For weeks, the Capital Wheel at National Harbor is all Ron Smith has talked about, so once his wife found out the wheel's grand opening would fall on his 66th birthday, she knew just what to get him.
"This was my little surprise for him," Ryvette Smith said. "When I found out it was opening on May 23, I thought perfect present."
As the tallest observation wheel east of the Mississippi River, the 180-foot Capital Wheel offers riders a bird's eye view of the Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol, Potomac River, Alexandria and Prince George's County, Maryland.
The wheel consists of 42 heated and air-conditioned gondolas that seat up to eight people. The new attraction will be open daily year-round from 10 a.m. until 11 p.m.
The newest addition to the National Harbor skyline is a short drive from the Smiths' home in Clinton, Md., but a long way from the Prince George's County they once knew.
"This county is growing by leaps and bounds, you know," Ron Smith said. "We're getting more upscale stuff, and it's great to see the growth."
General admission tickets will set you back $15 for adults and $11.25 for kids ages 3-11. Children under age 2 are admitted free with a paying adult.
Those looking to live it up can opt for a trip in a VIP gondola, which features leather bucket seats, a glass floor, and a retracting monitor/DVD player. The gondola seats up to four; tickets are $50 each.
Each trip lasts about 12-15 minutes, and pace is brisk, about 1.5 rotations per minute. Check the website for hours.