Meeting On The Potomac

Reprinted from PN/Paraplegia News May 2017

National Harbor, Md., and the Potomac River present plenty of chances for fun and relaxation during the 71st Annual PVA National Convention.

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This month’s annual Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) national convention in National Harbor, Md., will be busy with reports, meetings and electing the PVA Executive Committee. But it’s also important to take time to get away from the hustle and bustle and relax among the sites and beauty of this unique area along the Potomac River.

Located only about 12 miles south of the PVA national office in the heart of Washington, D.C., National Harbor is a 350-acre resort destination featuring hotels, tree-lined promenades with plenty of shops and restaurants, a marina, an outlet mall and a giant Ferris wheel. The vision for the area began in the 1990s with the idea to create a waterfront destination dedicated to the preservation and celebration of the Potomac River.

Roughly translated, “Potomac” means “where goods are brought” or “trading place,” and it won’t take you long to see how the area incorporates those ideas and why it’s become a popular destination for tourists and business travelers.

Get Started At The Gaylord

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The best place to start exploring is right where the convention will be taking place May 15-21 — the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center.

Situated on the banks of the Potomac River, the resort offers a multitude of restaurants and bars, a spa and a large glass atrium. The most striking feature of the resort is the 19-story atrium that offers stunning views of one of the nation’s most historic rivers. The 2-acre atrium offers plenty of room to roll around lush landscaping, areas to stop and admire the view, as well as a few places to grab a bite to eat.

Fantastic views aren’t limited to the atrium, either. At the top of the resort, you’ll find the Pose Rooftop Lounge with dramatic vistas of Washington, D.C., and Alexandria, Va., viewed through 18-foot, floor-to-ceiling windows and a wraparound terrace. The modern lounge is popular among hotel guests for late-night cocktails, music and dancing. 

If you’re looking for some excitement without the view or plush setting, the resort’s  National Pastime Sports Bar And Grill offers your favorite sports on a 36-foot, high-definition video wall. Featuring plenty of sports memorabilia, the bar also has traditional pub favorites such as wings, burgers and craft beer.

Ride The Wheel 

Whether you’re rolling outside or gazing out of the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center atrium, it’s hard to miss National Harbor’s biggest attraction, the Capital Wheel.

Statues of historical figures greet visitors as they enter the American Way shopping area in National Harbor, Md.

Take a ride 180 feet above the Potomac River for views of the Washington National Cathedral, the Washington Monument, the Masonic Temple and much of the surrounding countryside. Each wheelchair-accessible gondola has a 30-inch wide door, ramp access and can hold up to eight adults. The gondolas are also air-conditioned and heated so the 12-15 minute long ride can be comfortable year-round. Tickets are $15 for adults, with discounts available for seniors and the military.

If you want to take your ride up a notch, check out the VIP experience. The Capital Wheel’s National Harbor One (the VIP gondola) provides a luxurious ride with leather bucket seats and a glass floor. The VIP gondola can accommodate four adults, and tickets are $50 each.

For more information, visit

Place Your Bets 

If you’d like to have a little faster-spinning action, then head about five minutes north to the casino at the MGM National Harbor for roulette and many other games of chance.

Opened last December, the MGM is the newest hotel in National Harbor and features more than 125,000 square feet of gaming. A space that big means you shouldn’t have a problem finding an open spot to play one of your favorite casino games. Open 24 hours a day, the casino has 3,300 slot machines, 58 blackjack tables, 39 poker tables, 25 baccarat tables, 25 variations of carnival games, 12 roulette wheels and 10 craps tables.

Adding to the fun and excitement, the MGM National Harbor also has a 3,000-seat theater that has hosted the likes of Cher, Sting and Billy Crystal. You’ll also find 18,000 square feet of what the hotel describes as “high-end” retail, along with several bars, restaurants and lounges. 

For more information on the MGM National Harbor, visit

Catch A Flick 

OK, you’ve gambled, eaten well and hit the heights to see the sights, now it’s time to relax a little with some free, outdoor fun.

Every Thursday and Sunday night from May until September, National Harbor offers Movies on the Potomac. The free event features current and past movie favorites from science fiction to comedy to romance on a big outdoor screen on the Plaza, located right on the waterfront by the docks to the Capital Wheel.

The movie to be shown during the PVA convention on May 18 is the critically acclaimed romantic musical La La Land, staring Oscar winners Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Showtime is 7 p.m. on Thursdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays.

For more information on movie night, visit

Engage In Retail Therapy

Shopping always seems to be a popular activity on any trip, and directly behind the Plaza you’ll find plenty of unique retail stores and restaurants in a charming setting.

American Way is roughly two blocks of tree-lined streets with wide, flat sidewalks, shops, art and a large pedestrian island running down the middle with plenty of places to sit and relax. One of the street’s standout features is the collection of statues of historic figures from American and world politics, Hollywood, music and pop culture. The roughly one dozen statues include former President Abraham Lincoln, automotive icon Henry Ford, actress Marilyn Monroe, jazz musician Louis Armstrong and many others.

Among the street’s dozens of shops you’ll find nationally known places such as CVS Pharmacy, Starbucks, Harley-Davidson and Ben & Jerry’s ice cream to more one-of-a-kind places like Easter candy favorite Peeps & Company, Marbles: The Brain Store and Pepper Palace. Restaurants include the Crab Cake Café, Granite City Food and Brewery, the Walrus Oyster and Ale House and The Tasting Room Wine Bar and Shop.

For more information,


Get Your Motor Running

Possibly the most unique destination on American Way is part science exhibit, part motor vehicle laboratory, but all fun and educational.

Local Motors is a technology company that designs, builds and sells vehicles. It combines global co-creation with local micro-manufacturing to create innovations, such as the world’s first 3D-printed cars and an autonomous, electric-powered bus named Ollie.

The 22,000-square-foot National Harbor site opened last June as a combination manufacturing facility and public exhibition space. Local Motors looks to use its store as a way to engage the public so they can learn more about 3D printing, sustainability, autonomous technology and get involved with company engineers and the co-creation community.

The facility has a retail store, a display of Local Motors’ 3D-printed cars, and you can also watch engineers work with a large-scale 3D printer on vehicles the company currently has in development. It also offers community-based labs and a learning area for kids of all ages. Tours are available daily from noon to 6 p.m. on the hour.

For more information, visit


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