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MAGFest - Guide to the National Harbor (updated for MAG XV/2017)


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Parking pro tip: The local community college is .7 miles away and has a parking garage that offers free weekend parking, starting on Fridays at 5, IIRC. If you don't mind a solid walk with your stuff in the cold, that's a great place to leave your car for MAGFest if you're driving in from far away.

I think you're referring to the Alexandria Mark Hilton that MAG 6-9 and 8.5 took place at. There's no college less than five miles from the National Harbor (with the closest community colleges being 30+ miles away), and you'd have no choice but to bus it from 'em since you can't exactly walk on 495.

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JANUARY 3, 2017 - NOW UPDATED FOR MAGFEST XV / 2017 Since 2012, I've been updating this guide for the Gaylord Hotel and National Harbor area for MAGFest attendees. We're back for 2017! Just dress

All right, so I've finally updated the list for MAGFest 2016! Not much has changed about the area since last time -- main thing is just two new restaurants (Granite City and Succotash, both of wh

Ok, so I updated the original post with two things. First, I added OA's review of Redstone (thanks!) to it. Second, I put together a couple of challenge modes that may be of use to some folks (vegetar

I think you're referring to the Alexandria Mark Hilton that MAG 6-9 and 8.5 took place at. There's no college less than five miles from the National Harbor (with the closest community colleges being 30+ miles away), and you'd have no choice but to bus it from 'em since you can't exactly walk on 495.

You're right, I'm an idiot. Disregard. Sorry I can't make it this year, but I don't plan on missing another one!

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So i found out today that cake love is closed.

Normally not an issue, but Saturday is Deia's birthday, and i'd like to get a cake so we can all celebrate her (repeated) 23rd birthday together. I need a legit bakery (none of that supermarket garbage) that is at least a little close that I can order from and pick up. I have a car so i can drive a bit, but i would prefer something closest.

Can any locals help a bro out? :-(

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So i found out today that cake love is closed.

Normally not an issue, but Saturday is Deia's birthday, and i'd like to get a cake so we can all celebrate her (repeated) 23rd birthday together. I need a legit bakery (none of that supermarket garbage) that is at least a little close that I can order from and pick up. I have a car so i can drive a bit, but i would prefer something closest.

Can any locals help a bro out? :-(

Firehook has been pretty good to us (I've gotten a few cakes from there for our gatherings).

Edit: Looks like the Alexandria location is the closest.

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All right, so I've finally updated the list for MAGFest 2016!

Not much has changed about the area since last time -- main thing is just two new restaurants (Granite City and Succotash, both of which are good). However, I went through and added some more details about parking, and a few subjective ratings. Your tastes may vary of course.

And, I'm still open to other comments and suggestions. See you all at MAG! KF

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Redstone ($$$, 3.5/4)
PROS: 
Rotisserie chicken, buffalo shrimp, typically a lot of rich cougars on the prowl
CONS: It is really spendy, the ones in MN are probably better ;-)

A 'casual' restaurant for rich people where they are super meticulous about service. The chicken is amazing, and the buffalo shrimp are incredible. The prices are really high, and i've never heard of having a Cheeky Redstone. Better off with Nando's, IMO.

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Ok, so I updated the original post with two things. First, I added OA's review of Redstone (thanks!) to it. Second, I put together a couple of challenge modes that may be of use to some folks (vegetarian, vegan, and cheap). All that's in the original post, but to save the scrolling, here's the added info below:

________________________________________________________________
CHALLENGE MODES:
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Below is a specific strategy guide for some players who are looking for a challenge, whether out of necessity or... well, usually necessity.

VEGETARIAN MODE:

Fortunately the DC area is pretty friendly to vegetarians, so you have plenty of good options among most of the places I listed above. I'll list out the best places for vegetarians and strats to keep in mind at each.

