This is the first of a series of posts as a National Harbor ‘Funbassador’, but all opinions (and photos!) are my own.
National Harbor is a waterfront destination on the banks of the Potomac River in Maryland, just south of Washington, DC. Maura wanted to celebrate her birthday there, so that’s just what we did! It’s one of her favorite places and always a wonderful experience. Keep reading, and you’ll see why!
Getting to National Harbor
Per Maura’s wishes, our day started by heading to the Metro, just a couple of miles away from our house. She loves all things transportation, and being able to cross off a train, trolley, and boat all in one day made her very, very happy!
After a 30 minute Metro ride, including one transfer, we arrived at the King Street Metro station, where we caught the King Street Trolley, a free trolley which took us down historic King Street, through Old Town Alexandria. We hopped off at the last stop, right near the water, and made our way over to the Alexandria waterfront to buy tickets for The Potomac Riverboat Company Water Taxi that would take us across the Potomac to National Harbor. The trip itself was lovely and lasted for about 25 minutes, giving us great views of both Alexandria and National Harbor. If you prefer to drive in, there are thousands of parking spaces available, so no worries about that!
We got off the water taxi at the first dock – Gaylord National, but the second stop – the National Harbor North dock – is closer to the Plaza and the main attractions. Walking through the beautiful Gaylord grounds, we made our way to our first destination – Build-A-Bear Workshop.
Maura received a Build-A-Bear gift card from grandma for her birthday and has been begging me for a Minion! She’s a little obsessed with those little yellow creatures. If you’ve never been to Build-A-Bear Workshop, it’s a fun, interactive experience where you make your own stuffed animal. There are tons to choose from – bears, bunnies, cats, horses, and more – but Maura chose a Minion. Bob, to be precise. You can also choose an outfit (Maura opted for overalls and little black boots), and even personalize it with sound… BANANA!! She picked out Bob’s little heart, helped stuff him, and filled out his birth certificate while he got dressed. So much fun!
Just steps away from Build-A-Bear is the new Starbucks that opened recently at National Harbor. I ordered 3 mini Frappuccinos – vanilla bean for the girls and s’mores for me. Nothing for Bob. The minis are the perfect size!
Now that we were fueled up, we were ready to hit the water! Boating in DC offers kayak, pedal boat or stand-up paddle board rentals by the hour. The dragon and swan pedal boats can sit up to 4 people, perfect for us. We put on our life jackets and were promptly escorted to our boat. The birthday girl chose an elegant swan and relaxed in the back seat while Maya and I did all the work! In fact, Maura was so relaxed, she almost fell asleep!
An hour seems like a really long time when you’re out there on the water. The views were amazing… we saw The Capital Wheel from different angles. After about 45 minutes, and tons of giggles, we started making our way back. Maya wanted to try paddle boarding, so I’ll consider that for next time.
Riding the Carousel was next. It costs $7 per kid, and parents ride free. This may seem expensive, but the price allows for unlimited rides and my girls always take full advantage. They rode it more times than I can remember! When Maura got on, she yelled out “Mom, I’m going to ride EVERY animal!” Sure, sweetie. I sat down in a big Adirondack chair to relax for a bit and rest my tired (of pedaling!) feet. Between Carousel rides the girls would run around the nearby playground. There are also tons of picnic tables around there. It’s just a great place to hangout! I’m considering hosting Maura’s birthday party here next year, and there are even packages for that.
At this point, it was almost time for dinner! While waiting for my husband to meet us, we visited The Awakening and played in the sand. The Awakening is a sculpture made up of 5 body parts that ’emerge’ from the sand. Kids just love this place! They kick off their shoes, climb on the head, slide down the leg, and just run around being silly.
We had dinner at Rosa Mexicano, probably our favorite restaurant at National Harbor. Maura requested a table on the patio, with views of The Capital Wheel and the water.
At Rosa we can always expect authentic and delicious Mexican cuisine and great service. The guacamole, prepared table-side, is amazing! No peas in this one. The seafood dishes, tacos, and Mexican-style corn? Always good.
For the ‘young amigos’, there are tacos, quesadillas, and more. Our server even brought out a special birthday dessert for Maura!
What Maura had been looking forward to most (besides making that silly Minion!) was riding The Capital Wheel. Soaring 180 feet over the Potomac waterfront, the wheel provides amazing views of the DC area. A ride lasts for about 15 minutes and is a unique experience for all ages! If you time it just right, you can catch a gorgeous sunset.
Sadly, Maura’s birthday celebration had come to an end, and it was time to go home… but not without a visit to her favorite candy store – Peeps & Company! I gave Maura $25 to spend any way she wanted. You’d think she’d buy nothing but candy, right? WRONG! While there are some very tasty candy choices – the dark chocolate Peepsters are my favorite, and you’ll find Peeps flavors you can’t anywhere else – the Peeps merchandise is just too cute! Maura already has a Peeps bunny plush and Peeps PJs; this time she opted for a Peeps bunny pillow. A box of Mike & Ike’s, a pack of Sweet Lemonade Peeps, and few pieces of candy got her just past the $25 mark, which was okay because it meant I got a free Peeps shopping bag! It’s a fun store even if you’re just there to browse! Grab some samples of Mike & Ike’s, discover what type of “Hot Tamales Hottie” you are, step on the Hot Tamale ‘lava’ and watch it move, and take a photo next to the Peeps Mobile!
Phew. I can’t believe we did all this in ONE day, much less one evening! Maura went to bed that night hugging her Minion, and whispered that “This was the best birthday EVER!” as I kissed her goodnight. While we went in the middle of the week, on the weekends, there’s even MORE to do at National Harbor, from a farmer’s market, to a military concert series and ‘Movies on the Potomac‘ shown on the jumbo screen in the Plaza. There’s always something going on that they whole family will enjoy… just take a look at the jam-packed event calendar!
We’ll be heading back to National Harbor soon, I’m sure. With over 150 shops and more than 30 restaurants, there’s still so much we haven’t done! Maybe next time it’ll just be me and my husband for a little shopping and a much-needed date night. 😉 For more information about National Harbor, visit www.NationalHarbor.com.