Last weekend was sunny, warm and the perfect day to spend on the waterfront, so my boyfriend decided to surprise me with a trip to National Harbor. We have tickets later in November for Kooza, which will be set-up on a lawn somewhere at the Harbor, so Matt thought it would be nice for us to walk around and visit before it gets too cold. So we headed on over.
National Harbor would be smart growth defined (if only it had public transit included) – it’s home to restaurants, hotels, the obvious harbor, condos, a troubled farmer’s market, shopping, and office space. And it’s perfectly manicured. I’m positive that somewhere in their marketing and advertising literature someone calls it ‘luxury living defined’. Which also makes it just a touch creepy. (I sometimes have a problem with perfection. Weirds me out.) But hey, on a day designed for us to play tourist, it’s perfect.
We went by water taxi, taking the National Harbor/Alexandria boat run by the Potomac River Boat Company. I have no idea how other people get there but the water taxi was packed and very popular. (I do believe you can drive, but why drive when you can go by boat?) The Potomac River Boat Company runs two taxis from Alexandria over to the Harbor. There are two docks, both a south dock at the Gaylord and the north dock at the Awakening statue, so you have plenty of choice on departure times. Very convinent and affordable. We paid $14 per person, round trip.
We chose the south dock, because I was feircely curious about the monstrocity that is the Gaylord. It is HUGE. In fact, the Web site says “[the] Gaylord National [is] the largest hotel in the Washington, D.C. area and the largest non-gaming combined hotel and convention center on the entire east coast.” It’s big. I’m not kidding. We strolled right into the hotel, which is basically a huge atrium, with hotel rooms facing inwards overlooking three stories of shops, and a bunch of restaurants. It’s GINORMOUS.
I’m not really doing it justice with that picture, but you get the idea. With 2,000 rooms the place is, well, large. I’m running out of synoyms for big, here. It’s worth the spectacle, it really is. We took the glass elevators up to the 17th floor (as high as it’ll let you go) and peered out the window. The view was amazing. You could see all of Old Town, down the Potomac to the Capitol and the Monument. We certainly weren’t the first with that idea, either. While we were up there four other groups came to look out the window. It is definitley one of the best views of the city I’ve ever seen!
So after checking out the Gaylord, we went to walk around the rest of the Harbor. It’s not too terribly big, I think it’s got maybe three street levels, but they sure do pack it in. There’s a Cake Love, a Potbellys, a Ben and Jerrys, and much much more to come. Rosa Mexicana just recently opened a location there, and I’m dying to try Ketchup when it opens. Just be warned, the lines in the places that are open are intense. And not very efficient. We left Ben and Jerrys three times before finally sucking it up and waiting literally twenty minutes in line. (I really wanted Half-Baked, okay?) Potbellys wasn’t much better either. I’m used to the super-fast Potbellys on L (the one at 19th and at 17th) – both are the pinnacle of efficent lunch-time lines. Trust me, the National Harbor Potbellys did NOT get the memo and does not have it down. So if you want to eat anything, be prepared to wait in long, slow lines. They’re opening a gelato place soon, which might help alleviate the Ben and Jerrys line that was ridiculously long, but consider yourself warned.
So we took our long-awaited Potbellys and sat on the steps down to the Awakening. Yup, folks, this is the “undisclosed” “secret” re-location location of the Awakening statue. I never saw it in its first location, Hains Point, but this one is fine. It’s pretty, the harbor in the background and all. I the best thing I saw was some girl stand in the face’s mouth to take a picture.
All in all, worth the trip, especially if you love to be on the water like I do, or want to spend a nice afternoon outdoors. Have you been? What did you think? Tell me in the comments!