We loved it — and you’ll see from the photos that Pat may have been even more excited than the Bug. Over two million pounds of ice creatively sculpted into our favorite Dreamworks characters? Too (cool).

ICE: Experience Merry Madagascar is part of Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac experience — running through January 8, 2012. The photos don’t do this ah-mazing display of icetacular justice. You and your tots will love wondering through this real-life winter wonderland. And it’s only a little over an hour from Baltimore.

Few words of wisdom. Because while we had a blast at ICE!, you know that we love to help all of you learn from our mistakes (or successes, we had a few of those, too). Here are some things to know going into the ICE! experience with a toddler/preschooler:

1) NO, your tike WILL NOT nap on the drive down. They’ll be too darn excited.

2) YES, your pint sizer may have a melt down about the sub-zero parka they’ll receive to wear while treking through ICE. The parka probably will be way too big. The remarkable staff will do everything in their power to find one to fit your kiddo, but the ONLY meltdown of the whole day occurred at that particular moment. It was epic. We survived. (And were graciously allowed to bypass the ‘happy family photo’ stop where ICE! staff would have snapped a photo of all three of us looking kinda grim (ok, and one of us screaming) in our blue parkas. Probably not the memory they were looking to capture for us, and for that, I am eternally grateful).

3) YES, your kiddo MUST wear the loaned blue parka. Unless you have a closet full of arctic wear from Helly Hansen, nothing you have on hand will keep them warm enough in the 0 (read: ZERO) degree space. Gloves and hats are a great idea.

4) YES, bring your camera. Not only are their tons of fabulous photo ops inside, but you’ll want make sure you catch video of our spouse sliding down one of the five ice slides. You’ll want to show it to his family. Promise.

5) YES, leave time to explore the rest of Christmas on the Potomac at the Gaylord! The Bug was absolutely astounded that she could ‘meet’ the Dreamworks characters inside the hotel as part of Gaylord’s Dreamworks Experience. A little disappointed that Melman from Madagascar wasn’t there in ‘real life,’ but Alex the Lion and Shrek more than made up for it. {By the way, if she asks, Melman was sleeping off a cold in the one of the Gaylord’s amazing suites.} The tree lighting festivities, which happen every evening at 6:30, were fantastic. We can’t wait to go back next year and try out the ice skating too. The Bug was just a wee bit young for that.

Many thanks to Gaylord National and MomzShare for having us! We had a blast — and can’t wait to come back to ICE! next year. Pretty sure it will be an annual event for the (cool) progeny clan…