Texas is a spectacular destination for corporate events, conferences and meetings. With its one-of-a-kind indoor and outdoor venues, state-of-the-art convention centers, and an array of hotels from which to choose, Texas offers meeting and event planners — and attendees — unique, memorable and impactful experiences.
For Suzanne Swanson, CMP, CMM, meeting manager of Events at AVID Center in San Diego, California, Dallas offers a wealth of options for the summer institute that AVID hosts each year. In fact, for the last 12 years, AVID has orchestrated at least one summer institute in downtown Dallas each summer.
“We have used the Hyatt Regency Dallas, Omni Dallas Hotel and Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center.” Suzanne Swanson, CMP, CMM
“We have used the Hyatt Regency Dallas, Omni Dallas Hotel and Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center. We also use the Hilton Anatole for our National Conference,” Swanson says.
At each AVID institute, about 5,000 adult educators, including teachers, principals and administrators, attend the three-day institute to learn strategies that they can take back to their schools in the fall.
“We have a general session on Day 2 to feature a couple of AVID students and one AVID teacher who share their experiences with AVID and how it has impacted their lives and communities,” Swanson says. “We usually have two general sessions at the Hyatt Regency’s Landmark Ballroom, which is beautiful.”
One of the key reasons Dallas is a popular venue for AVID is because it is centrally located in the U.S. and is convenient for larger Dallas school districts.
“We have very responsive hotel and convention center partners that know our event, so it is a true partnership,” Swanson says. “We are tax-exempt in Texas, which saves us money. And one of the biggest draws is the amount of available meeting space in close proximity to the convention center. We need 85 to 90 meeting rooms concurrently over a three-day period.”
Named one of the Trade Show Executive magazine’s Top 10 convention centers, the Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas (KBHCCD) is one of the largest convention centers in the nation and connects to the 1,001-room Omni Dallas Hotel via an expansive sky bridge. Omni Dallas Hotel offers 142,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space, eight restaurants, a full-service Mokara Spa, and a heated infinity swimming pool and terrace.
With over 1 million sf of exhibit space, the KBHCCD offers three large ballrooms and a 221,290-sf arena with 9,816 seats. In addition, Dallas offers more than 80,000 hotel rooms, 13,000 of which are in downtown Dallas. Also, 12 newly opened hotels offer even more options for attendees.
“Our institutes run until 5 p.m. each day, so many of our attendees visit restaurants located downtown and uptown,” Swanson says. In the past, some attendees have visited AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, while others have visited the downtown art museum and attended live performances. In fact, Dallas boasts the largest urban arts district in the nation, spanning 19 square blocks. What’s more, the city’s expansive amount of green spaces and walkable neighborhoods offer a myriad of entertainment options, as do the city’s six professional sports teams, 200 golf courses, and more than 12,000 restaurants.
“We’ve been hosting events in Dallas for at least 12 years and our partners make us feel special. It is fairly central in the U.S. with two easily accessible airports,” Swanson says. “If your attendees are local, the DART (Dallas Area Rapid Transit) is an affordable way to get downtown.”
In North Dallas sits the Renaissance Dallas Addison Hotel, which offers 101,117 sf of event space. That includes the 25,520-sf Crystal Ballroom, which can accommodate 3,000 attendees theater-style. Looking for a little shopping or to visit a museum? Less than a mile away are the Galleria Dallas and the Cavanaugh Flight Museum.
Chelsey Berend, vice president of Field Experience at Kynect in Dallas, recently planned Kynect’s annual convention, Kynection, where the company recognizes their sales channel with awards, dinners, parties and training. Held at the Fort Worth Convention Center, more than 4,000 attended.
“Kynection is Kynect’s premier annual, multiday event bringing thousands of independent associates and their guest from across the country to Texas for an unforgettable experience, full of training, networking, recognition, entertainment and world-renowned speakers,” Berend says.
While Fort Worth is close to Kynect’s corporate location of Dallas, the venue location also was in an optimal city with the right event space availability for the organization’s agenda.
“The downtown Fort Worth location is safe, walkable and has many restaurants and shops to entertain our attendees,” Berend says. “They explored Sundance Square and Cow Town. Fort Worth is a perfect location for meetings and events because it is laid out to accommodate foot traffic and is easily accessible by the DFW Metroplex, as well as, close to DFW Airport. The city has friendly people, its clean and safe and also has lots of culture to offer.”
In addition to its walkable downtown, Fort Worth is truly an urban oasis home to several entertainment districts, including the world’s only twice-daily cattle drive. According to the Fort Worth CVB, the growth of Fort Worth’s downtown area, which includes the 35-block Sundance Square shopping and entertainment center, has helped boost the demand for meetings and conventions. The recently completed Dickies Arena, located in the city’s cultural district amid the Will Rogers Memorial Center Campus, offers entertainment options including sporting events, concerts and various family events. In addition, with 91,315 sf of meeting space, Dickies Arena accommodates conventions, exhibit events, business meetings and private events.
