After coming to Maryland’s National Harbor development—situated about 10 miles from the nation’s capital, in Oxon Hill, Md.—for ASAE’s inaugural XDP show at the nearby Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, I just had to pop in for a quick overnight to check out MGM Resorts’ new D.C.-area gem, MGM National Harbor.

Opened last December, the $1.4 billion 308-room Potomac River jewel is a natural fit for upscale D.C. social events and meetings, and features all the accouterments to serve both segments, such as 50,000 square feet of meeting space and three ballrooms: the 16,200-square-foot MGM Grand Ballroom, offering dynamic views of the Potomac through floor-to-ceiling windows, along with a 6,000-square-foot outdoor terrace that brings guests that much closer to the historic waterway; the 4,284-square-foot Bellagio Ballroom; three 1,838-square-foot meeting rooms; and two Mirage Boardrooms.

Getting shown around the new property by Sheila Hession, the executive director of sales who actually grew up in the area and returned home for the job, the design flourishes were what really hit me.

Especially striking is The Conservatory, a massive central space that showcases the property’s horticultural team, which changes the towering floral sculptures five times a year. The spectacle is worth a trip to the resort-casino all in itself, and meeting space foyers overlook the impressive undertaking.

“I believe it was a nod to our Bellagio in Las Vegas, which also has a conservatory where they do seasonal changeouts,” Hession said. “The hotel entrance, theater entrance and casino entrances open out into it, so it really is the most photographed area of the resort.”

Meetings can also take advantage of Potomac Plaza, an outdoor space that surrounds a fountain and reflecting pool, offering views of the Potomac for groups from 50 to 500.

Of course, the name of the game at MGM Resorts has always been “entertainment.” In tune with that, the property stages headlining acts at the 3,000-seat Theater at MGM National Harbor, a state-of-the-art venue that features seven VIP Suites and three center suites that can accommodate up to 200.

The District retail and culinary component makes the property an entertaining, standalone draw as well, with signature restaurants by celebrity chefs Jose Andres, Marcus Samuelsson, and Bryan and Michael Voltaggio, and trending shopping opportunities afforded at shops such as SJP by Sarah Jessica Parker.

“That really lends to our entire concept of being an entertainment venue,” Hession said. “Everything we do is entertainment, between shopping and dining and the salon [spa] and theater, everything surrounding is meant to entertain.”  

MGM National Harbor