Summer Family Fun at the Gaylord National Resort

If you’re planning a family vacation to Washington, D.C. this summer, consider staying outside the city for a more relaxed pace. The Gaylord National Resort (read reviews on TripAdvisor | book here) in National Harbor, Maryland, is a fantastic choice if you’re traveling with kids. And the Gaylord DC is only a quick 10-minute drive to the city!

The property has a fantastic line-up of family-friendly activities each summer as part of its annual SummerFest. From kids silent discos to laser shows, from poolside movie matinees to ferris wheel rides, children of all ages will have a great time there.

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The atrium at the Gaylord DC. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

The Atrium

The property is known for its iconic 19-story glass atrium, which offers sweeping views of the Potomac River. While the river view rooms are lovely, your kids would probably like the atrium view rooms even more because they’ll be able to enjoy the nightly laser show from the balcony.

The hotel does a great job of paying tribute to the historical architecture found throughout the region. In the atrium are two-story replicas of a Colonial-era mercantile shop and a Federalist-style farmhouse stand.

The landscaping inside the atrium is seriously impressive. From lush indoor gardens to bubbling creeks, it’s easy to forget that you’re not actually outside!

The Pienza Marketplace in the atrium is a lovely place to eat breakfast. It’s feels like you’re dining outdoors minus the heat, humidity and bugs! The breakfast buffet is reasonably priced, and we especially enjoyed all the southern specialties like shrimp and grits, and biscuits and gravy.

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View from the balcony of an atrium-view room at the Gaylord National Resort, outside Washington D.C. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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The indoor landscaping is top-notch at the Gaylord National Resort. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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Our girls loved the fountain at the Gaylord National. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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The indoor gardens at the Gaylord DC are so lush that you’ll forget you’re not outside. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

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Gaylord DC: A Destination for Families

Much of the Gaylord’s business year-round comes from hosting weddings, conventions and conferences. In fact, I first stayed at this hotel nearly 10 years ago was when I was attending a journalism conference. In the summer and winter months, however, it becomes a popular destination for families. Especially so since the hotel organizes some fantastic family-friendly programming in those seasons.

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This photo background near the front desk is a fun way to get into the SummerFest spirit right away as you arrive at the Gaylord National. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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Sitting in deck chairs, soaking up the sun at the Gaylord National Resort. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Poolside Summer Movie Matinee

Gaylord National has an indoor Junior Olympic-sized 24-meter lap pool. In the summer, the pool becomes an indoor/outdoor space as the entire front glass wall opens up.

Our girls absolutely loved the pool. It’s great for kids as it’s only 3 1/2 feet deep throughout. But even toddlers can get in on the pool fun, since the pool has a set of very wide steps that are perfect for playing on, and there’s a seating ledge that runs along the entire length of the pool. Ella, our 4-year-old, loved swimming back and forth along the ledge as she could easily sit or stand up when she needed a break.

One thing to keep in mind though, is that the pool doesn’t seem to be heated in the summer. While the temperature of the water was refreshing at first, our girls got cold quickly. We had to be on the lookout for blue lips, and made sure they were taking frequent breaks away from the water.

A highlight of our stay was the Gaylord National’s summer movie matinee. They rolled down a big projector screen on one side of the pool and put on the movie Sing for the kids. Sean, our 8-year-old, adores this movie. In fact, she watched it literally five times during our flight to Hong Kong earlier this year! So being able to watch it while splashing around in the pool was a delight for her.

The outside lounge area is a great place to hang out if you’d like to soak up some rays. There’s a splash pad for the kids, and a full-sized pool bar that serves cocktails for the adults. Be sure to try the National Planters Punch; it was absolutely delicious!

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Our girls had such a great time playing in the pool at the Gaylord National Resort. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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All the kids at the hotel had such a blast watching the poolside matinee of the movie Sing at the Gaylord DC. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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The only thing more fun than the pool at the Gaylord National Resort is the splash pad right outside. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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This outside lounge area is a great place to soak up some sun while your kids play in the indoor pool at the Gaylord National Resort, outside Washington D.C. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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Be sure to try the delicious National Planters Punch while you’re lounging poolside at the Gaylord National. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Silent Disco Summer Pajama Party

Later that evening, our girls got to experience another fun activity. Throughout the summer, Gaylord National hosts summer pajama parties for its youngest guests. The one we attended was extra-special, since it was a silent disco.

