National Harbor, Maryland is off the radar for many Washington DC visitors. That’s a shame as National Harbor is both right down the river and worlds apart from the nation’s Capitol. Check out DC Native and Travel Hack TravelingMom Dia Adams’ tips for visiting National Harbor with kids.

The Capitol Wheel is great when visiting Maryland's National Harbor with kids.

The Capitol Wheel is great when visiting National Harbor with kids. Photo via National Harbor PR.

National Where?

“I want a girls’ getaway to National Harbor for my birthday party.” My ten-year-old daughter had the right idea. There’s so much to do at National Harbor with kids. We packed up her two best friends and headed over the Woodrow Wilson bridge for a staycation.

But before I launch into the reasons my daughter and I love National Harbor, Maryland I should explain that National Harbor is just down the Potomac River from Washington DC. I always recommend to DC visitors that they reserve a day for National Harbor. Here are six of our favorite things to do:

Ride High on the Capital Wheel

It doesn’t matter how many times we do it. Every visit to National Harbor includes a ride on the Capital Wheel. The Wheel has become a landmark seen for miles around. On clear days you can spot the DC Monuments from 180 feet up- a vantage point unique to the region. Doing “The Wheel” at night is an entirely different experience than visiting during daylight.

Traveling Mom Tip: Check the Capital Wheel site for coupons.

The Peeps Store is a National Harbor Highlight. Thinking about visiting National Harbor with kids? Trust a local's guide: here's what to see and do when taking the family to National Harbor, Maryland.

The Peeps Store is a National Harbor highlight. Photo by Dia Adams, Travel Hack TravelingMom

Eat Your Weight in Peeps

The original Peeps and Company store is a magnet for both adults and kids alike. With a distinctive Volkswagen Bug at the entry, the store engages the senses with bunnies and chicks in every color. Not just for Easter anymore, Peeps and other Just Born company candies (Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales among others) make both tasty treats and great souvenirs.

Traveling Mom Tip: Members of the military get a discount.

With so many sweets you’ll want a healthy meal to balance the scales. I recommend Redstone Grill especially for their kids’ meals- including grilled Rotisserie chicken. We also like McCormick and Schmick’s if your kids like seafood.

Appreciate that Redstone Grill in National Harbor offers Rotisserie chicken on the kids' menu. Thinking about visiting National Harbor with kids? Trust a local's guide: here's what to see and do when taking the family to National Harbor, Maryland.

Appreciate that Redstone Grill in National Harbor offers Rotisserie chicken on the kids’ menu. Photo by Dia Adams, Travel Hack TravelingMom

Unleash Your Inner Monet

At first, I was skeptical about taking kids to Muse Paintbar. I was excited about a customized art lesson but wasn’t sure the three girls would keep up with both the pace and the two-hour length.  I couldn’t have been more wrong!

The instructor kept the class accessible for all levels and even encouraged us to “go rogue” with our own colors and flourishes.  I’ve since heard of kids as young as five having a blast at Muse. While our paintings had the same model, each has a distinctive look and makes for a terrific souvenir.

Hard at work at Muse Paintbar at National Harbor. Thinking about visiting National Harbor with kids? Trust a local's guide: here's what to see and do when taking the family to National Harbor, Maryland.

Hard at work at Muse Paintbar at National Harbor. Photo by Dia Adams, Travel Hack TravelingMom

Get Out on the Water

As National Harbor is an actual harbor, you’ve got plenty of ways to get out on the Potomac River. Rentals range from pedal boats for families to (weather permitting) stand-up paddleboarding. We’re also fans of the Water Taxi that goes across the river to Old Town Alexandria. It’s an inexpensive way to enjoy the both the scenery and the river breezes.

There’s another way to enjoy the water- and it’s free. The Gaylord National Resort puts on a nightly atrium fountain show with lights, music, and water shooting 60 feet in the air. Even better, the show is indoors so there’s no need to worry about the weather.

The Awakening is a DC icon relocated to National Harbor.

The Awakening is a DC icon relocated to National Harbor. Photo by National Harbor PR

Climb on a Giant

Ask a DC Local about “The Awakening” and you’ll probably hear about Hains Point. The iconic statue of a giant, well, waking up graced Hains Point park since 1980. National Harbor moved it to its current position in 2008 and children never tire of a playground that is truly priceless. When else can you scale a 17-foot tall arm?

Making the spot even better are the strategically placed Adirondack chairs along the park. I’ve spent many hours chilling out with an amazing view and an ice cream cone while the kids run wild.

Take in the Season

We love National Harbor year round but I have to give special mention to the holidays. Gaylord National puts on ICE!-which is a celebration of all things cool- but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. The tree sparkles, costumed performers entertain and you can even view holiday movies outdoors on the lawn. Visiting in December has become a family tradition.

Have you been to National Harbor? What are your favorite things to do? I’d love to hear about them in the comments.

Thinking about visiting National Harbor with kids? Trust a local's guide: here's what to see and do when taking the family to National Harbor, Maryland.