48 Hours at MGM National Harbor

by Matthew Wexler
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Sunday Dec 16, 2018
MGM National Harbor
MGM National Harbor  

MGM National Harbor proves that you don't need to head to Las Vegas to get a full-throttle resort and casino experience. East Coasters were thrilled when the luxury resort opened in late 2016. Nestled on the shores of the Potomac River, the $1.4 billion property is a quick 20-minute ride from D.C., but you're likely to hunker down and enjoy the range of experiences, including a 125,000-square foot casino with all the bells and whistles (but no smoking!) that you'd expect in Sin City.

MGM National Harbor's 308-room hotel tower offers comfortable digs in a neutral palette of tans and brown. Be sure to request a Potomac River view, which includes Oxon Cove Park's gorgeous foliage if you plan on visiting in late fall. A recent visit revealed towering floral sculptures and water features in the resort's towering atrium, which is a short stroll from high-end shopping where you can spend your winnings. Retailer highlights include Breitling Swiss watches, MCM (not to be confused with MGM, this German brand offers luxe leather goods), and a curated collection of fashion and accessories at MGM Men's.

Be sure to wander around the property to take in the MGM National Harbor Heritage Collection, a jaw-dropping array of artwork from Capital Region as well as international artists. Don't miss "Portal" by Bob Dylan (yes, that Bob Dylan), located at the west entrance; mixed media painting by Sam Gilliam; and wild floor portals by Chul Hyun Ahn, created with one-way mirrors and LED lights.

Meat Me for Dinner
Voltaggio Brothers Steak House  (Source:MGM National Harbor, Scott Suchman)

Meat Me for Dinner

MGM National Harbor boasts several destination-worthy restaurants, including Voltaggio Brothers Steak House. The pair is known for their charming appearances on "Top Chef," and here the Maryland natives offer riffs on steakhouse classics in a gorgeous setting perfect for a celebration with friends and family or an intimate dinner for two. Featuring interiors by Design Bureaux, the main dining room's rich blue hues are offset by black marble tabletops, while the adjacent rooms warmly glow with soft touches of grey and green.

The menu offers familiar favorites with subtle twists. Shrimp cocktail is served with fermented radish and an overly salty Maryland crab cracker (think shrimp toast). Spiced pork belly is beautifully rendered into a melt-in-your-mouth bite of fat and meat, though the accompanying fried rice feels like an afterthought.

Of course, the main attraction at any steakhouse is the steak. Voltaggio Brothers offers USDA Prime, Wagyu, and 45-day aged Prime. I opt for the latter in the form of a 22-ounce T-bone, which should include a portion of lean beef tenderloin and marbled strip steak. In the over-salted end cut received it was hard to distinguish between the two, but a slather of the slightly yeasty "beer-naise" sauce was a welcomed accompaniment. The "freedom fried potatoes (oddly bearing a nomenclature dating back 15 years) were perfection with a crispy bite and pillowy interior.

Stiff drinks also offer historical references and pay homage to centuries-old recipes dating back 1670, a favorite being the Madison (Osocalis brandy, Buffalo Trace bourbon, Luxardo cherries, orange and bitter) named in honor of our fourth president.

Culinary Border Crossings
Braised Double Boiled Bird's Nest  (Source:MGM National Harbor, Yolanda Byrd)

Culinary Border Crossings

For a more casual environment (but no less expensive), Ginger, located in the soaring atrium, presents a pan-Asian menu that draws inspiration from China, Thailand, Vietnam, Korea, and Japan. This wide-cast net succeeds with varying degrees of success, attempting to satisfy mainstream palettes with hints of authenticity but rarely hitting the target dead center.

Hot and sour cucumbers (served chilled) references its Chinese origin, though lacks the tongue-numbing Sichuan peppercorn. Taiwanese-style Three Cups chicken features the requisite ginger, garlic, and onions, but the skinless chicken breast doesn't impart the deep flavor one might find in the original version, served on the bone. The signature soft-shell crab fried rice receives an underwhelming (and under-crisped) anemic soft-shell crab sitting atop a heap of fried rice, which earns its nomenclature with plentiful flakes of sweet and briny crabmeat. A curated selection of teas, beers, and sakes provide ample choices to accompany the equally eclectic menu.

John Legend  (Source:MGM National Harbor)

At 27,000-square-feet, the Spa at MGM National Harbor offers ample room to rest, relax and revitalize. The only area spa to use Clarins skincare, the spa menu offers plenty of options for facials and other skin rejuvenation, though you should be sure to carve out time for the Sensational Fusion Massage ($250), an 80-minute ritual that incorporates all the senses. Beginning with a foot soak and massage, the treatment continues on a state-of-the-art massage table with a variety of techniques from head to toe.

Curtain Up
The cavernous theatre might just as easily house a Washington Wizards basketball game as a first-class concert. The nondescript rectangular arena provides a sprawling proscenium and adaptable seating capability for headliners and specialty acts.

A recent "Follies" show offered old-school PG-13 entertainment with chuckle-worthy comedian and burlesque style numbers. Plan your travel around some of the big acts headed to the venue this winter:

John Legend: A Legendary Christmas
November 28, 8 p.m.

Paula Abdul
December 2, 8 p.m.

Amy Schumer
December 15, 8 p.m.
December 16, 8 p.m.

Mariah Carey
March 31, 2019, 8 p.m.

Matthew Wexler is EDGE's National Senior Editor of Travel, Lifestyle, Health & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.

Autumn 2018

This story is part of our special report titled "Autumn 2018." Want to read more? Here's the full list.


Add New Comment

Comments on Facebook