Diversity is the name of the game within the mid-Atlantic region. Along with a wealth of properties well-suited for events of all sizes, the region has much to offer meeting participants. Not only does it include some of the nation’s major population centers with their attendant cultural attractions, but it also features everything from popular oceanside casino resorts to historic sites going back to the Civil War, colonial times and more.
Once known primarily for its gambling, Atlantic City now offers a more diversified profile. Today it boasts an attractive combination of casino hotels and non-gaming hotels, with an inventory of well more than 15,000 rooms.
“Atlantic City…has become one of the most popular destinations of the entire mid-Atlantic region. There is something here for…everyone.”
— Jim Wood
“Atlantic City, with its world-famous boardwalk, gaming, fine dining and world-class entertainment has become one of the most popular destinations of the entire mid-Atlantic region,” says Jim Wood, president and CEO of Meet AC. “There is something here for just about everyone.”
For Judy Fishman, who plans conferences for owners and managers of dental laboratories in her capacity as president of LMT Communications, Atlantic City has proven itself a great option. She recently held a highly successful conference in Atlantic City for more than 900 people with connections to the dental lab industry. Having held previous meetings in New York City, she was pleasantly surprised with the new location.
“I was really reluctant to leave New York City, but when we got there I saw how nice it was,” she says. “It wasn’t as much of a gambling town as it has been, and there weren’t too many distractions from the conference. It’s an attractive seaside location with a nice kind of ambience.”
The purpose was to provide an opportunity for people to come to a trade show to see, touch and play with new dental equipment and materials that have been introduced. Educational seminars also were offered.
Fishman says that the goals for the meeting were fully met. Events were held at the conference center, and guests stayed at the Sheraton Atlantic City Convention Center Hotel.
“Everybody at the convention center was super professional,” she says. “They were attentive to our needs and diligent with follow-up — that’s rare.”
She adds that Meet AC contributed door prizes for attendees to add to those offered by her team. “They also provided staff with food while we were stuck in registration all day,” she says. ”We didn’t have to close down or lose setup time to go find food.”
Fishman says other details, most notably costs, also were positive.
“Pricing in Atlantic City is quite attractive and competitive,” she says. “It makes the whole experience a win-win.”
Of course, gaming is still a strong attraction for many, and properties such as the Resorts Casino Hotel offer exciting meeting options. The first Atlantic City resort to include gaming among its offerings almost 40 years ago, Resorts was updated in 2013 with the opening of Jimmy Buffett’s Margaritaville casino and entertainment complex.
Resorts has 64,000 sf of meeting space with 24 meeting and function rooms, and a 13,000-sf ballroom. There are two hotel towers with 942 guest rooms and suites, two theaters and an 80,000-sf casino.
Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center turned out to be the right choice for the 2016 TSNN (Trade Show News Network) Awards Gala Celebration, which attracted trade show organizers from the country’s largest shows.
“The event celebrates the largest and fastest-growing trade shows in the U.S., and the attendees hold their own high-profile events and have a very discerning eye,” says Rachel Wimberly, president. “Harrah’s met all of our expectations of wowing this elite crowd.”
She recalls that during her site visit, Harrah’s reps readily understood the need for a high-end event desired for this particular audience.
“They pulled out all the stops, including an amazing four-course meal from their very talented executive chef, as well as a stunning awards production,” she says. “The entire team was extremely easy to work with.”
Harrah’s Atlantic City offers more than 2,500 guest rooms and 63 meeting rooms ranging from 506 sf to 13,475 sf. A total of 150,000 sf of event space includes two 50,000-sf ballrooms.
Among other hotel options, the 24 meeting rooms at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa range from 550 to 4,500 sf, with capacities ranging from 10 to 3,500. Caesar’s Atlantic City has more than 1,100 guest rooms and 28,000 sf of meeting space. Its 12 meeting rooms include a 17,135-sf ballroom and 10 individual meeting rooms with 490 sf to 1,262 sf of space. At Bally’s Atlantic City, some 1,200 guest rooms are complemented by 28 meeting rooms and 80,000 sf of meeting space.
Things are popping as usual in New York, which attracted a record 6.1 million meeting and convention delegates in 2015, according to NYC & Company, the city’s destination marketing organization. New York City not only boasts more than 110,000 hotel rooms, but the total is expected to grow to 135,000 by the end of 2019. In fact at least 17 hotels have opened in the past year, adding more than 4,100 guest rooms.