“The Fort Worth CVB is also extremely helpful, and they are very engaged in the meetings and events industry,” Berend says. “They come with knowledge of partners in the area, and also offer assistance with meeting and event planning. They make you feel like family and make sure that all groups are taken care of in their city that they are so proud of.”
Boasting more than 14,000 downtown hotel rooms and the Henry B. González Convention Center, San Antonio has proven to be a wonderful option for meetings and events.
Thanks in part to the delightful San Antonio River Walk, meeting attendees have easy access to dozens of hotels as well as the 1.6 million-sf convention center, which has recently undergone a $325 million transformation.
Stuart Ruff-Lyon, CMP, DES, vice president of Events and Exhibitions at RIMS, recently organized a RIMS Annual Conference & Exhibition at the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center. “We attracted some 10,000 delegates from 70 countries,” Ruff-Lyon says. “The center itself is beautifully done in a modern, stylish manner that is pleasing to attendees.”
The RIMS attendees enjoyed visiting the Alamo, but really were impressed with the Riverwalk. They were able to visit shopping, dining and nightlife — all within a five-minute walk from the convention center.
“My advice to meeting planners considering San Antonio for a meeting or event is to partner with Visit San Antonio as much as possible. “The CVB provided a wonderful experience to help us make full use of the destination,” Ruff-Lyons says. The RIMS conference enjoyed hundreds of off-site events and parties, including the opening party at the historic Sunset Station.
“It remains our best opening party to date,” Ruff-Lyons says. “The city is full of skilled, professional event partners ready to assist you in your planning experience. We would not have been successful without the support of the community and all of our event partners, particularly our DMC, Hosts Global Alliance.”
Designated the ‘least stressed city in Texas,’ Plano provides a unique hospitality all its own. From state-of-the-art meeting spaces to a wealth of hotel options, Plano hosts every type of event — from small, intimate meetings and soirées to major conventions, trade shows and conferences. Just 20 minutes north of Dallas, Plano is easily accessible on the DART light rail line, allowing attendees to travel throughout the region and explore.
Known for its plethora of walking districts and neighborhoods, Plano boasts the Shops at Legacy, which is within walking distance of more than 100 restaurants and various shops and its anchor hotel, Dallas/Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center. Nearby, Legacy West offers an additional mixed-use, 225-acre development teeming with shops, restaurants and the Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West Hotel. In addition, the new 30,000-sf Boardwalk features various eateries and a local brewery. A short drive from the Plano Event Center, attendees can also explore the Downtown Plano arts district, offering additional retail and entertainment options.
Each year, more than 2,300 people attend Orangetheory Fitness’ annual convention in Austin. Jennifer Tate, director of corporate events for Orangetheory Fitness, says the purpose of the event is to bring together the Orangetheory Fitness network from across the globe to celebrate the company’s successes and highlight the organization’s innovation ideas for the future.
“Our attendees hear expert advice, learn proven strategies, network with like-minded people and get inspired with their peers,” Tate says. The event was held at the Austin Convention Center (ACC), Fairmont Austin, Hilton Austin and The Long Center.
“We chose Austin because it met all of our needs — enough sleeping rooms, enough meeting space, ease of travel, lots to offer our attendees in restaurants and nightlife options all in an exciting environment,” Tate says. “Austin is a great city for a young audience who like to have fun and explore the area. Take the time to explore all the city has to offer as it surely has something for everyone.”
Indeed, as the state capital of Texas, Austin is filled with exciting venues and eclectic hot spots. While known as a popular leisure locale, Austin also offers wonderful options for meetings and events of all sizes. The ACC is a state-of-the-art facility that boasts a wealth of in-house technology capabilities that will help deliver an event that keeps attendees coming back for more. Located in close proximity to the convention center are 11,000 hotel rooms and shops, restaurants and entertainment venues aplenty. The greater Austin area features more than 39,000 hotel rooms.
Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa offers 493 of those guest rooms and suites at its 4,000-acre property, which includes four championship golf courses from which golf-loving attendees can select: Fazio Canyons, Fazio Foothills, Coore Crenshaw and Palmer Lakeside.
The resort also offers four pools, including an indoor pool available year-round; 76,192 sf of meeting and event space; a new, 13,000-sf Mokara Spa with an exclusive pool and rooftop deck; and a 3,000-sf fitness center. As for dining, the resort offers seven signature restaurants, including Blind Salamander Kitchen & Bar and Bob’s Steak & Chop House.
In addition to a wealth of traditional meeting venues, Austin also offers many eclectic, unique venue options for meetings and events, including favorite Texas barbecue hot spots, racetracks, stages, a draft house or even lakeside. The city is also home to more than 250 live music venues — adding to its appeal as a popular hot spot for attendees of all ages.
