Tag Archives: National Harbor

ICE! Up Your Holidays and Then Some at Christmas on the Potomac

One of the impressive frozen scenes sculpted in ICE!

One of the impressive frozen scenes sculpted in ICE!



The Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor goes all out for the holidays. Their annual Christmas on the Potomac extravaganza has festivities galore that capture the spirit of the season. And the best part is that there are activities for all ages at varying price points (even free!).

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The seasonal celebration began this past weekend, and we had a chance to preview it the evening before it opened to the public. But this wasn’t our first time experiencing Christmas on the Potomac; we’ve actually enjoyed many of the attractions for several years — and one not as much. But I went back with an open mind and fresh perspective and, hence, have revised my view a bit.

natlharborxmas_atrium

The Gaylord Hotel itself is still pretty spectacular this time of year. The atrium is transformed into a holiday wonderland with stunning decor all around — long strands of sheer fabric lined with glimmering lights hang overhead, indoor trees and street lamps twinkle with lights and shiny ornaments, and ruby red poinsettias line the walkways. Hanging from the ceiling is a huge Christmas tree sculpture constructed of metal with colorful lights and stars adorning it. Just taking in the whole dazzling scene is an activity in itself.

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There are also “dancing” fountains that light up with colors and ebb and flow to rousing music. The Polar Express train offers rides around a small track. A nightly indoor “snowfall” is magical for little ones. And there are several dining options, including a hearty buffet at Pienza Market.

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And then there is ICE! The popular holiday spectacle presents a holiday-themed story told through a tour of massive, vibrant ice sculptures, this year featuring “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town.” If you’ve been reading KFDC for awhile, you might recall the first (and only) time we visited four years ago, I wasn’t exactly the biggest fan.

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But four years can make a difference, especially with young children. Back then, Sasha was just two years old and couldn’t get over being so cold. Owen, who was five at the time, kept running ahead, and I couldn’t find him among the sea of blue parkas that everyone wears, and he couldn’t hear me call for him because it was loud.

natlharborxmas_icesasha

This time was a much different experience. It was still extremely cold (9 degrees!), but the kids (now 6 and 9) didn’t seem to mind at all, so strolling through the frozen scenes wasn’t stressful, and we could really take in the artistry of the sculptures and follow the whole story.

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To boot, we all had fun whizzing down the ice slides. We spent about 30 minutes in the exhibit, then the kids took a carousel ride on the way out. I do have to acknowledge that, since we were there during a preview, it was less crowded. And it was a complimentary tour, so I can’t complain about cost (rates start at $28/adult, $20/children).

natlharborxmas_iceslides

So, here’s my new view: If you’re up for splurging on a unique holiday attraction, ICE! is pretty cool — literally and figuratively. But if you don’t feel like throwing down, there is still a ton at Christmas on the Potomac that will give you a warm and fuzzy holiday feeling.

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Christmas on the Potomac, including ICE!, runs daily through January 3 at the Gaylord National Resort at National Harbor. As noted, many activities in the atrium of the hotel are free or a small fee. ICE! rates are $35/peak, $28/non-peak dates for adults; $28/peak, $20/peak, $15/non-peak for ages 3-11; free for ages 2 and under. There are discounts for groups and military — see the website for details.

For more about National Harbor and things to do there, see this post and this one.

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by National Harbor, however, all opinions expressed here are entirely my own, and I only promote programs, activities, and products that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under All ages, Annual, Christmas, DC, Eats, Exhibit, Holidays, Hotel, Maryland, Music, Seasonal, Weekdays, Weekend, Winter

Night Out at National Harbor

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Considering the vast range of the DC-Metro area I explore with my kids, it’s kind of funny how close to home I tend to stay on kid-free nights out with friends. That’s probably a testament to how great my neighborhood is for an evening on the town — and how infrequent those occasions seem to be these days. But I do enjoy eating, drinking, and being merry beyond my nearby haunts; sometimes it just takes an extra something to get me there.

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That’s exactly what brought my friends and me to National Harbor on a recent Friday evening. The folks there invited me to enjoy a night out to share my experience with the KFDC community. And after a great a time there over the summer with the kids, I was excited to see what a visit sans children would be like. Packed with dining and entertainment options, plus located right on the water, it was bound to be a good time.

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We caught an Uber taxi from DC to National Harbor, then began our evening at the Walrus Oyster & Ale House — and this was a fantastic place to start. The drinks and food were delicious, the staff extremely friendly and attentive, and the whole place had a fun, relaxed vibe. We devoured starters including oysters, deviled steak and eggs, tuna tartare, and mussels then went on to consume entire entrees of scallops, crab cakes, and lobster mac ‘n cheese. It was all accompanied by tasty cocktails and a nice bottle of wine.

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After dinner, we headed to Bobby McKey’s, where a reservation was set up for us. I hadn’t been to a dueling piano bar since my early 20’s, so was interested to see if I’d find it fun now.

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The verdict: So much fun! So, maybe singing drunkenly along to nostalgic tunes being played on piano by guys making lewd jokes isn’t what I’d opt to do every weekend, but on this occasion, it was a blast. Those guys are pretty talented (they know, like, every classic song!) and funny (after several drinks, anyway), plus it was fun to recall lyrics to old tunes (..he’s just a poor boy from a poor family spare him his life from this monstrosity…) and dance and let loose. We didn’t even mind what my friend Jody called the Gatorade margaritas, so you know it had to be fun.

