Several months ago, Marisa went wedding dress shopping and one of the stores gave her passes to see a special brides-only screening of “Bride Wars.” At the premiere, each bride received a gift bag loaded with SCHWAG!
So, in recognition of their generous offer to entice us to have our wedding there (sorry, no dice!), here is a review of the hotel and the Harbor itself.
1. Getting There – The National Harbor is NOT easy to get to. I repeat: NOT EASY TO GET TO! The signs are subpar, it doesn’t exist on most GPS systems and if you make a wrong turn, you are screwed. From the Levy-Schaffer Estate in Columbia Heights, it took us about 35-40 minutes to get there. That part was good.
2. Parking – The Westin has no parking, so you have to park in the over-priced garage and walk a block. Not good.
3. Checking-In – The staff at the hotel, despite it being new, was fantastic. Knowledgeable, friendly, accommodating. We checked in very quickly and within minutes were in our room.
4. The Room – Not huge, but big enough for a one-night trip. The bathroom was awkward. HUGE main room, with a small toilet cubby and a mid-sized shower, without a tub!
There was an HDTV, which worked pretty well. The ESPN feed was horrible, sadly. The Westin runs a special Travel Channel feed, showing 7-12 minute packages from some of the best programs, which we found very entertaining as we got ready to go out.
The king-sized bed was extraordinarily comfortable.
There was NO pool, indoor or outdoor at the hotel. To catch some sun, we snuck into the Gaylord Hotel next door and sat on their outdoor patio. Since the Gaylord is overwrought with families, we didn’t actually have a chance to get in the water. (CORRECTION: THE LOVELY MS. LEVY REMINDED ME THAT THERE WAS, IN FACT, AN INDOOR POOL AT THE WESTIN.)
We wanted to grab a quick soda during our stay at the Westin, and were told that they had NO VENDING MACHINES! They directed us to another hotel a block away if we wanted a drink. Riiiight.
5. The Fireworks – This was a challenge. We had dinner reservations in DC the night the Harbor hosted their fireworks display. They basically blocked all exits out of the area and positioned not-the-brightest security guards and non-uniformed personnel to direct traffic. There was no directional signage and it took us 20 mins to finally find the one open exit. Definitely put a damper on the early evening for me.
6. The Area – Here’s the dilemma. The National Harbor is a GORGEOUS complex. Great restaurants (see below!), some nice shopping, a different view of DC. However, there is no compelling reason to ever actually GO there. There is no draw. None of the restaurants are worth actually driving there. None of the shoppes are anything you can’t get anywhere else. If you want to hang out on a pier, there are several options in DC, Annapolis and Baltimore that are less expensive with more activities. We had a terrific time hanging out there, but I doubt we’ll go back again anytime soon.
7. The Food – We had dinner back in town, but we grabbed snacks and drinks at Ketchup, a really fun American-style restaurant. Besides a few adult beverages, our favorite was the Fry Sampler. It contained heaping portions of their three fries: sweet potato (my all-time favorite!), Old Bay seasoned, and garlic-parmesan. On the side came their five ketchups: maple, chipotle, ranch, raspberry and a house blend. Absolutely incredible. Not good enough to bring us back to the Harbor area, but very enjoyable.
8. Overall – Marisa and I had a very good time. The Westin is probably a 2.5-3 star hotel. Clean rooms, few amenities, good staff. I’ve stayed in much better, but I’ve also stayed in much, much worse. As stated above, the National Harbor needs a draw. A few street festivals won’t do it. Some interactive activity, some REASON to go there on a sunny day…we’ll see if they get it done! Honestly, I hope they do.
Popularity: unranked [?]