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.

By Tania Anderson |  August 7, 2008; 12:03 AM ET Off the Beaten Path
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Actually sounds interesting. When I first heard it was in PG County, I dismissed it. But I might make a detour one of these days and try some of that apple butter.

Posted by: dcp | August 7, 2008 1:43 PM

I'm so glad that Tania had a chance to visit National Harbor and I'd love to add some information to her article. Here is just a few of the other shops and restaurants that are also at National Harbor now: America!, Erwin Pearl, Jake's at National Harbor (Life is Good), Jos A. Bank, Harley Davidson (apparel & accessories), Ben & Jerry's, McCormick & Schmick's Harborside, Sauciety, Foster's Lobster Clambake, Old Hickory Steakhouse, National Pastime Sports Bar & Grille and more! There's also a 30,000 sq ft spa; Relache Spa.

Opening Soon: Rosa Mexicano, Cake Love, Fossil, Occasions to Remember, Olympic News and much much more! Check out for more information. Also go to for more information about the American Market.

National Harbor is a city that is emerging from the banks of the Potomac River! Come check it out and see for yourself. :-)

Posted by: sa | August 7, 2008 3:00 PM

Why go to PG county - where the SWAT team shot the Mayor's dogs? Let these folks clean up their Sheriff's Office first, before they look for visitors... Go instead to Silver Spring, it's in Montgomery Co.

Posted by: MCE | August 7, 2008 6:55 PM

It's on the water! It's chic, and it's the talk of the East Coast. Sorry, the water taxis don't stop near the Red Line my Montgomery friends. Good evening.

Posted by: Unclassified | August 7, 2008 9:35 PM

Tania, I prefer to spend my weekends in Olde Towne, Alexandria. It's much more charming and interesting. National Harbour looks like an updated Crystal City. I also think that the sculptor of the Awakening should have been left in Hains Point, it soo doesn't belong at the National Harbour.

Posted by: Mande3 | August 8, 2008 4:08 PM

Leo Button

I prefer to spend my weekends in Olde Farm house, Florida.
It's much more charming,loving and interesting.
National Harbour looks like an updated Diamond City.
I also think that the sculptor of the
Awakening should have been left in Hains Point, it's not a part of the National Harbour.


Posted by: Leo button | August 12, 2008 9:43 AM

Hint to National Harbor: Don't have your farmer's market at the exact same time as the oldest farmer's market in the USA, across the river in Old Town Alexandria.

You really have to worry when your enormous development is considered 'off the beaten path.'

Posted by: Frobozz | August 12, 2008 10:40 PM

The writer asked for input on the National Harbor, IF YOU'VE BEEN, to inform her about what she's missed.

For all those posting, who have yet to go, your opinions about where to go instead is unnecessary. Why go to Old Town, when you can go to Eastern Market? Why go to Eastern Market, if you can go straight to the farms in MD...please. Go to check it out. If you don't like it. Don't go again. If you do, post it somewhere so people don't miss the opportunity to go to a place they haven't seen yet.

And I'm done.

Posted by: msl | August 14, 2008 2:03 PM

In response to the post by: Frobozz | August 12, 2008 10:40 PM

The American Market at National Harbor starts right about the time Old Town Alexandria's market ends so people can enjoy two markets in the same day that are just a few miles away from each other! :-)

I'd say that's very convenient!

Posted by: Anonymous | August 15, 2008 12:43 PM

I took my 89 yo Mom to National Harbor two weeks ago.

We walked the boardwalk area and dock, strolled through the array of shops, and spent time at the Gaylord hotel.

The gardens infront of the Gaylord are amazing.

It is definitely a place to take your out-of-town visitors. It isn't very crowded so far, and when it is completed, there will be something for everyone.

Posted by: pittbull | August 19, 2008 3:26 PM

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