A 35-minute water taxi ride from Old Town Alexandria will take you to the “Waterfront District,” also known as National Harbor. National Harbor is situated next to the Potomac River on 350 acres, and, believe it or not, is more than the MGM Hotel Casino. We’re talking 160 shops, 40 restaurants and eight hotels, which makes National Harbor a prime location for eating, drinking, shopping, hotel stays, and entertainment.
We highly recommend you take a day trip to National Harbor sooner rather than later, so check out this insider guide to know the ins and outs of everything the Waterfront District has to offer.
If you’re looking for a good breakfast option on the Harbor, or want to partake in “Sunday Fun-day” brunch, Granite City Brewery (GCB) is the place to go. This craft brewery and restaurant serves up more than just lunch and dinner, GCB has a hoppin’ Saturday breakfast and Sunday brunch (no pun intended). There are many food options, from build-your-own waffles and omelettes, to the classics like eggs Benedict or biscuits and gravy. And don’t worry, all the yummy brunch drinks are on the menu too, like mimosas and bloody Marys. Saturday breakfast hours are 9 to 11 a.m., and Sunday brunch hours are 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.
#FrayLife Tip: Boozy French toast sound good to you? Well then you need to try GCB’s Rumchata French Toast. Vanilla and cinnamon swirl bread is soaked in Rumchata custard and then griddled to golden-brown perfection. It’s a sweet way to start off your morning.
Maryland is known for its blue crabs, which means you can’t go to National Harbor and pass up the opportunity to eat some delicious crab cakes. The Crab Cake Cafe is a casual eatery that serves five different types of crab cake: Traditional Maryland, Shrimp and Crab, Hawaiian, Tex Mex, New Orleans and Firecracker. A variety of crab cake sandwiches are also on the menu, as well as the classic cream of crab soup.
#FrayLifeTip: Every good crab dish needs a tasty side. The Old Bay cheddar corn muffins are a must!
Head to Bond 45 for delicious New York-Italian fare, fresh seafood and juicy steaks. This is the restaurant’s only location besides the original in New York City. Choose to dine in the main dining room, or sip on refreshing cocktails at the bar lounge. There is also an outdoor patio where you can enjoy your food and drink along with beautiful views of the Potomac River.
If you’re looking for a place to have a romantic date night, then make a reservation at the Old Hickory Steakhouse, located inside the Gaylord National Hotel. Enjoy fine artisan, hand-crafted cheeses before dinner, followed by a 38 oz. Tomahawk Steak for two.
Maybe you have southern roots, maybe you don’t. Regardless, Chef Edward Lee can help you find some at Succotash, with southern-inspired dishes and beverages and a bit of an Asian kick. Southern staples like fried chicken and waffles, crisply local blue catfish and shrimp and grits are on the menu, in addition to Asian cuisine like succotash curry and kimchi.
If you’re in the mood for oysters, seafood and frozen drinks, head to The Walrus Oyster and Ale House for dinner. Oysters are $2.50 each and $30 for the chef’s dozen. Usually, visible tan lines are unwanted, but you’ll want The Walrus’ visible tan lines cocktail, made with pineapple cider, coconut rum, cinnamon, mint, lime and angostura bitters. If you want more than just oysters, try the lobster and crab roll, Chesapeake Bay lump crab cakes, or the shellfish bucatini.
#FrayLifeTip: Stop in The Walrus Monday – Friday from 3-6 p.m. for happy hour. Skipjack oysters are $1.50, and shared plates are $6. Draft beers and wines on tap are $2 off.
For all you craft beer lovers out there, The Brass Tap is your best bet outside of GCB. With 60 regional and national beers on tap, live music on the weekends, 15 TV screens and an outdoor patio, it’s a fun place to be. Stop by during happy hour for $5-8 food specials and $9 select draught flights.
#FrayLife Tip: Join The Brass Tap for karaoke on Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. and trivia night Wednesdays at 7:30 p.m.
When bartenders take the time and care to make you a perfectly crafted custom cocktail without rushing to the next person, you know you’re in a good bar. Lobby Bar inside MGM National Harbor does this and more. Let your bartender know what your drinking preferences are, and they will craft a cocktail suited to your (very) specific tastes.
#FrayLife Tip: If you’re a fan of a good old fashioned and open to a twist on the classic drink, give the Smoked Old Fashioned a shot.
