Planning to visit the annual holiday event of Iceland at Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas?
Here is everything you need to know about this famous Texan holiday tradition!
What is Moody Gardens in Galveston, Texas?
Moody Gardens is one of our favorite attractions in Galveston, Texas.
Galveston is a beautiful, laid back island town with a festive fun vibe.
The large botanical gardens in the resort town are known for their conservatory that houses plants from all over the world, as well as their butterfly exhibit that features more than 1,000 live butterflies at any given time.
Also Read: 13 best Things to do in Galveston with kids
Visitors can also experience the largest man-made indoor rainforest in North America or enjoy some of its other exhibits including an aviary and an aquarium with sharks!
The gardens are located on beautiful property along Galveston Bay and housed in beautiful pyramids that are icons in themselves.
During the holiday season, Moody Gardens are home to several holiday events including the famous Festival of Lights and Iceland!
Along with the San Antonio Riverwalk Christmas Lights, Moody Gardens is the largest holiday destination in the Lone Star State.
Have kids who love trains? Read all about the Polar Express in Palestine, Texas here!
What is Iceland at Moody Gardens?
Iceland at Moody Gardens is a festival of beautiful themed ice sculptures.
The event is inspired by the Harbin International Ice and Snow Sculpture Festival in China, the largest festival of its kind in the world.
The ice carving team flies in from Harbin, China in September to create the beautiful sculptures at Moody Gardens Iceland.
The team carves over 900 tons of ice in ~1080 hours to create beautiful themed characters and structures each year.
The ice sculptures are housed in a 28,000 square foot insulated tent; inside temperature is maintained at 9F.
The event started in 2014 and has become one of the most popular Holiday attractions in Texas.
Also Read: Best Places to Visit in Texas in winter
What to expect at Iceland in Moody Gardens
Each year Iceland features different themes: 2016 was a Caribbean Christmas, 2017 was Rainforest Holiday, 2018 was Pole to Pole, 2019 was Christmas Around The World!
Update – The event was cancelled in 2020 due to the pandemic as the master ice carvers could not fly in from China and the 2021 Iceland event is also cancelled for same reason.
The Iceland ice sculpture festival is an annual event that takes place in the winter.
It is held from the last week of November to the first week of January.
Fantastic Ice Sculptures
The ice carving team creates spectacular sculptures from blocks of ice, tied with the year’s theme.
The family-friendly event that showcases the talents and skills of the artists.
Visitors can marvel at an assortment of shapes and sizes, including animals such as polar bears and penguins as well as majestic icy wonders including castles and bridges.
You will be walking over ice pathways, going through ice tunnels, and exploring rooms carved in ice.
Arctic Slide at Moody Gardens
The Arctic Slide is one of the main attractions of Moody Gardens during the holiday season.
This is a giant ice slide; visitors can climb to the top and then enjoy a trip down the slide!
The Arctic Slide has a gentle slope and is perfect for toddlers as well as preschoolers.
While Iceland won’t happen in 2021, the Arctic Slide attraction will be there!
Shivers Ice Bar
A perfect way to end the visit for adults is to grab a drink at the Shivers Ice Bar!
You can sit on bar stools and chairs made of ice and savor a vodka shot or a glass of beer from an ice glass!
If you prefer something hot after your Siberian adventure, buy some hot chocolate at the gift shop.
Tip: Consider adding a shot of Irish cream to your hot chocolate!
Tips to enjoy Moody Gardens Iceland
Visitors often underestimate how cold Iceland really is!
Here are a few tips to help you enjoy this Arctic adventure.
We recommend booking advance tickets for the holiday event, especially for peak dates.
The Holiday Pass, which includes combined tickets to almost eight holiday attractions, is a great way to save money.
Best time to Visit
Weekends mean long waiting times and lines – expect to stand in line for over an hour on busy days.
Avoid crowds by visiting Iceland early in the morning on weekends or on weekdays.
Also, consider visiting early in the season to skip crowds.
Entry to Iceland is every 30 mins; the entire experience after you enter the tent also lasts about 30 to 40 minutes.
Visitors first stand in line to get tickets punched.
After the video ends, you enter the second waiting area.
Here you will be provided with free parkas and get souvenir photos taken by the staff.
And then finally, it is time to enter Iceland!
What to wear to Iceland, Moody Gardens
The temperature inside the insulated tent which is home to Iceland is kept steady at 9F to not melt the sculptures.
This is extremely cold weather – and you need to be dressed properly to avoid freezing.
For reference, water freezes at 32F!
Moody Gardens provides free parkas to visitors.
Or you will need to buy them inside the attraction at expensive prices!
Wear closed shoes and warm socks.
If you have kids, we recommend thermal layers and thick coats for them as the kids parkas don’t fit as well.
Other Things to do at Galveston for Christmas
Galveston Island is one of the best places to spend Christmas in Texas.
Besides Moody Gardens and it’s holiday attractions, Galveston also has many other Christmas events and festivities.
Moody Gardens Festival of Lights
Moody Gardens is home to several other holiday attractions including the Festival of Lights.
This popular festival features beautiful light displays, light tunnels, and more.
Visitors can walk along a mile-long path through Moody Gardens and enjoy the elaborate displays.
Visitors can also watch Rudolph as well as other holiday movies during the festival.
Dickens on the Strand
Step foot into Victorian London during the annual Dickens on the Strand Festival in Galveston.
The event features parades, costumes, and several events in the downtown historic district.
This is also a great time to enjoy holiday shopping and get gifts for the family.
Polar Express train ride
The Galveston Railroad Museum hosts the Polar Express train ride during the holiday season.
Based on the popular children’s book, the train ride includes a reading of the book, hot chocolate and cookies, dancing with the elves, and meeting Santa Claus!
Read more about the Galveston Polar Express experience here.
Popular Galveston Attractions
The city also has plenty of year round attractions.
From museums and galleries to live music and festivals, Galveston has something for everyone.
If you’re looking for some fun in the sun try exploring the beaches or enjoy some water activities in Galveston Bay.
Galveston is the perfect day trip from Houston – be sure to visit H-Town attractions such as Space Center and Museum District while visiting Galveston.
Where to stay in Galveston
Moody Gardens Hotel itself is a great place to stay in Galveston and offers convenient hotel packages for your vacation.
However it can be expensive during the peak holiday season.
Fortunately, there are many other great places to spend the vacation in Galveston.
There are many other great hotels in the area as well as Airbnb’s and campsites.
We hoped you liked our guide to ringing in the holidays at Iceland in Moody Gardens!