From the Bay to the Blue Ridge, National Harbor

Old Man Winter Has Arrived & MAGFest Is Here!

Old Man Winter Has Arrived & MAGFest Is Here!

As I write this the day after Christmas, it is barely 30 degrees outside. A little nippy to take in the last of the holiday hoopla here in the Harbor as far as I’m concerned but looking out my balcony window I see lots of people coming out of the Fleet Street garage and heading toward the Plaza. Guess the lure of the tree and the Capitol Wheel along with our fabulous restaurants and shops – and maybe the fact that maybe they just needed to get out of house after being cooped up with their families all day on Christmas – are bringing these hardy souls out!

January is a historically slow month in general in most municipalities and National Harbor isn’t much different. Even though it is technically a “resort” area, the only place that really has anything going on is the Gaylord Hotel and Convention Center with MAGFest 2018. This is one whacked out gathering to say the least. I don’t really know how to explain it. After all, I am 64 years old and the only “video” games I know how to play are the likes of PacMan, Ms.PacMan, Centipede and Frogger. I never even got in to the Mario Brothers craze and I don’t think I have ever sat at a Play Station.

My friend Mitch, who is in his late 30’s and has been sort of a “gamer” for several years, has tried to explain the lure of this event to me more than once. My only exposure has been seeing the “participants” walking around the Harbor in sort of a daze – lots of baggy jeans, plaid shirts and flip flops (not that there’s anything wrong with that) in the middle of the winter. The age group is definitely the 20 and 30 somethings with a few 40+ hard core video game/music fans tacked on. I took it upon myself to find out exactly what MAGFest entails so I turned the interwebs and came up with the following:

“MAGFest is short for “Music and Gaming Festival”. It is a four day (January 4th – 7th) event dedicated to the appreciation of video game music, gaming of all types and the gaming community. The event runs 24 hours a day and offers consoles, arcades, tabletop, LAN, live video game cover bands, chiptunes, vendors, guest speakers and much more.”

Ummmm, I need to find out what “chiptunes” are.

According to, “the Fest is unique in that it is a non-profit event “run by fans for fans”. They don’t solicit corporate sponsors and there are no over-crowded show floors and no top-secret-behind-closed-doors showings.. It is built from the ground up to focus on community and fan creations.” I take this to mean that if you or your kids or grandkids (our readership is a bit older audience) have a video game that you have created this is a place that you may be able to introduce it to other gamers and get feedback, etc.

The organizers garner income to pay for the convention space from the sale of “badges” that gain you entrance into the gaming rooms and unlimited play, etc. A single badge for the 4 day event is $85 with others discounted for kids under 12 and anyone who puts a group of 8 or more together. While they don’t exactly have one day passes, the price goes down as each day goes by. For instance, Jan 4th – full price of $85, 5th drops to $70, 6th drops to $55, 7th drops to $20. I might just fork over the $20 on the 7th just to see exactly what it’s like on the inside!

MAGFest’s inaugural year was 2002 and was originally called the “Mid-Atlantic Gaming Festival”. It originated in Baltimore and is operated by volunteers and the funds that they garner with. Starting out with only 300 attendees in 2002, it pretty much sold out at 20,000 in 2017. They are looking at an even bigger attendance this year. Amazing to think that this many people from the DMV – and now all over the country – come to National Harbor to play video games, enjoy musical concerts and drink beer for 24 hours a day for 4 days straight. That explains that “dazed” look I mention above!

For complete information check out their website at

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