Of course, we had to include the only dueling piano bar in the D.C. area, Bobby McKey’s. If you’re wanting a different, but fun way to spend your weekend, this place will give you what you’re looking for. There’s a full bar with a specialty cocktail menu, delicious bar food and, of course, talented performers that make all the fun. Beer towers are also available for purchase.
Looking for some extra fun on your taxi ride over? Check out these water taxi waterfront bar hops!
#FrayLife Tip: On Fridays there is a $7 cover charge and $10 on Saturdays. You can buy tickets to a show prior, or pay cover when you go for standing room only.
Have a sweet tooth that needs satisfying? Savannah Candy Kitchen will quickly become your best friend. This candy shop has a vintage feel to it, and will take you back to your childhood fantasies of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. The gelato itself is to die for, and you can’t go to Savannah’s without getting the freshly made pralines.
S’cream is a 50’s style ice cream shop located inside MGM National Harbor. All ice creams are made fresh daily by the resort’s pastry team. If you’re unsure of what to order, the banana pecan flavor gelato is super popular.
Take full advantage of the Tanger Outlets at National Harbor. Big brand name stores are at the outlets including Banana Republic, J. Crew, Michael Kors, Nike, Adidas and so many more. Only 25 minutes from the District (and less annoying of a drive home than the outlets at Leesburg), this is a great place to get all your shopping done at a good price.
The Waterfront District has many neat stores that are great places to buy a gift, or find a gem of a purchase. If you love kitchen products and cooking, then you will love Stonewall Kitchen. It has everything from dips, jams, spices and marinades to bar tools and glassware, cookware and home decor. Make sure to try the free samples too!
Del Sol is a color-changing clothing and accessories store, which is perfect if you’re going on vacation soon. Not to mention, color changing sunglasses would make a really cool gift. This store is a unique place to shop, as it is the only store of its kind in the area.
It’s hard to walk by Peeps and Company and not get lured inside by your own curiosity. Not only are there an endless amount of peeps candy in the store, but you can also create your own blend of Mike and Ike Candies! The store doesn’t just sell candy, however. Shirts, hats, mugs, stuffed animals and other accessories also line the walls of the store.
THINGS TO DO
Buy tickets to ride the Capital Wheel, where you will ascend 180 feet above the Potomac River and take in incredible views including the National Cathedral, Washington Monument, Masonic Temple, City of Alexandria, Prince George’s County and green parklands in the DMV. The wheel is open Monday to Sunday from 10 a.m. to midnight, and tickets are $15 a person.
#FrayLife Tip: Before riding the Capital Wheel, enjoy a cocktail at Flight Deck, an outdoor bar and lounge beside the wheel. To “sip while you soar,” purchase an $8 dollar souvenir cup, and bring your drink with you on the ride!
National Harbor shows free outdoor movies at the Plaza screen every Thursday at 7 p.m. for “Date Night,” and every Sunday at 6 p.m. for “Movies on the Potomac.” Nothing says summer like an outdoor movie and the beautiful waterfront. For a full schedule of what’s playing, click here.
#FrayLife Tip: Check out these other awesome spots for your next movie date night in DC!
Hit the Potomac River at National Harbor with Boating in DC. Rent a kayak, pedal boat, or stand-up paddleboard. For night owls, try the evening kayak tours. SUP classes and kayak classes are offered to help beginners familiarize themselves with the use of a paddle board or kayak on the water.
Become a pirate for a day, and go on an Adult B.Y.O.G (Bring your own grog) Cruise. Once on board, you and your “mates” will dress up in pirate gear and be given a pirate name. The cruise is an hour long, and passengers will partake in dancing, games and water cannon fights. Tickets are $25 a person.
#FrayLife Tip: Passengers are allowed to bring any alcoholic beverages and mixers on board in glass, plastic, or cans. No drinks or mixers are available for purchase on the ship, but small coolers are allowed.
MGM National Harbor is the newest entertainment addition to the Harbor. It’s a luxury resort that features restaurants (including a Jose Andres restaurant, Fish) bars, lounges, a spa and salon, retail stores, a concert venue and a casino. Attend a concert at The Theater, an intimate entertainment destination with 3,000 seats which has hosted artists like Boyz II Men, Cher, Bruno Mars, and Britney Spears.
There you have it. Now that you know the most fun things to do in National Harbor, it’s time to get out and go do them.
When you decide to make a day trip and check out any of the places we’ve mentioned, don’t forget to tag us on social using #FrayLife!
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