Take a Ride on the Polar Express

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With the weather getting colder and the holidays closer, one of our favorite things to do is watch Christmas movies with our family and friends. At Moody Gardens we bring holiday films to the next level by showing them not only in our 3D theater but our 4D Special FX Theater as well.

This year Moody Gardens is thrilled to present The Polar Express in our 4D Special FX Theater  which combines 3D projection with audio and timed sensory elements. While watching one of the newer holiday classics guests can feel the wind in their face as the locomotive speeds down the rails and smell hot chocolate when it is served to the excited children aboard. Perhaps the most enchanting part of the experience, however, is the snow that falls inside of the theater at the same time that it falls in the film. The 4D experience engages all the senses and leaves guests wishing that they would wake up to the train outside of their house to bring them to the North Pole. There is no doubt that after the film children and adults alike are left still believing in the Christmas spirit… and hearing the bell!

To experience the sensory adventure of The Polar Express in our 4D Special FX Theater guests can purchase tickets in the Visitor Center for $10.95 for adults, $8.95 for children and seniors, and free for children under 3. If you have a day pass or membership the theaters are included for you to enjoy!

The Story Behind our Chinese Lanterns

Coming to Moody Gardens for the holidays is an enchanting experience that offers worlds made of ice, lights, and adventure. Part of the enchantment is due to the collection of pandas, jellyfishes, and cherry blossom tree lanterns that we have along Hope Boulevard.

These lanterns are just some of the many that we have in honor of the Chinese Lantern Festival. The connection between the Chinese Lantern Festival and Moody Gardens is rooted in our ice carvers that come to us all the way from Harbin, China. Our skilled and talented ice carvers came to America sharing their cultural with staff and guests alike and we thought it was only fitting to represent them on their property.

The Lantern Festival has been part of Chinese New Year celebrations since the Han Dynasty of The Chinese Empire (206 BC- 221 AD). The Chinese Lantern Festival is usually held on the 15th day of the first month of the lunar calendar and marks the end of New Year festivities. The people of the Han Dynasty believed that fire contained mystical properties that would ward off evil and prevent natural disasters as well as bring blessings such as a bountiful harvest to the people.

Over the past centuries the lantern festival has evolved and now features lanterns in all shapes and sizes. These modern lanterns come in elaborate sets of vibrant color, dazzling lights and eye-catching design like the ones found on our property.

Chinese Panda Lanterns

When you come to Festival of Lights be sure to check out this unique cultural aspect that also makes for the perfect backdrop for photos with our playful pandas in a bamboo forest!

The Festival of Lights is a mile-long trail of more than 1 million lights. It runs daily until Jan. 10.

Admission to the Festival of Lights is $10.95, including ice skating admission. Guests can bring their own skates or skate rental is available for $7 with the purchase of a Festival of Lights ticket.

A frosty new addition to the Festival of Lights this year is ICE LAND: Ice Sculptures with SpongeBob SquarePants. Being the only holiday ice exhibition on the Gulf Coast, this vast and magnificent display of 900 tons of ice creations has transformed Moody Gardens into the largest holiday destination in the Southwest. Chilled and held at a temperature of 9 degrees, guests can witness these works of art through January 4. Admission to the exhibition is $26.95 for adults and $21.95 for seniors and children.

Creating ICE LAND Ice Sculptures: The Construction

One of the biggest questions people have is how do you make it 9 degrees in Galveston?

The answer is a lot of planning and a lot of hard work under the Texas sun.

A skilled team from the Gilbane Building Company in Houston prepared for the construction of the tent for more than a year.
A skilled team from the Gilbane Building Company in Houston prepared for the construction of the tent for more than a year.
There were four stages to the development process that will be executed by a team of roughly 48 people.
There were four stages to the development process that will be executed by a team of roughly 48 people.
The crew worked all day to make sure tent was ready in time for the arrival of the ice blocks
The crew worked all day to make sure tent was ready in time for the arrival of the ice blocks
The first stage was pouring concrete footers to support the structure.
The first stage was pouring concrete footers to support the structure.
To make sure the space for the tent remained a usable parking lot for guests once the structure is removed in late January, the concrete for the footers was poured flush with the existing concrete so it was less noticeable and ensured that there is no damage to cars.
To make sure the space for the tent remained a usable parking lot for guests once the structure is removed in late January, the concrete for the footers was poured flush with the existing concrete so it was less noticeable and ensured that there is no damage to cars.
The next step was to erect the insulated tent.
The next step was to erect the insulated tent.
The frames of the tent begin to go up
The frames of the tent begin to go up
The Moody Gardens "skyline" beginning to change
The Moody Gardens “skyline” beginning to change
The tent starts to take shape
The tent starts to take shape
Once up, the inside had to be insulated
Once up, the inside had to be insulated
Then the flooring was placed to insulate the tent at its ultimate 9 degree environment.
Then the flooring was placed to insulate the tent at its ultimate 9 degree environment.
The finished product was an impressive 28,000 square foot tent that towered 40 feet into the air.
The finished product was an impressive 28,000 square foot tent that towered 40 feet into the air.

Stay tuned for our next Creating ICE LAND Ice Sculptures blog series! We’ll be getting to know the award-winning VYA Ice Carving team that will be creating the ICE LAND Ice Sculptures.

ICE LAND will be a frosty new addition to the Festival of Lights and other holiday attractions this year as Galveston makes its holiday transition into a Winter Wonder Island. Admission to the exhibit is $26.95 for adults, $21.95 for seniors and $15.95 for children, and will also be included in a Moody Gardens Value Pass that includes admission to the various Moody Gardens attractions and Festival of Lights for $59.95. A two-day pass is available for $79.95. Courtesy parkas will also be distributed to each guest. Visit moodygardens.org/iceland for more information and to purchase tickets. 

