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National Harbor, Maryland

National Harbor
Census-designated place[1]
McCormick and Schmick's in May 2008.
McCormick and Schmick's in May 2008.
National Harbor is located in Maryland
National Harbor
National Harbor
Location within the state of Maryland
Country  United States of America
State  Maryland
County Area
 • Total 4.8 km2 (1.9 sq mi)
 • Land 3.7 km2 (1.4 sq mi)
 • Water 1.0 km2 (0.4 sq mi)
Population (2010)
 • Total 3,788
 • Density 790/km2 (2,000/sq mi)
Time zone Eastern (EST) (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
ZIP codes 20745
Area code(s) 301

National Harbor is a 300-acre (1.2 km2) multi-use waterfront development on the shores of the Washington, D.C. near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Phase one of National Harbor opened on April 1, 2008. The site is being developed by Milton Peterson's Peterson Companies,[2][3] with the project expected to cost well over $2 billion,[4] and a construction time frame of 2007 to late 2014.[5] In addition to the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, which opened on April 1, 2008, National Harbor contains five additional hotels, waterfront condos, offices, retail stores, nightspots, a marina, and a new location for the National Children's Museum, whose first phase opened in December 2012.[6][7] An outlet shopping center opened at National Harbor in November 2013.[8]

The development was delineated as a census-designated place for the 2010 census, at which time its population was 3,788.[9]


  • History 1
  • Facilities 2
    • Geography 2.1
  • Access 3
  • Controversy 4
  • Gallery 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7


The land developed for National Harbor was previously Salubria Plantation, built in 1827 by Dr. John H. Bayne. The plantation house burned down in 1981 and was offered for sale along with the surrounding land. The land was sold in 1984 and in 1994 was rezoned for mixed-use development.


Gaylord National Resort, National Harbor, MD, USA
Capital (ferris) Wheel at National Harbor, Maryland, USA

The site has a convention center, six hotels, restaurants, shops, and condominiums.[6] National Harbor hosted Cirque du Soleil in 2008, 2010 and 2012 and also features outdoor activities such as a culinary festival and outdoor concerts by local artists, National Harbor's calendar of events, an annual ice sculpture exhibition, and an annual international Beatles festival, "Abbey Road on the River." The site includes a beachfront walking path and a connection to a bike trail on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge that crosses into Alexandria, Virginia.[10] Amusements include a children's carousel, and the Capital Wheel, a 175-foot ferris wheel on a pier that extends into the Potomac River.

The Walt Disney Company had announced that it would build a new resort hotel at National Harbor, but backed out of the project in November 2011.[11] An MGM-branded casino is expected to open at National Harbor in 2016, following voters' approval of an expansion to the state's gambling program in the November 2012 elections.[12] In addition, on November 29, 2012, ground was broken for a Tanger Outlets shopping facility at National Harbor, which opened in November 2013.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, National Harbor has a total area of 1.9 square miles (4.8 km2), of which 1.4 square miles (3.7 km2) is land and 0.39 square miles (1.0 km2), or 21.7% (consisting of the Potomac River), is water.


Start of construction for National Harbor (lower left) at the junction of the Capital Beltway and the southern terminus of the Anacostia Freeway; Woodrow Wilson Bridge is just off the picture to the left.
Water taxi to Alexandria

National Harbor has direct road access to Interstate 95/495 (the Beltway), Interstate 295 (Anacostia Freeway), and Oxon Hill Road. Commuters traveling via Indian Head Highway may access National Harbor by utilizing the Oxon Hill Road exits.[13] Early critics of National Harbor argued that the site is not accessible enough to the Washington Metro, the Washington area's rapid transit system. However, local civic groups dropped a lawsuit against National Harbor's developer in exchange for assurances of greater investment in the surrounding community and better access to mass transit.[14] Three years later, the state funded over $500 million in road improvements in order to handle the 10,000 cars expected to commute daily to National Harbor.[13]

The new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which forms part of the Capital Beltway near National Harbor, was built to allow capacity for a future Washington Metro line.[15] However, there are no current plans to extend rail over the bridge to development. Instead, the state of Maryland pays $312,000 annually for bus access to National Harbor from the Branch Avenue Metro station. In June 2008, the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center asked the state to fund additional transit service because employees found it difficult to reach National Harbor.[16] In 2011, Metro began considering the possibility of building a rail extension to National Harbor off the Green Line as part of its long-term plan.[17]

A water taxi line run by the Potomac Riverboat Company connects the National Harbor to Alexandria, Virginia. The City of Alexandria also runs shuttles from the water taxi terminal to King Street – Old Town Metro station. The service costs the city about $800,000 per year.[18]


This development has caused considerable controversy due to its environmental impacts. The Sierra Club voiced strong objections in 1999 saying that construction of National Harbor would "prevent forever the completion of the Potomac Heritage Trail".[19] The site was linked to hundreds of thousands of gallons of untreated sewage being discharged into the Potomac River in 2008.[20]

Panorama of National Harbor
Aerial view, 2012. Alexandria, Virginia, beltway east across the Potomac to Maryland, Anacostia Freeway extending north to Washington from National Harbor.


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