Known for its vibrant nightlife and idyllic music scene, New Orleans is also a beacon of sorts for meeting and events of all sizes. Lauren Caselli, owner of Bozeman, Montana-based Lauren Caselli Events, orchestrated a spectacular meeting in New Orleans for about 200 people during the off-season month of January.
In New Orleans, there are many activities that can be done — from active events to tours to food experiences. From a tour of the swamp to the floats for Mardi Gras, Caselli arranged for guests to enjoy a variety of local tours as well as amazingly fun activities.
“And we barely ever needed bus transportation. Our guests loved the option to walk from the hotel to bars, restaurants and activities. We had lots of surprises throughout the weekend, including a second line parade, even for corporate events. We did a second line parade, from our conference to an external lunch location, and people were amazed at how fun it was. They were greeted by the thunderous sounds of a 30- to 40-piece marching band. People had a blast, because it was so unique.”
“While the city prides itself on historic authenticity, New Orleans is making great strides to ensure cultural integrity as we continue to develop our assets into more modern and contemporary offerings.” Stephanie Turner
‘Unique’ is the perfect word to describe a meeting or event in New Orleans. As one of America’s most authentic destinations, this Southern gem boasts a unique culture, world-renowned cuisine and a 300-year-old way of life that inspires creativity and innovation.
“While the city prides itself on historic authenticity, New Orleans is making great strides to ensure cultural integrity as we continue to develop our assets into more modern and contemporary offerings,” says Stephanie Turner, vice president of convention sales and strategies at New Orleans & Company.
As Turner explains, hotels, including the Cambria New Orleans Downtown Warehouse District hotel, The Old No. 77 Hotel & Chandlery and The Eliza Jane hotel have adapted existing buildings and taken significant influence from their past to create a modern environment with historic context.
“This mentality extends to many of the city’s venues as well, including brand-new The Sazerac House as well as our long-standing partners like The Sugar Mill and The Chicory. New Orleans’ venues offer unique settings, and the opportunity for unlimited creativity to bring local culture and inspiration to your attendees,” Turner says. “New Orleans has a long-standing history of world-class venues, hotels and attractions, a walkable downtown and a rich culture that will inspire and energize the meeting experience for your attendees, exhibitors and stakeholders.”
Unique settings are exactly what Crystal Irlandez, customer experience manager for Naperville, Illinois-based Infogix, was looking for when she recently planned her company’s annual customer leadership council event at the Omni Royal Orleans. At this event, Infogix hosts the company’s best customers, where they meet to share the company’s future roadmap, learn what customers’ needs are, and network and collaborate amongst their customer base.
“We always look for ‘city-esque’ locations. Our customers love what we have to offer in learning more about our company, but like to unwind after our sessions and explore the city they are in,” Irlandez says. “For many, they do not travel for work or personal pleasure, so it’s a nice way to see the city. We liked that New Orleans was fun and had a lot of history, but is also a sought-after destination.”
When Irlandez was looking for a hotel, the location of the Omni Royal Orleans was ideal as the group was located right in the French Quarter and close to everything, but far enough that the rooms were quiet and not crowded. “We also liked the hotel’s private area for meeting space and cocktail receptions,” Irlandez says. Omni Royal Orleans’ 14,000 sf of flexible function space includes 17 meeting rooms and the 6,868-sf Grand Salon Complex.
Sarah Cale, program manager of the Pathways Project at the American Association of Community Colleges in Washington, D.C., also recently planned a three-day institute at the Omni Royal Orleans for approximately 120 community college presidents, administrators and faculty.
“New Orleans is a great location for the Southern region of the U.S. — easy to get in and out and so much to do and see,” Cale says. “The Omni Royal Orleans is beautiful and is conveniently located in the French Quarter. The rates were affordable and the food and service was outstanding.”
Also celebrating ‘all things New Orleans’ is the heart of The Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans. From innovative meetings that stir creativity, to the hotel’s ‘A Meeting of the Senses’ program that creates serene and relaxed meeting and event environments, the Ritz-Carlton crafts experiences that impact attendees as well as the meeting planners. In addition to unique and unexpected food and beverage experiences, the Ritz-Carlton offers an ‘Oyster Butler’ and ‘Crawfish Concierge’ that teach attendees how to properly shuck oysters and peel crawfish.
