NATIONAL HARBOR – Washington, D.C. is famous at this time of year for its national Christmas tree on the Ellipse as well as for its many holiday-themed activities.
Yet, National Harbor in Prince George’s County now offers strong enticements which are worthy of attention for those who want something new and a little different. There is the large decorated outdoor Christmas tree with lights and the 175-foot Capital Ferris Wheel, in lighted spokes alternating between the Christmas colors of red and green.
The Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center especially has many activities for the holidays, with its Christmas on the Potomac exhibits and special events.
These include some attractions which have been staples in malls for decades, such as a visit to Santa for the little ones and (a little more of the beaten track) Mrs. Claus reading to children.
There is also the quaint Christmas village with its ice-skating rink, colorful train for children to ride, and a classic carousel.
The Gaylord’s “Ice” show featuring ice sculptures of scenes from the Peanuts television special “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which has been covered in a companion piece in the Sentinel, is also recommended highly. Working harmoniously with this exhibit is Breakfast with Charlie Brown and friends, a buffet-style breakfast with Peanuts-themed dishes during which students can interact with characters from the Peanuts gang.
The ultimate centerpiece at the Christmas on the Potomac event, running through Jan. 1, is undoubtedly the Cirque Dreams Unwrapped show, with its circus-like acts of a winter holiday nature featuring artists from around the world. There is a jester, and there are dancers in dream-like peppermint stripes of green and white. Dazzling high above the crowd, there is the lady doing stunts on her flying trapeze. This talented aerial artist is Natali Rucker, a native of Argentina.
Then there is the acrobatic Trio of Nurmurod Duysenov, Miraziz Azizov, Makhumodov Sharofiddin, all of whom hail from Uzbekistan. They amaze with body contortions and balance on top of one another, tumbling to the delight of all ages. They have been in training since around age 6 in their home countries as part of both sports acrobatics programs and circus schools.
Then there is the Ringmaster violinist, Jose Navarro, a native of the US. If there sounds like little of Christmas in this, his violin strains produce holiday sounds, and his ringmaster costume is just a bit akin to costumes worn by nutcracker soldiers in Tchaikovsky’s Christmas Nutcracker ballet.
The entire musical score, blending tradition and electronic music, pleasingly resembles the Christmas-themed recordings of Tran-Siberian Orchestra and Mannheim Steamroller. It is original and composed by Jill Winters, Creative VP of Cirque Dreams.
The swirling-patterned, colorful sets are not exactly Christmas-themed but represent a holiday mood of a carnival. This has the decided advantage of opening up the enjoyment of the show to spectators from many cultures and is not too linked to Christmas that it can be enjoyed up to a week after December 25.
Yet at the end, the light switch is thrown, and lights flash brilliantly attached to the resort’s indoor trees. While there are tickets for sale, the show can also be enjoyed free of charge in the standing room behind the seats.
The Cirque Dreams Unwrapped show will certainly cap off an enjoyable visit to National Harbor at Christmastime to put one in the holiday spirit.