With the expense of travel, many meeting attendees keep an eye out for opportunities to turn a business trip into a family vacation, extending their stay a few extra days to enjoy the local sights with their spouse and kids. As a result, choosing a location with an eclectic offering of attractions can dramatically boost meeting attendance.
To make sure your next meeting or conference appeals to these attendees, check out these family friendly cities.
Pigeon Forge, Tennessee
Few destinations cater to families quite like Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which attracts some of the country’s largest family-based conferences each year.
With more than 20 meeting facilities, the most notable venue is the state-of-the-art LeConte Center, a 232,000-square-foot conference space named after the region’s famous mountain peak. Located along the city’s beautiful river walk, this nature-themed facility gives the impression of a grand mountain lodge, with breathtaking woodwork and forest-inspired carpeting.
The Smoky Mountain Convention Center and the Music Road Resort Hotel each accommodate up to 1,000 guests, and properties like the Hilton Garden Inn and the Mainstay Suites Conference Center offer small yet elegant settings for meeting groups.
Between conference sessions, groups can explore the network of retail shops at The Island, the city’s new outdoor shopping and entertainment complex, which features highlights like the Smoky Mountain Ferris Wheel and Paula Deen’s Family Kitchen.
For evening entertainment, groups have 15 theaters from which to choose, each program centering on clean family fun. Some of the most popular choices include the Comedy Barn, the Hatfield and McCoy Dinner Show, Lumberjack Adventure, the Dixie Stampede and the Smoky Mountain Opry.
At the Titanic Museum, guests can dip their fingers into 30-degree waters, climb into a replicated lifeboat and watch real footage of the sunken Titanic. The Alcatraz East Crime Museum takes visitors through the complex history of crime in the United States, from pirates to train robbers and serial killers.
A trip to the Smokies region would not be complete without stopping by the Smoky Mountain National Park, which is the most visited national park in the country. Though the area was damaged by fires last November, most of the lush trails and mountain vistas remain as stunning as ever.
“It’s a big park,” said Leon Downey, director of the Pigeon Forge Department of Tourism. “Out of 520,000 acres, around 11,000 burned, so only 2 percent of the park was affected. And with years of debris and accumulated clover leafs now burned away, we’re going to see a lot of spring flowers that we haven’t seen in a long time.”
Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin
As the Waterpark Capital of the World, Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, has been entertaining families for decades.
“The entire concept of putting a roof over water parks started right here in Wisconsin Dells,” said Tifani Jones, director of sales and marketing at the Wisconsin Dells Visitor and Convention Bureau.
Of the city’s 20 parks, Noah’s Ark Waterpark takes the crown as the largest water park in the United States, followed by the African-themed Kalahari Resorts as the largest indoor water park.
“In meeting market segments where attendance is optional, destinations like ours are ideal for driving attendance because people think, ‘This is great. I can bring the family and make it a vacation,’” said Jones.
Many of the key meeting facilities in town are in these resort parks, so attendees never have to travel far to have a good time. In addition to featuring amenities like water parks, spas, restaurants and golf courses, Kalahari Resorts and the Chula Vista Resort each offer 100,000 square feet of meeting space, and the Glacier Canyon Lodge at the Wilderness and Ho-Chunk Gaming each provide 30,000 square feet of space. The Great Wolf Lodge has 7,900 square feet of space available.
Outside the resorts, groups can take a Duck Tour, which serves as a “great multigenerational activity,” said Jones. During World War II, amphibious Army vehicles known as ducks were used to transport troops and supplies over land and water, and groups can enjoy an educational tour on one of these unusual crafts.
Other local attractions are Circus World, the Rick Wilcox Magic Theater and the Wisconsin Opry.