Put Gaylord National at the Top of Your Summer Vacation Bucket List

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School is out and it’s the perfect time for a summer vacation! Check out why I think Gaylord National Harbor is a must-see destination for families this summer. 

My family loves traveling for long weekends. For me, a few days away several times a year beats a longer vacation only once. There is just something about getting out of dodge that clears my head, inspires me and makes me remember how much I love home. 

Living in Raleigh, NC we are fortunate to have many wonderful destinations within driving distance. We can be at the beach, the mountains, historical cities or theme parks in anywhere from 3-11 hours of driving. It really is a wonderful place to live. It’s also a wonderful place to leave with all the fun options nearby!

This post is sponsored by Gaylord National Resort and the Capital Wheel. All opinions are mine. 

VisitSummerFest Chair photo op for Summer Vacation at Gaylord National

I was invited to spend the weekend with my son at the Gaylord National Harbor Resort, which at about four and a half hours away is the perfect distance for a fun summer vacation getaway. What I didn’t know about National Harbor is how much I would fall in love with it.


Sitting right on the Potomac River, there is way more to do than one weekend can hold and I can’t wait to go back!

If you are looking for a relaxing destination that still has a lot of options for fun this summer, see why you should add a visit to Gaylord National Harbor to the top of your list. 

Gaylord National Resort Brings the Outdoors Indoors

If you’ve ever been to a Gaylord Resort, you are familiar with the vast and impressive atrium situation they have going on.

With shopping, restaurants, bars, and even a laser light show, you can enjoy a comfortable 72 degrees year round no matter what the weather is like outside. 

Gaylord National Atrium

We couldn’t get enough of this view of the Atrium from our 10th floor balcony

Calvin and I loved exploring the resort from breakfast at Pienza to swimming at the indoor pool (twice!).

If you can swing an Atrium view room, it’s definitely worth it to enjoy coffee on your balcony or the light show at night. 

Gaylord Indoor Pool

During #VisitSummerfest, which is free to all guests of the resort, you can even take your kiddos on the Bug Quest Scavenger Hunt to learn all about insects and solve the riddle to enter for a chance to win a free overnight stay! 

Bug Quest

The Best #VisitSummerfest Activities for a Fun Summer Vacation

Speaking of Summerfest, there are tons of activities all summer long and a few extras during 4th of July weekend. We had so much fun exploring all of the Summerfest activities like Sunset Jams by the pool, the Best of Summer Atrium Show and everyone’s favorite, Silent Disco!

Check out all the options below or visit the Gaylord Summerfest page to learn all about them. 

Summerfest Activities at Gaylord National

If you’re looking to spend the 4th near Washington, D.C., enjoy your time during the Independence Week Block Party Bash with even more daily activities in the resort like Campfire Tales & S’more, Movies Under the Stars, Kid’s Craft Corner and Trivia Nights. The additional fun will be daily from July 2-6th. 

We had a chance to preview some of these activities and I think you will love them. Part of the fun of a Gaylord summer vacation is enjoying the convenience of so many choices right where you are. 

Maybe dad could take the kids to craft time while mom enjoys the Relâche Spa? Just an idea. 

kid craft corner

coloring at Gaylord National

We loved coloring bags and painting rocks at the Kid’s Craft Corner and kids are sure to enjoy hearing stories and songs by the campfire (no real fire so it’s completely safe).

The campfire is located in the heart of the atrium right in front of the fountain. This is also the location for the light show and movies under the stars. 

Campfire kids

When your rocks are dry, have fun hiding them all over National Harbor for other families to find and share the love. Then, when the sun goes down, head back for the Best of Summer Atrium show followed by some Silent Disco dancing!

The laser light show is nightly at 8:30pm and 9pm and watched it from three different places; our balcony, right in front of the fountain and from the Belvedere Lobby Bar.

In my opinion, the music is best from down on the atrium floor but I loved the photos from our room. Best plan? Do what we did and catch the show from a new spot each night!

