The Capital Wheel

What do London, Perth, and DC have in common?  Perhaps among other things, amazing sights that can be best appreciated from up high – way up high.

National Harbor boasts many attractions for families but the latest and greatest is the Capital Wheel, a huge observation wheel like those found in other major cities that towers above the trees offering unobstructed, breathtaking views of the nation’s capital.  I’ve lived in DC long enough that seeing iconic buildings like the Washington Monument have become routine and unimpressive, but even I was taken aback by the sheer beauty of seeing my city from the top of the Capital Wheel – 180 feet up. 

We were also able to see the George Washington Masonic Temple in Alexandria and Arlington National Cemetery among sites.  I can’t wait to return sometime soon for a nighttime visit to see the city awash in light from up above.

Besides the views, it’s fun riding on the wheel itself.  Unlike a traditional Ferris Wheel, riders on the Capital Wheel sit in comfortable, climate-controlled cars that pipe in music.  I’m a bit afraid of heights, but I felt completely secure in the car.  The ride was very smooth and slow enough to allow you to get a good look around at all of the various stages of the ascent and descent. 

The slow pace also makes it a very family-friendly experience.  A typical ride is three times around, but on our recent visit during a weekday it was relatively uncrowded and we went around six times.  A Mom who was a veteran rider told me that during slow times this is not uncommon.

Cars can hold between 6 to 8 people.  Smaller groups will have their own car if space permits.  A typical ride lasts between 12 to 15 minutes.  There is a bathroom with a changing table close to the wheel and stroller parking is available at the entrance to the wheel.  There is plenty of paid parking available at National Harbor and the closest lot to the Capital Wheel is the Carousel Lot.

Additional Information

  • The Capital Wheel is open daily, year-round.  From September to April on weekends they are open from 10am to 11pm and weekdays from 11am to 10pm.  During the summer months they are open from 10am to 11pm daily.  ** Note: always check their Facebook page for the most update hours of operation.
  • Yes, tickets are a wee bit steep; but honestly where else can you get such a sweeping view of the city and its surrounding ‘burbs?  Tickets are $15 for adults and $11.25 for children ages 3 to 11.  Those under 2 are free.  Discounts are available for seniors and military.  We would also recommend that you follow The Capital Wheel on Facebook as sometimes they offer various specials.
  • Strollers are not permitted in the gondolas; however they are wheelchair accessible.

Other Family-Friendly Attractions

A spin on the Capital Wheel alone is worth a trip to National Harbor, but they also have many other family-friendly attractions.   One of our favorites is the gorgeous Carousel at National Harbor adorn with animals like a falcon and a panda.  Rides are a flat fee of $5.00 per child for as many rides as you can handle and adults ride free of charge.  Carousel admission also gets you access to a small playground and picnic area.   The Capital Wheel and carousel are also both very close to a sandy area that has housed The Awakening since its relocation from Haines Point in DC.  Children love digging in the sand and climbing over the enormous statue.  All three of these attractions are very close to several kid-friendly restaurants.

Bottom Line

If you’re looking for a unique way to see our grand city, take a spin on The Capital Wheel sometime soon.  Or make a day of it and enjoy all that National Harbor has to offer.


Photos by Jamie Davis Smith.

Photo of author

OK Editorial Team

Our Kids has been bringing you more family fun, experiences & adventure since 1999.