A Taste of Vegas at the MGM National Harbor

MGM National Harbor

My husband and I decided to play hooky last week and spent an afternoon and evening at the new MGM National Harbor. With so many high-end restaurants, craft cocktail bars, entertainment options, and a gorgeous Asian-inspired aesthetic, we could have been there longer, could have eeked out a few more hours enjoying a atmosphere that reminded us of our favorite casino resorts in Las Vegas.

While the mind and body were willing, the wallet was weak.

MGM National Harbor, with its silver tower glittering over the Potomac and viewable from Alexandria, is not a cheap place to spend the evening. But if you're looking for a bit of the service, sophistication, and unapologetic adult decadence that Vegas offers without the plane flight, MGM National Harbor is an worthy substitute.

MGMNationalHarbor_InBetweenInDC

High-end eats

The MGM National Harbor has called upon some of the D.C.-area's most-loved chefs to create high-end dining experiences that lure those -- like us -- who don't gamble. Fish by José Andrés and the Voltaggio Brothers Steak House are evening-only restaurants. Marcus, by Marcus Samuelsson, is an all-day restaurant that also provides the room service menu. 

Voltaggio Brothers Steak House

During our dinner at the Steak House, we enjoyed some of the best and most personable wait staff we've had in the D.C. area. The Voltaggio brothers have designed the place with the homey feel of your mom's house -- if your mom was the coolest, most sophisticated hostess on the East Coast. There's a dining room and a family room and a bar in the study. You drink out of finely etched glass. There's an echo of Vegas in the design theatrics of the place, that surreal sense that you're not in "normal" adult land anymore, and it was a satisfying part of the evening. Do I really need to mention the steaks? Of course they were outstanding. And the rolls -- amazing.

My husband, wisely, steered us away from the expensive lunch I wanted and toward the food court, where we had some truly kickass Shake Shack burgers. But the National Market offers a lot more variety than your average food court. I could have also gone for the crab cakes, banh mis, chicken and doughnuts, or the ice cream. Oh wait. I did go for the ice cream.

Craft cocktail bars

Drinks are not free in the casino -- you will pay that lovely strolling cocktail waitress for what you order. And while the Old Fashioned I had at the casino bar was good, the Old Fashioned from The Lobby Bar was outstanding. 

TheLobbyBar_MGMNationalHarbor

There are many places to get a delicious cocktail at the MGM National Harbor -- in all the restaurants, at the Tap Sports Bars, in the upscale Felt and and Blossom cocktail lounges inside the casino -- but The Lobby Bar might be my new favorite bar in the D.C. area. I know, that's saying a lot about a hotel bar. But in the back, they've got barrels of your favorite liquor specifically barreled for their bar. They've got smooth sipping tequilas that only cost you an arm; that will cost you an additional leg anywhere else. They've got bartenders that flame up the orange peel before rimming the glass, making that Old Fashioned one of the best of the many I've tasted. And they've got bartenders who will be as sweet as pie or give you all of the sass that you sit at the bar to get.

I'm not kidding. Don't miss The Lobby Bar.

Entertainment

Did I mention that we don't gamble? We don't. Because we're bad at it. 

Unfortunately, we forgot that we don't gamble at the MGM National Harbor's casino, so we lost money. Fast. Quarter slot machines were the cheapest ones we could find -- yes, there were penny machines, but those machines required a minimum of 50-cent bets. The cheapest tables were $25 bets. Perhaps there are cheaper tables hiding in the casino's hinterlands, but we couldn't find them. 

I won $15. This is when I should have walked away.

I won $15. This is when I should have walked away.

If you go to MGM National Harbor to gamble, I hope you're better at it than we are.

The 3,000-seat theater will be probably be a better entertainment option for us the next time we visit. The day we were there, the resort was thronged with emo kids and their parents waiting for the Panic at the Disco show. Sting plays at the theater on Sunday, and Cher is currently in residence, playing several nights in March and then back again in September.