Also in the works is an expansion of the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center, expected to bring an additional 1.2 million sf of event space and a 60,000-sf ballroom. The facility already has more than 100 function rooms for seminars and hospitality areas, and 65,000 sf of dedicated registration space.
Alexandra Murphy, director of site selection for Meeting Expectations in Atlanta, Georgia, coordinated a highly successful event in New York City in September. Held at the Conrad New York , the event attracted more than 300 people including customers, partners, industry analysts, media and financial analysts. The hotel is located in Manhattan’s Battery Park City, close to some of the city’s most well-known landmark neighborhoods. And The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is located within a 10-minute walk.
“We get wonderful feedback about New York City, specifically from our corporate events,” she says. “It’s the perfect city for a high-profile meeting or a product launch.” She says New York builds attendance and notes that its location is attractive due to close proximity to many first-tier cities via train or plane.
“Attendees are excited about New York,” she says. “It’s where life happens and great events are created.” Murphy also lauds the city’s CVB.
“NYC and Company has done a fantastic job marketing its city,” she says. “Our contact has gone above and beyond from the RFP process to putting a fantastic site experience together to providing helpful feedback.”
Recalling the September meeting, Murphy cites being in the Financial District as a plus. “It’s a quieter spot in New York City but still filled with plenty of restaurants, bars, shops and attractions in the area,” she says. “We also hosted offsite events at some nearby restaurants/venues that were a big hit.”
She says other planners might do well to consider the New York option.
“Count on great attendance, service and food but come with a healthy budget,” she says. “Be prepared to spend more than usual across the board — this is the Big Apple after all!”
One new offering is the Hyatt Centric Times Square New York, a 54-story Manhattan property previously known as Hyatt Times Square New York. The rebranded hotel has 487 guest rooms and more than 7,000 sf of indoor and outdoor meeting space accommodating up to 200 guests.
Another large hotel, the New York Marriott Marquis, offers 124,755 sf of event space, 48 meeting rooms and more than 1,900 guest rooms. For its part, the Grand Hyatt New York has 60,000 sf of meeting space. One ballroom accommodates 1,500–2,000 guests and another handles up to 500.
The Hilton New York Midtown has 1,929 guest rooms, and the 150,000 sf of exhibit and meeting space includes a 24,000-sf ballroom and 18 small venues.
At the classic Waldorf Astoria New York, major renovations are in the offing. As a result, the hotel has announced that no large groups are being accepted for March 2017 and beyond.
Within a day’s drive of half of the U.S. population, Richmond offers an attractive combination of history and contemporary design.
“Richmond is a beautiful city,” says Michele Jacobson, CMP, senior meeting planner for Richmond-based Altria Client Services, the parent company of Philip Morris USA. “There is plenty to keep people entertained and happy as they experience another region of the country.”
She says the region’s rich history is a plus, along with assets ranging from great restaurants and wineries to nearby Busch Gardens.
“There’s also a really interesting arts scene,” she adds. And there is a nice urban feel along with attractions in the nearby countryside.
The premier venue for meetings is the Greater Richmond Convention Center. The state’s largest such facility, it has more than 200,000 sf of convention and ballroom space with 36 meeting and banquet rooms and a 258-seat lecture hall. Others include the Richmond Coliseum with 70,000 sf of space, the Richmond Raceway Complex with five buildings totaling more than 150,000 sf of space, and the Stuart C. Siegel Center at Virginia Commonwealth University with seating for up to 7,500 participants.
Several major projects are bringing enhancements to the region’s attractiveness for corporate events. Completion of a $92 million renovation of Main Street Station is slated for the summer of 2017. The historic downtown train station, originally constructed in 1901, has been upgraded through three phases initially begun in 1991, with the newest phase the restoration of a 100,000-sf train shed. The station currently has four Amtrak trains running daily and a Megabus station, and with the new space will have additional trains, incorporation of the Virginia Capital Trail, a bus rapid transit downtown hub and state/regional welcome center.
The station also boasts several event spaces. The Main Street Station train shed has 47,000 sf of event space with a capacity of more than 2,220 attendees and outstanding views of the city. Another section featuring a balcony and grand hall offers 10,000 sf of event space with capacities of 395 for seated dinners and 740 for receptions. And an outdoor space will open in fall 2017.
