by Erica Lamberg
There’s no doubt about it, a visit to the Washington, D.C. area offers an experience that’s truly monumental. For a family escape close to Washington, D.C., the Gaylord National Resort & Conference Center, located in National Harbor, Maryland, is a full-service hotel that is also the only waterfront resort in the Washington, D.C. area. I recently visited Gaylord National with my family and thoroughly enjoyed the property’s family amenities, which were within a short distance to the history and sites of Washington, D.C, Mount Vernon and Alexandria Virginia.
As the focal point of National Harbor, Gaylord National Resort is a popular destination in the Mid-Atlantic market. Family-friendly dining, entertainment, a junior-Olympic-sized indoor swimming pool, shopping, outdoor fun along the riverfront and spectacular family special events are just part of the reason to plan a visit. And, within minutes, the museums, monuments and other exciting attractions — many of which are free — are also part of the fun. The setting on the Potomac River seems a world away from the urban hustle and bustle, but area attractions are within a short distance: 10 minutes to Old Town Alexandria, Va.; 15 minutes to the National Mall, U.S. Capitol and the Smithsonian; 15 minutes Mount Vernon; and 20 minutes to Georgetown.
The resort takes advantage of its waterfront location by offering water taxi service to popular nearby destinations (Mount Vernon, Old Town Alexandria, Georgetown) as well as scenic cruise tours of the Potomac River — all from the resort’s private pier.
An added convenience is the Resort’s connection to the attractions in the region with shuttle services running continuously to Old Town Alexandria (King Street Metro station), Washington, D.C, (Old Post Office and Union Station) and the area’s three major airports.
Our Editor Loves
- Potomac River setting
- Summer and winter festivals
- Indoor play area with splash fun
- Theme Park
- Family Room 5+
- Game Room
- Kids' Theme Meals
- Onsite Dining
Rooms & Rates
Gaylord National Resort has 2,000 guest rooms with both standard guest rooms and suites, which make great choices for a family stay. Rooms feature classical design influences inspired by the National Capital region, with views of the Maryland hillside, Potomac Riverfront and the resort's dramatic atrium. All rooms feature flat-screen TVs, high-speed, wireless Internet access, iPod docking stations, mini refrigerators stocked daily with two bottles of water, and sitting areas with coffee tables and an oversized sofa or chair. Standard rooms provide king or queen beds in 400 square feet of space, while 110 suites provide 800 to 2,800 square feet of space. Our junior suite, outfitted with nautical touches, included a sofa bed, so we had plenty of room, as well as sleeping space for everyone.
For a little more bang for the buck, select one of the eight concept suites, expertly designed to feature their own signature color palette and custom furnishings; one of five hospitality suites, featuring classical designs with nautical touches; or one of six presidential suites featuring residential-inspired opulence.
by Annette M
Beautiful Resort! Everything was nice the rooms were nice except your could hear the people next door talking. The food was good for the conference. Everything is way overpriced in all of the shops. We walked down to CVS to purchase drinks and kept in our room they do have a refrigerator in the room. We could purchase a case for what they charged for one. Walked across the street into National Harbor to eat meals that the conference did not provide.
by Macarena S
Stayed at this hotel for 8 days while attending 2 conferences. The hotel is massive but well organized. The rooms were spacious and clean. I had a suite with an inside balcony.
The convention center is fantastic. Very large and spacious. Very busy hotel for conferences!
Children will feel at home at the Gaylord National Resort. Upon check-in, children are given a colorful activity booklet with crayons and inside they will find a scavenger hunt activity to search for a stuffed bear in the lobby area. (A nice gift to give parents an uninterrupted chance to check in, as well.) Through clues they find the furry friend, and upon finding him, they approach the front desk where they are given a sweet treat!
Potomac Playzone Arcade
Kids can unwind in the Potomac Playzone Arcade, located on the lower lever, between the fitness center and the pool. The Arcade features a few games and a pool table. While here, youngsters and teens can enjoy a variety of video games. Parents accompany most younger children, while teens visit on their own, so decide for yourself if your children are old enough to hang with the big kids.
Just a short walk through doors from the Playzone awaits the junior-Olympic indoor pool with splash fountains. While the lifeguard-manned pool is a lap pool for adults looking to squeeze in some fitness, families are welcome to play. In the warmer months, the pool becomes an "open air" pool, as the front doors open to a gorgeous sun deck and resort-style pool bar. Pool hours are 5 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.
Performing Water Fountain
Another popular attraction in the hotel is an indoor water fountain that "performs" shows nightly. The fountain sprays, 37 individual jets shooting water up to 50 feet in height, are perfectly synchronized to lights, special effects and a patriotic musical score
During SummerFest at the resort, Memorial Day Weekend thru Labor Day Weekend, and Christmas on the Potomac, Mid-November through mid-January, free Dive-In Pool Movie for families are offered at 8:30 p.m. During the summer, family classics and animated movies are featured, while during the winter months, family classic holiday movies and animated movies are shown.