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We closed out the place along with many other dueling piano-goers, then got another Uber taxi for the ride back to Capitol Hill. Unfortunately, it was rainy that night, so we didn’t get to take advantage of the riverfront location, but a walk on the boardwalk or drinks by the water would probably be great on a nice night. No complaints from any of us, though — the food, drinks, and entertainment were thoroughly fun, and we all had the hangovers Saturday morning to prove it. :-/

nhnight_drink

Ready for a night out at National Harbor? Here are some details to help you plan:

* The Walrus Oyster and Ale House is located at 152 Waterfront Street in National Harbor. Hours are Monday – Saturday 11am – 11pm for food and the bar is open until midnight, Sunday 10 am – 10 pm (brunch served 10am to 3pm). Even though this was a grown-up night out, the restaurant is family-friendly with plenty of dishes that would appeal to kids, plus young diners are welcome to watch the oyster shucking.

* Bobby McKey’s is located at 172 Fleet Street in National Harbor. Hours are Monday – Thursday 6pm – 12am, Friday & Saturday 5pm – 2am. Be sure to check the calendar for special events or specials. (FYI: They occasionally have kids shows during the day on weekends.)

* Keep in mind you can make this a date night or an evening out with a big group.

* Read about more restaurants and entertainment at National Harbor on the website.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by National Harbor, however, I only promote programs, events, and products that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers.


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Filed under Date Night, Eats, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Moms, Music, Parents, Sponsored Post, Weekdays, Weekend

Make a Family Day of it at National Harbor this Summer

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We’ve been to National Harbor several times since it opened back in 2008. The waterfront destination on the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, Md, hosts annual holiday events, was home to the National Children’s Museum for awhile, and has become a destination for many touring shows — all of which have brought us there at different times. But, aside from a water taxi adventure a few years ago, we’d never really gone to hang out and and enjoy the ongoing activities and attractions.

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That changed recently when we were invited to spend a day there to get the fuller National Harbor experience. We were especially excited about going for a spin on the Capital Wheel, since we hadn’t yet been, and it’s a unique pursuit in the area (it’s covered here on KFDC, but in a guest post by a friend). I was also really interested to see what a day there would be like, since previously we’d always gone with a specific event to attend.

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Once we arrived there and got our bearings about us, we didn’t waste any time heading for what we’d been anticipating most: The Capital Wheel. How cool to ride 180 feet in the air over the Potomac, taking in views of the DC skyline and the Harbor scene below! Even in gray, hazy weather, we could see the Washington Monument across the river and enjoy the open vistas around us. The whole ride lasted about 15 minutes, then we were ready to eat and explore some more.

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We were set up with lunch at Potbelly, but there are over 30 dining options at National Harbor, everything from quick eateries to nicer restaurants. A bunch are located around the Plaza, convenient to most of the big attractions, and others are an easy stroll away.

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After lunch, we stopped in the Peeps store, where the kids indulged in some samples before heading down to The Awakening. If you’ve been in DC awhile, you probably remember the massive sculpture of the giant emerging from the ground at Hains Point. The striking work (or works, since it’s in several parts) now resides at National Harbor, the enormous man surfacing on a sandy beach along the Potomac. Visitors are welcome to climb and play on it, and Owen and Sasha had a blast crawling around his head and scaling his huge foot.

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It was time for some fun on the water after that; our invitation included a rental from Boating in DC. They have kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and pedal boats, and we opted for the boat, so we could all go together (kids need to be at least 8 to kayak or paddleboard solo, and Sasha is only 6). The pedal boats are cute, shaped like dragons and swans. It was quick and easy to get one, and we were soon out on the water, drifting around and taking in cool views of the Capital Wheel and surrounds.

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Back on land, the kids were ready for a spin on The Carousel, which features a herd of whimsical creatures and the sparkling Potomac as a backdrop. It’s $7 for each rider, which sounds like a lot, BUT they can ride an unlimited number of times. I don’t know about your kids, but mine always beg to go again (and again), so this actually kind of seems like a deal. Right next to the carousel on one side are tables where parents can sit and relax while their kids ride (if they are old enough to go solo). And on the other side is a playground, so you can easily move right on to more fun. We skipped the playground, instead making our way to SPAGnVOLA Chocolatier for gelato and some sweet treats to bring home.

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natlharbor_spagnvola

There’s even more to do at National Harbor — lots of shopping, a farmer’s market, free movies and sports viewing on a Jumbotron in the Plaza, and water taxi rides to Old Town among them. But a good four hours after beginning our National Harbor experience, we decided to call it a day — a fun one, at that!

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natlharbor_hand_wheel

Ready to make a day of it at National Harbor? Here are some details to help you plan:

* The Capital Wheel is open daily from 10am – 11pm. Tickets are $15/adult, $11.25/ages 3-11, free for 2 and under.

* Boating in DC is open 11am – 7:30pm weekdays & 9am – 7:30pm weekends through Labor Day, then 11am – 6:30pm Wednesday – Friday & 9am – 6:30pm weekends through October 4. Rentals are $30/pedal boat, $15/single kayak, $20/double kayak, $20/paddleboard.

* The Carousel is open 12-8pm Sunday – Thursday & 12-10pm Friday – Saturday. Unlimited rides are $7.

* National Harbor sponsored our experience, however, there are activities available at all price points.

* For more information about National Harbor attractions, visit the website.


Disclosure: This post is sponsored by National Harbor, however, I only promote programs, events, and services that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers, and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.


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Filed under All ages, Art, Eats, Maryland, Outdoor, Play, Seasonal, Sponsored Post, Summer, Weekdays, Weekend