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Exterior of MGM National Harbor in Oxon Hill, Maryland.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


By L.P. PELAYO
Exclusive to the Filipino Reporter


OXON HILL, Maryland — I recently discovered a hidden gem located in the Washington, D.C. vicinity.

No, it isn’t the Washington Monument, Smithsonian Institution or Lincoln Memorial.

On Feb. 18 and 19, 2018, MGM National Harbor in Maryland hosted an Asian Media FAM Visit to select members of Asian-American journalists based in the Eastern Seaboard of the United States.

Situated approximately 10 miles from our nation’s capital, the entertainment resort is walking distance from the historic Potomac River.

The resort is only two years old with its grand opening on Dec. 8, 2016.

It is operated by MGM Resorts International.

Upon entering via the Hotel Valet is the picturesque Conservatory on Level One but can be viewed on Level Two where the Front Desk, Concierge and Convention Center are located.

Apparently, last weekend the resort celebrated the 2018 Lunar New Year — “The Year of The Dog” — highly apropos for the FAM Visit.


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The Conservatory celebrating the 2018 Lunar New Year — “The Year of The Dog.”  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


Greeting the media at the Lobby Bar after check-in at the Front Desk were Brandon Singletary, Communications Specialist at MGM National Harbor; Malik Husser, Director of Communications at MGM National Harbor; Julie Du and Kelsi Suh, Marketing Executives of International Marketing at MGM National Harbor; and Debbie Im and Cindy Chen of IW Group, a full-service advertising and public relations agency with offices in New York.

We feasted on delectable snacks and cocktails and were provided with an overview of the resort’s beverage program.

Both Mr. Singletary and Mr. Husser gave numerous details on the property stating that MGM National Harbor is a $1.4 billion resort.

According to Wikipedia, the resort includes a 23-story hotel with 308 rooms, 135,000 square feet in gaming space, retail space, a spa, seven restaurants, a 3,000-seat theater with seven VIP suites, 27,000 square feet of meeting and event space.


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MGM National Harbor Lobby Boozer Art.  (Photo Credit: Robb Scharetg)


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Dogs on display along with floral arrangements at the Conservatory.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


The enormous self-parking garage accommodates 4,800 vehicles and is free of charge.

The casino has 133 table games, 3,300 slot machines, and a poker room with 39 tables.

An Asian gaming pit features 16 Macau-style baccarat tables, a high-limit lounge, and two luxury lounges named Felt and Blossom.

Joining the media at the Lobby Bar was Hung Q. Nguyen, President & General Manager of the Imperial Lion Dance Team which is based in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The dance team performed to a huge crowd at the Casino Valet.

The stunning show lasted 40 minutes outdoors, proceeding to the Level One area through the Casino, District and ending at the entrance of the Potomac Plaza.

Throng captured the memorable performance on their smartphones.

This is the dance team’s second consecutive year performing for MGM National Harbor’s Chinese New Year celebration.

Their services include specialized performances for anniversaries, baby showers, birthdays, charity events, corporate events, grand openings, private parties and weddings.


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View of the Conservatory from Level Two.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


Mr. Nguyen joined the team in 2003.

His former roles were as Lion Dance Assistant Coach and Head Coach.

The team’s accomplishments include winning four 1st place titles in the New England National Lion Dance Competitions in 2012, 2014, 2015 and 2016.

For more information on the Imperial Lion Dance Team, go online at https://www.imperialliondance.com/

 

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The Imperial Lion Dance Team performing at the Casino Valet.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)

 

Welcome dinner at Ginger


The media were treated to dinner at the popular Ginger restaurant located adjacent to the Casino and Conservatory at Level One.

Ginger Executive Chef Andy Lau introduced to us the special Lunar New Year menu, as well as the cocktails.

Our efficient waitress Kathy readily served the food and drinks with ease.


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The mouthwatering menu at Ginger.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


Ginger features a full menu with an assortment of Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Vietnamese and Korean dishes.

The place is always jam-packed — translation: the entire menu is absolutely mouthwatering.

