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Washington DC is one of the most popular tourist spots in the nation due to it’s one of a kind architecture, history, various sporting teams, and of course, world class entertainment. This always makes for large crowds and lots of traffic. But, what if I told you there was another option for family fun outside of DC? What if I told you that you didn’t have to fight all of traffic and much of what you seek is just a stone throws away? Expedia asked me to share some of my tips and tricks for family fun just outside of DC. Although there are endless activities to keep you busy in DC (see all things to do in DC on Expedia.com), it’s time you learned more about the National Harbor in Maryland.
I live in one of the hottest tourist spots in the nation. Cuddled less than 30 minutes outside of Washington DC in the suburbs of Maryland.
Whenever friends and family come to visit, they want to see the sights and sounds of DC. I don’t blame them.
Places like the National Museum of African American History, Washington Monument and Museum of the Bible are sights you just can’t see anywhere else and that’s not even scratching the service. There are sporting events, comedy shows, plays and of course political satire. But sometimes, the crowds get to be just a bit too much.
The National Museum African American History , although still free, require reservations to visit. The recent addition of “Walk Up Wednesdays” in April and May and now “Walk Up Weekdays” in September, may allow visitors some glimmer of hope if haven’t planned their schedules months in advance. However, admission is not guaranteed.
The truth is, no place is quite like downtown Washington DC. But what if told you that there was a way to get your mega dose of family fun and entertainment with less crowds and significantly less traffic? Would you want to check it out?
The National Harbor in Maryland is exactly that. A unique combination of dining, events, activities, shopping and more. And with a plethora of hotels in and around the harbor, using Expedia allows you to get great rates with the type of family accommodations that your family need to be comfortable and enjoy their stay.
In fact, this year marks the National Harbor’s 10 year anniversary so there are sure to be lots of surprises. Just search “#nh10yr” on Facebook or Instagram to learn more.
There are restaurants to suit every taste and palate. In my family’s case, a gluten free palate. Visit Grace’s Mandarin for Asian Fusion complete with gold painted statues and Asian themed decor.
Rosa Mexicano offers Mexican dining. You have to try the fresh guacamole. They make it right in front of you. More casual dining options include Mason’s (known for their famous Lobster rolls, Nandos and the Crab Cake Cafe. I mean if you’re going to come to the DC metro area, might as well have crab cakes right?
Succotash serves up Southern favorites and Pretty Girl Cupcakery has the most darling decor. Plus, they serve gluten free cupcakes as well!
You’re going to have a hard time just having one cupcake as I did for my son’s recent 5th birthday. Order ahead if you need more than a couple because they can run out, especially on the weekends.
Music and Events
There are lots of hotel options at the National Harbor. The newest of the bunch is MGM National Harbor and Casino. I love how Expedia makes it easy to secure hotel reservations and read other guest reviews before you book. At MGM National Harbor, not only is there adult gaming and world class dining options by restaurateurs like Jose Andres, but MGM draws big music acts such as Duran Duran, Bruno Mars, Lionel Ritchie, Britney Spears and Jill Scott. Comedy enthusiasts will be be glad to know that George Lopez has graced the stage.
In addition, the DC metro area is not a novice when to comes to the boxing scene. MGM has also been known to host Vegas caliber fights. Later this holiday season, MGM National Harbor will again host Cirque Dream Holidaze with four amazing performances starting on December 20th through December 23rd.
The National Harbor has a few options for those that came to shop. There are family friendly nationally recognized brands like Build a Bear, to small local boutiques like Pinktini for something for mom. For a more robust shopping experience, head to Tanger Outlets for the usual mall suspects.
If you want family entertainment, look no further than at the National Harbor. A typical summer weekend stay may include eyeing the fruits and veggies at a weekend Farmer’s Market, collecting treasure aboard a Urban Pirates sail and sitting on the lawn with your family to watch the Little Rascals movie.
But that’s not all, the kids can get lost in the sand playing at the “Awake” statue… known to tire kids out and great for picture taking and memory archiving.
After that, a spin on the Ferris Wheel will give one of a kind views of the Potomac River.
Save the nearby Dippin’ Dot treat for after the Ferris Wheel ride just in case.
Queasy stomachs have a tendency of ruining family trips. Depending on the time of year, follow it up with top entertainment like that found at UniverSoul Circus and Cirque du Soleil.
Summer Fridays at the National Harbor also include games like hula hoop, hop scotch and corn hole. Health enthusiasts can indulge in free fitness classes like yoga, zumba and cardio boxing.
And how about this for family fun? Bobby McKey’s, typically known for their rousing Dueling Piano Bar entertainment (popular with adults), has kids days throughout the year for music appreciation and great family fun.
During the holiday season, summer at the National Harbor transforms to festive lights and sounds. Christmas tree lighting, light shows, cookie decorating and Gaylord’s National ICE are just some of the activities you and your family can choose from. ICE brings visitors from all over the world as they marvel at over 5,000 pounds of ICE carved into the most beautiful sculptures. In fact, you can get early bird tickets for ICE until October 1st. Many of these holiday activities and events take place at the Gaylord National Hotel, a Marriott property.
Christmas at the National Harbor is a popular time of year and reservations can go fast.
After all of that fun, if you still want to head into DC and get a taste of some of the sights and sounds of the city there’s a cool way to do it. Companies like Potomac River Boat sail from the National Harbor to the National Mall and back. Get your fill of attractions like the Washington Monument, Jefferson Memorial, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. memorial and your choice of endless museums.
But at the end of a long day, if you’re searching for a little something different from the DC scene…you can always come back to the National Harbor.
Dr. Lisa is a pharmacist turned holistic food and healthy living expert following her passion for all things healthy food, well-being with lots of travel in between. Follow this mom of two as she shows you how to "write your own prescription using whole foods to fuel whole living", on The Domestic Life Stylist.