Situated on the banks of the historic Potomac River, just minutes from Washington D.C, and two and a half hours from Lancaster PA, is Maryland’s National Harbor. Sprawling waterfront resort space, over 160 stores, 40 unique restaurants, fun waterfront activities, the iconic Capital Wheel and some of the best sunset views we’ve ever seen, all make National Harbor a waterfront destination with something for everyone!
VIDEO TRAVEL GUIDE
For this travel guide, we’ll show you some of the best that National Harbor has to offer you so that YOU can build your own adventure and follow your own whims on your visit to this beautiful waterfront destination.
Where to Stay:
Follow the sun-drenched promenades to the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center. With a 19-story glass atrium, this resort brings the grandeur of the Potomac River to guests all day and night. We loved watching the planes fly by from our balcony, and taking in the sunset views from the front lawn, looking right over the Potomac River or honestly, just about anywhere in the resort.
The Resort recently underwent a $64 million renovation including a full redesign of the guest rooms that are bright, clean, open and inviting. We love the views from just about every room in the resort (Check out the Riverview Executive Suite if you want a larger space and a one of a kind view of the Potomac and the Capital Wheel). We love the cool blue accents in the room that mirror the Potomac River and the nods to history in artwork throughout the hotel.
This summer, Gaylord National Resort is hosting a #SummerOfMore with Pirates & Princesses themed events and activities for families. These activities take place on the weekends and include Live Animal Encounters, Pirates & Princesses Art Studio, Atrium Movie Nights, Pirates & Princesses Academy Interactive stage show and more! We loved the nightly summer atrium light show. The light show brings the atrium to life with a dazzling display of lights, lasers and music that can be enjoyed from an atrium view guest room or the floor of the atrium itself.
We saw every kind of traveler during our stay at the Gaylord. Couples enjoying a few nights of twinkling lights and sweeping views, Families with young children splashing in the outdoor splash pad or the giant indoor pool. Girlfriends visiting for great wine and some time at the spa, professionals holding meetings by day and enjoying the energy of the harbor at night. There really is something for everyone.
Where To Eat, Drink & Explore:
Potomac District Café & Market
At breakfast time, check out a new addition at Gaylord National, the Potomac District Café & Market. This NEW brasserie-inspired Atrium eatery & market is serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and more. We love the Parisian market feel and the ability to grab something quick or the opportunity to settle in to watch the planes fly by while sipping our morning espresso. Featuring freshly prepared meals and snacks, Starbucks ™ coffee, and the area’s largest selection of the most popular wine, beer, and cocktails, guests have a variety of options to refuel day and night!
Old Hickory Steakhouse
Once you’re settled in, we HIGHLY recommend dinner at the Gaylord’s signature, chef-driven restaurant: Old Hickory Steakhouse. With gorgeous views, impeccable service and an extensive wine list, Old Hickory Steakhouse offers guests an elevated dining experience with premium, local, ingredients and a series of menu items that blew us away and should not be missed.
You should definitely have a reservation, as things pick up around the dinner hour. Our server Marc made excellent recommendations for wines to pair with each course of our meal.
As for dinner, every single course really was DELICIOUS! We 10/10 recommend the oysters with crisp and salty (not muddy) flavor! The lobster bisque was dreamy with meaty pieces of lobster all throughout and a perfectly creamy consistency. The beet salad was fresh, bright and balanced perfectly! The signature surf and turf – wagyu with lobster AND a crabcake was the star of the show and the bread pudding was the perfect, warm and gooey ending! There is an Old Hickory Steakhouse in every Gaylord resort in the country and now we’re adding them all to our bucket list!
Ride the Capital Wheel
After dinner it’s a short, scenic walk to the iconic Capital Wheel. The flight deck at the Capital Wheel offers guests a chance to enjoy a cocktail or inventive mocktail at the water’s edge, and the wheel itself offers breathtaking views from the comfort of private, air conditioned gondolas soaring 180 feet in the air. Enjoy a birds’ eye view of National Harbor, the Washington Monument, Masonic Temple of Alexandria, and the planes coming and going from the airport. The Capital Wheel is open daily from 10am-10pm and you can buy tickets on the spot or in advance. General admission tickets are $15, seniors are $13.50 and kids ages 12 and under are $11.25. You can even rent a VIP Gondola with leather bucket seats, a full glass floor and included photo package for $50 and up to four people.