New to Ginger is the all-new dim sum menu which is served Friday through Sunday from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

The restaurant serves lunch and dinner.


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Ginger Executive Chef Andy Lau (left) and the author L.P. Pelayo.  (Filipino Reporter photo)


According to MGM’s press release, Executive Chef Lau was born and raised in Hong Kong.

He is responsible for providing the luxury resort’s elite clientele with exquisite cuisine representative of traditional flavors found in regions throughout Asia.

With 30 years of culinary experience and a strong knowledge of Cantonese flavors and delicacies, Mr. Lau brings the best Asian cuisine to the East Coast.


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Cynthia So, Vice President of International Marketing at MGM National Harbor, stresses a point. At right is Malik Husser, Director of Communications at MGM National Harbor.  (Filipino Reporter photo)


Also joining us for an interview at the dinner table was Cynthia So, Vice President of International Marketing at MGM National Harbor.

She started marketing in 2003 and has also been with the company since 1999.

When asked where she sees the resort in five years, she replied, “I see a brand-new tower.”

She also said that the crime rate is down in Prince George’s County with the advent of the new resort.

It is the #1 taxpayer in the State of Maryland.

Ms. So mentioned that a total of 4,000 employees work at the resort.


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Unique beverages at Ginger.  (Filipino Reporter photo)


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Kathy of Ginger explaining the extensive menu.  (Filipino Reporter photo)


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Asian-American journalists in a photo opportunity with MGM National Harbor staff members and the IW Group.  (Filipino Reporter photo)


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Lobsters are included in the all-new dim sum menu at Ginger.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


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Dumplings.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


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Rice Balls.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


The Theater


Unbeknownst to the media was a special invitation from the MGM staff to a concert at the Theater at MGM National Harbor.

Taking the stage at 8 p.m. was the one-and-only music icon and award-winning actress Cher, performing to a sold-out crowd belting out her classic songs.

The venue features state of the art sound, video and lighting, and a seating capacity of 3,000.

Every seat in the house has an intimate atmosphere whether you are seated up close, in the middle section or up in the balcony.


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A full house at the Theater at MGM National Harbor.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


The Theater consistently hosts world-class performances from the aforementioned Cher to Bruno Mars (performed in 2016) to Ricky Martin (performed in 2017) to comedian/actor Jim Gaffigan (March 3, 2018) to Tom Jones (May 6, 2018) to another comedian/actor George Lopez (May 18, 2018).

Slated to perform this summer on July 12 and 13, 2018 is pop superstar Britney Spears.

I believe that the two-day Spears concert is already sold-out.

The Theater has also hosted boxing events which aired live on HBO.

For more information about upcoming events or if you’re interested in purchasing tickets, visit mgmnationalharbor.com.


Exquisite rooms


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The Corner Suite at MGM National Harbor.  (Filipino Reporter photos)


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(Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


Accommodations at MGM National Harbor include 234 guest rooms, as well as 74 suites.

The resort provided the media with a corner suite — total size equalling 958 square feet.

The room features contemporary amenities such as high-speed Wi-Fi, 48” HD flat screen television sets, automated lighting, comfortable mattresses, business desk and executive chair, and a safe to name a few.

The outdoor views include the popular Capital Wheel at National Harbor and the Potomac River.

The following day we were treated to lunch at Tap, a sports bar serving lunch and dinner.

Included in their extensive menu are Nachos, Tap Wings, Pappas Maryland Crab Balls, Maryland Crab Pretzel, an assortment of burgers such as the Tap Burger, Turkey Burger and Black Bean Burger, Smokehouse Barbeque Ribs, Char-Grilled Filet, Nana’s Spaghetti & Meatballs, as well as cocktails, wines, bottled & canned beer and draft beer.


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Maryland Crab Cakes at Tap.  (Filipino Reporter photo)


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Specialized beer at Tap.  (Filipino Reporter photo)


Tap Assistant Manager Jillian Hickman mentioned that the venue has 95 flat screen televisions — an ideal place to watch all kinds of sporting events.

With affordable food and drink prices, Tap was the place to be during the Super Bowl in early February.

