Lights, Milkshakes, Pac-Man! Gaylord National Harbor Reopens for #SummerOfMore
A resort experience within driving distance from Philly? Yes, please.
We hadn’t traveled since before the pandemic, so when Gaylord National Harbor announced they were finally reopening, happy memories of our holiday ICE! trip in “the beforetimes” got us packing our bags and hitting the road for a weekend adventure on the Potomac. We drove down I-95 to our destination just across the river from Washington DC, and arrived at our redesigned atrium-view room for a weekend of swimming, family-fun activities, incredible views, an 80s pop-up rooftop lounge, and much more. Philadelphia Family was hosted by Gaylord National Resort with accommodations, tickets, and meals to make this article possible.
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All of Gaylord National Resort’s 1,996 guest rooms and suites have been fully renovated, and the resort’s summer events have been developed in accordance with Marriott’s “Commitment to Clean” program and enhanced Covid protocols. Unvaccinated guests are required to wear masks. For fully vaccinated guests, masks are optional.
We recommend getting an atrium view room, especially so you can watch the nightly Summer Lights Laser Show that takes place on the Atrium, featuring music and fountain effects. You can also view the show for free from Atrium level. Speaking of lights, one of the great highlights of our stay was the Potomac Lights exhibit just outside the hotel. The walkthrough experience runs through August 18 and includes 11 shining installations including an illuminated puzzle, giant glow stones, a frame tunnel, and more set against the backdrop of the Potomac River and the giant illuminated Capital Wheel (more on that later).
Our favorite addition to Gaylord was the 80s-themed pop-up Replay at Pose Rooftop Lounge. Leaving aside the awesomely retro theming for a moment, just the concept of a trendy rooftop bar that is also kid-friendly is a feat unto itself. The cocktails were creative and instaworthy, the playlist was perfection, and the views were unparalleled—and none of that was sacrificed by making it family-friendly. In addition to fun photo ops and conversation-provoking props (yes, that is what TVs and phones looked like back then, kids), there is a room full of old-school video games like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and Pong.
We had a blast playing, dancing, and posing for ridiculous photos. Plus, Replay serves up insane milkshakes topped with an entire bakery assortment (and can be made boozy for the grownups). It was a fabulous dessert party after our pizza dinner at Fiorella’s in National Harbor.
More special on-site summer events include waterfront Sunrise Yoga, evening storytimes, and an augmented reality “safari” tour of the Atrium. Along with their spa, Junior-Olympic sized swimming pool, and outdoor splash zone, you could easily not leave the resort during your entire stay. But National Harbor, Maryland has really come into its own with a bustling downtown filled with shops and restaurants, rides, kayak and pedal boats, and weekly activities on the water.
Of course, the centerpiece of National Harbor attractions is the 180-foot-tall Capital Wheel. This Ferris wheel features 42 climate-controlled enclosed gondolas with music piped in—ours was a special one with a glass bottom, too! Views include National Harbor, the Washington Monument, the city of Alexandria, and more DMV landmarks. Bonus: before our ride, we visited the new Flight Deck bar to get drinks in special “adult sippy cups” to take with us on the ride.
If you’re sticking around even longer, and are looking for more to do in the area, Washington DC is just across the river, and has plenty of free museums and landmarks to visit as well. Our personal favorite is the National Zoo, which is worth the price of admission (free, by the way) for its pandas alone!
To allow guests to make “more” of their summer getaway, Gaylord is currently offering a new #SummerOfMore package. Starting at $249, the package includes deluxe overnight accommodations for up to four guests per room, self-parking, early check-in, and late-checkout, allowing guests more time to enjoy everything the resort and destination have to offer. Thanks again to Gaylord National for our unforgettable trip. We are already looking forward to the return of ICE! during the holidays!
Photographs and other media by Laura Swartz.