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.

natlharborxmas_iceslide

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

nhnight_wine

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

natlharbor_sign

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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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

Guest Post: Go for a Spin on the Capital Wheel

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[Note: This post was written by my friend, Torey Potter, whom you’ve likely seen mentioned on the blog before, since she and her crew have accompanied us on many a KFDC adventure.]



If you’re like me you’ve been intrigued by the idea of a giant Ferris wheel on the waterfront ever since first mention of the Capital Wheel construction back in January. I knew we would try it at some point after it opened and I put the idea in my back pocket waiting for the right clear summer day to check it out.

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First, a little background on the Capital Wheel at National Harbor: It was constructed in the image of the London Eye (though only half the size) and was completed in May of this year. Standing at a whopping 175 feet, it offers sweeping views of the harbor, DC and Alexandria, and all the way to the National Mall in the distance. Just don’t call it a Ferris wheel; the term “observation wheel” is used when referring to these large-scale wheels with more luxurious accommodations.

capwheel_gondola

The comfortable eight person gondolas are air conditioned and pipe in tunes by the likes of Whitney Houston and Lionel Richie for your listening pleasure. The cabin is equipped with an emergency call button should you have a change of heart mid-ride. It goes without saying that if you have a fear of heights this is NOT the activity for you. I’ll admit my own stomach dropped a bit as we were gently lifted toward the sky, but I was calmed by the stunning views and the excitement of my eight-year-old (who’s never afraid of anything).

capwheel_boarding

The ride was quite smooth aside from a few creaks at the top. We pointed out the sights we recognized to one another (Andrew’s Air Force Base! The Washington Monument!) and marveled at just how high up we were. My son assured me it was totally safe as he leaned his head against the large window, unconcerned, watching the planes fly in to land at National Airport. When our ride came to an end and we were again greeted by the friendly staff, we both agreed that it was cool and unique to see our city from above. A map inside the gondola of what to keep an eye out for below would be helpful for people unfamiliar with the area, but locals will know where to look.

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Ticket prices are a bit steep at $15 for adults and $11.25 for kids ages 3-12 (children 2 and under are free), not including tax, but for a special day or an outing with out-of-town visitors, I’d say it’s worth it. You’ll get four to five revolutions and vistas you won’t get elsewhere. I imagine the views at night are spectacular as well. The Capital Wheel is open every day from 10am to 11pm. Side note: we did not wait in any lines at all on a Tuesday in August, late morning.

While at National Harbor you can do what we did and catch a ferry (Potomac Water Taxi) over to Alexandria for lunch or pop into the Peeps Store for a little treat. Play around on The Awakening, a larger than life sculpture set in the sand at the water’s edge. Also new(ish) on the scene at National Harbor: a carousel and small playground just beyond the ferry dock. With its chain hotels and restaurants and massive parking garages, National Harbor can give off somewhat of a corporate/commercial feel (everything’s shiny and new!), however, it has a lot to offer families and is a quick drive from DC, so definitely worth checking out if you haven’t already.

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To Market, To Market this Holiday Season

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter is open daily through December 23

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter is open daily through December 23



How about adding some fun to your holiday shopping? What’s often a stressful activity for many this time of year, can actually be good time for you and the kids — if you know where to go. Here are some local markets that offer more than the standard browse-and-buy, where live entertainment, yummy treats, fun activities, and the chance to shop outdoors in a festive atmosphere will keep your inner-Scrooge at bay as you pick out perfect gifts for all. Happy Shopping!

Downtown Holiday Market
Where: 8th & F Streets NW
When: Daily through 12/23, 12-8pm

This one, to me, is the holiday market in DC. It’s not even so much about the merchandise for sale (though there’s always a great variety of gift items – I never leave empty handed). There’s something about the usually bustling block in the middle of Penn Quarter transforming into an open air market for a few weeks that is so charming and kind of magical, making our big city seems feel like a small town. A bonus is the free live entertainment along with treats and coffee drinks available for purchase. And after you’ve done your shopping and enjoyed a snack and music, you can pop into the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum that are literally right next to the market.

