17 Best Things to Do in National Harbor, MD

National Harbor, MD

Embarking on a quest to uncover the best things to do in National Harbor, Maryland?

In this comprehensive guide, we've melded insights from locals and travelers to present you with a mosaic of experiences that define this remarkable place. While we've highlighted some must-visit spots, it's imperative to understand that these recommendations are shaped by personal opinions and experiences.

There are countless other wonderful places awaiting your discovery. Our goal isn't just to point you to the well-trodden paths, but to inspire you to explore and truly immerse yourself in the city's essence.

We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the following individuals for their invaluable contributions to this article: Gina McNeill, Clarice Green, Kenna Winters, Robert Gonzales, Brianna Brooks, Roberto Murphy and Nalani Dunlap.

Take a Spin on The Capital Wheel

Daytime view of The Capital Wheel
Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

There's something unique about a city's skyline, mainly when it's observed from atop a giant wheel.

I enjoyed riding on The Capital Wheel, a 180-foot Ferris wheel that perfectly compliments the Potomac River with its colorful lights and 8-person gondolas.

It was winter, and the chill in the air was just enough to add a hint of excitement.

I had purchased my tickets in advance, which saved me a lot of time and allowed me to choose the most opportune moment for the ride.

Then, I was pleasantly surprised that the wait was minimal and the ride was longer than anticipated.

As we ascended, I had prepared for a cold gust of wind but found the pod quite cozy.

I could see across the harbor, and because it was the holiday season, the sight of the various events was indeed something to behold.

Gondolas of The Capital Wheel
Rob Crandall / Shutterstock.com

The ride moves at a gentle pace, allowing for ample time to take in the expansive view.

Meanwhile, the sunset enveloped the city warmly, making it a sight to remember.

One thing that I found to be a nice touch was the background music playing during the ride.

It added to the overall experience, making it a delightful and relaxing activity.

While I strongly recommend this to anyone visiting, I am unsure if it's an experience that must be repeated.

It's great for the photos and the memories, but once might be enough.

Night lights of The Capital Wheel
Steve Heap / Shutterstock.com

Enjoy an Unforgettable Night at The Theater

One of the most memorable nights I recently had was when I attended a concert at The Theater at MGM National Harbor.

The experience was nothing short of extraordinary; the intimate setting and the top-notch acoustics turned the show into an unforgettable experience.

From my seat in section 103, rows D and E, to be precise, I had an optimal view of the stage.

Up close, I felt a unique connection with the artists performing that night.

The clarity of the screens was outstanding - I saw every expression every movement, and could even read the lyrics of the songs.

Meanwhile, the sound system enhanced the performance.

The Theater at MGM National Harbor is an exceptional venue that guarantees memorable experiences for all music enthusiasts.

Enjoy a Casual Day at Jones Point Lighthouse

Each morning, I lace up my running shoes and escape the hustle and bustle of life to find a slice of tranquility just a stone's throw away from home.

My destination? The Jones Point Lighthouse is located on the banks of the Potomac River.

The first thing that greets me every time is the storied lighthouse.

It's a weathered brick structure, standing tall since 1855, and it seems to whisper tales of the past.

The years may have taken away its shine, but the charm remains undiminished.

Around the lighthouse is a quaint park where the community comes alive.

It's about half a mile from home, just past the playgrounds and the outdoor basketball courts.

I often walk to it, admiring the perfectly manicured lawns and the clean surroundings.

The park is a haven for a variety of activities.

Kids chase each other on the playground, dogs wag their tails in anticipation of a good run, and the more sporty ones break a sweat on the basketball court.

On certain days, you'll find people with fishing rods, hoping to catch a big one from the Potomac.

This homey setting is also steeped in history.

Once owned by the early suffragette Margaret Brent, the land was a hotbed for tobacco agriculture.

And now, it proudly bears the District of Columbia boundary stones marking the nucleus of what is today Alexandria, VA.

Though you can't go inside the lighthouse, the beautiful walking and biking trails around it more than make up for it.

I often find myself lost in thoughts, following these trails, immersing myself in the tranquility of nature and the rich history surrounding me.

