Image Credits: REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

It’s officially the week of CPAC! The Conservative Political Action Conference, hosted by the American Conservative Union, is one of the largest gatherings of conservatives every year. Taking place at the Gaylord National Resort and Conference Center in National Harbor, Maryland, the event regularly draws thousands of attendees for the three-day conference. This will be my fourth CPAC, so I wanted to highlight all of the things that CPAC (and the area) have to offer.

1) Catch a speech on the main stage

This year, there are several speeches and panels on the Main Stage that you don’t want to miss. Thursday morning will be kicked off by a panel containing Rep. Mark Meadows (NC-11) and Rep. Jim Jordan (OH-4) and moderated by Matt Schlapp, the chairman of the ACU. Other notable speakers include RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel, Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao, Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Laura Ingraham, and Senator Lindsey Graham. That’s just on Thursday! Make sure to check out the schedule to figure out who you don’t want to miss. The President and the Vice President will be speaking on Saturday and Friday respectively, so make sure to plan ahead.

2) Attend a breakout panel in one of the Salons

Aside from the main stage, CPAC hosts numerous panels covering a wide range of topics, including campus activism, women in politics, national security, climate change, healthcare, and so much more. 

3) Take a picture with someone in costume or a speaker

Inevitably, there will be someone there in costume or in over-the-top clothing. I’ve seen everything from a flag-print suit to a man in full American Revolution period clothing. By the virtue of their outfit, you know they will be outgoing, so don’t be afraid to take a photo! Likewise, one of the best parts about CPAC is the accessibility of some of the speakers. It’s not uncommon to be wandering around and see a speaker or two talking to conference attendees. If you do ask a speaker or another attendee for a photo, make sure to use your manners and ask politely. A little bit of kindness goes a long way!

4) Wander in the Exhibit Hall and collect giveaways

The Exhibit Hall is a place for presenters and organizations to set up and display what they do to advance conservative issues. Many of the booths have free giveaway items and other things for purchase. If you’ve seen a young conservative with a Ken Bone photo, it was in the Exhibit Hall. Some of my favorite exhibitors on the list this year are the American Conservation Coalition, Heritage Action for America, i360, Lone Conservative, National Review Institute, Network of enlightened Women, Intercollegiate Studies Institute, and Young Americans for Liberty.

5) Attend a happy hour event

The party doesn’t stop when the speakers do! Join other attendees your age at any of the various happy hours going on throughout National Harbor. Even if you aren’t of legal drinking age, the events will be a great time to connect with fellow conservatives over policy and issues.

6) Explore Washington D.C.

If you’ve never been to our nation’s capitol, I highly recommend it! The convention ends roughly around 6 pm every day, and with National Harbor right outside of the Beltway, it’s very easy to get to the National Mall. If you drove, get a few friends together and drive into the heart of D.C., park somewhere around the mall at the metered parking, and walk to all of the monuments. If you flew in or prefer not to drive, your best bet is going to be to split an Uber either into D.C. or to the closest Metro station. You can pretty easily hit any of the places you want to see in an evening – just make sure to plan ahead!

Struggling to keep everything straight? Download the Guidebook app on your phone and look up the CPAC 2019 guidebook. It contains the schedule, announcements, exhibitors, speakers, and much more. We can’t wait to see you there!

Jillian K