Blog Archives

The Capital Wheel at National Harbor

The Capital Wheel
174 Waterfront Street #215
Oxon Hill, MD 20745

The Capital Wheel is a 180-foot-tall observation wheel at the National Harbor that opened in May 2014. It is positioned at the end of a new pier overlooking the Potomac river and has amazing views of the Capitol, National Mall, and Arlington National Cemetery. I was intrigued ever since I heard about the wheel coming to DC since it reminded me of the London Eye that I rode while studying abroad in college. The Capital Wheel is only half the size of the London Eye but is still very impressive. I decided to take the girls on a beautiful fall morning after visiting the National Children’s Museum and we all greatly enjoyed the experience.



The Capital Wheel has 42 climate controlled gondolas, so you can ride comfortably in any type of weather. They hold 8 people and also include music and an emergency call button if you need to stop and get out for any reason. Be careful not to bump your head when entering the gondola as they are not tall enough to stand up in…..I know from experience :).


The wheel makes about 6 rotations, so the flight lasts approximately 12-15 minutes. We rode on a clear day, so we had great views of the city and watched planes fly into National Airport.

CWview                             CWgirls

CWpierview                                          CWclara+momma

After riding The Capital Wheel, we went over to The Awakening, a larger than life sculpture embedded in the earth at the water’s edge. The girls enjoyed running around in the sand and playing on the different parts of the sculpture. There are a few Adirondak chairs where you can sit to enjoy coffee or take in the beautiful view from this area.

CWsculpture                   CWfoot


While at the National Harbor there are a few other fun things to do with children. There is an Americana-themed carousel featuring whimsical creatures located at the north end along the waterfront. The carousel is open only on the weekends and tickets are $5 per child. The area housing the carousel also has a new playground, toddler play area, and picnic tables.

NatHarCarousel        NatHarplayground

Also while at the National Harbor you can rent kayaks, canoes, paddleboards, and pedal-boats.


The National Children’s Museum is another attraction at the harbor and is just a couple blocks up from the waterfront. See my review here.

I definitely recommend visiting the National Harbor and going for a ride on The Capital Wheel. It is an easy drive from the city or suburbs and an activity that children will enjoy. I would love to go back sometime and ride the wheel at night for a different experience.

Good to Know:

•Tickets are $15 (ages 12-60), $11.25 (ages 3-11), $13.50 (over 60), free (2 & under). You can buy tickets online or at the onsite ticket booth on the pier.
•Take advantage of a Certifikid deal currently being offered now through November 14 – kids ride free with the purchase of a $15 adult ticket.
•Hours: Sun-Thurs 11am-10pm, Fri-Sat 10am-11pm.
•Strollers are not permitted on the gondolas. There is a designated stroller parking area just in front of the ramp leading up to The Capitol Wheel.

National Children’s Museum

National Children’s Museum
151 St George Blvd
Oxon Hill, MD 20745

I decided to take the girls down to the National Harbor last week to visit the museum and ride the new Capital Wheel. Clara and I had been to the museum once before but this was baby Mae’s first time. The National Children’s Museum opened in December of 2012 with the goal of “Inspiring children to care about and improve the world” through interactive play. The museum is best enjoyed by children ages 8 and under.

NCMsign                                 NCMcookiemonster

The museum welcomes visitors with a giant map of the globe on the floor to help children determine where they are in the world. This area also has interactive touch screens and giant atlases.


From here, we first went the the My Town area that demonstrates how people connect to everything and everyone in the towns in which they live. In this exhibit, children can buy food at the general store, make pizza at the town’s pizza parlor, and play in the fire engine. There is also a town harbor with a crane that kids can use to move mini shipping containers.

NCMpizza     NCM

Next, we explored the World Cultures exhibit that supports cross-cultural awareness and interaction. It begins at the Arrivals area, where there is small airport luggage carousel with suitcases that you can peer into.


Just beyond the luggage carousel is an area all about transportation, where kids can sit in a three-wheeled vehicle from Thailand. Mae loved this little car and sat in it for a good 10 minutes before I moved her along!


Also in the transportation area is a race track where children can build cars and test them by sending them down tracks with different terrains. This was one of Clara’s favorite parts of the museum.


At the center of the World Cultures exhibit is a Tanzanian marketplace, where kids can pretend to buy goods.


The How we Talk area is about communication and all the different languages spoken around the world. There is a table with chalkboards where older children can practice writing the words displayed on the table in different languages.

NCMhowwetalk        NCMchalkboards

Next, we looked at the What We Wear exhibit and my little fashionistas enjoyed trying on kimonos, scarves, and different clothes from around the globe.


Then we went over to the Where We Eat exhibit that features a kitchen with a row of different ovens to show how cooking is done around the world. This was another favorite section of the museum for Clara. She spent a lot of time preparing different meals for me.


Next we went to the 3 and under gallery. The NCM has a partnership with Sesame Workshop, the non-profit organization of Sesame Street, so the show’s characters have a presence in the museum, especially in the 3 and under section. This area was designed to encourage learning through play, movement, art, and discovery. There is a climbing area that challenges balance and coordination. Another area has a variety of toys where children can build and explore different objects to enhance fine motor and problem solving skills.

NCM3&under2                 NCM3&under1                  NCM3&under

In the Infant and Crawler Zone, babies ages 1 or younger have an enclosed area where they can explore different sights, colors, and textures including a fish tank and mirrors.


A room behind this area is filled with little tables and chairs where children can make a craft. Clara was excited to make a “wiggle worm” on the day we visited the museum.


The museum also has a 130-seat theatre where they offer a variety of kid-oriented productions and entertainers.


Overall, my girls had a great time at the museum and were kept busy and entertained for about 2 hours. The ticket price does seem a little high but it’s also a place that you would probably want to visit only once a year. We were at the museum on a Tuesday morning at 10am and there were only 2 other families there so we had plenty of space to ourselves. I think my expectations were too high the first time we visited because I was thinking that it would be much bigger being the National Children’s Museum. It seems fairly small compared to other children’s museums. That being said it still does have a lot to offer and children will definitely enjoy the experience!

Good to Know:

•Admission is $10 per adult and child. Infants under 12 months are free.
•Hours: Tue-Sat 10am-4pm, Mon closed, Sun 12pm-4pm
•The St George parking garage is located across the street from the museum.
•The museum is not accessible by metro.
•No food is allowed in the museum. Bottled formula and milk is allowed in the nursing area located in the 3 and under gallery.
•Strollers are allowed in the museum and there is a place to park them next to the restrooms and area where you can hang your coat.
•There are lots of restaurants located nearby if you want to get something to eat before or after visiting the museum.
•You can host your own private play date at the museum for $250.