Demystifying National Harbor

Demystifying National Harbor

If George Washington can survive crossing the Delaware, his fellow Alexandrians can surely brave the crossing of the Potomac River to explore the vast new city unto itself known as National Harbor.

Whether you bike, boat or drive to National Harbor, a dizzying array of activities awaits once you arrive. The National Harbor site provides lots of things to do as you explore the area, and more restaurants, hotels and museums are coming to the 300-acre development. For many Alexandrians, the new development remains a mystery just waiting to be discovered and now is the perfect time to experience the many things National Harbor has to offer.

Why go and what is there now?

The short answer: There is a lot happening!

Diverse music is offered both indoors and under the stars. Frequent evening summer concerts feature groups such as Yes and Asia, and the Broadway hit High School Musical is scheduled for July. On August 22, the Harbor Fest Musical Concert takes place, with five bands providing entertainment throughout the day.

In addition, the entire National Harbor complex offers different venues for dining out or shopping. Currently, there is a resort and convention center, hotels, restaurants, a marina with a 700-foot pier and 64 boat slips, shops and condominiums. The National Harbor Resort and Convention Center is actually the largest center on the East Coast for conventions and hotel accommodations, with 470,000-square feet of meeting space and 2,000 hotel rooms. At the river end of the convention center is an 18-story glass wall.

Fascinating artwork is another reason to wander around National Harbor. There are fountains, sculpture and artwork throughout the riverside site. J. Stewart Johnsons famous sculpture, The Awakening, was moved to National Harbor from East Potomac Park in Washington and can be found rising out of the sand by the Potomac River. As visitors drive into the National Harbor complex, one of the first things in view is Albert Paleys sculpture The Beckoning.

A number of restaurants are now open with more on the way.

The National Harbor website is constantly updated with the latest restaurant openings. As of this week, restaurants that are open include: Aromi dItalia [gelato, pastries and desserts, coffees, sandwiches and wraps], Ben and Jerrys Ice Cream, Bobby McKeys [a dueling piano bar with live music], Cadillac Ranch [a western bar and grills East Coast location offering country, rock and party hits along with a mechanical bull], CakeLove [a bakery created by D.C.s Food Channel star Warren Brown, who makes cakes from scratch using all natural ingredients], Fosters Downeast Clambake, Graces Mandarin, [a Chinese restaurant offering Pan Asian food and sushi with river views from every table along with a three-story waterfall and 33-foot tall Budda], Ketchup [American comfort food presented in a unique, upscale manner], Dolce Enoteca e Ristorante [classic Italian food with a contemporary Italian menu], Mayorga Coffee Roasters, McCormick&Schmicks, Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine, National Pastime Bar & Grill, Old Hickory Steakhouse, Pienza Italian Market, Potbelly Sandwich Works, Public House [an upscale bar and restaurant with a sophisticated twist on the traditional pub that will offer live acoustical music], Rosa Mexicano and Sauciety.

New dining spots that will be opening soon include: Bond 45, Elevation Burger, The Redeye Grill and Timothy Dean Bistro.

Shopping, Shopping and More Shopping

The shopping options just keep expanding at National Harbor and there are gifts and goods at every price point. Currently, the shops and galleries include the Amber Tree Gallery, America!, Alexandrias Art Whino wine bar and art gallery, Bella Cosmetic Surgery, Comfort One Shoes, Custom Fit Concepts, Erwin Pearl Fashion Jewelry, Fossil, Godiva Chocolates, Georgetown-based Govinda Gallery, Harley-Davidson Apparel and Accessories, Jos. A. Banks, Key Provisions, Launch Zone, Life is Good, Occasions to Remember, Olympic News, Pajama Party, Relache Spa, Segway of National Harbor, South Moon Under, Stonewall Kitchen , Swarovski, the UPS Store and Verizon.

Hotels Abound

Alexandria can seem like a world away to those who simply cross the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Besides the massive Gaylord Hotel, there is a Hampton Inn and Suites, a Residence Inn by Marriott, Westin Hotels, Aloft Hotel and a Wyndham Vacation Resort.

On-the-Water Outings and Adventures

There are a multitude of ways to experience the Potomac River and its sites, including Alexandria, at National Harbor. In addition to the Potomac Riverboat tours of Mount Vernon and the Washington monuments, which leave from the Alexandria waterfront as well, there are new Seadog Tours on a 70-foot, turbo-charged speedboat with two 900-horsepower engines. If you like to fish, there are guided bass fishing outings on the Potomac. If sampling the yachting life is for you, the 64-foot blue water Pelican motor yacht is available for parties of up to 49 people. Capital Elite Yacht Charters also has private yachts for hire. Athletic visitors might want to consider kayaking and canoeing, which are both available on weekends.

Whats Next?

A Disney Family Resort Hotel and The National Childrens Museum are coming to National Harbor in the next few years. Disney is planning to build a 500-room hotel. And while there will not be a Disney theme park connected to the hotel, Disney does plan to take full advantage of the historic and cultural sites in the area.

In 2013, the 150,000-square foot National Childrens Museum, with its mission to to inspire children to care about and improve the world, will be completed. The museum will be state of the art with an experimental learning center and online offerings. One of the goals of the Childrens Museum will be to educate children about green choices and reflecting environmentally-friendly and sustainable practices in its exhibits, programs and services. Currently, the Childrens Museum has its 2,700-square foot Launch Zone open on Waterfront Street, which is designed to be a place for children to test out sample exhibits and programs. The Launch Zone is also seeking feedback from families about what they would like to see in the museum and what prototype exhibit components they like best.

Check It Out

National Harbor is eager to have local visitors as well as those from around the world. Rocell Viniard, Director of Marketing at National Harbor said, Come across the river and visit us at National Harbor! We have a lot going on and every time you come to National Harbor you will experience something new and vibrant.

Getting There
Taking the water taxi from Old Town (round trip fare: $14), a yacht, a motor launch or bicycling are some of the most fun ways to get to National Harbor. There are plenty of bike racks on Waterfront Street with new racks set to be installed shortly along Harbor Walk by the Potomac River. Keep in mind that driving can be a bit confusing if you do not pay careful attention to the road signs and depending on where you get on Interstate 495. The best directions to follow are those on the National Harbor website, available at