Each morning at the Jones Point Lighthouse is an experience.

It's a mix of calm and community, history and heritage, all wrapped up in one quaint setting by the Potomac River.

Take a Stroll Down American Way

Arch of American Way
Hiram Rios / Shutterstock.com

I love to stroll down American Way!

It's not just an ordinary walk but a journey through history.

You will come across sculptures of some significant historical figures, each telling a different story.

The exhibition starts from the harbor and ends a few blocks away, making it a short and enjoyable walk.

The path features an array of cute stores and restaurants lining both sides of the way.

I often find myself peeking into these stores, exploring the unique items they have to offer.

The delightful aroma wafting out from the restaurants is sometimes too hard to resist.

I look forward to many more unique stores opening up here in the future.

But that's not all. There's a treasure trove of fantastic art and fun exhibits to see.

I often take my bike for a pleasant ride over the bridge.

It's the perfect way to spend a half day, and it never gets old.

You can't miss a walk down American Way.

And if you live around the area, it should be a part of your regular circuit.

It's a window into history, culture, and art.

Enjoy an Evening at Spirit Park

There's something magical about Spirit Park.

Living here, I've seen how it breathes life into our city and punctuates our summers with a rhythmic beat that rattles the heart and soul.

What a joy it is to have such a place in our backyard.

The beauty of the park is truly something to behold.

It's like stepping into another world, filled with stunning statues that stand as silent sentinels to its enchanting ambiance.

And if you're lucky, you'll get to witness the grandeur of the Capital wheel, a sight that never fails to stir a sense of awe within me.

On Wednesday evenings during the summer, Spirit Park transforms into an amphitheater, throbbing with the energy of live music and the audience's cheers.

Bands from all over grace our little stage, filling the air with melodies that echo through the night.

And let's not forget about the statues that surround the amphitheater.

Each has a story to tell, adding to the park's allure.

The landscape is well-maintained, and the cleanliness is commendable, creating a pleasant environment for all visitors.

Spirit Park symbolizes community, beauty, and culture in the heart of our city.

It's an experience that truly captures the spirit of our home.

Enjoy the Day at the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center

Whenever I have a day off, I gravitate towards the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center.

It's the perfect blend of history and interactive learning that genuinely brings the life and legacy of George Washington to life.

There's something so mesmerizing about this place that I can easily spend five hours or more exploring it.

The museum is filled with fascinating exhibits that provide a deeper understanding of Mount Vernon and its historical significance.

For instance, the George Washington Leadership exhibit is a personal favorite.

Not only does it offer an insight into Washington's leadership style, but it also imparts valuable leadership traits.

Each visit feels like a new learning experience.

Then there's the 4D movie theater. Yes, you read that right, 4D!

It's an immersive experience that makes history come alive, an adventure that takes you back in time, making you feel right there alongside our first President.

The center also offers an after-hours tour, which I heartily recommend.

There's nothing quite like roaming through the museum when it's almost empty.

It adds a sense of serenity, allowing you to appreciate the exhibits without distraction.

For those who have teenagers, trust me when I say they will love it too.

My kids can't get enough of the interactive displays, and they always leave with a newfound appreciation for history.

So, next time you're looking for a way to spend your day, consider the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center.

It's a journey through history that keeps calling you back for more.

Unearth the Giant at The Awakening

Daytime view of The Awakening
Lissandra Melo / Shutterstock.com

I can't count the number of times I've strolled by The Awakening, an iconic landmark sculpture at the National Harbor.

It's a sight you won't forget - a massive man eternally emerging from the ground.

Watching visitors marvel at the giant's face and limbs coming out of the earth is undeniably contagious.

It's an excellent place for a memorable family photo or a striking selfie.

The story behind this stunning sculpture is just as captivating.

Face of The Awakening
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

Initially, it was almost sold to a Japanese buyer, but a local businessman saved it, making it a landmark for all of us to admire.

I still remember witnessing its relocation to the National Harbor. It was quite a sight!

After exploring the sculpture, I often find myself strolling around the harbor.

