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November 29, 2021

6 Can’t-Miss Things to Do in National Harbor, Maryland

Set on the banks of the Potomac River, National Harbor is a scenic 350-acre waterfront stretch of high-end restaurants, eclectic shops, lively entertainment venues, and outdoor attractions only 10 miles south of Washington, D.C. The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, the site of the Imaging USA 2022 photography conference and the heart of National Harbor, is the ideal home base for exploring this harbor retreat.

We know you will want to soak up every second of everything Imaging USA has to offer, but you might want to consider arriving in the area early or staying a day or two after the conference to explore the city. Here are 6 can’t-miss things to do in National Harbor: 

1. Ride the Capital Wheel.

No trip to National Harbour would be complete without a ride on the Capital Wheel, arguably the hub’s most iconic attraction. The massive Ferris wheel towers 180 feet over the Potomac River, giving you glimpses of the distant Washington Monument and U.S. Capitol Dome. Treat yourself to a VIP gondola, which comes with leather bucket seats, wine chillers, DVD players, and a glass floor. Try to go after nightfall when the Capital Wheel lights up in a rainbow of more than 16,300,000 colors. 


2. Marvel at public artwork. 

National Harbor enchants with its many fascinating public artworks, the most famous of which is called “The Awakening.” Sculpted by J. Seward Johnson Jr. for the International Sculpture Conference Exhibition in 1980, the cast-aluminum sculpture features hands, feet, and a head as though belonging to a giant emerging from the sand. You’ll also find plenty of photo opportunities throughout National Harbor, where recognizable figures like Marylin Monroe and Fredrick Douglas pose frozen on street corners. 


3. Explore the Potomac River.

One of the best ways to take in the splendor of National Harbor is by water vessel, be it a swan pedal boat, kayak, canoe, or stand-up paddleboard. When the weather allows, personal watercraft can be rented from the Boating in D.C. dock on the Commercial Pier. The company offers guided kayak tours and SUP lessons for first-time riders. 

Don’t feel like captaining your own vessel? Hop on a water taxi to local points of interest like Mount Vernon or the picturesque Old Town of Alexandria. 

4. Stroll the National Harbor Waterfront District. 

The pedestrian-friendly streets of the National Harbor Waterfront District are lined with more than 65 boutiques and shops—from locally-owned bookstores like Mahogany Books through specialty food shops like Pepper Palace to candy shops like Savannah’s Candy Kitchen. If you have a sweet tooth, don’t miss Peeps & Company, one of the only spots in the world devoted to this beloved sugary marshmallow bird, immediately recognizable because of the giant Peep statue in the front. After a day of shopping, refuel with eats from a world-class local restaurant—like a creamy lobster roll from The Walrus Oyster & Ale House or tangy smoked wings from SUCCOTASH. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, go for a veggie bowl from Mezah loaded with cauliflower rice, cilantro hummus, crunchy chickpeas, and falafels. 

5. Unwind with a spa day. 

The Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center itself is home to an expansive spa with steam rooms, saunas, whirlpools, and a relaxation room with dazzling views of the Potomac River. Stop by the Relâche Spa for the ultimate relaxation experience. Unwind with body scrubs, massages, body wraps, and facials, plus separate lounges for men and women. There's even a 24-meter lap pool for you to dip into and relax. 

6. Sing your heart out with dueling pianos. 

The dueling pianos at Bobby McKey’s are nothing short of a DC-area legend. Seven nights a week, talented professional piano players take the stage to play your requests—whether you’re feeling Beyonce, Garth Brooks, or Mozart. 

If you haven’t yet claimed your spot at Imaging USA 2022 in National Harbor, register today for your 3-day All-Access Pass