The Gaylord Texan's Holiday Snow-Down is Back

Is there any doubt Texas knows how to go big? Consider the epic holiday spread that the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine, Texas, puts on every year. 1.5 million twinkling lights. Two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures. Several thrilling 20-foot tall ice slides. That's just some of the holiday spirit at the Texan, whose annual holiday snow-down goes on this year from Nov. 14, 2013 to Jan. 4, 2014.

When it comes to elaborate hotel holiday spreads, this one does not hold back. That is, unless you consider hiring 40 international artisans from Harbin (the "ice city" of China) to hand-sculpt their ICE! Featuring The Nutcracker display ... holding back. These master carvers spend almost a month taking shifts inside a nine-degree freezer to make this magic happen. All this chilly carving so they can see kids' jaws drop left and right once they roll out December's #1 classic ballet, complete with Tchaikovsky's original score, Clara and her Nutcracker Prince.

What else can travelers to this winter wonderland expect -- other than fairly predictable photos with Santa Claus? Somebody shake a few jingle bells for this little rundown: a 54-foot rotating Christmas tree with 15,000 ornaments, magical miniature train sets and a life-size gingerbread house (made of the real stuff). Basically, a spread you've seen, well, nowhere else.

The Gaylord ices off this year's experience off with a bonus ice area that transports families to an interactive wonderland filled with the iconic holiday sights and sounds of New York City.

If your response to all this is "meh," there's the Kung Fu Panda Awesome SNOW Tubing adventure (daily from 10am - 9pm) -- an extreme eight-lane, tubing hill blanketed in real snow and "filled with dragon-warrior awesomeness." And even holiday meet and greets with DreamWorks Animation gang members including Po, Shrek and Gingy to create uber-memorable Facebook posts. Pretty sweet stuff.

Not to be outdone this holiday season, here are a few other hotels across the U.S. that will be decking the lobby halls with more than mere mistletoe:

The Mission Inn Hotel & Spa - Riverside, CA
Hotel Del Coronado - San Diego, CA
The Bellagio - Las Vegas, NV
Waldorf Astoria - New York, NY
Gaylord Texan's Lone Star Christmas