By Jeff & Stephanie Sylva
National Harbor is a 350-acre integrated community situated on the banks of the Potomac River just minutes from Washington, D.C. Boasting two AAA Four Diamond resorts among its 8 hotels, over 160 shops, 40 restaurants, and one of the largest gaming floors outside of Las Vegas, National Harbor welcomes more than 12 million visitors a year and is home to 2,000 residents.
Located just south of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Oxon Hill, Maryland, National Harbor was developed as a planned community by the Peterson Companies led by Milt Peterson. Celebrating its 10th anniversary this year, the resort community continues to evolve in the concept imagined by the Peterson family with new and exciting additions seemingly every year.
WHAT TO SEE & DO
There is always something going on in National Harbor, whether it’s a movie screening at the outdoor Waterfront Plaza, a concert from the Salute the Sunset Series, a spectacular fireworks display, one of the many scheduled festivals, or a ride on the 180-foot Capital Wheel or the Carousel. Nightlife buzzes at exciting venues on Fleet Street like Bobby McKey’s Dueling Pianos Bar and Cadillac Ranch with its Bull Riding Arena. Be sure to dine in one of the more than 40 restaurants, many of which bring an interesting twist to American favorites. Consider Succotash which features a soulful Southern menu accented by James Beard Award nominee Edward Lee’s Korean roots.
Not to be missed is the enjoyable sightseeing cruise with the Potomac Riverboat Co. Use their water taxi service to explore surrounding areas including Alexandria, Georgetown, Mount Vernon, the National Mall, a Nationals baseball game, or D.C.’s newest integrated waterfront community, District Wharf. Water buffs will delight in renting a kayak, stand-up paddle board, or peddle boat. Or if you prefer, rent two wheels from Capital Bikeshare and explore the Waterfront District which is prime with boutique shops. For some serious retail therapy, take the shuttle to National Harbor’s Tanger Outlet Center, which offers more than 80 brand stores. Be sure to stop at Shopper Services for a coupon book and consider joining the TangerClub for even more savings.
National Harbor’s newest attraction due to open by this summer is Topgolf, a sports entertainment complex that features an inclusive, high-tech golf game that everyone can enjoy. Even beginners can get in on the fun with the variety of games offered. All the golfing fun is coupled with plenty of food and beverage options, music, and large-screen TV’s.
STAY & DINE
Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center A great choice to stay is the AAA Four Diamond rated resort with its signature 1.5-acre glass atrium that stands 19 stories high. Enjoy the peaceful stream that winds through the indoor garden and take in the evening fountain shows. Sunset views through the atrium and across the Potomac are spectacular especially from the Belvedere Lobby Bar or from your room’s balcony if you reserve an atrium room. After sunset, venture to the rooftop for some sips, sights, and sounds. With 18-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows, the rooftop lounge, Pose, offers dramatic views of National Harbor and beyond.
Fine dining is front and center at the Old Hickory Steakhouse. The menu offers an outstanding selection of choices including premium, all-natural 1855 Black Angus beef and the “to-die-for” Wagyu beef. The restaurant also boasts a Maître d’Fromage, who offers tableside presentations on handcrafted artisanal cheeses kept in a unique cheese cave. An outdoor terrace offers dining with serene views.
It won’t be hard to indulge at Gaylord’s Relache Spa. A diverse menu of services includes an Ashiatsu Oriental Massage where expert therapists use their feet for a deep compressive massage.
MGM NATIONAL HARBOR
Another option is also a AAA Four Diamond resort offering 308 rooms and suites in a sleek, contemporary décor—many with fabulous views of the Potomac and the D.C. skyline. The MGM also features a stunning central atrium space—the Conservatory—which presents five different dramatic display themes throughout the year. The 125,000 square-foot casino is one of the largest gaming floors outside of Las Vegas. Top-flight entertainment is on hand at the intimate 3,000-seat The Theater, featuring state-of-the-art sound, video, and lighting. Dining choices at MGM are stimulating and varied. One of their signature restaurants, Ginger, was our pick because of its extensive menu featuring authentic Asian cuisine. The Peking Duck was outstanding, as was the Ginger-Scallion Dungeness Crab.
MGM was not looking to just bring Las Vegas to D.C. but rather to be a part of the community, much of the resort’s design is meant to reflect the local area. In particular, MGM is proud of its Heritage Art program which features a number of local, as well as international, artists’ creations throughout the hotel. The collection of high-quality art, sculpture and photography is seamlessly integrated into the resort’s public spaces.
The MGM National Harbor also features The Spa & Salon which stresses a program of well-being inspired by “water, nature, science, and the sea.” Be sure to book The Ginger Eucalyptus Energizer which begins with a blue eucalyptus inhalation session followed by a deep tissue massage with ginger root—the perfect rejuvenation.
Be sure to put National Harbor on your bucket list for this summer. You won’t be disappointed.
For more information on National Harbor and its attractions, visit nationalharbor.com.