Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center


Shrek and Friends at the Gaylord: Great Weekend Experience!


So if you’re looking for something with air conditioning to finish out your summer, check out the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center at National Harbor. They have a Dreamworks package where you can hang with your best buds from Shrek, Madagascar, and Kung Fu Panda.

We spent two nights with our kids ages 3, 10, and 13 – so we had a preschooler who’s afraid of Shrek, an elementary kid who knows it’s just a guy inside a suit, and a preteen who just wanted to play with his ipod. Bottom line:  They all three had fun during our Gaylord weekend. Not for nothing, we parents also enjoyed our stay!

The Gaylord knows how to throw a party. You check in and get your Shrek “ears” and some treats. They have a scavenger hunt which is a fun way to learn the layout of the hotel – it is impressively huge. The kids found all the slightly hidden clues while riding what seemed like all of the 50 plus elevators.  Their favorites being the glass elevators that go up 18 stories. I’m sure the view was great for those who weren’t huddled in the corner during the ride.

We arrived rather late on Friday night and took advantage of one of the quick, kid friendly restaurants they have in the National Harbor. The next morning, we had breakfast in Far Far Away where green juice is served among the wandering Shrek characters. My kids ate til they were green – and that was before they found the green chocolate fountain. (You can safely plan to skip lunch.)

During the day, you can swim inside and play in the fountains outside. All amongst tempting lounge chairs and just steps from a cabana selling cold drinks and snacks. For the adults, if you want a workout, the fitness center is complete and clean. If you want to treat yourself, the fabulous Relache Spa is also in the building (next time!).  

You should also walk through the shops around the National Harbor.  We found some cute art shops the kids thought were great. There’s a small beach with a half buried Neptune sculpture where kids can literally climb up his nose and between his toes. Fair warning: the sand is a good percentage dirt. Let the kids do that before they swim so you don’t end up with multiple showers due to black feet and knees. It’s also worth it to go boat watching on the piers.



Just leave a minute to get some rest before you’re off to enjoy the evening’s offerings – like I said, we were never wondering what to do. Grab a bite early so you don’t miss the character parade. The kids get to dress up and walk through the hotel atrium with their character friends. They bang drums and call out and cause a super fun disturbance.  

An hour or so later, you get up close and personal with all your movie pals. The characters wander among the kids and have a dance party in one of the buildings in the atrium “village.” The employees dedicated to the Dreamworks Experience were fabulous. They danced with the characters and kids and got everyone involved. The Gaylord obviously hires the right folks and trains them beautifully. We felt like part of a goofy family – complete with the Madagascar Penguins.




After you’ve danced yourself into a sweat, you have options. There is a movie on the pool deck (Puss ‘n Boots), there are aerial dancers in the atrium, and/or the fireworks on Saturday night. By 9:30, even our oldest was ready to skip the ice cream run and just vegetate in the room for a bit.

The best part of all the excitement was the ability to escape it when need be. We got to the room, closed the door, and found some true peace and quiet (if you don’t count Cartoon Network in the background). We were lucky enough to have an atrium balcony room, so my husband spent much of his room time out there.  (He has vastly less patience than I do with kid TV.)

If, like us, you have an older kid who can safely/legally watch the smaller ones, it’s not a waste of time to take a visit to the Pose Club at the top of the hotel. It’s for guests only, 21 and up, and is a bit of a light show, loud music visit back to your college days. If you’re not into the bar scene, just take the ride up the elevator for the view. They have a balcony that gives you a view over the Harbor and DC. It was nice to look out over the world and just take a deep breath after a day full of activity.


The next morning, we had a quick bagel and hot tea breakfast at the coffee house in the atrium and had to head out to send kids off to camp. We could have kept busy at the hotel for a few more hours given all that’s available.  

Overall, our weekend was packed with options – in a good way. We had plenty to do, few decisions to make, and we didn’t have to go out of our way for anything. It’s less than an hour’s drive from just about any point in the DC area, but you really get that “away from it all” vibe.  

So check in, put on your kids’ Shrek ears, and just let the Gaylord carry you into their 20 storied, glassed-in village of entertainment!

The DreamWorks Experience at Gaylord National

Cost: Two nights for $440 for a family of four. Includes discount on character breakfast and free Shrek activities and amenities.  

Resort fee: $15 per day

Parking: On-site, $22 per night

 Convenient  5
 Kid-Friendly  5
 Quality of Food  4
 Quality of Entertainment  5
 Good Value  4
 I would recommend this destination to a friend  yes
 I would return to this destination  yes
 Overall Rating  4

 All ratings on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being highest.

Meet the Reviewer!

Cynda Zurfluh is a mother of three

in Northern Virginia.  Her previous

life was a corporate blur of meetings

and marketing.  Her current life,

while still a blur, is all about family,

writing, and small business consulting. 

She pretends to enjoy working out and

really does enjoy taking pictures of

her family – whether they like it or not.


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