Creating ICE LAND Ice Sculptures: The Ice

One of the first challenges when creating ICE LAND was where to find 900 tons of ice. That’s not exactly something you can make in your refrigerator using an ice cube tray.

To create the ice, Moody Gardens enlisted the services of Flying Penguin Ice in Bryan, Texas.
To create the ice, Moody Gardens enlisted the services of Flying Penguin Ice in Bryan, Texas.
Creating the ice wasn’t a simple process. First the colors had to be mixed in some of the biggest ice cube trays you will ever see.
Creating the ice wasn’t a simple process. First the colors had to be mixed in some of the biggest ice cube trays you will ever see.
After several of days freezing, the ice was removed…
After several of days freezing, the ice was removed…
The color was tested…
The color was tested…
Clear block of ice
Clear block of ice
And it was shaved to the proper size.
Blocks were shaved to the proper size.
They made it as smooth as possible
They made it as smooth as possible
One of the many trucks ready to take ice to storage area
One of the many trucks ready to take ice to storage area
It took several days and 42 truck loads to bring all 6,000 blocks of ice to Galveston.
It took several days and 42 truck loads to bring all 6,000 blocks of ice to Galveston.
Moody Gardens staff unloaded the ice
Moody Gardens staff unloaded the ice
The giant tent was quickly filled with pallet upon pallet of ice.
The giant tent was quickly filled with pallet upon pallet of ice.
By the end, some of the ice was stacked up as high as five levels.
By the end, some of the ice was stacked up as high as five levels.

Stay tuned for our next Creating ICE LAND Ice Sculptures blog series! We’ll be taking a look at how a 28,000 square foot tent is built from the ground up.

ICE LAND will be a frosty new addition to the Festival of Lights and other holiday attractions this year as Galveston makes its holiday transition into a Winter Wonder Island. Admission to the exhibit is $26.95 for adults, $21.95 for seniors and $15.95 for children, and will also be included in a Moody Gardens Value Pass that includes admission to the various Moody Gardens attractions and Festival of Lights for $59.95. A two-day pass is available for $79.95. Courtesy parkas will also be distributed to each guest. Visit moodygardens.org/iceland for more information and to purchase tickets. 

Festival of Lights Grand Opening Day!

See Santa Parachute in, Plus Dance and Musical Performances and a Special Sister City Celebration. 

FOLSantaParachuting2As the largest holiday lighting events on the Gulf Coast flips the switch on Saturday, Moody Gardens will also kick off the 50th anniversary celebration of Galveston-Niigata Sister City relationship. Festivities begin with Santa parachuting in for this free event, the Festival of Lights packs the night with over 100 sound-enhanced animated light displays, live entertainment and more.

As a special treat, students across Galveston Independent School District will illuminate the Festival of Lights with 25 hand-made Japanese folk art known as the Taiguruma, pull-cart paper lanterns in the shape of a Bream fish, and perform songs to go along with the Japanese celebration. Through Jan. 4, you can enjoy more than one million lights, a Texas-sized Arctic Ice Slide, and the area’s only outdoor ice skating rink. Tickets are $6.95. Additional tickets to any of the other Moody Gardens Attractions are just $6.00 each with your festival ticket.

CLICK HERE for schedule and tickets

OPENING DAY CEREMONIES 4PM – 6PM: 

  • 4:00 – 4:05 PM: Steve Smith and KPRC hosts take the stage
  • 4:05 – 4:30 PM: Galveston Ballet performs
  • 4:30 – 4:40 PM: Master Illusionist Curt Miller musical performance
  • 4:40 – 4:55 PM: Army Band performs
  • 4:55 PM: Countdown to Parachuting Santa begins
  • 5:00 – 5:10 PM: Santa Parachutes in from the North Pole
  • 5:10 – 5:25 PM: Amy Blake’s Dance Academy performs
  • 5:25 – 5:40 PM: Vibe Dance Company performs
  • 5:40 – 5:59 PM: GISD Choir Performs as the Taigurama Japanese Lantern Parade begins
  • 6:00 PM: Santa flips the giant light switch to turn on over 1 million lights. The Festival of Lights gates officially open for the season.

FolEblastBannerThe Festival will continue to shine throughout the holiday season Thursdays through Saturdays from Nov. 22 to Dec. 7, before open nightly from Dec. 12 to Jan. 4, including Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. Hours run from 6 to 10 p.m.

Admission to the Festival of Lights is $6.95. With the purchase of a Festival of Lights ticket, tickets to the Aquarium Pyramid, Rainforest Pyramid, Discovery Pyramid, holiday MG 3D film, holiday 4D Film, Ridefilm and Colonel Paddlewheel Boat can be purchased for only $6 each.  Guests can also enjoy the Texas-sized Arctic slide and the classic outdoor skating rink. Ice skates are available for rent or guests can bring their own.

Moody Gardens recognizes Houston Area Cadillac Dealers, KPRC TV 2, Houston Community Newspapers, Houston Family Magazine, Pepsi, Gilbane Builders, Morris Architects, Broome Welding & Machine Co., Forman Equipment and Contracting, Chuoke Plumbing, Kelso Concrete, KenMor Electric, American Marble, Baker Concrete, CHP and Associates, WORKtm and Schindler Elevator Corp., Glazier Foods and Forward Energy Group as sponsors of the 2013 Festival of Lights.