National Harbor views. Photography by Stephen Wilkes

Inside MGM National Harbor

Seven don’t-miss moments at MGM’s new casino-resort in Maryland.

National Harbor, Maryland, might sound as disparate from Las Vegas as Springfield, Massachusetts. But thanks to new casino developments from MGM Resorts International, both cities are now more like us than ever before. (MGM Springfield will open in September 2018.)

The $1.4 billion MGM National Harbor debuted in December with a spectacular art collection, a restaurant roster to be rivaled and an assortment of luxury stores plucked straight from the Strip. Guests arrive to the property after a 40-minute ride from Dulles International airport. National Harbor is situated in a location touching all three major parts of the Potomac region: across the Woodrow Wilson Bridge from Alexandria, Virginia, adjacent to Prince George’s County, Maryland, and south of Washington, D.C.

At first glance, it will all seem so familiar. The entry of MGM National Harbor provides a view of its own Bellagio-like Conservatory, a 15,000-square-foot floral attraction created by designer Ed Libby that changes seasonally.

Expect to find a packed casino on any day or night and a large influx of tourists from Asia, with 16 Macau-style baccarat tables and 3,300 state-of-the-art slot machines, in addition to high-limit gaming, poker and other table games.

Chefs José Andrés, Marcus Samuelsson, and Bryan and Michael Voltaggio all have bustling restaurants with unique concepts that embrace the flavors of the region. Andrés, a longtime resident of D.C. known for bringing modern Spanish cuisine to the palates of American diners, offers the simply titled Fish, with fare true to Maryland and the Chesapeake Bay. Standouts include the tuna tartare, made tableside with Parker House rolls, egg yolk, mustard sauce, anchovies and shoestring potatoes, and José’s lobster roll, with butter-warmed lobster, celery and mayonnaise espuma. Celebrity-chef restaurants are only part of the portfolio. When casual hunger strikes—even late at night—hit the numerous food stalls that make up National Market. Pappas Crabcakes gives a taste of the most popular local cuisine: the lumpy and plump crabcake. Zizi’s Pizza is an original concept featuring New York–style pies using executive chef Jason Johnston’s grandma’s recipes.

Another attraction, for both locals and visitors is the 3,000-seat theater, which hosts many of the same residents that hit Las Vegas, including Bruno Mars, Cher and Ricky Martin.

When you have 24, 48 or 72 hours to spend east, here are the seven don’t-miss highlights from a stay at MGM National Harbor.

The three adjoining dining rooms at the Voltaggio Brother’s Steak House. Photo by: Robb Scharetg

Dinner at Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse

Natives of Frederick, Maryland, brothers Bryan and Michael Voltaggio are at the helm of the casino-resort’s steakhouse. The design of the restaurant, which unfolds throughout numerous rooms, mimics the decor of their childhood home. Find a perfectly cooked steak as well as a cocktail list that reads like a timeline of drinking history.

The Heritage Art Collection

MGM Resorts International is known for its dedication to the arts, and its impressive visual collection is on display throughout its properties worldwide. At National Harbor, more than a dozen acquisitions are known as the Heritage Art Collection and are representative of artists and materials found in the area. A few of the most significant include the first permanent public work by musician Bob Dylan called “Portal,” a sculpted iron archway. The 26-foot by 15-foot custom-welded gate is made of found objects and adorns the west entrance of the casino. Two of the most significant installations at National Harbor belong to artist Liao Yibai, whose work addresses the theme of the Chinese obsession with material goods. Take note of “Fighting Cash” in the main entry leading from the casino porte cochere to the Conservatory; and “Cinderella Shoe,” in the shopping promenade.

From the corner suite rooms at the MGM National Harbor Hotel, there’s a sweeping view of the Potmac River and National Harbor, with Alexandria and Arlington Virginia in the distance. Photo by: Robb Scharetg

A Corner Suite

When it comes to a good night’s sleep, you can’t go wrong with a corner suite featuring floor-to-ceiling windows in a nearly 1,000-square-foot space. Coupled with impressive views of the Potomac River, Washington Monument, Capitol Building, Old Town Alexandria and National Harbor, the bedroom comes to a sharp, narrow point, which is a great place for a galactic-looking selfie. One of the room’s most unique features is the adjustable lighting in the bathroom mirrors, also prime for photo taking. This suite has a separate living room. Overall, the 24-story building has 234 guest rooms and 74 suites, including Presidential and Chairman accommodations.

Chef Samuelsson’s fried green tomatoes and oysters.

In-room Dining From Marcus

They call it farm-to-bed. This is the only place in the world where you can have food from chef Marcus Samuelsson without leaving the confines of the covers. The Ethiopian-born, Sweden-raised, Samuelsson knows comfort food, and, as the name dictates, it is best eaten while comfortable. The breakfast signature is The Egg, an open-faced fried chicken biscuit sandwich topped with gravy. Don’t skip the buttery grits.

And there’s no need to call room service when done, the food carts at National Harbor have Tray Tracker, a real-time alert technology that eliminates manual cart discovery. When the cart is placed outside the door, a hidden receiver in the doorbell picks up the signal and sends a message to an online portal that monitors and manages room service deliveries.

Drinks at Felt

Las Vegas’ Clique Hospitality manages both Blossom Cocktail Lounge and Felt, the hub of MGM National Harbor’s nightlife. Craft cocktails are served from a custom-designed cart. In addition to the DJ action inside, there is a stunning patio with a fire pit for late-afternoon and evening fun.

Spa entrance

Face Time

The Spa & Salon, with 11 treatment rooms, offers couples’ suites, hydrotherapy and a Vichy room within the confines of its minimalist two-story design. The emphasis is on mind, body and spirit wellness versus over-the-top ornamentation. French skin care company Clarins created the treatments for the Spa & Salon.

Sarah Jessica Parker’s shoe boutique

Shop Just Like in Vegas

Popular Las Vegas men’s boutique Stitched Lifestyle has a store that is a twin of its Las Vegas location in National Harbor’s retail promenade, booze lockers and all. Washington Nationals star player and Las Vegas hometown hero Bryce Harper is a customer. Actress and shoe queen Sarah Jessica Parker opened her first stand-alone retail store at National Harbor and will soon bring her second location to Bellagio. Shop the rows and rows of confection-colored shoes, which will make any woman swoon.