Published May 08, 2017
Virginia Beach, Virginia
Virginia Beach, Virginia, attracts many visitors as a waterfront destination, but it has much more to offer meeting groups than just sunshine and coastal views.
“We’re within a day’s drive of two-thirds of the country,” said Teresa Diaz, public relations specialist.
Since many families travel by car, this easy access can make a huge difference, along with the city’s moderate price points.
“We’ve always been really affordable,” said Todd Bertka, vice president of convention sales and marketing. “Some of the more Southern locations are more affluent and pricey, so we appeal to a nice cross section of diverse visitors.”
Within walking distance of the beaches, attractions and restaurants, the LEED-certified Virginia Beach Convention Center features 500,000 square feet of space for meetings and conferences.
Throughout the summer, groups can enjoy various concerts and events along the oceanfront or encounter wildlife aboard a whale- or dolphin-watching cruise. For visitors strolling down the boardwalk, it is impossible to miss the city’s iconic, 34-foot King Neptune statue.
The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center immerses visitors in an aquatic adventure with 800,000 gallons of marine animal exhibits. The aquarium connects to the Adventure Park Ropes Course and Zipline, which accommodates all skill levels.
“You can be a Navy SEAL or a family of four and still really enjoy some time out climbing,” said Bertka.
During colder seasons, families can take advantage of the iFly indoor sky-diving facility or play one of the numerous games available inside Topgolf’s three-level golf and entertainment center.
“You don’t have to be here from June to August,” said Bertka. “You can come year-round and have plenty to do when you’re not in your meeting.”
Colorado Springs, Colorado
The breathtaking mountain vistas of Colorado Springs, Colorado, make it a haven for outdoor enthusiasts, but meeting groups will find plenty of other features to appreciate about the region.
“We have more than 55 attractions,” said Chelsy Offutt, director of communications at Visit Colorado Springs, “so there’s certainly enough to keep everyone busy and satisfied.”
Known as Olympic City USA, Colorado Springs is home to one of three Olympic training facilities in the United States. Groups can schedule a VIP tour of the building, host an after-hours event on the property or even dine with one of the athletes on occasion.
“It’s a great way to go behind the scenes of Olympic hopefuls,” said Offutt. “You get this great sense of patriotic pride.”
After meetings, families can take advantage of the water park inside the Great Wolf Lodge, which opened last January, as well as the indoor pool in the Hotel Eleganté Conference and Event Center. In addition to event space, the four-diamond Cheyenne Mountain Resort offers team-building activities like the Amazing Race challenge or Glow Golf.
If attendees have time, they should plan a trip to Pikes Peak, one of the most famous summits in the Rocky Mountains, reachable by car or the Pikes Peak Cog Railway. At the top, groups can ward off the mountain chill with a steaming hot drink and doughnut from the Summit House as they soak in the view.
Within a short drive of downtown, the Garden of the Gods is a free city park interspersed with red rock formations that tower over grassy plains. At the visitors center, groups can learn about the park’s unique geological history through a movie experience called Geo-Trekker. Afterward, they can explore the park’s beautiful trail system while keeping an eye out for different rock structures labeled on the map.
Colorado Springs is also home to America’s only mountain zoo, which shelters one of the largest reticulated giraffe herds in captivity. On Saturdays, the zoo features a breakfast program for kids.
Just 30 minutes northwest of Boston, Concord provides a charming setting for family outings, without the headaches of big-city traffic and prices.
“If people are looking for a less-expensive venue with a lot to do, Concord has restaurants, shops, museums, art galleries — there’s something for everyone,” said Jane Obbagy, executive director at the Concord Chamber of Commerce.
Many planners use the larger conference space available in Boston, then schedule after-hours events or receptions at one of Concord’s quaint venues, such as the Nashawtuc Country Club, the 51 Walden Performing Arts Center, the Concord Scout House or Concord’s Colonial Inn.
Concord is most famous as the home of some of America’s most distinguished literary talents, among them Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Louisa May Alcott. Families can tour the Alcott Museum or stroll across the grounds at Walden Pond, where Thoreau penned his esteemed work “Walden.” Many travelers pay a visit to Authors’ Ridge in Sleepy Hollow Cemetery, where several of these great thinkers are buried.
Adjacent to Emerson’s Old Manse home, the historic Old North Bridge marks the site of the “shot heard ‘round the world,” which ignited the American Revolution. Visitors can explore much of this history along Concord’s wooded bike trails.
Each week, Verrill Farm hosts pancake breakfasts, food festivals and cooking classes. Groups can also grab a bite to eat at local shops like Main Streets Café, Concord Teacakes, the Cheese Shop, Saltbox Kitchen, 80 Thoreau and Bedford Farms Ice-Cream.
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