For those who may be unfamiliar, National Harbor, MD, is a new 300-acre multi-use waterfront development on the banks of the Potomac River just south of Washington, DC. It will also be the site of the PT 2011 conference from June 8-11, as APTA's signature national event returns to the nation's capital for the first time since 2003.
Anchoring the development is the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, which opened in April 2008. National Harbor also boasts several other hotels, waterfront condos, offices, retail stores, restaurants, clubs and a marina. In addition, the area offers a beachfront walking path and connection to a bike trail on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge that crosses the Potomac into Alexandria, VA.
National Harbor emphasizes its maritime theme and connection to the capital with road names such as "American Way," "Potomac Passage" and "Waterfront Street." There are also more than 25 dining and entertainment options in the development to suit any taste, from the sports fan (National Pastime Bar & Grill) to the seafood enthusiast (Foster's Crab & Lobster) to those who just want to relax over a creamy pint of Guinness (Harrington's Pub). Attendees who love shops and galleries will find plenty to attract their attention as well, from the Potomac Gourmet Market to the Relache Spa. There's even a National Children's Museum for people planning to bring their kids on this visit to the nation's capital.
Pedestrians stroll along the waterfront under blue skies in National Harbor.
Some might argue that the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center alone is worth the trip. With a towering 18-story atrium, 2,000 guest rooms and 470,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, the facility markets itself as the largest non-gaming hotel and convention center on the East Coast.
National Harbor has become a destination for a wide variety of festivals, drawing enthusiastic attendees from around the region. A sample of events during the first half of 2011 includes the Chesapeake Oyster & Beer Festival that took place in February, the Wine & Food Festival being held in mid-May and the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival scheduled for the weekend after PT 2011.
But as much as National Harbor itself has to offer, attendees should also take advantage of the wondrous attractions of Washington, DC, just a short distance away. The Gaylord provides a downtown shuttle service seven days a week to the Old Post Office and Union Station. Shuttles leave every 90 minutes between 9 a.m. and 7:30 p.m., with a round-trip cost of $20 for adults and three-day passes available for $49. The cost for children is $10 round-trip and $25 for a three-day pass, according to the Gaylord website.
Alison Lichy, PT, DPT, NCS, is owner of Neurological Physical Therapy in Alexandria, VA, and president of the District of Columbia Chapter of the APTA. She has lived in the DC area her entire life and also conducts research at National Rehabilitation Hospital in the city. Dr. Lichy spoke to ADVANCE about Washington's many offerings.
"That shuttle the Gaylord offers seems like a great deal and the best way to get back and forth. If attendees have limited time, I think they should go to the National Mall to see the memorials, Washington Monument and Smithsonian Museum. Because that's going to be the true experience of DC."
Dr. Lichy also noted a couple of attractions more off the beaten path: the Newseum (www.newseum.org) and International Spy Museum (www.spymuseum.org).
"The Newseum opened only a few years ago so we haven't had a national PT conference in town since then," she related. "It's a very popular place that's all about journalism and its history. The Spy Museum has been around for almost 10 years. There's a great restaurant next to it called Zola and the whole surrounding area of Chinatown has become totally revitalized since our last conference [here]."
Nationals Park, home of Major League Baseball's Washington Nationals, is another enticing option. Unfortunately the team will be on a West Coast trip while PT 2011 is taking place. But tours are available of this gleaming new stadium that opened in 2008 along the Anacostia River in the southeast section of the city.
Old Town Alexandria
Apart from the city, Dr. Lichy recommended that attendees check out Alexandria, just across the Potomac from National Harbor.
"There is a private water taxi service that runs from National Harbor to Alexandria, charging $16 for an adult round trip and $10 for a child. Alexandria has a very boutique feel, in terms of the restaurants and stores, with cobblestone roads and walkways. There is also a waterfront area and the houses are very historic."
Dr. Lichy noted that a monument tour runs by boat from Alexandria to DC, costing $26 for the round trip.
"The nice thing about that is you can get off in the Georgetown section of DC and walk around, then return on another trip. Georgetown is like a bigger Old Town Alexandria. It's full of restaurants and shopping, with a beautiful waterfront."
The shuttle service from National Harbor does not go to the Georgetown area, Dr. Lichy related. So if attendees don't take the boat tour from Alexandria, another option is to ride the shuttle to Union Station, then take a taxi.
"From the station, you can get almost anywhere else in the city by cab for about $20."
Dr. Lichy emphasized the location of National Harbor might not be what some attendees are expecting.
"It's a very new development in Maryland about 20 minutes outside the city. There is a lot to do in DC, but coming from National Harbor you have to plan and use different types of transportation. I want attendees to have a really good experience and to understand they won't be able to step out the door and walk to [all the DC sites]."
There will be many highlights of the conference itself, including the keynote address by CNN political analyst Paul Begala on Wednesday, always-entertaining Oxford Debate on Friday, the 42nd McMillan Lecture presented on Friday by Gail M. Jensen, PT, PhD, FAPTA, and the 16th Maley Lecture on Saturday by Charles L. McGarvey, PT, DPT, MS, FAPTA.
But perhaps the most intriguing aspect of PT 2011 will be "PT Day on Capitol Hill," replacing the traditional Federal Advocacy Forum. APTA is taking advantage of this unique opportunity to be in DC for the national conference by having a PT Rally on Washington. APTA President R. Scott Ward will introduce a few key congressional speakers on Thursday morning. Following the rally, delegations of PTs, PTAs and physical therapy students will meet with members of the 112th Congress and their staffs to discuss issues affecting the physical therapy profession.
"It will be very exciting to see everybody going to Capitol Hill and getting involved," concluded Dr. Lichy. "DC thrives on that kind of advocacy."
Brian W. Ferrie is managing editor of ADVANCE and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org