Mr. Husser stated that it was filled to capacity.

Our waitress Ravin Carter swiftly served the food with gracious hospitality.


Casino


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The Wells at MGM National Harbor.  (Photo Credit: Robb Scharetg)


Mr. Singletary then took us on a tour of the large casino.

There we met Jeff Elmore, VP of Table Games; and Omar Sedky, M life Experience Manager.

Mr. Elmore gave us an overview of the casino showing the gaming area — blackjack tables, baccarat tables and poker room.

Mr. Sedky described the Experience M life Rewards which perks ranging from Sapphire, Pearl, Gold, Platinum and Noir.

New members can simply receive a Sapphire card by inserting their driver’s license into a kiosk machine located on the casino floor.

You can log on to mlife.com to view all your rewards and benefits.


Property tour — restaurants, retail


The media did a walkthrough of the resort conducted by Mr. Singletary.

He showed us the signature dining restaurants: Bellagio Patisserie, Fish by José Andrés, Marcus and Voltaggio Brothers Steakhouse; and casual dining: Shake Shack, Starbucks, Pappas Crab Cakes, National Market, Amo Los Tacos, Bento, District Deli, Fr3sh, GWBW - George Washington Beer & Wine, Honey’s Fried Chicken & Donuts, S’Cream and Zizi’s Pizza.

Glancing at the menus of all the dining establishments, I would say that one can’t go wrong choosing from any of the restaurants.

The bars, lounges and nightlife are the Lobby Bar, Blossom Cocktail Lounge and Felt Bar & Lounge.

The shopping area is conveniently located adjacent to the casino and National Market in The District.

It is 18,000 square feet.

Actress Sarah Jessica Parker has a store named SJP By Sarah Jessica Parker selling handmade shoes, handbags and outerwear.


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SJP By Sarah Jessica Parker.  (Photo Credit: ESV Productions)


Other shops include Accents (home furnishings), Ella Rue (contemporary women’s designer clothing, shoes and bags), Essentials (necessary items in store), Fink’s Jewelers (designer jewelry), MGM & Co. (collector’s items and family apparel), Specs (eyewear brands), Stitched (hand-stitched custom clothing, tailored suits, denim, accessory and brand-name footwear), MCM (quality leather bags and accessories) and Breitling (watches).


Spa, Salon and Fitness Center


After a brief look at the majestic Capital Suite on the 21st Floor, Mr. Singletary took us on a spa tour.


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The Capital Suite on the 21st Floor.  (Filipino Reporter photo)


It is open daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

There we met Darcy who gave us an overview of the 27,000 square-foot facility.

The spa menu consists of skin care, body treatments and massages.

Furthermore, one can choose from a variety of manicures and pedicures.

You can make an appointment by calling 301.971.6115.


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Entrance of the Spa, Salon and Fitness Center.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)


Appreciation


Much thanks to Melonie Johnson, President of MGM National Harbor, who appended a letter at the room welcoming the Asian-American journalists to the resort.

According to the letter, the resort will have several activations over the upcoming weeks, already staging the spectacular lion dance which took place on Feb. 18, 2018.

Kudos to MGM National Harbor staff members Cynthia So, Brandon Singletary, Malik Husser, Julie Du and Kelsi Suh for their knowledgeable facts and overview of the resort.

Also, thank you to the team from the IW Group — Debbie Im and Cindy Chen.

Their accommodations made the Asian Media FAM Visit feasible.

So why travel to Las Vegas or Atlantic City when there is a hidden gem located nearby in the heart of our nation’s capital.



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TILL WE MEET AGAIN: At the Lobby of MGM National Harbor during the conclusion of the Asian Media FAM Visit on Feb. 19, 2018. From left, L.P. Pelayo of the Filipino Reporter, Cindy Chen (IW Group), Cynthia So (Vice President of International Marketing at MGM National Harbor), Debbie Im (IW Group) and Brandon Singletary (Communications Specialist at MGM National Harbor).  (Filipino Reporter photo)


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MGM National Harbor Whirlpool by Alice Aycock.  (Photo Credit: MGM National Harbor)

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