Steeped in American history, Pennsylvania is home to a diverse city and country landscape — all of which offer unique options for meetings and events in the “Keystone State.” From rural charm to urban flair, there are ample ways to incorporate Pennsylvania into your next meeting or event.
Philadelphia has recently been highlighted by TIME magazine, naming the city as one of the World’s Greatest Places in 2021; Condé Nast Traveler named Philadelphia as one of only eight destinations around the globe to their 2021 Gold List, and National Geographic Traveler listed Philadelphia as one of only two U.S. cities on its Best Trips List in 2020. “In addition to being an attractive destination for meeting attendees, our highly accessible location between New York and Washington, D.C. makes us an appealing option for meeting owners and planners,” says Kavin Schieferdecker, senior vice president, convention division at the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau (PHLCVB).
Philadelphia is convenient for those arriving by train or car, and provides many options for those flying in, with the Philadelphia International Airport serving as the major Northeast hub for American Airlines. As the fourth most-walkable large city in the nation, planners and attendees alike will find it a breeze to walk from their hotel to the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC) or off-site venue, then continue to one of the city’s acclaimed museums, attractions, restaurants or historic sites — all without the need for a cab or a ride share. “For planners specifically, the PHLCVB’s three business development divisions — PHL Diversity, PHL Life Sciences and PHL Sports — connect meeting professionals and event strategists with local thought leaders and industry experts who can assist with resources from our local community,” Schieferdecker says. “Philadelphia also offers an expansive set of unique meeting venues that can suit a meeting or event of any style or size, including settings set along one of our two waterfronts, inside one of our new hotels, or within the Historic District — such as the National Constitution Center, which presents unobstructed sightlines of Independence Hall.”
Philadelphia is also making strides in the fight against COVID-19, thanks to medical innovation and collaboration by the region’s leading life sciences institutions, and with more than 80% of adult residents having received at least one shot of the vaccine. As Schieferdecker points out, Philadelphia’s hotel community — which includes more than 11,000 rooms within walking distance to the PCC — has welcomed several new properties in recent months, each with new meeting and event spaces to consider.
The recently opened W Philadelphia and Element Philadelphia provide a combined 700 rooms and 45,000 sf of event space in downtown Philadelphia. Also new and targeting smaller, more exclusive groups are the Hyatt Centric Center City Philadelphia, near Rittenhouse Square, and the Canopy by Hilton Philadelphia Center City. The two largest hotels, the Philadelphia Marriott Downtown, with 1,400 rooms, and Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown, with 755 rooms, both completed renovations during the pandemic and have never looked better. “Beyond our downtown, new event spaces continue to open in Philadelphia’s distinct neighborhoods, including Billy Penn Studios — an industrial complex near the Fishtown neighborhood — that has been renovated to include three 2,000-sf spaces perfect for off-site receptions or hybrid conferences,” Schieferdecker says.
Of course, no attendee experience in Philadelphia is complete without a visit to Reading Terminal Market, recently named the Best Public Market in the nation by USA Today’s 10 Best. There are more than 80 local merchants inside serving a variety of cuisines, all adjacent to the PCC and many hotels. The historic market can also be rented out for private events up to 4,500 people, with after-hours food service available from some of the most popular vendors. In America’s most historic square mile, attendees can take a stroll down the nation’s oldest continuously inhabited residential street, Elfreth’s Alley, then explore Independence National Historical Park sites, such as Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell Center. “Other can’t miss experiences include The Franklin Institute, Barnes Foundation and Philadelphia’s Magic Gardens — a mosaic masterpiece along South Street that is one of our city’s most photographed attractions. Unwind in the evenings at one of our many pop-up parks and beer gardens, such as the riverfront oasis Spruce Street Harbor Park,” Schieferdecker says.
There are also many new updates in Philadelphia that planners can look for in months to come. The Philadelphia Marriott Downtown is nearing completion of a full renovation of the arrival and lobby experience, as well as all 1,408 guest rooms and suites. One of the neatest aspects of this renovation is the addition of Liberty Lanes — a bowling alley and pub concept that will be available for group buy-outs. In the spring of 2022, look for the opening of the Lilah events venue in the heart of Philadelphia’s hip Fishtown neighborhood — only a short car or train ride from downtown and home to some of the city’s most popular bars, restaurants and boutique shops. The Lilah event space is from restaurant group CookNSolo, the team behind restaurants such as Zahav and Israeli grill Laser Wolf, which was recently named one of the Best New Restaurants in the World from Condé Nast Traveler. Up to 250 guests will be able to enjoy customizable tasting menus that feature CookNSolo’s acclaimed Israeli-inspired dishes.
