The Beckoning, abstract sculpture by Albert Paley, at National Harbor entrance
National Harbor is a new mixed-use (retail, office, residential, recreational) development in Prince George's County, Maryland. It's located across the state line from Washington, DC, and just across the Potomac River from Virginia. National Harbor opened in 2008 and has quickly become a destination for tourists and locals alike (and a community with its own postal code). On a beautiful Memorial Day holiday weekend, we decided to check it out.
National Harbor is not that far from Springfield. It's a 12 mile (20 km) drive along I-95 and over the Woodrow Wilson Bridge across the Potomac. National Harbor now has its own exit from I-95, which leads one directly into the heart of the complex.
National Plaza at National Harbor
Much construction is still going on, but several hotels, a convention center, shops, and restaurants are open, along with condos and apartments. National Harbor made the news this past week when the Disney corporation announced plans to build a resort at the location. We took a drive around the complex first and saw the now-empty land on which Disney plans to build. Great location, with a commanding view of the river and the bridge to Virginia! Then, it was time to park the car. There is no on-street free parking. One must park in one of the numerous parking gararges and we easily found one at the corner of Fleet Street and Mariner Passage. (It seems nearly every other building is a parking gararge. Car parking is a major industry here.)
We walked down Mariner Passage to National Plaza, the center of the development.
On the river, the plaza has several docks and a performance stage. A vistor center has a large model of the projected developments still to come. Also located here is The Awakening
outdoor sculpture by J. Seward Johnson, jr. (The Awakening used to be located at Hains Point in Washington, but was moved to National Harbor. See the Hains Point
entry in my Washington blog.) The Awakening, consisting of five aluminum body parts depicting a giant emerging from out of the earth, is installed in a large "sandbox" right at the water's edge. I was glad to see it is still open for all ages to explore, touch, and climb upon. (Very popular for photo ops, too!) We all wanted to see this item.
The Awakening is the centerpeice for a number of public art displays around the development, most comissioned for National Harbor. Nearby on the plaza was the McCormick & Schmick's Harborside retaurant where we enjoyed lunch.
After lunch, Susan and I walked out on the piers for a view from the river back towards the complex. (Julia and friend stayed for a closer view of The Awakening.) A Water Taxi arrived from Alexandria, bringing visitors from across the Potomac. A Water Taxi boat departs every half hour to two hours, traveling to Old Town Alexandria and also to Georgetown in Washington, DC. Looks like a pleasant way to travel!
The retail shops, like Fossil, did not lure us inside. Instead, we walked along the riverfront to the Gaylord National Resort.
Water Taxi to Alexandria, Virginia
The Gaylord is easily the largest structure at National Harbor, housing a hotel and convention center. Everything about the hotel is on a grand scale! A large fountain of dancing waters plays in front. The 18-story atrium contains the hotel lobby, an interior fountain, restaurants, and two full-sized colonial themed buildings housing gift and apparel shops. A number of detailed sand sculptures were on display inside the atrium. The themed "SunSational" sculptures have been set up for the SummerFest promotion at the hotel. Most of the sculptures are themed on images of Americana, tieing in with the proximity to Washington. But, there was also a mermaid sculpture. (Albeit next to a seafood restaurant!)
National Harbor looks like it will continue to grow. It has been a boon to Maryland, offering new jobs to Prince George's County as well as the neighboring District of Columbia. Clearly the developers view it as a "base camp", as a spokesperson recently put it, for vistors to the National Capital region.
National Harbor Restaurants, Cafes & Food review
Lunch at McCormick & Schmick's Harborside
McCormick & Schmick's new location at National Harbor offers a variety of fresh seafood fare. Our waiter told us the menu is reprinted twice a day as … read entire review