Drinks & Time Travel at Replay Rooftop
Ready for a blast from the past? Pop up to the roof of Gaylord National to experience or re-experience the best of the 1980’s at this fun pop up lounge: Replay Rooftop. With gorgeous views from the outside roof deck, and all of the instagrammable, 80’s kitsch inside, you can sip over the top cocktails named for the best 80’s films and play retro video games under the neon lights. Their boozy milkshake cocktails are loaded with actual full sized desserts as garnishes to satisfy your inner 80’s kid! We loved all the fun photo ops, the long open bar for gathering, the perfectly themed lounge areas scattered around the bar and especially the outdoor terrace with sprawling, twinkling views of the whole harbor all lit up! Before 9pm, families and kids can enjoy the space together and the 21+ crowd can have it to themselves from 9pm to closing.
MGM National Harbor:
Dining, Shopping, Gaming, Art, & Entertainment
When you’re ready to explore some more, try hopping the shuttle bus to MGM National Harbor. MGM holds the east coast’s premier gaming floor, entertainment venue and resort under one roof, but what really caught our attention were the shops, dining options and the famous conservatory that brought the magic and serenity of a spring day from outside inside.
The Sarah Jessica Parker shoe store with backlit, glass rows of stunning stilettos was a fave shop to explore. We also loved the Bellagio Patisserie for oat milk lattes and macarons overlooking the whimsy of the atrium. The outdoor fountains and birds eye view of National Harbor are not to be missed!
Ginger offers visitors a culinary tour of Asia and delights all of your senses through beautifully crafted cocktails and fresh, authentic cuisine – every dish was a standout but the house-style live lobster was an absolute dream. I have never in my whole, seafood-loving life been served lobster in such proportions! We were mesmerized by the huge, buttery, chunks of lobster meat! Our server Tami let us in on an insider tip that the Jasmine cocktail on the Ginger menu (which was an absolute favorite) is only also available in the high rollers area in the casino- so sip like a high roller while you gaze lovingly at your entire lobster my bougie friend! The spring rolls and the crab fried rice were also delicious and we LOVED the fun tiki drinks and the magic of dining with the atrium as ambience.
Tee off at Top Golf
Ready to get moving and burn some energy? Top Golf is the perfect place to beat the heat and practice your swing. We love how approachable and easy going the atmosphere here is, making it a great spot for avid golfers to practice and play but also a super fun way to connect around the common goal of just having fun. It’s kid-friendly and great for groups and even though we’re not really sportsters (a made up term for people who are good at and resonate with athletic things), something about a cold beer and a great view makes everyone feel like they belong. Top Golf locations are all over the U.S and a truly fun option for groups, families and date nights. Who doesn’t love pairing the great outdoors with cold beer, a birds eye view, and something fun to do?
We love the way history and community come together at National Harbor. The harbor is full of places to explore, things to do, and people to meet. There’s live music, and tours and even community fitness classes to stumble upon as you’re out exploring and engaging with an eclectic mix of people, groups, and families from every walk of life.
Experience The Flavor of Bombay Street Food:
For Dinner in the harbor area, we recommend one of National Harbor’s newest restaurants, Bombay Street food.
The colorful decor, indoor and outdoor seating, and friendly staff set the welcome and the flavors.spices, heat and savory of each dish take it over the top! The most popular dish at Bombay Street Food is the Butter Chicken which sells out nearly every day. We were able to snag some before it was gone and could totally see why it’s a favorite! We also devoured a delicious appetizer called Bhel Puri. This appetizer of puff rice, onion, cilantro, and tomato chutney has a sweet and subtle heat and an absolutely delectable texture. We paired it with the garlic Naan which rocked our socks so we ordered the truffle Naan to go with dinner and decided that all Bombay Street Food Naan is on our list of favorite things! The location of Bombay Street Food is perfect for exploring the public art and park area and popping in and out of shops and pubs before or after you eat!
So much more!
As many times as we’ve been to DC and the bay areas of Maryland, we can’t believe how long it took us to discover all of the flavor, fun, wonder and beauty that National Harbor has to offer and we’ve still only scratched the surface here and can’t wait to get back to explore some more!
You can rent boats, kayaks, hydro bikes or even swandolas to get out on the water. There’s a 36 foot, Americana themed carousel, live music, waterside trails and tours, bike share, cruises, holiday events and so much more!
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