Pittsburgh is a major meeting destination boasting versatile, unique venues, affordable and world-class accommodations, an award-winning food scene and so much more. “Meeting planners and attendees alike will be wowed by the ‘Only in Pittsburgh’ spaces and experiences waiting for them,” says Jerad Bachar, president and CEO of VisitPITTSBURGH.
Tops on the list is the Platinum LEED-certified David L. Lawrence Convention Center (DLCC), which offers more than 1.5 million sf of meeting and exhibition space. From flexible floor plans, column-free exhibit space, high ceilings, natural lighting and more, the DLCC offers new, cutting-edge developments that will best serve meeting planners and attendees now and long into the future. “It’s also important to note that Pittsburgh’s 90 unique neighborhoods are full of welcoming, friendly people,” Bachar says. “Pittsburghers seek ways to show visitors just how special our city is. Our residents are proud of Pittsburgh’s rich history. And they also know that Pittsburgh has a bright future, as the city is a hub for technology, manufacturing, health care and education, providing a plethora of networking opportunities and growth.”
Indeed, Pittsburgh is at the forefront of what is next, brimming with innovators and thought leaders working together to solve the world’s problems. Big tech companies, such as Google, Facebook, Apple and more, already call Pittsburgh ‘home.’ Thanks to Pittsburgh’s more than 30 universities and colleges, the region is ready to grow the next generation of innovators.
As for what’s new or coming soon, The Industrialist Hotel, Pittsburgh, Autograph Collection, opened in the spring of 2021. The 124-room property is housed in the 18-story Arrott Building on Wood Street in Downtown. Located just steps away from Market Square, The Industrialist boasts a vibrant lobby lounge, as well as The Rebel Room, a bar-centric restaurant influenced by the Downtown neighborhood. Again under construction after a 15-month pause during the pandemic, The Landing Hotel is a luxurious property that will connect directly to Rivers Casino Pittsburgh on the North Shore. “Also, within the last year, the National Aviary, the nation’s only indoor bird zoo, unveiled The Garden Room, a stunning, cozy space with large, bird-friendly glass windows, two stone fireplaces and a grand lobby area,” Bachar says. “Meeting planners will enjoy the functionality of the space, as the windows allow for open-air access to the garden, or they can remain closed for comfort in the winter. The Garden Room can easily accommodate up to 200 guests and includes industry-leading accessible features, including a family restroom with an adult changing table.”
The DLCC also recently opened The North Terrace, a $3 million renovated outdoor feature located on the building’s fourth level. The sleek, modern space can host up to 300 people depending on the event setup. Among its breathtaking features are teak seating fixtures, innovative uplighting and plants native to Western Pennsylvania. “What sets Pittsburgh apart from other destinations truly are the unique experiences and attractions you can see and do only in Pittsburgh,” Bachar says.
There’s The Andy Warhol Museum, which tells the story of the pop artist born in Pittsburgh, with seven floors of gallery and exhibition space, and the Mattress Factory, which showcases contemporary art and installations created by artists in residence. Just steps away from the DLCC is Pittsburgh’s walkable Cultural District, home to many of the city’s world-class arts and cultural venues, such as the beautifully restored Benedum Center for the Performing Arts, the August Wilson African American Cultural Center and its exhibition galleries and theaters, and the intimate Byham Theater.
Outdoor enthusiasts will enjoy hiking, biking or walking Pittsburgh’s 24 miles of riverfront trails. Get a fantastic view of Pittsburgh from the famous three rivers — the Monongahela, Allegheny and Ohio rivers — aboard one of the Gateway Clipper Fleet’s riverboat cruises, or simply relax in one of Pittsburgh’s 165 parks. No trip to Pittsburgh is complete without a photo at the top of Mount Washington following a ride on the historic Monongahela and Duquesne Inclines to the top.