The area is dotted with various restaurants, perfect for a post-adventure meal.

And for those interested in military history, there's a tribute site nearby with representations of all military branches.

The Awakening is a gateway to a day full of activities and exploration.

Hand of The Awakening
Chad Zuber / Shutterstock.com

Visit River Farm

Every time I step onto the luscious grounds of River Farm, I am always swept away by its breathtaking beauty.

I've watched the seasons change the face of the farm, and each transition brings out a fresh charm that captivates me anew.

Moreover, I've spent countless afternoons strolling around the vibrant gardens, past the beautifully manicured patios, and down to the serene water's edge.

One of the things I love most about River Farm is its versatility.

Whether it's an intimate outdoor wedding or a grand corporate event, the venue adds a touch of elegance and sophistication.

I've attended numerous weddings there, which always impresses me.

The backdrop of the farm and the water make it perfect for photo sessions, creating memories that will last a lifetime.

Catering is always top-tier, with a wide array of mouthwatering options.

I've seen them go above and beyond to ensure each event is memorable and runs smoothly.

As someone who lives in the area, I can say that River Farm is one of those gems that truly capture the heart and soul of our community.

Walk Among Giants at National Harbor

Every time I stroll along the scenic waterfront of my beloved town, I'm awestruck by the lifelike statues at National Harbor.

They embody the art and culture that permeates this city.

The statues add an intriguing dimension to the otherwise contemporary landscape of the harbor area.

It's almost surreal how real they look like they're about to step off their pedestals and join the bustling crowd of locals and tourists.

There's a certain charm in seeing these stone figures presiding over the harbor, silently witnessing the ebb and flow of life around them.

Even amidst the flurry of town events and daily happenings, they stand tall, casting a protective eye over the city they call home.

A part of me always wonders what stories they could tell if they were given a voice.

Next time you find yourself in the area, I encourage you to take a moment to appreciate these artistic marvels.

Take a Stroll through Potomac River Waterfront Park

Night scene at Potomac River Waterfront Park
Jon Bilous / Shutterstock.com

As the sun rises, I laced up my running shoes for an early morning jog at one of my favorite places, the Potomac River Waterfront Park.

It's a beautifully maintained trail with its vibrant mix of trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials.

The park's landscaping deserves a shout-out for its soothing effect on you.

Another one of my favorite things about this park? The plaques along the path provide plant and historical information.

I've learned a thing or two during my runs.

The trail starts at National Harbor, skirting the Little Bay and up a circular path leading to a pedestrian/bike bridge going over the I-495 beltway.

Now, the views from here are spectacular - National Harbor, Alexandria, and Washington DC all in one panorama.

And let's not forget about the wildlife.

On good days, I've spotted eagles flying overhead, which never fails to take my breath away.

Despite being close to the highway, the traffic noise is surprisingly minimal on the Maryland side.

In a way, the park serves as an oasis of tranquility amidst the city's hustle and bustle.

After my run, I usually explore National Harbor.

There's always a new restaurant to try or a shop to visit.

And, of course, visiting the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center is always a must.

With its paid parking facilities, the park is also conveniently accessible for those driving in.

Whether you're an enthusiastic runner, a casual walker, or a cyclist looking for a great trail, Potomac River Waterfront Park is a local gem that promises a great time.

Enjoy Unforgettable Nights at Bobby McKey's Dueling Piano Bar

Regarding live entertainment and musical virtuosity, nothing tops the nights I've spent at Bobby McKey's Dueling Piano Bar.

Not your typical bar, this place is a veritable symphony of sound where teams of pianists compete, playing to the crowd's requests while the entire staff dances along.

It's astounding how these artists easily command multiple instruments, from the piano to the drums and even more.

And let's not even get started on the fun vibes of the show bar!

Their range of cocktails and drinks is extensive and completely satisfying, not to mention the light fare they offer, adding a delightful pub-like touch to the experience.

And when it comes to the bill, don't forget - this is not just a bar, it's a performance!

The entertainers accept tips and juggle requests professionally and typically manage to incorporate them into their acts.