Light Show balcony view

light show fountain kids

If you want to catch the show from the Belvedere Lobby Bar, I recommend planning on 9pm and then staying for Silent Disco right there in the same place.

The schedule says Silent Disco is from 9-11pm but it doesn’t actually start until after the light show ends so the timing is perfect. Normally, my kiddos are in bed by this time, but it’s not summer vacation if you can’t bend the rules a little right?

Silent Disco headphones

Silent Disco at Gaylord

It was wayyy past his bedtime but you don’t sleep on Silent Disco!

Rooms at Gaylord National Resort

The rooms at Gaylord National Resort are beautiful and clean. Since I was only there with my youngest, we were both comfortable in our own beds but our family of four would be just as comfy! 

Gaylord National Room

I always appreciate a nice double-sink vanity in a hotel bathroom and there was plenty of closet space along with a nice coffee nook.

Maybe you don’t get as excited about toiletries as I do, but these go above and beyond! 

double sink Gaylord National toiletries

Even though we were hosted, I was surprised to learn that rooms start at $179/night, which seems totally reasonable for a hotel of this size in such a desirable location.

A nice price makes my return trip planning even more exciting! 

Out and About in National Harbor

I think one of the reasons we had such a great time on our trip is not only does Gaylord National have everything you might want without setting foot outside, it’s also surrounded by some of my favorite things if you do choose to venture out.

You know what they say right? Location, location, location! 

Eat that Capital Wheel

As soon as you step out of the hotel, you’re greeted by a gorgeous view of the Potomac River where there is a path to take you right into town without even needing to go near traffic. 

You can’t miss the iconic Capital Wheel and it’s fun to see it at different times of the day. I wonder how many times it has been photographed ? My guess is the number is pretty high.

In just 3 days I probably took at least 100 photos of or from the giant wheel. What can I say? A girl needs options.

National Harbor Waterfront

At the waterfront area, you can experience the views atop the Capital Wheel, which is enclosed and air-conditioned and so much fun!

You could also take a boat tour, enjoy the sandy beach and let your kids climb on “The Awakening” statue or even listen to live music or watch an outdoor movie. It’s also the perfect spot to enjoy the sunset.

xWaterfront From Capital Wheel

Mom and Calvin on Capital Wheel

And did you know that out of only two Peeps & Co. retail stores in the world, one of them is right in National Harbor?

We loved seeing this spot and checking out the adorable Peeps car. It was so much fun deciding what delicious marshmallow treats would come home with us.

peeps car

Don’t worry if marshmallows aren’t your thing, they have Mike & Ikes too and even bottled water! I probably got a little too excited about that last one.

This is a fun stop!

Peeps Water

There are plenty of dining options in National Harbor from Mexican to Italian and everything in between. If you want to shop, there are lots of fun places to spend your vacation money, all within walking distance of Gaylord National. 

And for even more fun, hop on the National Harbor Circulator to check out Tanger Outlets or try your luck in the casino at MGM National Harbor. 

Waterfront National Harbor Live Music

Just writing this post is making me happy and ready to go back. Since Jerry and Oscar weren’t able to come with us this time, we definitely need to show them around. 

Now that I know that Gaylord Resorts are always bringing their A-game, I can’t wait to check out locations in other cities. I hope you have a chance to #VisitSummerfest soon and make some wonderful memories on your own family summer vacation! 


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About Andrea Updyke

Andrea Updyke is a married mom of two boys living in Raleigh, NC. She is a published author and blogger of more than 18 years and loves to celebrate the little things that make life awesome.

Whether she's sharing tasty recipes, traveling or hanging with the family, Andrea's goal is to help make your days a little easier and a lot more fun! Email inquiries to andreaupdyke@gmail.com.

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  1. This looks like such an amazing place to visit! Since we’re in VA this wouldn’t be too far for us. ? Saving this! And I agree – I’d much rather take a few small trips throughout the year than just 1 long one.