The Best Kid-Friendly Things to See & Do in National Harbor

National Harbor is one of those rare places that really does have something for everyone. From kayaking the Potomac to family friendly dining at Bobby McKey’s, it’s the perfect spot for locals and out-of-towners to spend a few days exploring. Read on to learn about some of our favorite things to do and see at National Harbor!

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National Harbor

Shop & Eat!
National Harbor is full of restaurants and shopping. Some highlights include Savannah’s Candy Kitchen featuring old-fashioned favorites like giant caramel apples, ice cream, candy by the pound, chocolates and more. Another family-friendly choice is Bobby McKey’s kids and teen shows that include food, drink and entertainment for a flat fee. There is something for everyone. Plenty of causal restaurants from fast food to pizza are available in addition to white tablecloth dining with views of the harbor. When it comes to shopping check out Build-A-Bear at National Harbor and a number of gift and clothing stores perfect for browsing. For even more shopping check out Tangier Outlets just down the street from National Harbor.

National Harbor Restaurants and Shops

Bike the Sights
Bicycles are a great way to get around National Harbor. Bring your own or rent a bike from one of the Capital Bike Share sites scattered around the harbor. Get a 30 day pass and enjoy unlimited bike rides for 30 days. That’s more than enough time to explore!

Capital Bike Share

Boats Galore
National Harbor has a few different ways to see the sights by boat. Monumental Boat Tours is a unique way to take a tour of Maryland and Virginia. Kids five and up and join an adult on a two-person boat to take a curated tour of the Potomac. This two-hour self-guided tour will take you past Mount Vernon, a lighthouse, Fort Washington and more. No boating experience is necessary but you may get wet! If you would rather have someone else steering the boat rent a FloatBoat360 for two hours. Up to seven can cruise the Potomac with a guide. Be sure to pack snacks! FloatBoat360 comes complete with a table, cooler and chairs for a leisurely ride.

Boating at National Harbor

Watersports Adventures
National Harbor is a great destination for water activities. Rent a single or double kayak or an adorable duck-shaped paddle boat. Kids eight and up can try their hand a stand up paddle board or hydrobike. Any of these are a great way to add some adventure to a trip to National Harbor and try something new.

Boating In DC


Gaylord National

Make it a Staycation
Gaylord National is a destination itself. For locals it’s the perfect place for a staycation. For those visiting from out of town, it’s a family-friendly place to use as home base while visiting the DC area. Gaylord National features an indoor pool, soaring atrium with nightly light shows, a family-friendly rooftop lounge and more. It’s the perfect jumping off spot to explore the rest of National Harbor no matter where you live! Insider Tip: Check for seasonal events hosted by Gaylord National. Past events have included a pop-up 80s themed lounge, an outdoor light display, breakfast with the Grinch, and an annual winter wonderland featuring larger than life ice displays. Even if you don’t stay at Gaylord you can still enjoy much of what the hotel has to offer.

Gaylord National

Experience the Capital Wheel
The Capital Wheel offers unique soaring views of the National Mall, National Harbor and Alexandria. Families get their own climate-controlled gondola. If you are afraid of heights you can ride with confidence knowing that there is a panic button in case you need to get off quickly. However, the ride is so smooth and the views are so impressive that you will probably forget your fears and enjoy the ride.  Even if you don’t go for a ride be sure to look for Capital Wheel at night when it is illuminated and lights up the harbor. Insider tip: Check the Capital Wheel’s website for information about their VIP car featuring leather seats and periodic specials.

The Capital Wheel

Ride the Carousel 
One of the best kept secrets in the DC area is the carousel at National Harbor. For under $10.00 kids get unlimited rides for the entire day on National Harbor’s gorgeous Americana-themed carousel. Even better, parents ride free! Insider tip: The carousel is located within a pavilion that also has a playground and a shaded picnic area prefect for snacks.

National Harbor Carousel

Visit the Beach
National Harbor really does have it’s very own beach. While you can’t go swimming there is sand galore for kids to dig. National Harbor’s beach also features the iconic statue The Awakening. Kids love climbing on the statue’s 70′ hands emerging from the sand. This is a great spot to spot a beautiful sunset over the harbor or to watch the Capital Wheel.

Water Lantern Festival

Look for Special Events
There is always something special happening at National Harbor! It’s a popular spot for annual events like the UniverSoul Circus, ICE!, the Water Lantern Festival, outdoor movies, story time, outdoor fitness classes and more. Be sure to check out National Harbor’s special events page to get the most out of your visit.

National Harbor Special Events

—Jamie Davis Smith

featured photo: Toddlin’ Across America 


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