Each person gets a pair of wireless bluetooth headphones and can choose to listen to one of three channels: a custom mix put together by the house DJ, a playlist of Disney songs, or an 80s and 90s mix.

It took awhile for the kids to understand the concept of the silent disco, but the DJ did a great job leading everyone through popular dances like the cha-cha and the electric slide.

That said, I can only imagine it looked a little strange to onlookers—watching a group of kids and parents dance in complete silence!

Both of our girls were hesitant to join in at first, but by the time the party was coming to a close, they were out on the dance floor and didn’t want it to end.

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Picking up our wireless headphones for the kids silent disco at the Gaylord National Resort. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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A smile as Sean recognizes her favorite song playing at the Gaylord National Resort. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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This 70s-themed photo stand-in was an adorable feature of the silent disco at the Gaylord National Resort. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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Ella was too shy to dance, but she enjoyed jamming out to the tunes anyway. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Laser Light Show

One fun part of staying at the Gaylord National is that they put on a laser light show named “Americana” in the atrium every night at 9 p.m.

Set to a patriotic musical score, the show includes synchronized lights and an indoor fountain with 37 jets that can shoot water up to 50 feet high.

If your kids don’t mind getting wet, stand close to the fountain. It’s fun to watch the jets go up and down from up close, and our girls squealed every time they got splashed by the fountain.

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Watching the epic laser light show at the Gaylord National Resort. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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This fountain at the Gaylord National contains 37 individual jets that shoot water up to 50 feet high. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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Kids will adore the nightly dancing fountain show at Gaylord DC, perfectly synchronized to lights, special effects and a patriotic musical score. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

Exploring National Harbor

One of the best things about Gaylord National is that it’s just steps away from National Harbor, a waterfront area jam-packed with shops, restaurants and other attractions.

One can’t-miss activity is taking a ride on The Capital Wheel. At the top of the ferris wheel you’ll be 180 feet up in the air, with a perfect view of the Potomac River and the surrounding land.

Depending on how old your kids are, renting either a pedal boat or a kayak is another fun thing to do at National Harbor.  There’s also a very cool art installation called The Awakening. It’s a 72-foot statue of a giant embedded in the earth, struggling to free himself. Our girls had a great time climbing on the statue, and playing in the surrounding sand.

Another attraction you don’t want to miss is The Carousel. This 36-foot Americana-themed carousel features a herd of whimsical creatures. Tickets are just $7 for unlimited rides all day long! If your child is still in that “Again! Again!” phase, you’ll appreciate this.

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On our way to The Capital Wheel at National Harbor. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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This pedal boat ride at National Harbor was a lot of fun. Mainly because I wasn’t doing the pedaling! Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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The National Harbor waterfront is a beautiful setting for this carousel. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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This might be the most patriotic carousel I’ve ever seen. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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The playground at National Harbor is just as much fun as the carousel! Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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Our girls loved this art installation at National Harbor. The Awakening is a 72-foot statue of a giant embedded in the earth, struggling to free himself. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

 

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Climbing up the giant’s knee and sliding down his shin was a favorite of all the kids at National Harbor. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

A Perfect Weekend to Kick Off the Summer

Staying at the Gaylord National was a fantastic way for our family to kick off our summer this year. Exploring the rides, shops and restaurants at National Harbor was so enjoyable, and we were blessed with perfect weather the entire time we were there.

For more information, visit:
Gaylord National Resort
Read reviews on TripAdvisor | Book here

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All smiles during our stay at Gaylord National Harbor Hotel. Photo: Carmen Sognonvi

The author received complimentary accommodations and meals from the Gaylord National Resort for purposes of this review. All opinions are her own.

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About Carmen Sognonvi

Carmen Sognonvi is the founder and publisher of Top Flight Family, the essential resource on luxury family travel. Her insights on travel have been featured in Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, Seatrade Cruise News and more. A seasoned media professional in both digital and print media, Carmen Sognonvi began her career at Surface magazine and Town & Country magazine. Carmen lives in Brooklyn, NY with her husband and two daughters. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.

Click here to read Carmen's articles

Looking for an upscale, family-friendly hotel in National Harbor, Maryland? Here's why the Gaylord DC is a great choice for a summer family getaway.

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