Saturday, December 14, 2013

National Harbor...

Time for the current version of the pre-holiday overnight sightseeing jaunt the wife and I take each year.  This year, we put a visit to the Gaylord Resort and Convention Center on the Potomac, at National Harbor in Maryland, in our plans.

Yes, it's immense, and upscale.  (When the casino goes in "somewhere down there", it should be world-class.)  Since everything is pricey, we've been waiting for a "deal" to show up, covering a time frame when we could enjoy it.  Several months ago, it did - mid week, between Turkey Day and Christmas.  So she made our reservations.

Enroute, traffic was - well, not so good.  Yours truly hates I-95 and I-495 to begin with, and traffic reports were for lots of it.  (Meg probably understands the futility of driving on them.)  So we headed for National Harbor from the east, after traveling the scenic route through the countryside...

Workmen at closed-for-the-season Cove Point Lighthouse who were driving in, accommodated the "lady who wanted a picture without the gate in the way" by leaving the gate open long enough for me to snap a couple of pics.

Finally, after a lunch visit to Solomon's Island, and then a long ride on Maryland 5/US 301 (but the reward was - only a few miles on I-495), we were there.  The hotel entry driveway was a complete zoo.  Door attendants and valets kept telling me "Lady, please pull your car up there" and moving me out of the way, while the better half checked in.  Finally the better half came back, room keys in hand, and we were on our way to the self-park lot...  (I don't like giving the car keys to a valet.)

The Atrium at the Gaylord is certainly huge, not the biggest I've seen but right up there, in the top 5.

And they were presenting a seasonal show called "Ice!"   It features predominantly holiday-themed ice sculptures, all displayed in a large, insulated tent kept at 9 degrees Fahrenheit.  A bit brisk, to be sure, but they provided parkas so nobody would freeze.  The Statue of Liberty wearing a sweater was one of the cutest of the New York-themed displays.  (Being from NYC, Marian may appreciate that!)

As we walked around, some of our neighbors  recognized us (my long hair apparently stands out in a crowd), and came over to talk.  Turns out that there was a day-trip bus from our town that day, and about 40 ladies from our neighborhood were wandering around the joint...good thing I wasn't wearing a skirt this time!

The better half noted (and the girls later confirmed) that that the entire group was female, and they all came down on the bus.  They plan to do this again next year, and specifically invited us to come along..."Yes, you too, sweetie!")  Guess I'll be their honorary "queen for a day."  The better half wants to plan on us going.  But you can bet that even if she agreed to my wearing a dress, (which she won't), my attire would have to be jean or stirrup leggings and flats or Keds - none of the girls from our area wore a dress, skirt or high heels.  I'll want to look as much like them as possible, so I blend in!

Holiday decorations were extensive, and pretty - a huge suspended Christmas Tree, and lots of lights, including sparkling strands hung from the ceiling, with twinkling lights therein to simulate snow falling.  (We were told that at times they actually dropped simulated snow, but we missed that display.)  The kiddies had a kiddie train to ride, and there were lots of other activities for folks to partake of...a very nice (if not inexpensive) day out for those so inclined!

They even provided a small-scale "dancing waters" show, certainly NOT on the scale of the Bellagio in Vegas but nice nonetheless...   And, once the sun set, the atrium was ablaze with holiday lights and music. 


We took our evening meal at one of the restaurants in the hotel.  I was dressed androgynously, and wearing a fresh spray of CK Obsession for women as my perfume (yes, the better half knows I like Obsession.)   The ladies (in short skirts and high heels) at the desk by the door addressed us appropriately, and led us to our table.

Then the waiter appeared...and I got the dreaded 'Sir-prise."  You win some, you lose some.  In fairness, he couldn't  see my purse, shoes or nails - it was quite dark in there (I even had to discreetly get my flashlight out of my purse to check the menu.)  But as I've said before, my feminine presentation (including voice) still needs a lot of work, thus I'm just happy to be addressed as a woman whenever it occurs.   And fortunately, it's more often than not.

We'd previously checked prices and pre-planned our meals before we went in...  As you might expect, everything was Ala Carte,  and every bit as upscale as the rest of the venue.   Want a New York Strip steak or the like?  $48 to $55.  Want an appetizer? Add $10 and up. Want a salad?  Add $10 and up.  Want a veggie?  Add $8.   Want a dessert?  Add $12.  (The flat-iron steak with potatoes was not as big or glamorous, but more reasonably priced, and delicious - we both enjoyed our meal.)

The five people at the next table went whole-hog, including one bottle of fancy wine for the ladies (which they put a serious dent in before we finished up) and two rounds of drinks made with Makers Mark whisky (for each of the guys.)   Since they had drinks, appetizers, steaks, salads, and veggies, plus dessert, their tab was most likely upwards of $500 for the 5 of them.  We cringed at paying $4 each for our ginger ales and $38 each for our meals.  But the atmosphere was worth it.  No way we could afford a meal like theirs, at least not unless someone else was paying...

During daylight hours, we hiked around town a bit.  Very nice...very new. For warmer weather, there's a very inviting walkway along the Potomac.  And even the Outlet Stores nearby were attractive and new.  The following pix should give you an idea about the downtown area...

Next time we visit, we may try the Cadillac Ranch for a meal....wonder if there are any antique cars inside???

As we were getting ready to leave, the better half grudgingly agreed to take the following picture, to save me from having to bring out the tripod...

And then it was a long drive home, using my least-favored I-95/I-495 (among others).  Wouldn't you know, we even got stuck in a small jam-up that cost us about 20 minutes.  I guess we were quite fortunate that it wasn't worse!

I hope that's the last I'll see of my least-favorite highway for a while...

Happy Holidays, everyone.


  1. I have not been to the National Harbor part of town in 15-20 years. I was supposed to go this year on a business venture but had a conflict. I have been blessed/cursed with enough business travel to be jaded about doing any more. I would rather stay at simple road side places rather than the upscale hotels in the cities. When my wife and I eat out we try to keep things modest. A simple entree is the norm. I have been to business meals that take in all available courses, with drinks. I suppose it all comes down to who is paying the bill. When the money is not coming out of someone's own pocket they often spend like drunken offense to the sailors intended.

    1. Pat,

      We, too, use roadside motels at times. Ergo the DuBois Manor Motel in Pennsylvania, at $45 a night. Clean. Cheap. (And the smallest toilet we've ever seen...nothing bigger would fit into the bathroom! Another 1/8 inch and they'd have had to notch the door to be able to open it all the way.)

      Occasionally we enjoy finding bargains at upscale places, ergo the cheap winter rate at the upscale hotel in Ocean City last year. Lastly, we (infrequently) splurge on a place like National Harbor. Having never been there before, it was a real treat. (Remember, the wife searched out a "deal" which included a number of freebees, including the cost of our dinner up to $100, so we ate for $4.00, including tip.) It definitely is an "expense account heaven." You can bet they exist on that!

      You mentioned you had been in the area before, years ago. What was on the property back then? Was it industrial, residential, or forest before the bulldozers came? What hasn't been developed is pretty well cleared now.