If sipping vino, gourmet noshing and watching boats glide along the Potomac River is your idea of a delicious weekend, then zip down to Maryland's other popular harbor for an outdoor foodie fest.
The 2011 National Harbor Wine & Food Festival, in its fourth year, is a two-day event this weekend in Prince George's County, along the banks of the Potomac.
The expansive waterfront site — still expanding with future offerings from Disney, among others — boasts a bevy of restaurants, hotels, shops, entertainment venues, upscale residences and office space.
The setting is picturesque, complete with marinas and boat slips, public art, fountains and a tree-lined promenade that lends itself to leisurely strolling.
Thousands are expected for the festival, which will bring together regional and nationally known chefs and gourmands.
Festival passes give guests access to restaurant tastings, cooking demos and celebrity chefs, who will be showing off their skills.
Expect to see Food Network favorites like Katsuya Fukushima of "Iron Chef America" and Elizabeth Falkner of "Top Chef," along with such culinary experts as Billy Strynkowski, executive chef of Cooking Light magazine.
Meanwhile, organizers are promoting the cornucopia of cuisine that will be available — from ethnic fare to the latest food-truck offerings — along with some 200 wines, beers and spirits.
Craft beers will be on tap in the International Bier Garten, and at the Beach Lounge, tropical drinks, hand-rolled cigars and a steel drum band will add to the vibe.
"The festival is a favorite for folks from all around the world, and we try to reflect that in the selection of food and wine," said Greg Nivens, an event spokesman. "Wines will be poured from California and Maryland, of course, and Argentina, France, Italy and other countries. The best part of the festival is that you can purchase your favorites right on site."
Festival extras include live music, an art walk showcasing National Harbor's galleries and an interactive play area for kids.
David Tesno, executive chef at Moon Bay Restaurant in the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, is excited about the weekend.
Tesno, who trained at the Culinary Institute of America and top restaurants nationwide, will dish up a vegetable gazpacho with rock shrimp seviche.
"I created this recipe because I wanted something that is fun to eat, packs lots of flavor and is refreshing on a hot day," he says. "We'll be getting in about 500 pounds of fresh local vegetables and 200 pounds of rock shrimp."
The chef says he plans to add the gazpacho to the restaurant's dinner menu beginning in June.
"I feel this is a great way to get involved and support local farms and resources," Tesno said. "This event will also be a great chance for visitors to check out the Harbor and see how much it has really grown in the past few years."
If you go
2011 National Harbor Wine & Food Festival
Saturday and Sunday, noon to 6 p.m. General admission is $35 in advance and $45 at the door. A two-day pass is $65. Kids 12 and under are free. Go to wineandfoodnh.com or call 800-830-3976.
National Harbor is about an hour's drive from Baltimore. Merge onto Interstate 495 South/I-95 South and take the Capital Beltway toward Richmond, Va. Take exit 2A to National Harbor. Paid parking garages available.
Aloft Washington National Harbor, 156 Waterfront St., National Harbor, 301-749-9000, aloftnationalharbor.com. Modern guest rooms feature platform beds and baths with rainfall showerheads. Take a dip in the indoor heated pool, and afterwards grab a drink at the cheery wxyz bar. Rates from $219.
Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center, 201 Waterfront St., National Harbor, 301-965-4000, GaylordNational.com. Gaylord has 2,000 rooms, a sweeping glass atrium, fountains, meeting facilities and amenities that include four restaurants, retail shops and a full-service spa/salon and fitness center. There's also an entertainment arcade, combination indoor/outdoor pool and a rooftop nightclub with stellar views. The hotel is offering a VIP package for festival attendees, with two-day passes and goodie bags, among other offerings. Rates from $227 a night.
Stroll National Harbor Dozens of merchants include Simply Soles, Fire & Ice jewelry, Foster's Crab & Lobster, Grace's Mandarin, Rosa Mexicano, Bobby McKey's piano bar and Harley Davidson apparel. Go to nationalharbor.com
Take the water taxi to Old Town Alexandria Explore American history, art, shopping and dining. Potomac Riverboat Company, 877-511-2628, potomacriverboatco.com or go to visitalexandria.com.