Off the Beaten Path: National Harbor
Everyone has their ideal shopping experience. Some people get excited for good deals, while others crave a big selection. For me it's all about the experience. The atmosphere of the place is more important to me than the selection and the prices. And that's what my monthly post Off the Beaten Path is all about. Finding the ultimate shopping experience that isn't loaded down with a bunch of people, chains and bad food. I try to seek out shopping experiences where there's a cluster of unique stores alongside some fun places to eat. Is that too much to ask?
National Harbor, just on the other side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Maryland, may have intentions of getting to that point but it's not quite there yet. The whole project is slated for completion in the next several years. And the company in charge of recruiting retailers to the new project says there's 1 million square feet of retail, dining and entertainment space to fill and only 325,000 square feet will be taken up this year.
So where can you shop at the National Harbor now? At least two very interesting galleries. One is Govinda Gallery, a Georgetown establishment that has featured music photography and pop art for more than three decades. A second location opened in the National Harbor earlier this year. And there's also Art Whino, an Old Town Alexandria gallery that opened at National Harbor to display work from the underground art scene. You'll find original art ranging in price from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.
Urban Chic, the local hip clothing and shoe store, also opened its National Harbor store earlier this year. Originally started in Georgetown four years ago, the local boutique sells well-known brands, as well as up-and-coming designers.
You can also find a small farmers market near the Gaylord National Resort Hotel & Convention Center called American Way. It doesn't exactly have the charm and personality of Eastern Market in Washington but it does offer some interesting finds every Saturday from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. until Oct. 18. You'll mostly find the stuff that dominates farmers markets -- fresh vegetables and fruits from local farmers and gardeners. Tables were loaded with beautiful peaches, tomatoes, eggplants, bell peppers and watermelons. But you'll also find a table for Le Mousseux, a Woodstock, Va.-based business that sells sparkling ciders, apple butters and spreads, and oils and cider vinegars. You can pick up a 9 ounces of apple pie in a jar or hot apple jalapeno spread for $8. The Pickle Guy also has a table there with a wide range of different flavored pickles, including hot and spicy, full sours and half sours. Pints go for $7 and quarts go for between $7 and $12. Other vendors include jewelers, soap makers, candle makers, a booth with fresh salsa and bread and even a guy making fruit smoothies.
Have you shopped at the National Harbor? What did I miss? How do you define your ultimate shopping experience? Please post a comment below.
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