Trust me, you don't want to miss out on the fun.

Bobby McKey's Dueling Piano Bar is in the heart of the national harbor, an iconic location that only adds to its charm.

The performers are top-notch, often playing non-stop for hours, proving that their talent knows no bounds.

Moreover, the atmosphere is electric, with a dash of humor courtesy of the hilarious savant pianists and a pinch of safety from the excellent security.

Whether a casual night out or a special occasion, this place never fails to impress.

Take a Step Back in Time at Oxon Hill Manor

A mere stone's throw from the bustling National Harbor and right around the corner from the major highways that crisscross our town lies an oasis of tranquility and elegance: Oxon Hill Manor.

The moment you set foot on the well-manicured lawns of this historical site, you're transported back to a bygone era.

I've been to countless events at the Manor - weddings, receptions, even the odd corporate shindig.

It never fails to impress.

The Manor's setting exudes a sense of calm and grandeur, making guests feel like VIPs wrapped in the lush landscape.

Meanwhile, the artistic pieces scattered throughout the property add a dash of intrigue, and the holiday decor is always a hit.

Whether an outdoor summer event under the clear skies or a cozy winter gathering indoors, the Manor offers options for all.

I remember attending a morning wedding here.

The views of the Potomac were simply breathtaking.

Additionally, the house, always in immaculate condition, provided a much-needed respite from the summer heat.

The tent was spacious and elegant, housing over a dozen tables and a dance floor.

Meanwhile, the food at these events is always top-notch, with a variety that never fails to impress.

Ample parking at the Manor ensures a hassle-free experience for all guests.

If you're ever in town and planning an event, check out Oxon Hill Manor.

A girl on the Carousel
Nicole Glass Photography / Shutterstock.com

You haven't truly experienced the joy of National Harbor until you've taken a ride on our beloved Americana-themed carousel.

I tell you, stepping onto this carousel is like diving headfirst into a vibrant painting.

Each intricately painted animal that goes round and round carries a story. Trust me, the National Harbor Carousel is a ride and a work of art.

I typically park in the lot just in front and head straight for the fun.

It's also a beautiful ride down memory lane for adults.

Moreover, the ride is a bargain at just $7.00 for an all-day ticket ($5.00 if you're in the military).

The best part? Adults ride for free!

Just remember, they accept only debit or credit cards at the window.

Located right by the water's edge, adjacent to the towering Ferris wheel, the carousel is in a prime location.

There's ample seating for those who prefer to watch and a playground behind the ride.

It's a lovely spot to spend the morning or afternoon, especially on weekends.

The area is fenced, so you don't have to worry about the little ones wandering off.

Moreover, the carousel is well maintained, and each ride lasts for a few delightful minutes, set to modern, family-friendly music.

The Carousel at National Harbor is worth every penny and is a must-visit to create lasting memories with your family.

Discover the Hidden Gem of Piscataway Park

Sometimes, living here, I feel incredibly fortunate that I get to frequent Piscataway Park.

I've seen it in all seasons: the lush greenery of spring, the bright colors of fall, the stark beauty of winter, and the vibrancy of summer.

What I love most about Piscataway is that it's always full of surprises.

The park is a treasure trove of wetlands and woodlands, offering breathtaking views of the Potomac River.

I often find peace on the two boardwalks, just sitting and watching the river flow.

As I walk through the nature trails, each step I take seems to whisper stories of the land, painting vivid reminders of the area's rich history.

The fishing pier is another favorite spot of mine.

Something is soothing about casting a line into the serene water, waiting patiently for a bite.

It's a public pier, but you wouldn't know it with how quiet and peaceful it can be.

But the park isn't just about natural beauty.

From certain spots, you can see George Washington’s Plantation across the river.

It's a view that's steeped in history and one that never fails to captivate me.

There's still so much to explore and discover.

It might not be easy to find, but finding Piscataway Park is like discovering a hidden gem.

Enjoy a Leisurely Lunch at The Walrus Oyster & Ale House

It was a warm Saturday afternoon when I decided to treat myself to some good seafood at The Walrus Oyster & Ale House.

