National Harbor is an incredibly picturesque property located about 25 minutes south of D.C. in Fort Washington, MD. I’ve gone to National Harbor for a couple of dinners and events before, but I never had the opportunity to experience everything this charming little property had to offer: until now.
The folks at the AC Hotel National Harbor hosted a few bloggers a couple of weeks ago, and I finally got the opportunity to see nearly everything the Harbor had to offer. If you’re visiting the D.C. area, or if you’re a local in need of a staycation, National Harbor should be on your radar!
How to Get There
Here’s my only complaint about National Harbor: the lack of public transit. It is easier to get to National Harbor via Water Taxi from Old Town Alexandria, but for us folks coming from elsewhere, you’re going to need to drive or take an Uber/Lyft in town. Once you’re actually in National Harbor, they have plenty of garage parking available, and they have shuttles that run to the main shopping area, the MGM, and Tanger Outlets.
Where to Stay
There are a ton of really great hotel options in National Harbor, but we partnered with the AC Hotel National Harbor for our stay. There’s so much we wanted to do in the Harbor, and we didn’t spend a ton of time in our hotel room, and this hotel offered all of the basic amenities we needed. There was breakfast in the morning, a luxurious lobby with a little business station, and a bar in the hotel that had happy hour every night (they even had wine on tap!)
The room would also be perfect for a business traveler: there were 10 USB ports in our room alone, so my photographer boyfriend and I could charge up all our devices, laptops, batteries and cameras!
I might be biased because I’m a Maryland native, but the food at National Harbor was pretty darn good. I loved all of the seafood options that the Harbor had to offer, but there truly is something for everyone just in case seafood isn’t your thing!
- The Walrus Oyster & Ale House: If you’re looking for a laid-back seafood house, this is the place for you! The Walrus serves the freshest local seafood provided by the area’s finest watermen, and they also had an incredible cocktail selection as well.
- Fish: Located inside MGM National Harbor, Fish showcases the region’s bounty in live seafood tanks and interactive cooking stations, bringing guests seafood dining in a way that only José Andrés can.
- Succotash: I’ve been to Succotash previously for a wine tasting, but this is an absolute must if you’re visiting the Harbor. The chef, who was nominated for a James Beard award, offers southern cuisine with a Korean twist.
- Rosa Mexicano: Not into seafood? Stop by Rosa Mexicano and enjoy some of the best Mexican dishes in the D.C. metro area! I’m a huge fan of their guacamole — you can have them make it fresh for you!
The main reason I’ve visited National Harbor before this trip? The shopping, of course! From high-end goods to bargain steals, you can find some of the best shopping in the area at the Harbor. Most of the stores in the Harbor are big-box retailers, but there are some local boutiques that you should stop by!
- Tanger Outlets: Full disclaimer? I’m not the biggest outlet shopper, so I didn’t end up getting much at the outlets. However, if you love finding a good deal, then Tanger Outlets is the place for you to go! They’re the closest outlets to D.C. proper, and you can shop high-end designers like Theory, Elie Tahari, and Swavorksi, to mall-favorites such as H&M, Adidas, and LOFT.
- South Moon Under: If you’ve been following along for a while, you know that South Moon Under is one of my favorite shops ever. They’re primarily a Mid-Atlantic chain, and they carry my favorite brands such as Free People, Blank Denim, Wayf, ASTR and more!
I had no idea National Harbor was going to be so much fun! From the MGM to the Capital Wheel, there’s plenty of entertainment in the Harbor. Also, I couldn’t believe how many Bachelorette and birthday parties I spotted around town. If you’re looking for a place to have a fun group outing, National Harbor is the place!
A few of my favorite spots around town were:
- The Capital Wheel: You can’t go to National Harbor and not take a ride on the Capital Wheel — it’s iconic and breathtaking! You can view two states, the District, and the Potomac RIver in one of their glass-enclosed gondolas (each gondola can hold up to eight people!)
- Muse Paintbar: I found out that I am not the best artist in town, but, Muse Paintbar was still a pretty incredible experience! You can sip on wine while learning how to paint your own masterpiece. They have classes running all day and night, so this is the perfect activity to do with your girlfriends at any time of day.
- Granite City Food & Brewery: Not only does Granite City have a pretty extensive selection of food, but you can also pop in here for a quick beer tasting. They have a patented brewing process and a wide selection that any beer lover would appreciate.
- Bobby McKey’s Dueling Piano Bar: If you’re celebrating a major birthday, a bachelorette, or just want a big group outing, Bobby McKeys is the spot to be! There is a small cover charge, and I would highly recommend reserving a table as far in advance as possible because this venue gets pretty packed. You can request your favorite songs (guess who requested Spice Girls), and enjoy a pretty impressive show!
MGM National Harbor
Ok, so there’s so much to do inside the MGM, it needed its own section! You can shop, dine at the best restaurants, go to the spa, hit up the casino…you name it, MGM’s got it! You could spend hours here. While we visited, we went to Jose Andres’ Fish restaurant, and then headed over to Felt Bar for table service. I’ve also gone to their spa previously (they use all Clarins products, which I adore), if you can fit a treatment in, I would highly recommend doing it before a night out. I would carve out several hours in your schedule to explore the MGM at National Harbor!