Constantly embracing advancements, Pittsburgh International Airport’s Terminal Modernization Program is underway, and will be the first in the United States designed and constructed for a post-pandemic world. Key design details for the 700,000-sf terminal, including large outdoor terraces and touchless processes, will allow for increased social distancing. And a commitment to sustainability will be evident throughout the facility. The $1.4 billion project will certainly create a more efficient, enjoyable experience for travelers.
And slated to open in spring 2022, Astrobotic’s Moonshot Museum will undoubtedly be a popular local, regional, national and global attraction. As Bachar explains, the museum will feature a “clean room” window, which will allow visitors to watch real lunar landers and rovers being built and prepped for travel to the moon. “Additionally, talks are underway to develop a Space Corridor between the museum’s location on the North Side and the Carnegie Science Center on the North Shore, further ensuring that Pittsburgh will continue to play a significant role in the space sector, and providing visitors with a day’s-worth of activities,” Bachar says.
While Pennsylvania is teeming with large cities that offer ample meeting and event experiences, the state also boasts smaller, more intimate locales that will surprise and delight. For instance, the Valley Forge and Montgomery County, PA area offer an attractive location for both planners and attendees. “As planners start their search, they’ll be surprised with the offerings of the area,” says Scott Higgins, director of sales, Valley Forge Tourism & Convention Board. “There are over 80 world-class hotels within this region, and numerous full-service conference hotels to support meeting needs. While we know it’s important to have a solid hotel option, we also understand that planners need supporting amenities to pull off a complete event. They’ll find this with our numerous restaurant offerings, of which many offer private dining for both large and small groups. The destination is also easy to travel to, which will limit time out of the office for incoming attendees.”
From the attendee’s perspective, it’s recommended they bring an extra piece of luggage, Higgins says. Valley Forge & Montgomery County, PA offers some of the best shopping and dining in the country, with the King of Prussia Mall and more than 1,600 restaurants from which to choose. “Our restaurants have a wide spread of offers from counter service to some of the best steakhouses around. Should anyone come early or stay late, they’ll be able to sneak in a round of golf at one of our 50 courses,” Higgins says.
The past year has been challenging, however, as many of Valley Forge’s properties took the pandemic down time to complete renovations. The Alloy King of Prussia – a DoubleTree by Hilton hotel, completed a $19 million transformation and rebranded from the Doubletree Valley Forge. Crowne Plaza Philadelphia – King of Prussia wrapped up its property renovation by completing updates to its meetings and events spaces. And the Holiday Inn Lansdale – Hatfield and Sheraton Valley Forge Hotel are currently undergoing major renovations that, when finished, will only enhance the already-fantastic experience they offer. “It’s certainly recommended that planners include a trip to the Valley Forge National Historical Park in their agenda,” Higgins says. The site of the 1777-1778 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General George Washington, its natural beauty has inspired many teams as they explore it for their own leadership development. Looking ahead, TopGolf has announced plans to develop one of their next locations within King of Prussia. Once completed, this will add to an already-robust offering of attractions and things to do within Valley Forge & Montgomery County, PA.
Offering everything from thrilling coaster rides and chocolate-filled adventures to premier dining and luxurious spa treatments, Hershey, Pennsylvania maintains the charm of America’s sweetest small town while serving as a convenient, full-service meetings and convention destination.
Hershey Lodge, one of the largest convention resorts in Pennsylvania, provides visitors with 665 well-appointed guest rooms and more than 100,000 sf of flexible meeting space. Groups of 10 to 4,000 can be accommodated throughout 35 function rooms. The Hotel Hershey, a four-star, four-diamond historic property overlooking the town of Hershey, offers 276 deluxe guest rooms, including 48 in the Woodside Cottages — the most premium accommodations — and 25,000 sf of meeting space. Groups of 10 to 450 can be accommodated throughout 21 function rooms, all featuring natural light.
Hershey Country Club is also part of Hershey Resorts, and offers more than 10,000 sf of meeting space, including the all-season Picard Grand Pavilion. The pavilion provides a scenic view of the East and West golf courses and is a unique setting for banquet events or a centralized location for tournament activities. As Michael Reynoldson, managing director, resorts sales & revenue management at Hershey Resorts explains, Hershey is located within a three-hour drive from five of the major metropolitan cities in the Northeast, and Harrisburg International Airport and Amtrak stations are also just 20 minutes from there. “Our location is ideal for groups traveling throughout the Northeast corridor. We pride ourselves in offering outstanding service and catering options, making the Hershey Resorts properties a location groups will want to revisit year after year,” Reynoldson says.
