What's good at the National Harbor (Washington DC)?
January 27, 2010 6:16 AM   Subscribe

I'll be attending a convention the second weekend of February at the Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center which appears to be in the center of a shopping complex called National Harbor. Can our locals recommend anything in the area?

I do know it's technically in Maryland, and the complex is so new that the Google Maps satellite view is still showing me the construction site. I had a chance to walk around for a little bit looking for dinner and it does seem kind of isolated. The only affordable seeming restaurant was a sandwich place (Potbelly something, I think).

Are there any good restaurants in the complex or within a close distance? Affordable would be best, but I'd be interested in any experiences. I have heard that National Pastime (in the Gaylord itself) will be closed/repurposed for the duration of the convention.

What's the best bet for cheap parking? Is there anything offsite but close that a frugal person could use? What's weekend mass transit like in the area?

What are the good markets or grocery stores in the area? (Good in this case includes quality, price, and ease of access).

Is there anything particularly worth seeing nearby?
posted by Karmakaze to Travel & Transportation around Washington, DC (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have any restaurant suggestions--but stopping at the Peeps store will provide at least a few minutes of amusement.

It's over near the relocated "The Awakening"--also worth checking out.
posted by divka at 6:27 AM on January 27, 2010

Weekend mass transit is pretty abominable, but here's the bus schedule (PDF).

Seconding divka - go see The Awakening. It's f-in incredible. I miss it (used to be in D.C.).
posted by General Malaise at 7:13 AM on January 27, 2010

That convention center is conveniently off of the metro network, and as a local I have never been there in my life. Also it is in PG county which for the most part is pretty useless.

I hear the center itself is pretty nice, I just dont think there will be much for you to do outside of it.

Thirding The Awakening, it is a travesty that they put it there, but it is still awesome.

Also there might be water taxi's to old town, but I may be making that up.
posted by BobbyDigital at 7:16 AM on January 27, 2010

Water taxi does not start until March.

Sadly, I think you're kind of stuck. I've never been out there either, and when I looked into getting there by public transit a while back (to take someone to an America's Got Talent audition...don't ask) I came up with nothing even slightly convenient.

Check the Washington Post going out guide for restaurant info, I know they have reviewed a few places out that way.
posted by JoanArkham at 7:25 AM on January 27, 2010

Stayed there last year. It's nice, good to walk around in, but yes, there really aren't any particularly cheap restaurants. Very accessible from the beltway.
posted by idb at 7:51 AM on January 27, 2010

The local buzz is that the area is kind of a wasteland--nice conference center, and some decent restaurants, but pretty much an island with nothing to do except go into DC. Elevation Burger is always pretty good, and Cakelove pretty much launched the whole gourmet cupcake trend, so that's something.
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:55 AM on January 27, 2010

I stayed there for a conference last year.

The restaurants in the hotel are very overpriced for very average food that's been gussied-up to seem luxe. There are very few affordable restaurants on the outside, and they get swamped when there is a convention. Potbelly is sadly probably your best best. Getting to DC is not convenient, and don't expect the hotel staff to necessarily know any more than you do about how to find the bus.

The place itself is very fancy, with marble and twinkly lights everywhere. The view of the river from the giant showpiece window is lovely.

But then they provide only plastic-wrapped plastic cups in the rooms, very generic toiletries, and when I asked at hospitality for a wine glass so that my friend and I could share the end of the bottle of wine from dinner in my room, one employee was making noises about some sort of deposit (on a single glass??) before his saner colleague intervened.

I don't live locally, and thus was more than eternally grateful when my friends who live in the area came to rescue me to take me out for dinner and lunches.

Sorry I can't give you better news.
posted by desuetude at 7:56 AM on January 27, 2010

Yeah, if you don't have a car, it's hard to get out of the complex. I think there is a bus that takes tourists in to the National Mall Area. My aunt and uncle stayed there, and I drove down to see them and to take them to the airport, since it seemed impossible to get to the airport without driving. There weren't really any cheap parking options. There are parking garages everywhere, and they all seem to be owned by the same people, although I think if you are staying at the hotel there, parking is either free or reduced. If you do have a car, you can drive somewhat easily into DC. The complex is right off of the highway (295 or 95). It would probably take about 15-20 minutes to get to SE DC and Eastern Market which has cheap restaurants. Street parking in the city is free on the weekends in most places.

Also, I live in PG county, and I don't think it's useless. There is a lot of nice ethnic food and groceries; just not near the Gaylord.
posted by bluefly at 8:53 AM on January 27, 2010

Response by poster: We were already thinking of crossing the bridge to Alexandria for the Whole Foods and Trader Joe's there. If we extend the radius that far, are there any better groceries?

I'm in a position where my room, board and parking are covered because I'm going as somebody's lackey. I may be sent out on shopping errands, so my personal concern is being able to drive out and get supplies.

Some of the other lackeys are driving themselves, and thus have to deal with parking, and not all lackeys get fed, so I was hoping to be able to direct them (and other guests) to affordable options. It did seem to me that while some of the restaurants look nice, they're all relatively pricey. For people who've stayed in the hotels, how pissy do they get about people who have their own food in their rooms?

(Oh, and I did visit the Peeps shop on my last visit - it's across from the Potbelly!)
posted by Karmakaze at 9:31 AM on January 27, 2010

For people who've stayed in the hotels, how pissy do they get about people who have their own food in their rooms?

The place is giant; they're not going to care overmuch about you having outside food in your room as long as it doesn't get in the way of the cleaning staff. I THINK, though I'm not entirely sure that I remember correctly, that there was room for me to store a few things in the minibar fridge.

If you can drive over to Alexandria for supplies, you're good for groceries. Rooms have coffeemakers, so you've got hot water. Start planning survival supplies to keep yourself fed without spending a fortune on mediocre food.

I'm pretty sure parking is the same racket all over the "town."
posted by desuetude at 9:54 AM on January 27, 2010

There's a super-fancy Balducci's, a Whole Foods, and a Safeway in Alexandria, not far from the Trader Joe's, if I remember correctly--check Google maps for details.
posted by MrMoonPie at 12:53 PM on January 27, 2010

MrMoonPie, I must disagree! Magnolia Bakery in NYC launched the current cupcake obsession.

The Peeps store is currently the main highlight at National Harbor, IMO. You might be able to peer at the Disney work going on - they're building something there.
posted by etoile at 2:10 PM on January 29, 2010

« Older Anonymous counseling?   |   Having trouble getting paid for my digital artwork... Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.