The $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor is a dazzling LEED Gold-certified complex mixing a luxury hotel with entertainment, restaurants, retail and a high-tech casino that never shuts its doors. The Maryland resort’s futuristic design with its angular glass-walled 24-story tower takes full advantage of the panoramic vistas of D.C.’s monuments just a few miles to the north.
Reminders of the area permeate the property inside, too. Above the check-in desk, local sculptor Margaret Boozer’s oversized wall map of the region welcomes guests. But all the action is downstairs, where a soaring conservatory anchored by a theatrical display leads to the casino floor, three celebrity chef restaurants, high-end retail, an intimate concert hall and more. Read on for a guide to the good life, whether you’re planning a day visit, taking a business trip detour or booking a longer staycation.
Off the atrium, the Theater at MGM National Harbor, a high-tech concert theater with 3,000 seats, exudes intimacy yet books big-ticket talents like Sting, Cher and Ricky Martin, in addition to high-profile events and parties. Seven suites give VIPs access to a private lobby and catered food.
The intricate ironwork decorating the entrance to the casino is the handiwork of legendary musician Bob Dylan. Inside, a pulsating Las Vegas vibe permeates the 125,000-sq.-ft. floor. High-tech slot machines not found elsewhere, luxury high-limit gaming rooms, roulette, craps, poker and Macau-style baccarat tables allow players to release their inner James Bond. Two swank bars provide liquid sustenance: Blossom, at the center of the action, offers creative shooters and table games, while Felt, a suave oasis with live music and an outdoor terrace, mixes custom drinks tableside.
Celebrity chefs bring some of D.C.’s most notable new restaurants to the complex. Marcus, by Marcus Samuelsson, is an all-day bistro that infuses American comfort food with the chef’s cosmopolitan culinary heritage. Samuelsson explains that “migration and immigration are the two big movements” inspiring dishes like Ethiopian-spiced fried chicken and pot pie with doro wat. The dramatic decor of his handsome namesake honors his roots with dynamic African tapestries, personal memorabilia and a “sidewalk cafe” invoking Paris.
Dazzling, nautical-themed decor sets the stage for Michelin-starred chef José Andrés’ inspired takes on American seafood at high-end Fish. Andrés has fallen in love with the region’s bounty, yet his Spanish and modernist roots shine through in dishes like lobster jambalaya, served paella-style, and oyster shooters with gin and tonic foam. When asked why he offers fried seafood at the bar, he responded, “Because the Spanish fry better than anyone else.” The airy space opens onto a fountain plaza where Andrés plans to serve Maryland hard-shell crabs in nice weather.
The Voltaggio brothers, of TV’s “Top Chef,” pool their talents to create a modern steakhouse with a hometown feel at Voltaggio Brothers Steak House. Here, a series of rooms evokes a family residence, from a book-lined bar to an elegant dining room and a cheerful, country kitchen with the cooks in full view. The brothers have refashioned steakhouse fare as well with an iceberg wedge salad dusted with gorgonzola “snow” and a classic spinach side with puffs of aerated cheddar. Still, traditionalists can count on thick cuts of meat—and Parker House rolls.
Visitors looking for something more casual head to TAP Sports Bar. The classy, roomy space features some 90 TV screens with a fire pit-patio overlooking the Potomac River. Classic pub fare gets a local twist here, with mumbo-sauced wings, crab cakes and regional craft beers.
The stylish food hall, National Market, offers another low-key option with a potpourri of local and international walk-up spots, including Maryland’s Pappas crab cakes and Shake Shack, plus sushi, tacos, sandwiches, fried chicken and even Vietnamese banh mi. GWBW George Washington Beer & Wine sets up a relaxed gathering spot for sipping local wines and beers, while Bellagio Patisserie in the atrium offers colorful sweet treats and an enormous chocolate fountain.
The sparkly, sexy shoes lining the walls at SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker, the “Sex and the City” star’s first boutique, are showstoppers. Few can pass by without at least peeking in. Many more are there to shop. The store reports that, in addition to the footwear, the “accessories have flown off the shelves—perfume, totes, handbags and the SJP LBD” (little black dress). Other cool stops in the shopping arcade include Las Vegas-born Stitched, luxury womens wear boutique Ella Rue, and designer eyewear shop Specs (offering just the thing to wear in the purple neon-lit casino).
Pampering with a View
The 27,000-sq.-ft. Spa and Salon at MGM National Harbor with a whirlpool and picturesque vistas sets the scene for high-end indulgences. Inside, visitors choose from a comprehensive menu of Clarins treatments, from pedicures in a glamorous salon to hot shaves in a handsome barber’s lounge. On a separate floor, couples luxuriate in an infinity tub followed by a massage before heading to a scenic lounge for drinks.