New event venues on the horizon include the Institute for Contemporary Art. Planned for an October 2017 opening, it will be a 41,000-sf non-collecting museum with exhibitions, performances, film and special programs, and including as yet unspecified event space. The recently re-opened Black History Museum and Cultural Center of Virginia offers 12,000 sf of interactive exhibits and other space.
On the hotel front, early 2017 will see construction begin on a Marriott-branded Moxy Hotel, and The Graduate Hotel will open in summer 2017.
Four Points by Sheraton Richmond recently completed renovations of the hotel’s 194 guest rooms, ballrooms and 10,000 sf of meeting space. Homewood Suites by Hilton Richmond-Chester will be renovating the décor of the lobby, which has 2,300 sf of meeting space including three rooms that open into one and can hold up to 200 people. In addition, the Crowne Plaza Richmond Downtown is currently being renovated and will be reflagged as a Delta Hotel by Marriott. And the historic Jefferson Hotel is undergoing changes that include transforming what had been 262 guest rooms into 181 more spacious rooms and suites.
For a more rural Virginia experience, Primland combines the beauty of a mountaintop location in the Blue Ridge Mountains with meeting facilities accommodating up to 200 guests. The resort’s lodge features a 2,000-sf ballroom, breakout rooms, a private dining room, theater and executive boardroom.
Baltimore offers an especially convenient location, with the downtown area only a 20-minute ride from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and its more than 600 flights per day to 75 cities. Amtrak’s Penn Station is a major stop on the Northeast corridor service, and the city is within easy driving distance of much of the Eastern U.S.
Headlining the city’s varied meeting locations is the Baltimore Convention Center, offering 300,000 sf of exhibit space, 85,000 sf of meeting space with 50 meeting rooms and a 36,672-sf ballroom. Recent upgrades include completion of an outdoor terrace and updates to Wi-Fi and audio systems.
More than 9,000 hotel rooms are located within walking distance of the convention center. What locals have dubbed the “convention campus” includes the well-known Inner Harbor, which features not only hotels, but also a variety of restaurants, museums and shopping options.
A popular food destination, which premiered in 2015, is Mount Vernon Marketplace. The indoor market features 14 purveyors of local offerings.
A number of hotels are benefiting from renovations.
The Hyatt Regency Baltimore at the Inner Harbor has new escalators, furniture, flooring and lighting, along with other improvements including upgrades to the hotel’s 488 guest rooms. It offers 20-plus meeting rooms totaling 35,000 sf.
The Renaissance Baltimore Harborplace Hotel, also located at the Inner Harbor, recently updated its 31,000 sf of meeting and event space, along with its harbor view restaurant, with an investment of $3.5 million.
The former Wyndham Baltimore Mt. Vernon Hotel is expected to reopen in early 2017 under a new name, Joie de Vivre.
On the horizon is Harbor Point, a downtown waterfront site that will have 3 million sf of office, retail, residential and hotel space on 27 acres. The development will include a 156-room boutique hotel from Hilton Worldwide slated for a 2018 opening.
The 32-story Baltimore Marriott Waterfront features 750 guest rooms and 80,000 sf of event space, with the largest room handling up to 1,600 guests.
Along with 757 guest rooms, the Hilton Baltimore offers 62,000 sf of meeting space and 34 meeting rooms.
Others recently opened or opening soon include a Delta Hotel, Sagamore Pendry Baltimore, Canopy Baltimore Harbor Point, Ivy Hotel and Hotel Indigo Baltimore.
One of the East Coast’s most popular destinations, Virginia Beach has more than 10,000 hotel rooms, about 2,500 of them within a three-mile radius of the Virginia Beach Convention Center. Along with its long-standing beachfront identity, Virginia Beach also offers the advantages of a diverse metropolitan region. The immediate area also includes Norfolk and Portsmouth, and Richmond is only two hours away.
The Virginia Beach Convention Center has more than 500,000 sf of total space. There is a 150,000-sf exhibit area, a 31,029-sf ballroom and a variety of meeting rooms totaling 28,929 sf. Smaller facilities include a boardroom, VIP lounge and observation deck. It’s less than a 20-minute drive from Norfolk International Airport, which services 200 flights daily.
Hotel options include the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront, with 289 guest rooms and 12,000 sf of meeting space. Several smaller meeting rooms are complemented by a 7,100-sf oceanfront ballroom. Opened in 2014, Hilton Garden Inn Virginia Beach Oceanfront features 167 rooms and suites and 5,000 sf of oceanview meeting space
Other hotels include the Best Western Plus Oceanfront, with 214 guest rooms, four meeting rooms and 4,110 sf of meeting space; and the Wyndham Virginia Beach Oceanfront, with 16,000 sf of meeting space, 11 meeting rooms and 244 guest rooms.
