Finding Holiday Magic at the Gaylord Hotel in Washington DC - My Family Travels

Situated on the National Harbor, the expansive Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center is a sprawling hotel complex ready to greet visitors with a waterfront experience. It’s almost startling how big this hotel feels in an area close to Washington D.C. where real estate is densely packed.

Our daughter embraces her self-imposed role as Snoppy at the ICE! display at the Gaylord Hotel in D.C.

But family travelers familiar with the Gaylord convention hotels have probably braced for a grand stay. They may have fallen in love with the property in Nashville that has its own indoor canals and gondola rides for guests, complete with canal front rooms.

And out in the Lone Star State, the Gaylord Texan has its very own waterpark called Paradise Springs for eager guests looking for a fun reprieve from the summer heat.

Holiday Festivities at the Gaylord Washington D.C.

Although there’s no waterpark at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in Washington D.C. my kids were psyched by the large indoor pool and seasonal entertainment that was just wrapping up for the year. We were fortunate to arrive at the Gaylord hotel when both Cirque de Soleil was performing their holiday show and the ICE! A Charlie Brown Christmas was on display.

The latter features an indoor ice experience where guests don parkas and bundle up to experience favorite Peanuts characters. There was even an ice slide where kids soared down to shutterbug parents below. My 3 1/2-year-old wasn’t so sure about the cold, nor the ice slide, but our 7-year-old was ready to join the staff and keep the place running from start to finish.

There’s plenty of year-round fun at the Gaylord hotel. But from mid-November through December, the Gaylord National Christmas takes over the property for ice skating, gingerbread decorating, photos with Santa, a Christmas carousel and more. Little ones, and grown-up kids at heart, also love the Potomac Express train ride and breakfast with costumed Charlie Brown and friends.

Amenities and Magic at the Gaylord Hotel

Regardless of what time of year you come, the Gaylord National offers on-site boutiques, a full-service spa, and plenty of restaurants to choose from. We sat in the atrium at the National Pastime Sports Bar & Grill and sipped on cold beers and ate apps while the kids delighted at the clown on stilts, wandering by as if it were just any other Sunday afternoon.

Our room was comfortably appointed with two queen beds and faced the interior of the atrium, which meant we had both a view of the restaurants, shops, and activities below, as well as the Cirque de Soleil stage that held performances periodically throughout the day. Our little guy watched, mesmerized, as they did their magic on a trapeze.

We also had a stunning view of the National Harbor that seemed to come to life during the light display right in the atrium. Dancing snowflakes and lights washed against the atrium glass and lulled us into sleepiness. It was either that or the refreshments and wine we were enjoying from our balcony.

The Gaylord hotel is also just steps to the boardwalk and the aptly named Capital Wheel. This majestic Ferris wheel soars 180 feet above the Potomac waterfront with sights ranging from the Washington Monument and National Cathedral among other D.C. attractions.

Be warned that the Ferris wheel lights up the night sky and can be seen in all its glory from the indoor pool. That means kids who begged you to take them swimming one last time will also want to ride the Ferris wheel one last time.

Exploring the National Harbor with Kids

Peanuts character come to life in ice form at the ICE! experience at the Gaylord Hotel

The Capital Wheel may draw your kids to the National Harbor and boardwalk, but they’ll want to stay for the family-friendly activities. Art lovers can peruse the $10 million display of public art along the harbor before climbing aboard for a sightseeing cruise from the marina. If your little ones can’t bear the thought of sightseeing for more than a short time, join the Urban Pirates for a Swashbuckling Adventure and let them take a spin on the carousel while parents enjoy the views.

Here’s a tip from my family to yours.

Let the bustle from Thanksgiving and Christmas wind down and set out for a Washington D.C. trip during New Year’s when the weather is usually still temperate. This is when my family came, and during one warm day we even shrugged off our jackets during a walk along the National Mall. We were headed into D.C. during the longest shutdown in history, but I had called around in advance. During shut-downs, the Smithsonian museums and properties often have some funding to stay open an additional week or two before also shutting down.

The crowds in Washington D.C. are usually lighter during the days just before and after New Year’s with plenty of free things to do like the Smithsonian museums, National Zoo complete with a holiday light display at nightfall, exploring the National Mall and taking plenty of selfies in front of the White House.

Then use your vacation splurge to stay at the Gaylord Hotel and take full advantage of the entertainment and festive events. You can even ask for an interior facing room to watch the skilled acrobats from Cirque de Soleil soar across the stage for a New Year’s your kids will never forget.

Have you been to the Gaylord Hotel in Washington D.C.? Let us know about your experience by leaving a comment below.

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