City Paper is not for tourists
The ferris wheel coming to National Harbor this spring isn’t a design standout—“Giant operation wheels all look like this, if you will,” says Kent Digby, the National Harbor’s senior vice president — but its VIP gondola promises wonders, and possibly booze.
The Capital Wheel features 42 climate-controlled gondolas, each built to accommodate eight passengers at $15 a pop. Only one, however, will include red bucket seats, a glass floor, and potentially a drink.
“It looks like a Ferrari,” Digby claims.
National Harbor officials are looking into whether Prince George’s County and Maryland laws will allow alcohol in the VIP car. If booze is allowed, they’ll seek a liquor license or seek a vendor who could offer the service, likely a restaurant or catering facility already at the National Harbor. “We’re still trying to figure out a way to do that,” Digby says.
For the privilege of riding in the Ferrari-like ferris wheel car, passengers must fork over around $50 for three rotations, about 15 minutes. Everyone else pays $15 to ride the ferris wheel, which sits 700 feet from the shoreline and boasts views of the Harbor, the Washington Monument, the White House, and the U.S. Capitol. Digby anticipates 600,000 people will visit the wheel in the first year—10 million already visit National Harbor annually.
So why fork over $50? “It’s a different level of comfort,” Digby says, adding that VIP riders will get a free photo taken in front of a green screen before they get on the wheel (also available to other riders, but at cost). He says National Harbor is working through what else will be included in the package.
The wheel’s contractors brought it to the harbor from Baltimore in February, and construction on the $15 million project has been underway since. Despite weather setbacks, workers have already attached four gondolas to the wheel, which is set to open sometime around May 20.
Photo by Quinn Kelley