Nestled in the scenic backdrop of Potomac & Old Town Alexandria, this place is a gem for seafood lovers like me.

The whimsical spirit and the inviting aroma of fresh oysters instantly lifted my spirits.

I remember starting with the Oysters, which were fresh and perfectly shucked. The taste still lingers in my mouth.

Then I treated myself to their Crab Cake Sandwich, and oh boy, was it a delight! The flavors were excellent, and the price was a steal for such an exquisite delicacy.

The atmosphere of the place was warm and welcoming.

It wasn't too crowded that day, so I got a table outside, facing the beautiful view of the Potomac.

Watching the sunset while biting into my cinnamon rolls was a memorable experience.

I couldn’t help but notice a few patrons enjoying their Bloody Marys. Though I stuck to my ale, I made a mental note to try it next time.

My time at The Walrus Oyster & Ale House was filled with delicious food, breathtaking views, and a joyous spirit.

I am looking forward to my next visit and maybe bring a few friends to share this wonderful experience.

Enjoy an Evening at MGM National Harbor Hotel & Casino

Exterior of MGM National Harbor Hotel & Casino
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

It was another bustling Saturday evening when we decided to spice up our regular weekend routine and head to MGM National Harbor Hotel & Casino.

We weren't there for a room or to attend a concert; we were there for the sheer thrill of the gaming tables and the tantalizing cuisines.

You're greeted with an air of elegance and grandeur when you step into the hotel.

Likewise, you will feel a sense of excitement and wonder as you navigate through the glittering casino floor.

The atmosphere is electric - a perfect mix of high stakes and high spirits.

Apart from the casino, one of the highlights of our visit was the eclectic and artsy artwork gracing the halls of MGM.

It's like walking through an art gallery, each piece more intriguing than the last, reflecting the taste and sophistication that MGM is known for.

Now, let's talk about food. The hotel boasts multiple in-house restaurants and bars.

Water fountain at MGM National Harbor Hotel & Casino
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

Each is a culinary adventure, offering something different to suit every palate.

Our favorite was Shake Shack, where we savored the deliciously crispy fries and the refreshing Pomegranate Lemonade.

Beyond the casino and the dining, what truly sets MGM apart are the little extra touches.

An example is the stunning outdoor fountain featuring a picture projection screen.

It's the perfect spot to wind down after a rousing round at the gaming tables.

The MGM National Harbor Hotel & Casino provides a unique blend of entertainment, fine dining, and culture in our backyard.

It's truly a gem that adds to the charm of the National Harbor.

Interior of MGM National Harbor Hotel & Casino
Ritu Manoj Jethani / Shutterstock.com

Enjoy an Afternoon at the Potomac Paddle Club

It's hard to beat the serenity of watching the sun set over the Potomac River.

This has become my favorite afternoon pastime since I discovered the Potomac Paddle Club in Old Town Alexandria.

The tranquility offered by this place is unmatched.

Nestled within the historic and picturesque surroundings of Old Town Alexandria, the Club is a haven for lovers of water sports and nature.

My first visit to the club was rather spontaneous.

I had heard about it from a few friends, and one sunny afternoon, I decided to try it.

Paddling through the river was an exhilarating experience.

The club offers paddle boats that are comfortable and easy to maneuver.

Enjoy the unparalleled views of the Potomac River and the Washington Monument from the water!

It's a unique perspective that you can't get anywhere else.

After a few hours of paddling, I often find myself unwinding at the Club's waterfront patio.

I relish the stunning river view with a refreshing drink, waving at occasional paddlers drifting by.

Check out Potomac Paddle Club - Old Town Alexandria.

It's a place of tranquility amidst the hustle and bustle of the city, offering an experience that's both relaxing and invigorating.

Living nearby, I feel privileged to have access to such a place.

I wouldn't trade these serene afternoons for anything else.

Final Thoughts

National Harbor, Maryland, offers a diverse array of activities to explore.

Whether you're visiting for the first time or have lived here, National Harbor never ceases to captivate and surprise.

Visit National Harbor today!

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