[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.
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.
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).
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.
Tickets 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, and 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.