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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
The author received complimentary accommodations and meals from the Gaylord National Resort for purposes of this review. All opinions are her own.
About Carmen Sognonvi
Carmen Sognonvi is a luxury family travel content creator at Top Flight Family, named a top 10 family travel Instagram account by Time Out New York and Brit + Co. Her insights on travel have been featured in The Washington Post, INSIDER, Huffington Post, Wanderlust Travel Magazine, TravelPulse, HOTELS Magazine, and more. Carmen firmly believes that you can (and should) travel with your kids from a young age. She offers families practical solutions for travel, as well as tips on how to travel in luxury for less. She lives in New York City with her multiracial and multicultural family of four. Follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Click here to read Carmen's articles