MGMNationalHarbor

Hillwood Museum: A Docent-in-Training View

In January, I began a six-month effort to become a docent at the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens off of Connecticut Avenue in Washington, D.C. To do so will require a six-month crash course in French and Russian decorative arts, thousands of pages of reading, weekly three-hour classes, four presentations, and a promise that, once the course is completed, I will serve at Hillwood as a docent a minimum of eight hours a month.

Did I mention that all of this is as a volunteer?

And I'm not the only crazy one. There are 30 of us in class, 30 of 100 people who applied to give away hours and hours of their time in the service of telling the story of businesswoman, heiress, philanthropist, and collector Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Why? Because Hillwood is fabulous. 

A dinner party at Hillwood began in the French Drawing Room, where you enjoyed a cocktail, strolled out to the gardens, and were invited by Marjorie Post to touch, sit in, and enjoy her 18th-century French furniture and art.

A dinner party at Hillwood began in the French Drawing Room, where you enjoyed a cocktail, strolled out to the gardens, and were invited by Marjorie Post to touch, sit in, and enjoy her 18th-century French furniture and art.

Post, who inherited the Postum Cereal Company and evolved it into General Foods, bought Hillwood in 1955 for the express purpose of sharing her astonishing collection of 18th-century French and imperial-era Russian furniture, porcelain, art, and glorious things that sparkle with the public. There, she entertained congressmen who dined on plates made for Catherine the Great, she invited high school students to relax into her 200-year-old French chairs, and she strolled with wounded veterans across her flower-bordered lawn, the Washington Monument easily in view.

Post fed her lucky guests off Russian imperial porcelain plates. The dining room is currently set with the porcelain service created to honor the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I in 1826. I learned that last week.

Post fed her lucky guests off Russian imperial porcelain plates. The dining room is currently set with the porcelain service created to honor the coronation of Tsar Nicholas I in 1826. I learned that last week.

See? Fabulous. At Hillwood, Post enshrined a way of life -- and a generosity of spirit -- that is lost. Her life of decorum and rules -- she always supplied heel caps for the ladies square-dancing on her hardwood floors -- also included square-dancing. That same sense of fun and enjoying yourself is still an essential part of the Hillwood visit: guests can tour the house with a docent or on their own, kids can explore the vast and varied gardens and the pet cemetery, flower lovers can spend hours sniffing the 2,000 orchids in the greenhouse, and ladies who lunch can order a glass of wine at the cafe.

Orchids at the Hillwood Museum

I imagine I'll be mentioning Hillwood a lot here on In Between in D.C.; I've already told everyone I know about the 60-piece jewelry exhibit, Spectacular Gems and Jewelry from the Merriweather Post Collection, that will be opening in June. It'll be opening right about the time that a class of 30 new docents will come on board. 

Come visit. Be kind (we'll be a little nervous). And be careful. Hillwood opens its doors to new docents every 3-5 years. You, too, could catch the devotion to fabulousness.

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exhibitons at the Hillwood Museum

Post and daughter, Nedenia. Nedenia will grow up to become actress Dina Merrill. The emerald brooch by Cartier will be part of the Spectacular exhibit.

Post and daughter, Nedenia. Nedenia will grow up to become actress Dina Merrill. The emerald brooch by Cartier will be part of the Spectacular exhibit.

  • Four Seasons - The gargantuan Philip Haas sculptures interpreting Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s celebrated botanical paintings will be on view in the garden until March 31.
  • Friends and Fashion - Using forty-five portraits from an album of an American diplomat in 1820s Russia, the exhibit explores the people, politics, fashion, and hairstyles of a glamorous St. Petersburg. Displayed in the Dacha, the exhibit will run through June 11.
  • Spectacular Gems and Jewelry - Nearly 60 pieces of jewelry that belonged to Marjorie Merriweather Post, some given to and on loan from the Smithsonian's Museum of Natural History, will be on display from June 10 to January 14, 2018.


How to Create a Monthly Social Media Calendar

How to Create a Monthly Social Media Calendar

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