Hershey Resorts also offers one-of-a-kind team-building activities, such as the “Chocolate Challenge,” where groups work together to build free-standing structures out of Hershey’s candy products. Unique food and beverage experiences can also be combined with team-building activities, including classes that pair chocolate with wine, spirits and beer. On-site at Hershey Lodge are four full-service restaurants, a coffee shop, lobby bar and cabana snack bar at the indoor pool complex. And Hershey’s Water Works at Hershey Lodge’s indoor pool complex features two pools, Twizzler Twist water slides, Reese’s Water Walk, a water play structure and outdoor splash pad.
The Spa At The Hotel Hershey is a 40,000-sf, full-service spa that delights guests with its signature chocolate treatments. It also offers traditional and seasonal spa treatments, as well as services that pay homage to Cuba, where Milton S. Hershey owned sugar mills and plantations from 1916 to 1946. “Overnight guests of Hershey Lodge and The Hotel Hershey receive access to 45 holes of golf at Hershey Country Club — the private, 18-hole West and East courses, and nine-hole Spring Creek Golf Course,” Reynoldson says.
Hershey Lodge and The Hotel Hershey are part of The Official Resorts of Hersheypark. Overnight guests receive free resort benefits, including the best price on Hersheypark tickets, and complimentary front-gate shuttle service to and from the park. Guests also receive complimentary admission to Hershey Gardens and The Hershey Story Museum. Hershey Gardens is a 23-acre, walk-through botanical display garden. The Gardens offers 11 themed gardens, including spring tulips, summer roses and a Children’s Garden with chocolate-scented, named and colored flora. The Milton & Catherine Hershey Conservatory is included in admission, and is home to the year-round indoor, tropical Butterfly Atrium. It features dozens of rare butterflies from South and Central America, Africa and Asia, and is one of only 25 indoor, tropical butterfly atriums in the country. “Meeting space and guest rooms at Hershey Lodge were recently renovated. Revelry Chophouse, Bar & Patio is the newest dining outlet at Hershey Lodge,” Reynoldson says. Revelry offers guests a refreshed dinner menu focused on classic and contemporary chophouse fare with premium cuts, and the largest wine and spirits list available throughout the resort.
Guest rooms at The Hotel Hershey also were recently renovated. And Chef’s Market at The Hotel Hershey is a new all-day café featuring an array of tasty offerings for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack time. It offers specialty coffees, teas and freshly made food to be enjoyed at the café, or on the go.
Mount Airy Casino Resort, located in Mount Pocono, Pennsylvania, is an impressive mountain retreat with amenities galore. According to Glenn Cademartori, vice president of marketing, resort attendees can expect award-winning service and amenities in every corner of Mount Airy Casino Resort’s property. “From banquets to corporate retreats, Mount Airy offers everything guests would expect from a high-end resort, and the staff needed for an unforgettable event,” Cademartori says. The all-encompassing, full-service resort destination for outdoor and gaming enthusiasts features signature restaurant options; a Sports Illustrated magazine-recognized lakefront 18-hole golf course; a spa, salon and exercise facility; a luxury, indoor/outdoor pool; a covered deck and tented area. The deck at the clubhouse of Mount Airy’s nationally recognized golf course is also perfect for corporate events, dinners and receptions. “This deck overlooks the picturesque Pocono Mountains, and the patio is a great choice for seated groups of up to 100 people. In addition to the outdoor patio at the clubhouse and 25,000 sf of meeting space, Mount Airy also boasts a 15,000-sf tented area that is perfect for a variety of large gatherings, such as trade shows, awards dinners and concerts,” Cademartori says.
Located less than 90 minutes from Philadelphia, New York City and northern New Jersey, Mount Airy Casino Resort is easily accessible for all travelers. In addition, the resort is continuing to think outside the box. Cademartori says, “Here, at Mount Airy, we are exploring different ways for our groups to be interactive, while being socially distanced in our 20,000-sf meetings and convention center/ballroom. Whether that is through unique setups, getting creative with our outdoor space or utilizing our state-of-the-art video wall to make sure that all guests, including those who may be virtual, are included in all aspects of work events.” C&IT