In a corner of Appalachia where the Potomac River marks the boundary between West Virginia and Maryland, not far from the southern border of Pennsylvania, the Potomac Park Retreat and Conference Center is a secluded escape for mindful ministry in Falling Waters, West Virginia. Owned and operated by the Assemblies of God, the retreat center is part of the Potomac Ministry Network and, though it is open to the public, is exclusively available to Christian-based groups.
“Everything that we do is focused around the idea of a ministry, which makes us unique,” said marketing manager Ashley Haschemeyer. “We are a Christian ministry, and we strive to partner with other Christian ministries, so it isn’t like a public wedding or meeting venue. It’s a private, religious nonprofit.”
On roughly 30 acres, the space is designed with Christian retreats in mind, knowing that groups will want to have worship services, prayer sessions and breakout groups in addition to those on-site activities. The venue offers a range of lodging and meal options, spacious grounds and plenty of recreational opportunities. With the help of its team of on-site planners and staff, Potomac Park sets the scene for an ideal group retreat.
Potomac Park offers motel-style and dorm-style accommodations with a capacity for 400 overnight guests. Motel-style rooms are configured with a variety of options, from king-size beds to bunk beds, and a private lavatory and shower; linens and towels are provided. Dorm-style lodging offers shared lavatory facilities, and guests bring their own linens and towels. The Potomac Lodge, offering a more secluded environment, has two bedrooms with dorm-style sleeping, as well as a living room and a kitchen. All lodging has heating and air conditioning.
“We don’t do individual stays — it is all group event based,” said Haschemeyer. “We have several smaller buildings spread across campus. We have rooms that are a little nicer that adults like, and we can accommodate kids in the dorm-style rooms, and it has a camp feel.”
Conveniently, a breakfast, lunch, and dinner meal plan is included in the per-person cost of each retreat. Groups can choose buffet-style meals in the dining room, upgrade to a banquet meal served tableside or have meals delivered to the meeting rooms. There is an on-site cafe and ice cream shop, Potomac Perks.
At Potomac Park, one private meeting room with complimentary audiovisual equipment is included in every retreat package, and the cost of the meeting spaces is included in the per-person cost of the retreat. The largest space is the conference center, which can be configured in a number of ways to accommodate groups of up to 700, or 500 seated, in its auditorium. The two side rooms, each with a capacity of 100 guests, can be opened to be a part of the larger auditorium space or closed for private meetings. The auditorium features a stage with a sound board, lighting and full audiovisual capabilities.
Hensley Hall is an informal indoor space with two levels, one for meetings and one for recreational activities, and has space for 400 participants. The Cover Center Meeting and the Schaeffer Conference Room each have a 150-person capacity with various configurations, and there are five additional spaces on the campus for small groups of 10 to 40 people to meet, among them a newly renovated outdoor gazebo.
There are plenty of indoor and outdoor activities included in the retreat package at Potomac Park. Activities are coordinated ahead of time, simplifying things for planners. For an additional fee, the center can provide additional staff to facilitate activities for the group. Outdoor activities include a mini-golf course, soccer, sand volleyball, basketball, baseball, football, a gaga ball pit, an outdoor pool and tennis courts. There are two playgrounds, a serene woodland trail and fields designated for group activities such as games, bonfires and hayrides. Indoors, the gym houses table tennis, basketball, volleyball, dodgeball and a fitness center. There are board games provided, as well as several team-building and ice-breaking games — think tug of war and water balloon toss.
“One of the most popular activities we have at Potomac Park is called Slippery Slopes,” said Haschemeyer. “It’s a big, long hill that is covered in a plastic gridding. You get on a tube and go down — no water or snow or anything required.”
Another option is sister property Pine Creek, roughly 45 minutes away and tucked into the Appalachian hills.
Things To See and Do
Potomac Park is on the border of West Virginia and Maryland. It offers easy access to cities like Baltimore and Washington, which are just over an hour’s drive away and offer ample tourist attractions, including the Museum of the Bible and the Smithsonian. It’s also in the heart of Appalachia, offering unrivaled scenery and a chance for groups to reflect on the beauty of nature and explore the region’s small towns.
“We are in that part of West Virginia that is five minutes from Maryland just across the river,” said Haschemeyer. “This area of the country has so much history to it, you can drive about 30 minutes and see a long list of historical sites.”
There are nearby state parks for hiking and other outdoor activities, such as the Yankauer Nature Preserve or the waterfalls at the aptly named Falling Waters. The nearby town of Hagerstown has many retail shops, museums, restaurants and other attractions. The location is also close to historic destinations such as Antietam National Battlefield and Gettysburg, both popular with history buffs.
Potomac Park Retreat and Conference Center
Location: Falling Waters, West Virginia
Size: 30 acres
Capacity: 400 overnight guests