Eastern Market
Where: 7th Street SE, between South Carolina & Penn Aves.
When: Year-round Saturdays & Sundays

The outdoor flea market at the centerpiece of the Capitol Hill community is practically a year-round weekend institution for locals. And during the holiday season, it’s a go-to for shoppers seeking unique gifts along with a fun outing. Nearly 200 vendors are there, selling everything from original artwork to fun T-shirts, to handmade jewelry and accessories, to colorful Turkish rugs, to home décor to custom-made and used furniture – and much, much more. If you’re cooking up a holiday meal, you can get fresh produce from farmers’ stalls outside and butchered meats, fancy cheeses, baked goods, pasta, fresh produce, and more inside the actual Eastern Market. Even more, there is often live music courtesy of buskers around the area, and if the kids want some play time afterwards, you can hit one of several parks or playgrounds in the neighborhood (Lincoln Park, at 11th and East Capitol, is the largest and most popular among them).

Harbor Holiday Market
Where: National Harbor
When: Saturday & Sunday through January 5

National Harbor invites you to deck the halls with ideas from their Holiday Market, located on American Way, featuring handmade holiday ornaments and decorations, tasty holiday treats such as cookies and roasted chestnuts, and much more. Regional vendors will be offering holiday goods and specialty foods every weekend throughout the holiday season. Kids will love carousel rides with Santa on Saturdays from 12-2pm ($3/ride), and live entertainment by local school choirs will get everyone in a festive mood on Saturdays at 3pm & 6pm (also Fridays at 6pm).

Sugarloaf Craft Festival
Where: Dulles Expo Center
When: December 13-15

This seasonal fair showcases works by more than 300 top artisans. Pottery, sculpture, glass, jewelry, fashion, home and garden décor, furniture and home accessories, and photography will be on display — and for sale. The best part is that the award-winning festival is a family affair. Parents can shop, and children can enjoy an interactive puppet theater and watch live-demonstrations of iron forging, papermaking, stone sculpting, and other media by the master craftspeople themselves. Not to mention, gourmet goodies hand-made by specialty food vendors always leave everyone wanting more. Tickets are $10/adults at the door $8 in advance online (free for children under 12), and are good all three days of the Festival.

Christkindl
Where: Canal Park
When: Through December 22

Head to the small market at the Navy Yard to enjoy the sights, sounds and flavors of the Holiday Season. Enjoy a hot cup of cocoa, go ice skating (when the rink opens – it’s currently still closed for maintenance), buy holiday décor, or pick out a fresh Douglas or Fraser Firs and have it delivered directly to your house!

Gifts That Give Hope
Where: Calvary United Methodist Church
When: December 14, 10am – 2pm

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? Gifts That Give Hope Arlington is holding their 3rd annual Gift Fair, capturing the holiday spirit in a way that redefines the notion of meaningful, alternative gift giving. This year’s fair will feature 15 local and global nonprofit organizations, many of them based in Arlington. Shoppers will have the opportunity to peruse the tables hosted by each organization and purchase alternative gifts that will directly benefit the mission of those organizations. There will also be refreshments, face painting, and kids activities.

Holiday Gift Market
Where: National Museum of Women in the Arts
When: December 18-20

So, this market may not be ideal for a family affair, but it sounds like a nice one for moms (or someone looking for a present for mom) to check out. Five fabulous women will be featured at the Holiday Market: Diane Ginsburg, Keithley Pierce, Meena Tharmaratnam, Cindy Hornaman, and Melanie Ferrara. Selling their jewelry, textiles, and home and personal accessories, all of them will attend the trunk show for a meet-and-greet event with shoppers held on Wednesday, December 18, through Friday, December 20, from 10am – 5pm with extended hours on Wednesday until 7pm. Museum members will receive double discounts (20%).

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