Located in the historic Beaux Arts building in the French Quarter, the Ritz-Carlton, New Orleans offers a convenient location ideal for meetings, events and conferences, and offers more than 35,000 sf of space, including a grand ballroom that can accommodate more than 800 guests, two courtyards and an intimate Library Lounge.
Perhaps the most celebrated, glamorous hotel in New Orleans, The Roosevelt New Orleans, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, has been playing host to a myriad of meetings and events for more than a century. From foreign leaders, to presidents, to global business leaders, The Roosevelt has housed a wealth of individuals who cherish the traditional, classic elements. The decadent interior offers 60,000 sf of meeting space, including interconnecting ballrooms, hosting from 800 to 1,200 attendees and 27 private meeting rooms.
In a city with world-renowned celebrations, distinct music, art and delectable cuisine, Hyatt Regency New Orleans is another premier hotel destination hosting some of the Crescent City’s most prestigious meetings and events. The hotel is in the heart of downtown and adjacent to the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, Smoothie King Center and Champions Square. This hotel features guest rooms with breathtaking city views, and 200,000 sf of event space — making it the largest hotel meeting and exhibition space in New Orleans. The hotel also offers contemporary and flexible function space that can be customized for small to large groups, with multiple ballrooms, breakout rooms and event space.
In addition, Hyatt Regency New Orleans’ culinary team and specialists work with meeting planners to fuse the best of New Orleans culture into each event — whether it’s spicing up a lunch with traditional creole cuisine or adding a three-piece jazz band for an authentic welcoming experience.
On Canal Street on the cusp of the historic French Quarter, the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel offers meeting planners more than 105,000 sf of flexible space for events up to 2,600. The hotel’s guest rooms feature floor-to-ceiling windows offering views of the French Quarter, Mississippi River and downtown.
In the heart of the French Quarter, Hotel Monteleone offers more than 25,000 sf of meeting space, with the capacity to host events up to 400. Boasting more than 25 meeting rooms, the hotel offers every style of room — from theater seating to banquets to trade shows.
Irlandez recommends that for meeting planners considering New Orleans as a destination, they select a hotel that is near everything, but not in the middle of it.
“Noise and crowd control can make or break an event. Make sure that you like the staff of the hotel you are picking,” Irlandez says. “There is a lot of be said about their timeliness in answering your emails and being accommodating with requests.”
And that’s where Hilton New Orleans Riverside comes in. There’s something to be said for hosting an event in the warehouse and arts district of New Orleans. Located downtown, the hotel offers attendees a destination on the banks of the mighty Mississippi. With more than 130,000 sf of renovated meeting space, the Hilton New Orleans Riverside can accommodate a variety of meetings and events, in its dedicated Riverside Complex, which boasts additional guest rooms and amenities. A mere four blocks from the Canal Street shops and the French Quarter, attendees can engage in the favorite hot spots of New Orleans, while enjoying the quieter area of the warehouse and arts district of the city.
Within the last year, millions of dollars have been invested in infrastructure and riverfront developments. According to New Orleans & Company, among the most exciting projects is a $60 million linear park development and transportation hub along Convention Center Boulevard, bringing dining, entertainment and retail to the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (ENMCC) in the coming years. The ENMCC, with more than 1.1 million sf of exhibit space, is the sixth-largest convention facility in the nation. The facility already boasts thousands of sleeping rooms within walking distance and will soon offer a connected ‘headquarters’ hotel anchoring the upriver end of the building. The development of Convention Center Boulevard and the surrounding neighborhood will bring unprecedented access to the area.
“The compact geographic footprint of New Orleans and improved amenities underway at ENMCC saves planners on transportation costs and logistics,” Turner says.
According to Turner, new hotels are in the pipeline throughout the downtown area, many with on-site meeting space and within walking distance of the ENMCC and other venues. New luxury properties include the recently opened Maison de la Luz and The Higgins Hotel New Orleans, Curio Collection by Hilton at The National World War II Museum. Additionally, The Four Seasons Hotel & Private Residences, Virgin Hotels New Orleans and a new Kimpton property are projected for completion in the coming years.