The Crowne Plaza Virginia Beach has 149 guest rooms and nine meeting rooms totaling 12,000 sf. The DoubleTree by Hilton Virginia Beach offers 292 guest rooms and 12,000 sf of event space, including a 5,000-sf ballroom and nine meeting rooms.
The Sheraton Virginia Beach Oceanfront has 214 guest rooms and 10 meeting rooms with 12,000 sf of space. And the Founders Inn and Spa offers 25,000 sf of meeting space with 18 meeting rooms, a ballroom and a 78-seat amphitheater.
The Cavalier hotel, which was built in 1927, will reopen in spring 2017 as a member of Marriott’s distinguished Autograph Collection. The Cavalier Oceanfront tower will be demolished and replaced with a full-service upscale Marriott hotel featuring a host of amenities and world-class dining. The Cavalier Beach Club also will be reinvented to once again become the most desired event venue in the state of Virginia and beyond with stellar amenities, panoramic views and outstanding food and beverage offerings.
Washington may be world famous as our nation’s capital, but it offers much more than political happenings. Meeting planners will find its many attractions an asset in holding memorable events.
Ami Mayfield, CMP, senior events manager with Austin, Texas-based real estate firm Keller Williams, sees the nation’s capital as an exciting destination.
“The convention center is one of the most modern and energy-efficient facilities we have seen,” she says. “We love that the city and its signature attractions are easily accessible from the facility. It will create an immersive destination experience for our participants.”
Mayfield notes that beyond meeting the goal of offering convention participants a meeting destination they have not yet experienced, DC is appealing for many reasons.
“The city’s package is very competitive,” she says. “They have fantastic domestic and international airlift, and an unrivaled selection of special event venues. And we were very surprised to find that such a popular city with must-see attractions was so competitively priced.”
The district’s many attractions have been enhanced with several new or recently opened hotels. Undoubtedly the biggest attention-getter is the Trump International Hotel, with 262 guest rooms and suites and 39,000-sf of event and meeting event space. Among other features, it boasts one of the largest ballrooms at a DC luxury hotel with more than 13,000 sf of space.
The Kimpton Mason & Rook Hotel offers 4,000 sf of meeting space including a 1,700-sf ballroom with two skylights. Located in the 14th Street corridor, it has 178 guest rooms and suites. A sister hotel, the Kimpton Glover Park, is a 154-room boutique hotel located outside of Georgetown. A ballroom on the main level offers 1,860 sf of meeting space.
Recently re-opened after a $125 million renovation, the well-known Watergate Hotel offers 337 luxury guest rooms and 27,000 sf of meeting space. Event space includes a 7,000-sf grand ballroom.
Long a fixture in the city, the Mayflower Hotel now features updated ballrooms and event spaces. Nearly 43,000 sf of event space is available, including 27 meeting rooms. Some 581 guest rooms include 64 suites.
Headlining the city’s new cultural attractions and meeting spaces is the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture, which opened in September. Located on the National Mall, the already popular museum features 12 exhibitions across 400,000 sf documenting African American life, art, history and culture. Meeting space includes the 300-seat Oprah Winfrey Theater and an education and technology center.
Also at the Smithsonian, the Air & Space Museum’s recently reopened Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall has displays from early airplanes to space travel. The space can accommodate 350 seated guests or 700 for receptions.
After a three-year renovation, the East Building of the National Gallery of Art is now opened with more than 12,000 sf of additional exhibition space. A new rooftop sculpture garden holds up to 350 people, and several auditoriums are available. And the Renwick Gallery has more than 4,000 sf of event space for receptions or dinners.
The Salamander Resort and Spa, located in Middleburg, Virginia, has a variety of meeting facilities, many of which open to outdoor terraces. Indoor settings include meeting space within a world-class equestrian center, a century-old stone building and a cooking studio available for private events. A 5,000-sf ballroom, divisible into three sections, accommodates up to 280 guests with a dance floor and 320 guests for dinner. A smaller (1,800-sf) ballroom is suitable for up to 80 guests, and a foyer accommodates 60 for a dinner and 120 for a ceremony. Other facilities include a library, a private dining room and a meeting room for 60. C&IT