Last November, the Washington metropolitan area stood on the precipice of a monumental new beginning…and I’m not talking about the election. Entertainment and hospitality juggernaut MGM Resorts International was nearing completion of its latest destination resort, MGM National Harbor, in Maryland’s Prince George’s County, ushering in the state’s first luxury gaming resort.
Its location on the eastern shore of the Potomac River promised stunning views, ease of access to and from Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA), and a convenient home base for exploring The DMV (D.C., Maryland, Virginia)—but the question remained whether it would successfully deliver the energy of Vegas adapted for the East Coast audience. From my recent stay, I can tell you it did.
What Happens at MGM National Harbor, Makes Headlines
Since its December opening, MGM National Harbor has been grabbing headlines, not only because of the A-list entertainment line-up performing at the onsite theater, but also for the diversity of its amenities. “With MGM National Harbor, we set out to create an entirely new experience for the DMV region,” says Sheila Hession, executive director of sales for MGM National Harbor. “While we have a casino, the focus was on an integrated resort experience with unique restaurants from celebrity chefs Jose Andres, Marcus Samuelsson and the Voltaggio Brothers; a luxury spa and salon; well-appointed, designed rooms; a world-class public art collection featuring local and international artists, and so much more.”
It’s true; while the casino has many draws—124 table games, 3,300 slot machines and 25 variations of carnival games—it is neatly tucked away behind guarded entrances, allowing guests to move across the property without ever stepping foot inside the massive 125,000-sq.-ft. space. In addition to gaming, the casino has two bars/lounges, including Felt, a cool indoor/outdoor concept where DJs play live mixes and bartenders perform tableside mixology.
During my visit, Dontaine, a bartender at Felt, put on quite the show for our group, torching cloves to add smoky notes to his take on the “smoked old fashioned cocktail” and using a syringe to inject marshmallows with Bailey’s to complement a Joey Smokestack gin and mezcal concoction; but the real show came later when multi-platinum selling rock band Kings of Leon took to the theater’s stage for the first leg of their “Walls” tour.
“Entertainment also is in the DNA of any MGM Resorts experience and MGM National Harbor is no different,” says Hession. “The Theater at MGM National Harbor, a 3,000-seat venue, is the first of its kind in the region to be integrated in a resort and hosts leading performers and high-profile events, normally reserved for large-scale arenas.”
In addition to musicians (e.g. Bruno Mars, Cher, Duran Duran), comedians (e.g. Jim Gaffigan, Sarah Silverman), cabaret-style acts and boxers have all performed, or will, perform, at the theater thanks to the venue’s telescopic seating, which can be expanded or retracted to allow for more or less floor space.
After the concert, the crowd spilled out into the National Market for Southwest quesadillas, burritos and tacos at Amos Los Tacos; spring rolls, pho and Asian-style sandwiches at Banh Mi Vietnamese Kitchen; and of course, pizza and burgers at ZiZi’s Pizza and Shake Shack, respectively. The Market hosts nine unique venues in all with plenty of options for indoor and outdoor seating.
Culinary diversity is of upmost importance at MGM National Harbor. Case in point: The property features 15 food and beverage options ranging from fast-casual to fine dining, three being celebrity-chef driven restaurants.
Your clients will want to keep their cameras handy because they may have the opportunity for a photo-op with Ethiopian-born and Sweden-raised chef Samuelsson while munching on blackened catfish, chicken waffles and pot pie at Marcus, like this “Food Network” nerd did during my visit.
At Voltaggio Brothers Steak House, I had the opportunity to shake hands with Bryan Voltaggio, who joined forces for the first time with his brother Michael for their namesake’s steakhouse. He explained how “there’s bits and pieces of [me and my brother] in each dish,” and that the restaurant’s set up drew inspiration from their childhood home in Maryland. A must-try here is the American Wagyu flat iron or NY Strip.
Your clients will want to book a few days to truly enjoy the variety of culinary options available at MGM National Harbor as I haven’t even begun to delve into the local seafood favorites on offer at Spanish-American chef Jose Andres’ restaurant Fish or the out-of-this-world food and beer pairing at the Tap sports bar. When they do, suggest a 958-sq.-ft. Corner Suite featuring floor-to-ceiling windows and sweeping views on all sides. Nightly room rates start at $299 per night. Suite rates start at $599 per night.
MGM National Harbor: mgmnationalharbor.com