April 1 marks eight years since the 350-acre National Harbor, Md., became a destination on the meetings map with the opening of the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. Since that first building debut, the destination has quickly grown into a prime location for meetings and events gathering just outside the Washington, D.C., area.
“What has happened here over the past eight years is truly remarkable,” says Jon Peterson, principal with Peterson Companies, the developer of National Harbor. “There are few places in the world that have been able to effectively plan and build out a community of this magnitude in this amount of time and on such prime real estate.”
Following the Gaylord debut was five other hotels, more than 30 restaurants, 150 retail shops as well as the Capital Wheel and Carousel at National Harbor attractions. The observation wheel gives meeting planners the option to combine a bonding experience—taking attendees 180 feet above the Potomac River to get a bird’s-eye view of famous D.C. sites—with events held at the foot of the attraction.
Not only is this meetings destination conveniently located between Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Va., but it also takes advantage of the area’s underused waterfront with the National Harbor Marina, which includes two, 700-foot-long piers with 64 slips. Two 10,000 sf platforms at the marina provide an ideal location for corporate entertaining or private events.
The development of the destination doesn’t seem to be stopping anytime soon either. MGM National Harbor casino is scheduled to open later this year, adding an additional 308 rooms, 27,000 sf of meeting space, 125,000 sf of gaming space and a 3,000-seat theater.