9 Top Things to Do at National Harbor, Maryland

National Waterfront by National Harbor in Maryland

 Gary Tognoni / Getty Images

Located just 20 minutes from Washington, D.C., National Harbor is a major waterfront development along the scenic Potomac River in Maryland, home to several restaurants, retail shops, hotels, condo communities, a Las Vegas-style casino, a full-service marina, and a convention center. It’s also where you’ll find The Capital Wheel, an outlet mall, and a variety of concerts, festivals, and events throughout the year, making it a prime destination for all things dining, shopping, and entertainment.

01 of 09

Day Trip to Old Town Alexandria or Mount Vernon

Old Town Alexandria in Virginia

Visit Alexandria

145 Waterfront St, National Harbor, MD 20745, USA
Phone +1 202-488-6000

Home to impressive 18th-century buildings and interesting museums dedicated to the area's history, Old Town Alexandria is also known for its popular brunch spots, charming retail shops, old-school ice cream parlors, historical walking tours, and Old Town Farmers’ Market, the oldest in the country, operating since 1753.

Whether you drive or take the City Cruises water taxi from National Harbor, Old Town Alexandria makes a great hub for checking out more of the area—Washington, D.C., is reachable by Metro or ferry, while George Washington's Mount Vernon is just a 15-minute drive away. Spend some time wandering the expansive estate and gardens and learning about what life was like for everyone who lived there during the 1700s.

02 of 09

Check Out Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center

Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center

Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center

201 Waterfront St, National Harbor, MD 20745, USA
Phone +1 301-965-4000

One of the largest hotels in National Harbor, Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center sports 1,996 guest rooms and 110 suites, nine restaurants and bars, several retail shops, a 19-story atrium and garden, a luxurious full-service spa, a high-tech fitness center, a swanky rooftop lounge, and a large indoor/outdoor swimming pool. If you happen to be visiting from December to March, don’t miss Winterfest, a kid-friendly event featuring scavenger hunts and laser-light shows. The resort’s fountain and light show also happens all year long in the atrium and is a real hit with families.

03 of 09

Cruise, Sail, or Paddleboard on the Potomac River

Odyssey Washington on the Potomac

Entertainment Cruises

580 Water St SW, Washington, DC 20024, USA
Phone +1 866-404-8439

National Harbor is nestled along the shores of the Potomac River, and one of the best ways to take in the scenery is by boat, especially while aboard a sightseeing cruise. Sign up for a yacht or sailboat cruise to see the capital's most famous monuments and memorials from the water. Several lunch and dinner cruises are also available, featuring multiple courses and live music to keep you entertained while you enjoy your meal with a view.

If you’d rather be active on the water, canoe, kayak, sailboat, and stand-up paddleboard rentals are available seasonally for a day of outdoor fun. Get some exercise as you enjoy views of National Harbor, Old Town Alexandria, and Washington, D.C.

04 of 09

Hit the Casino or See a Show at MGM National Harbor

Theater at MGM Casino

MGM Casino

101 MGM National Ave, Oxon Hill, MD 20745, USA
Phone +1 844-646-6847

Enjoy a full night of entertainment at MGM National Harbor. The $1.4 billion Las Vegas-style hotel and casino features 3,300 slot machines and 120 table games on its 125,000-square-foot floor, as well as many restaurants, bars, and high-end retail shops. There’s also an intimate 3,000-seat theater where concerts, comedy shows, cabaret-style acts, and boxing events are held throughout the year. The Conservatory is also worth checking out, as its theme is changed regularly to reflect the seasons and notable events like the Cherry Blossom Festival.

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05 of 09

Take a Ride on The Capital Wheel

National Harbor

G'Niel Pinkney / Flickr / CC BY-ND 2.0

141 American Way, Oxon Hill, MD 20745, USA
Phone +1 301-842-8650

Opened in May 2014 and soaring 18 stories (180 feet) above the Potomac River, The Capital Wheel is one of National Harbor's most popular attractions. From the top of this epic Ferris wheel, you’ll be able to enjoy sweeping views of the Potomac River as well as the nearby Washington Monument and Old Town Alexandria, located just across the river in Virginia. As an added bonus, its 42 gondolas are climate-controlled, ensuring a comfortable 12 to 15-minute ride no matter the season.

06 of 09

Take the Kids on The Carousel at National Harbor

Carousel at the National Harbor

TripSavvy / Rachel Cooper

137 National Plaza Suite 200, Oxon Hill, MD 20745, USA
Phone +1 301-842-8650

Families love the playground, picnic tables, and 36-foot Carousel at National Harbor, making it a favorite family-friendly destination for visitors and area residents alike. Admission is just $7 per child for an all-day pass, while accompanying parents can ride for free with their children. There’s also a $5 military discount available when you show a valid I.D. and purchase tickets in person.

07 of 09

Sing-Along at Bobby McKey's Dueling Piano Bar

National Harbor Bobby McKeys

National Harbor

172 Fleet St, Oxon Hill, MD 20745, USA
Phone +1 301-602-2209

At Bobby McKey’s Dueling Piano Bar, dueling pianists lead a high-spirited, interactive sing-along for everyone to enjoy. It’s a popular place in the DMV (Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia) area for folks to unwind, have a drink, and show off their vocal skills with a group of friends. Tickets include seating at the bar or at tables; food and beverages are available for purchase, while shows happen nightly from 8 p.m. to 11 p.m. The venue also hosts a boozy brunch on Sunday afternoons that includes a buffet and the option to add Bottomless Mimosas or Bloody Mary bar access.

08 of 09

Go On a Shopping Spree at Tanger Outlets National Harbor

Tanger Outlets, Maryland

Ryan McKnight / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

6800 Oxon Hill Rd, National Harbor, MD 20745, USA
Phone +1 301-567-3880

While Tanger Outlets National Harbor is a popular area shopping destination all year long, the deals here can be especially great on holiday weekends and during Black Friday savings events after Thanksgiving. Treat yourself to some well-deserved retail therapy at familiar brand-name stores like Bath & Body Works, Express, H&M, Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, and J. Crew, among others.

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09 of 09

Attend Special Events Along the Waterfront

Movies on the Potomac

National Harbor

165 Waterfront St, Oxon Hill, MD 20745, USA
Phone +1 877-628-5427

Special events are held year-round at National Harbor. Taste more than 150 international wines, spirits, and beers at the National Harbor Food and Wine Festival, catch a free outdoor film at Movies on the Potomac, or kick up your heels and dance at one of the free summer concerts. Later in the year, you can drink German beer at the annual Oktoberfest festivities and celebrate the holiday season with a variety of themed festivities along the waterfront.

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9 Top Things to Do at National Harbor, Maryland