Gaylord National invited me and my family for a complimentary overnight stay. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
If you know Gaylord, you know a few things:
- They are massive hotels popular with the convention crowd
- They have a beautiful enclosed atrium that offers year-round recreation
- They’re famous for their annual ICE! show featuring elaborate carved ice sculptures from Chinese artisans
The Gaylord National is situated on a revitalized area just outside of Washington, DC in an area known as National Harbor. It’s well over an hour from my house and yet we only seem to visit during the Christmas holiday season when the famed ICE! show is in full swing.
That’s what we did last November and visiting the sub-freezing exhibit and spending time at the Christmas Village got us totally in the mood for the holiday season. What surprised us, though, was how much the area around the Gaylord National had “grown up” with tons of quaint shops, fun restaurants, and family-friendly attractions.
The only problem is that it’s rather cold during the November/December/January timeframe, when most people embrace all things holiday. So why not visit during the summer?
The Gaylord National invited me and my family to spend the day (and night) exploring all of the sights and sounds of summer in the National Harbor. Just as our November visit got us in the mood for the holiday season, this quick family getaway got us totally in the mood for summer vacation season!
Checking In at the Gaylord National
One of the things I love about the Gaylord National is that you can park at the parking garage attached to the hotel and pretty much forget about your car while you’re there. The walking is manageable and enjoyable with tons of scenic views. But before we get there, let’s worry about the hotel itself.
My family, like me, doesn’t really settle in to any trip until we have established our home base, namely the hotel. We had a two queen, balcony room that overlooked the Atrium. It was spacious enough for us to spread out but the balcony gave us an “escape” if it got a little too close for comfort.
And BONUS! We were able to watch the nightly laser show right from our balcony! (more on that below).
If you’re checking in, don’t forget to make a meaningful memory (like ours) with the step and repeat display right by the registration desk.
Exploring National Harbor
When I first visited National Harbor over 5 years ago, it was barely a blip on the map. We had to walk quite a ways to find a restaurant that wasn’t under construction and that was open!
Now, just steps from the front door of Gaylord National Harbor, you’ll find tons of unusual shops, like PEEPS, Georgetown Co. Olive Oil (where we had way too many tastings), and Alex and Ani where I splurged and bought the Wonder Woman bracelet!
After a little shopping, we explored the harbor area by conquering… THE CAPITAL WHEEL!
Yes, I was frightened. Yes, Evan was frightened. But we loaded up into our own air-conditioned pod and soon were off for a 7 minute ride (the crowds were minimal so our ride might have been a little longer than normal). I came off a fan. Evan came off… still frightened. But it was a beautiful view!
We spent a few more minutes in a little sandy alcove complete with a kid-friendly, climbable sculpture called The Awakening and took the scenic route back.
Cooling Off with Musical Entertainment – Poolside!
It was a hot afternoon so we headed back to the hotel to check out the pool. It’s an indoor pool so it’s open rain or shine but it’s surrounded by large doors that open to the outside.
With the Aquafina® Summer Movie Matinees, kids can enjoy playing in the pool while watching a movie shown every Saturday at 4pm. The day we arrived, kids were glued to the screen watching Sing!
Grown-ups, on the other hand, can hang out poolside (or in the water), relax in the sun just outside and even grab a drink from the poolside bar.
Dinner and Dancing – With the Kids
We skipped the water and movie and headed for our room to get ready for dinner. After dinner at the National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill (family-friendly food with great beer selection for adults), we headed to the Atrium for a private party of sorts.
We were the guinea pigs for a brand new event called the Summer PJ Party where families can experience the latest dancing rage – The Silent Disco. Have you heard of it? It’s an actual thing. Participants are given special headphones to wear and select from music mixes just for kids (think pop, 80s, and Disney radio).
If you feel self-conscious dancing in public, then multiply that by 10. You’ll be listening to music and dancing and everyone else watching (and NOT wearing headphones) will just think you look foolish. But I didn’t care and worked up a good sweat, or rather, “glow” at the dance party.
An Evening on the Balcony
The last event of the evening was the new laser show in the Atrium, Americana. Every night at 9pm, guests can gather in the Atrium (or from their balcony!) for a new laser light show that celebrates the Music of America throughout the ages. Kids will probably want to stay below to enjoy the accompanying dancing fountain brought to life with the music.
SummerFest at Gaylord National featuring Music of America
Looking for a fun, laid back, entertaining, active, relaxing (or whatever you want to make it) family-friendly getaway that’s close to DC? Check out SummerFest at Gaylord National featuring Music of America.
Starting at $299 per night, you’ll get accommodations, $100 resort credit, two Capital Wheel tickets, and self-parking. And you’ll create summer memories for the whole family!
I’ve stayed at the Gaylords in Nashville and Orlando, but never been to this closest-to-home one. Looks like a fun area to visit and explore. We may have to check it out sometime. I could really use a few days away!
I’ve been to the Gaylord in Nashville and Dallas and while there are similarities, I love this one the most. You don’t feel “trapped” in the biodome as there’s so much to get out and see and do as a family! Plus (and I didn’t get a chance to mention this) there’s a casino and outlet mall nearby!
An outlet mall? This just keeps getting more appealing. And how far is it from downtown DC and the attractions?
You’d definitely have to drive there but it’s about 20 minutes to the National Mall (where EVERYTHING is)
Oh, that’s not bad at all (we live where we have to drive to get to anything, so we’re used to that!)