We’ve been to National Harbor several times since it opened back in 2008. The waterfront destination on the Potomac River in Prince George’s County, Md, hosts annual holiday events, was home to the National Children’s Museum for awhile, and has become a destination for many touring shows — all of which have brought us there at different times. But, aside from a water taxi adventure a few years ago, we’d never really gone to hang out and and enjoy the ongoing activities and attractions.
That changed recently when we were invited to spend a day there to get the fuller National Harbor experience. We were especially excited about going for a spin on the Capital Wheel, since we hadn’t yet been, and it’s a unique pursuit in the area (it’s covered here on KFDC, but in a guest post by a friend). I was also really interested to see what a day there would be like, since previously we’d always gone with a specific event to attend.
Once we arrived there and got our bearings about us, we didn’t waste any time heading for what we’d been anticipating most: The Capital Wheel. How cool to ride 180 feet in the air over the Potomac, taking in views of the DC skyline and the Harbor scene below! Even in gray, hazy weather, we could see the Washington Monument across the river and enjoy the open vistas around us. The whole ride lasted about 15 minutes, then we were ready to eat and explore some more.
We were set up with lunch at Potbelly, but there are over 30 dining options at National Harbor, everything from quick eateries to nicer restaurants. A bunch are located around the Plaza, convenient to most of the big attractions, and others are an easy stroll away.
After lunch, we stopped in the Peeps store, where the kids indulged in some samples before heading down to The Awakening. If you’ve been in DC awhile, you probably remember the massive sculpture of the giant emerging from the ground at Hains Point. The striking work (or works, since it’s in several parts) now resides at National Harbor, the enormous man surfacing on a sandy beach along the Potomac. Visitors are welcome to climb and play on it, and Owen and Sasha had a blast crawling around his head and scaling his huge foot.
It was time for some fun on the water after that; our invitation included a rental from Boating in DC. They have kayaks, stand-up paddleboards, and pedal boats, and we opted for the boat, so we could all go together (kids need to be at least 8 to kayak or paddleboard solo, and Sasha is only 6). The pedal boats are cute, shaped like dragons and swans. It was quick and easy to get one, and we were soon out on the water, drifting around and taking in cool views of the Capital Wheel and surrounds.
Back on land, the kids were ready for a spin on The Carousel, which features a herd of whimsical creatures and the sparkling Potomac as a backdrop. It’s $7 for each rider, which sounds like a lot, BUT they can ride an unlimited number of times. I don’t know about your kids, but mine always beg to go again (and again), so this actually kind of seems like a deal. Right next to the carousel on one side are tables where parents can sit and relax while their kids ride (if they are old enough to go solo). And on the other side is a playground, so you can easily move right on to more fun. We skipped the playground, instead making our way to SPAGnVOLA Chocolatier for gelato and some sweet treats to bring home.
There’s even more to do at National Harbor — lots of shopping, a farmer’s market, free movies and sports viewing on a Jumbotron in the Plaza, and water taxi rides to Old Town among them. But a good four hours after beginning our National Harbor experience, we decided to call it a day — a fun one, at that!
Ready to make a day of it at National Harbor? Here are some details to help you plan:
* The Capital Wheel is open daily from 10am – 11pm. Tickets are $15/ages 12-60, $13.75/ages 60+, $11.25/ages 3-11, free for 2 and under.
* Boating in DC is open 11am – 7:30pm weekdays & 9am – 7:30pm weekends through Labor Day, then 11am – 6:30pm Wednesday – Friday & 9am – 6:30pm weekends through October 4. Rentals are $30/pedal boat, $15/single kayak, $20/double kayak, $20/paddleboard. Note: The 2021 season begins in May.
* The Carousel is open daily, 12-8pm, starting March 27, 2021. Unlimited rides are $7.
* National Harbor sponsored our experience, however, there are activities available at all price points.
* For more information about National Harbor attractions, visit the website.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by National Harbor, however, I only promote programs, events, and services that I truly believe in and/or think would appeal to KFDC readers, and all opinions expressed here are entirely my own.
6 Responses to Make a Family Day of it at National Harbor this Summer
You also forgot the price of parking. It can get pricey depending on how long you are there.
The prices quoted are very expensive. It is a sad commentary on a kid friendly publication. You may research more affordable kid friendly dc to equalize the fun and experience for all.
Hi Margo – Sorry you feel that way! I don’t think it’s sad to include all kinds of activities at varying prices on a kid-friendly blog… I like to inform readers of what’s out there and let them make decisions about what is worth it, since everyone has their own opinions about that. Yes, things can add up if you do them all at once, but you also can do one at a time. And as mentioned in the post, there are things to do at National Harbor at various price points — even for free! Also, if you read more of the blog, you will find there are TONS of ideas for activities around DC that don’t cost a thing. 🙂
Hi Linda. No need to feel “sorry” I feel that way. You well documented the pricey price points of the major attractions of “kid friendly” national habor place.
Why would one drive and drive and drive around the beltway to P.G. County to walk with children in tow past very expensive ticketed attractions…i.e. carousel, the capital wheel, boating, …so children can watch a free movie?….or climb the “awakening” in a lovely sanded pit on a hot …very hot summer day?….Thank you for the warning. I can do better.
Thanks for the review! We have visited National Harbor a few times and enjoy the sanded area of Awakening and walking along the waterfront. It is also an easy bike trip from Old Town for those concerned about parking fees. Also enjoy the gift shop where you can take your picture behind the Presidential podium (my apologies, the name escapes me). In Nashville, you can walk through the Gaylord/Marriott hotel gardens even if you are not a guest. Curious if you know if you can do this at National Harbor? Thanks so much!
Hi MiCa – I have been to the Gaylord without being a guest, and they seem welcoming to all. I don’t know if there is a garden, but I’m petty sure anyone can enjoy the indoor courtyard area and restaurants.