“Soon, New Orleans will have a completely new world-class airport terminal, a variety of new luxury hotel brands — including the Four Seasons and a convention center headquarter hotel, both overlooking the Mississippi River — with more than 5,000 rooms in the pipeline, plus a new entertainment district surrounding the convention center with new shopping, dining and venue opportunities,” Turner says. New Orleans will also soon to be home to one of the largest continuous public riverfronts on the Mississippi River, allowing visitors and locals alike to enjoy its natural beauty.
“All of this lives within a walkable, 2-mile area,” Turner says. “The city is reimagining many of our cultural and infrastructure offerings, joining the old with the new to present a completely new meetings experience.”
And for those looking to host an event at an unusual locale in New Orleans, consider the Riverboat Louis Armstrong. One of the largest riverboats in the area, the vessel holds 3,000 passengers and pays homage to the legacy of New Orleans’ most beloved musicians, Louis Armstrong. Having undergone renovations, the upgraded vessel offers private event rentals, VIP experiences and a gospel jazz brunch on Sundays.
To further celebrate New Orleans’s much-adored music scene, a new premier live music venue at Harrah’s New Orleans recently opened. Located inside the casino, the 2,200-capacity venue will feature memorable live concert experiences for visitors. In addition, the 22,000-sf venue can accommodate events of various sizes and types — including seated dinners, live concerts or VIP experiences.
The ENMCC has been freshly renovated, offering the quintessential conference center experience, complete with New Orleans’ vibes and elements throughout, including traditional New Orleans’ cuisine, old-time jazz music and a wealth of entertainment elements to make the center a culturally rich destination.
The convention center recently embarked on a $557 million, five-year modernization plan that will transform the attendee experience, including reimagined meeting rooms, restrooms and public spaces. It consistently ranks in the country’s top 10 of facilities that hold the most conventions and trade shows annually. Just steps away from the convention center, attendees can enjoy the world-famous French Quarter.
Adjacent to the convention center, the Hyatt Place New Orleans/Convention Center is close to the Mississippi Riverwalk. The hotel offers an all-inclusive meeting package that includes room rental, food and beverage, as well as audio-visual needs and is the ideal location for those visiting the convention center.
For those meeting planners who want to integrate play as well as work into a meeting, New Orleans offers something for everyone. Famous for its nightlife, music scene and shopping, New Orleans is teeming with historic gems and contemporary cultural experiences. Dating back to 1718, the city’s French Quarter is the oldest neighborhood and is steeped in history and heritage. Home to awe-inspiring historic buildings, cathedrals and famous jazz clubs, the French Quarter is a ‘must see’ attraction.
The area’s historic Garden District is also sure to please. This famous neighborhood is home to immaculate gardens, preserved antebellum mansions, renowned Lafayette Cemetery No. 1, and tree-lined streets.
Of course, New Orleans has long been synonymous with Mardi Gras, which happens every Carnival season starting Twelfth Night on January 6 and culminating on Fat Tuesday, the day before Ash Wednesday. If meeting or event attendees visit New Orleans at a time other than the designated time of Mardi Gras, they can visit one of the Mardi Gras-centric museums and workshops and see where floats are stored, lavish costumes are on display and Mardi Gras Indians are celebrated.
And because New Orleans is located below sea level, its well known above ground cemeteries are both historic and beautiful. Elaborate marble chambers grace these sacred grounds and visitors can enjoy guided tours or explore on their own.
The majority of New Orleans cherished attractions are within walking distance of the city’s downtown and convention districts, as well as the French quarter — offering attendees the opportunity to wander amid this historic area and revel in its charm.
And for those visiting New Orleans with their family in tow, the new Louisiana Children’s museum in New Orleans City Park recently opened its state-of-the-art facility. Situated in the heart of City Park, this $47.5 million facility features interactive educational exhibits, an expansive, mighty Mississippi water exhibit, literacy center, and outdoor amenities including decks, bridges, edible gardens, a floating classroom and interpretive wetlands. I&FMM