Home to more than 12,000 hotel rooms, Irving is the ideal destination thanks to its proximity to downtown Dallas. One of the city’s ideal locales for meetings and events is the Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas (ICCLC). With more than 275,000 sf, the ICCLC offers elegant ballrooms, a leading-edge exhibit hall, several breakout rooms and a vast amount of pre-function space. Beyond the confines of the convention center, Irving offers an additional 200,000 sf of meeting and event space.
Of course, the convention center’s centralized location means that attendees revel in the area’s mixed-use entertainment district, including the Toyota Music Factory, with its indoor-outdoor amphitheater and 50,000-sf plaza with stage. The area also boasts a vast amount of entertainment, retail and restaurant spaces, including a movie theater and comedy club.
Recently the $110 million Westin Irving Convention Center at Las Colinas hotel opened and offers 350 guest rooms, the 10,000-sf Harmony Ballroom, and 30,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space.
When Joe Martin, executive director of THSCA was planning his organization’s convention, the George R. Brown Convention Center (GRBCC) in Houston was the ideal locale for 13,714 attendees, the majority of whom were coaches, with the remainder being exhibitors. This ‘Coaching School’ is an annual event providing professional development, networking and buying opportunities for coaches.
“Houston First has been a tremendous partner and the GRBCC campus is a fabulous facility where our coaches have the opportunity to bring family, park their car and walk to our convention as well as to entertainment and restaurant venues,” Martin says. “The GRBCC campus allows for adequate entertainment and food options.” With more than 1.2 million sf of exhibit, meeting and registration space, including 639,000 sf of contiguous exhibit space and 88 meeting rooms, Houston’s convention center is a haven for events of all sizes. Of course, the convention center is just one venue that can house conventions as the city of Houston boasts more than 4.4 million sf of convention facilities. Another favorite convention facility is the NRG Park, formerly Reliant Park, which includes 2.1 million sf of exhibit and meeting space.
In addition, the Houston area has more than 80,000 hotel rooms with approximately 8,000 in the downtown area.
Martin believes pitching the idea of parking your vehicle and having the ability to walk to all venues is huge. “The Marriott Marquis Houston is a great venue for families in the warm months due to the pool and multiple restaurants,” Martin says. “Don’t let the size of the city concern you — once you arrive onto this campus it seems like a small city.”
For those eager to venture around the region, downtown Houston is sure to please. Downtown Houston features a thriving professional arts scene and an expansive museum district featuring 18 venues located in close proximity to each other. Houston’s Memorial Park is home to a public golf course, trails and tennis courts.
If hosting a meeting off the beaten path sounds more appealing, El Paso offers the idyllic Texan experience for meeting planners and attendees alike. Teeming with history, attendees offer a unique historical and cultural experience all its own. A recent multimillion-dollar investment has revitalized downtown El Paso to include a multipurpose performing arts venue, Hispanic cultural center, and public art projects — all within walking distance to the El Paso Convention Center.
The Arlington City Council voted recently to approve a $550 million addition to the city’s Entertainment District that will include a new hotel, a publicly owned convention center and a parking facility. Construction is expected to begin early this year, with completion slated for 2023.
The hotel will have 888 guest rooms, and it will be called the Loews Arlington. All told, the project will result in 150,000 sf of indoor convention space, 66,000 sf of outdoor space and a future expo hall that will connect via a skybridge to the new 300-room Live! by Loews Hotel and its convention space, resulting in a roughly 1,200-room hotel. A public-private partnership between Loews, the Texas Rangers, Cordish Cos., the City of Arlington and Tarrant County is funding the project.
There are also plans to develop the southwest corner of Globe Life Park stadium into 200,000 sf of office space, including 280 residential units along with 100,000 sf of restaurant, retail, parking and small business incubator space on the southeast corner of the intersection. Development of this project will move forward once a tenant is in place, officials said.
The Arlington Entertainment District contains such tourism attractions as the Dallas Cowboy’s AT&T Stadium, the new Texas Rangers Globe Life Field, the $250 million Texas Live! entertainment complex, Six Flags Over Texas and Six Flags Hurricane Harbor. The $150 million flagship Live! by Loews Arlington luxury hotel opened in August, offering guests walkable access to the Entertainment District’s offerings. Arlington was also recently selected as the future home of the National Medal of Honor Museum, which will also be in the Entertainment District.
Another Texas option teeming with charm and character is Grapevine. Located in the Northern part of the state, Grapevine is home to more than 20 hotels, 11,000 area hotel rooms and 1 million sf of meeting space — all within minutes of the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. From the Grapevine Convention Center to the Palace Arts Center to the Grapevine Concourse Event Center, the variety of meeting and event spaces in Grapevine is celebrated by meeting planners from across the U.S. When work is complete for the day, event attendees can enjoy a visit to the Sea Life Aquarium or embark on the historic Grapevine Vintage Railroad or tour many of the area’s winery tasting rooms. C&IT