National Harbor Showcases Nation\’s Capital
New York has its South Street Seaport. Baltimore has its Inner Harbor. Philadelphia its Penn\’s Landing. San Francisco its Ghirardelli Square. And now the nation\’s capital region has its own waterfront destination, the National Harbor. I loved it on my first trip there and you will too.
Billed as a “lifestyle destination,” the National Harbor (actually located in National Harbor, Maryland, not the District of Columbia, per se) is a well-thought-out blend of hotels, restaurants, shopping, office space, a convention center, and upscale residences. Its prime location on the scenic Potomac River offers stunning views of downtown Washington, DC, and Old Town Alexandria, Virginia (you can\’t beat this site for Fourth of July fireworks!). It\’s located just 8 miles from Reagan National Airport, and a short drive as well from Dulles International Airport, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and Amtrak\’s Union Station. You can also take the Potomac Water Taxi with service to or from Old Town Alexandria, Georgetown, and Mount Vernon.
On my recent overnight trip, I drove from Baltimore, so first things first…kudos to the folks who made the signs along the Capital Beltway. The Washington area can be confusing for drivers (even one who previously lived there, as I did!), and since I\’m seriously directionally-challenged and don\’t own a GPS, I had visions of driving around in circles. Not to worry…I couldn\’t have gotten lost if I\’d tried. And another thumbs up to the parking garage at the Gaylord National Resort, where I stayed. Hoping I would remember what floor I parked on until I could find a piece of paper to scribble down a reminder, I walked to the elevator and there on the wall was a box full of cards saying, “You are parked on Level 2.” Why don\’t all garages do this?
OK, those may not be the most important points of my visit, but when someone gets something right, I like to mention it! Which brings me to the Gaylord. This destination resort has certainly gotten it right. On 41 acres, Gaylord National has 2,000 guest rooms and while large, never feels imposing. The hotel takes its architectural and design theme from the capital region, on display especially in the 18-story, glass-enclosed atrium which includes two-story replicas of a Colonial-era mercantile shop and a Federalist-style farmhouse, with authentic details such as white-clapboard siding on the farmhouse and red-brick masonry on the shop. They house two of the resort\’s retail shops.
Also in the atrium, and a special hit with the younger set, is an indoor water fountain with nightly shows that are synchronized to lights, special effects, and musical scores. With 37 individual jets shooting water up to 50 feet, this is a definite photo opp!
The atrium is also home to thousands of plants and trees indigenous to the Mid-Atlantic. Indoors and out, the Gaylord\’s landscape offers an historically-themed Colonial garden , a tree-lined river walk promenade, an 18,000 square-foot green roof, and a great lawn with 1,200 oak, cherry, and chestnut trees and more than 40,000 flowers.
Gaylord National also offers a variety of dining options, from Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine, Pienza Italian Market with a seemingly never-ending buffet, National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill (play a round of virtual golf!), and the Old Hickory Steakhouse, that recreates the look of an 18th-century Georgian rowhouse (cheese lovers, make sure you meet Maitre d\’Fromage Carolyn Stromberg who is more than happy to help you select wine and cheese pairings, talk about the restaurant\’s collection of artisanal cheeses, and more).
There\’s more than enough to do at the Gaylord itself—including swimming, relaxing at the spa, and clubbing at the Pose Ultra Lounge—but the National Harbor also hosts a variety of events, from a food and wine festival, to summer sunset concerts, to the American Market, held every Saturday from May through Labor Day, with fresh produce, baked goods, crafts, flowers, home accessories and more.
Whether you\’re coming to the nation\’s capital for a family vacation, a business conference, or are just looking for a quick getaway—as I was—the Gaylord National Resort and the National Harbor are well worth the visit.