Nando's Peri-Peri: Has many vegetarian options -- the halloumi cheese wrap, roasted vegetable wrap, veggie burger, and all of the sides, are good for this. You're definitely not missing out by just going vegetarian here.
Elevation Burger: Their vegetarian and vegan burgers are pretty good, and if you're fine with dairy then you can still get their shakes.
Rosa Mexicano: They have a specific vegetarian menu. When you sit down, ask for that -- it'll give you more options than you may see on the normal menu.
Succotash: There are fewer vegetarian options here, but still enough, and they clearly label which items are vegetarian or vegan on the lunch and dinner menus.
Fiorella: There are several vegetarian options as long as you're fine with cheese.
Subway: Well, if you're running out of options, you can always get the veggie sandwich at Subway. I'm always suspicious of their veggie patties though.

VEGAN MODE:

The DC area is also relatively friendly to vegans, though understandably your options will be more limited than vegetarians. But! You'll still have plenty of options here.

Nando's Peri-Peri: The only good vegan options are the roasted vegetable wrap and butternut squash salad, plus most of the sides. Mind you, those are all still really good, so you're not missing out by joining us for a Nando's run.
Elevation Burger: Their vegan burger is good. However, make sure you are specific that you don't want any cheese on it (I've actually had this problem at other Elevation Burgers).
Rosa Mexicano: Similar as the vegetarian mode, ask for a vegetarian menu when you sit down -- you'll have way more options. Many (though not all) of the items on there can also be made without cheese upon request.
Succotash: There aren't many vegan main dishes, but most of the side dishes (which have generous portions) are vegan. The menu clearly specifies what is vegetarian or vegan, too.
Fiorella: There are fewer options here -- mostly just pasta and sauce, or some custom orders without cheese, but I haven't tried either so I can't vouch for quality there.
Subway: ...and when in doubt, there's still Subway.

CHEAPSKATE MODE:

So you want to get through spending as little on food as possible? Well, that involves a little bit of a different strategy. The short version is that you should make a grocery run before you get to MAGFest, and just store what you need in the mini-fridge for breakfast and lunch, and eat out for dinner. Prioritize fruits, ditch the junk food, and drink plenty of water.

So here are some specifics:
(1) Breakfast: Pack some cereal, milk, and disposable bowls/spoons; OR some granola bars (...not the kind that are no better than candy); OR some fruit like bananas and apples. Don't skip breakfast -- you just end up hungrier and more tired.
(2) Lunch: A bit more of a challenge, but you can tide yourself over with other things you've packed or stocked up on beforehand. Fruit (apples, bananas, oranges, etc.), peanut butter crackers, granola bars, yogurt, etc., can help you last until dinner. And drink lots of water.
(3) Dinner: Unless you plan on bringing like a portable hotplate (...honestly this is a bad idea unless you have a lot of room, like in the suites, and even then really know what you're doing), allow yourself to eat out for dinner. The best low-cost options are Nando's, Potbelly, Subway, and Potomac Gourmet.
(4) Other: Drink lots of water. Yes I know I keep repeating this, but it keeps you from getting too hungry, and makes it less likely you'll get sick. Also, if you run low on anything, CVS and Potomac Gourmet should have what you need to restock.

HEALTHY MODE:

...um... ...I'm not good at this one... OA would give better advice here.

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All right! Popped in for my once-yearly update to this thread.

A bunch of things have changed around the National Harbor area, but not much that affects MAGFest-goers. The MGM Grand Hotel/Casino was completed last year, but it's on the opposite end of the harbor from the Gaylord, so it's had pretty much no effect on that end (traffic, crowds, or otherwise). Otherwise, there's just one restaurant that is gone (Harrington's), and four new ones (Chipotle, Franks & Shakes [ugh], The Irish Whisper [pub food], and Brother Jimmy's BBQ [?]).

Also since so many folks are in the overflow hotels instead of the Gaylord, check out if your hotel has a free breakfast (like Residence Inn).

See you guys soon! KF

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