National Harbor: Summer Family Day Trip


As a National Harbor “Fun”-bassador, this is a sponsored post, the first in a series about the offerings for DC-area families at National Harbor. 

Have a day, an afternoon or an evening wide-open on your calendar and looking to create some summer memories with your crew? National Harbor has lots of options!

Free Fun 

My kids always clamor to play on the The Awakening sculpture by the water. Just last weekend all three of the kids made friends, ran around, dug in the sand, and posed for pictures. It is an art installation and a playground!


You can also take your entire family to the movies at National Harbor … totally for free! Head down on a Sunday for the Movies on the Potomac family film series that is happening through the end of September. You can also catch sports and family programming on the green throughout the week. Bring your blankets, a picnic or pick up food to go from a National Harbor restaurant.


Marvelous Memories

The National Harbor Carousel and Playground has a genius pricing model: $7 gets your child unlimited rides all day and access to the play area. My kids can never just ride once, and on our visit they reveled in the multiple rides and animal choices. There are picnic tables here too so families can set up shop while the kids ride and play. The Carousel and Playground is open Friday and Saturday noon – 10pm, and Sunday – Thursday noon – 8pm. Note: In order to access the playground, children must have a carousel rider wristband.


The Capital Wheel is DC’s newest iconic experience. We had never before ridden The Wheel and we were very impressed. It reminded me of the Seattle Space Needle. The gondolas are comfy and air-conditioned, and the ride went around seven times when we were on it! (The Wheel operator we spoke to says the average times around is five – six, depending on the number of persons waiting in line and the luck of your placement.)

The view was beautiful! We could see the Washington Monument and National Cathedral, as well as the entire Potomac waterfront from DC to Mount Vernon. I have heard that the views at sunset are also amazing! Tickets are $15 per adult and $11.25 per child. It was a special ride to remember and a DC bucket list item that was a blast to cross off.

capital wheel

On the Water

We love kayaking as a family and do it often at the beach and on area lakes, but the kids were totally drawn to the dragon and swan pedal boats in the Marina. Chris took the girls on a swan and Charlie and I commandeered a dragon. Perfect summer fun! We caught a breeze and had fun on the water without having to bring a change of clothes. (Something I completely appreciated as the resident pool bag packer and beach bag lugger!)  You can also rent paddleboards, which is a workout I love. The instructors will give you a quick lesson on paddleboarding if you are a newbie. But the pedal boats accommodated our preschooler best for unified family time.  You can experience this on the water fun on weekdays from 11am-7pm and weekends 9am – 7:30pm through November.

Related post: National Harbor Water Taxi Fun 


Delish Dining

The kids love eating out, and I love getting a lunch-packing reprieve. National Harbor has so many yummy dining options. Our usual lunch spot at National Harbor is the casual, reasonable and healthier fast food option of Elevation Burger. Last weekend we were hankering for some waterfront dining, so we tried McCloone’s Pier House. We experienced their fancy but family-friendly Sunday brunch and noshed outside, overlooking the water. The kids were obsessed with the made-to-order waffles with fried chicken and bacon, and Chris and I decided we deserved Bloody Marys and multiple visits to the smoked salmon bar.


Kid-Centric Shopping

Lots of the shops at National Harbor are geared towards kids, from the Marbles Brain StoreBubble Bounce and Build-A-Bear toy shops to the girly heaven of Charming Charlie. For our crew, a visit to National Harbor is never complete without a pop-in to Peeps & Company for multiple free samples and several sweets to share.


Are you a National Harbor-loving family, too? What is YOUR crew’s favorite activity? 

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