The resort is happy to direct families looking for fun off-resort, such as the one-mile walking/biking trail that runs along the scenic Potomac River. The resort offers onsite seasonal bike rentals. Bike rentals are offered seasonally between the months of May through October for a fee.
National Harbor's Pirate Ship
Located just two blocks from the hotel is the new National Harbor's Pirate Ship, a ropes course, rock climbing wall and zip line like none you've ever seen. Families can climb the main ship, a three-story sailing ship with 15 high rope elements; the clipper ship, with lower rope elements; and a standalone lighthouse, featuring a 400-foot zip-line platform and 30-foot-high rock-climbing wall. The grounds also provide more fun with a treasure map for exploring and a balancing puzzle. The attraction is open seasonally to the public on weekends May through November from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Moon Bay Coastal Cuisine
This casual eatery feature seafood direct from the Chesapeake Bay. Children can select seafood for traditional fare from the kids' menu, while watching the chefs prepare the dishes at the show kitchen.
Old Hickory Steakhouse
This onsite restaurant is a sophisticated steakhouse with a serious menu offering traditional selections. Don't worry about bringing kids, though. My family dined here and my children ordered a small cut of filet mignon and really enjoyed the attentive service and ambience. I brought them a deck of cards and they had crayons and the hotel's activity book to keep them busy, but if you need a restaurant to provide children's activities and kids' menus, this may not be the place for you.
Pienza Italian Market
This dining area offers six market-inspired stations reflecting seasonal changes, including artisan bread and antipasto station, a fresh produce market station, a rotisserie and carving station, pasta and pizza station and a traditional sweet shop. Children's choices are plentiful.
National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill
The official sports bar of the Washington Nationals features a sports-lover's paradise boasting a 30-foot high-definition video wall and sports memorabilia. Visitors will enjoy unique sports artifacts, including a hand-carved, life-size statue of Maryland native Babe Ruth.
Grab and go at the resort's convenient quick stop serving coffee, salads and sandwiches and freshly baked pastries.
Boathouse Pool Bar
If the unique indoor/outdoor pool isn't the only liquid refreshment you're looking for, visit the poolside cabana for a cool, colorful drink and a fresh bite to eat. Quick bites and drinks are offered so kids can get snacks and a light lunch while still suited up and soaking wet.
Planning & Tips
All About the Extras
The onsite fitness center is equally impressive. It is a 24-hour fitness center with sophisticated fitness equipment available, including cardio equipment outfitted with personal televisions.
The resort's "Consider It Done" concept provides a button on every guest phone as part of the hotel's commitment to meet the needs of every hotel guest. By pressing the button, guests can ask requests or request services.
By air, the closest airport is Reagan National Airport (DCA), where paid shuttles, taxis and limos can be arranged. Other airports servicing Washington, D.C., a little further afield, are Dulles International Airport (IAD) and Baltimore-Washington International Airport (BWI).
By car, Gaylord National is 15 minutes due south of Washington, D.C. --just off the Capital Beltway (I-95/I-495) -- making it an easy drive from the surrounding Maryland and Virginia areas.
Gaylord provides valet as well as self-parking with daily rates $28 and $19 per day, respectively.
There are a variety of ways to around from the Gaylord, perhaps the most exciting for kids: the Potomac Riverboat Water Taxi, which are narrated with history, folklore, and current points of interest, and depart several times daily from the Gaylord National and National Harbor piers. Service is offered between Old Town Alexandria, Mount Vernon Estate and Georgetown, seven days a week. Hours and schedules vary. For tickets, schedules and pricing, visit the Tour & Transportation Desk (in the hotel lobby) or www.potomacriverboatco.com.
Instead of driving around Washington, D.C. and the surrounding historic areas, a number of shuttles, buses and taxis are available. National Harbor and the Gaylord National Hotel are connected to the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), or Metro, system, via a limited-stop bus route. The NH1 MetroBus picks up right across the street from the resort every 30 minutes and costs $1.70 per person, each way.
The Art of Smart Timing
The hotel is most crowded is spring and fall, when the area weather is at its most mild and most beautiful. (Think Cherry Blossom season!) The least crowed time is winter from early January through mid-March. The winter holiday season, from mid-November through early January, provides the best rates, and Gaylord National hosts "Christmas on the Potomac" and "ICE!" every holiday season, November through early January. During this time, the resort becomes a magical place filled with holiday decorations, indoor snowflakes and a walk-thru ice sculpture wonderland.
Most facilities are open all year, except the boathouse pool bar, which is only open seasonally. Bike rentals are only available during warm-weather months.
For Mom and Dad
Gaylord's Posh Ultra Lounge, located on the 18th floor of the resort, is a late-night hot spot. Open 9 p.m. to 2 a.m., nightly entertainment, dancing and cocktails can top off a perfect date night.
The Gaylord National Resort provides parents with an outside nanny service for in-room babysitting. White House Nannies babysitting services can be arranged through the Concierge Desk.
Relache Spa and Fitness Center is a must-visit while here. Appropriately named Relache, which is French for relax or respite, the spa has a European flavor with its sassy decor. Eleven treatment rooms, including a couples' suite, the spa offers a variety of signature services and treatments to promote relaxation.