Meeting planners looking for something different for their attendees can find it in the Carolinas. From historic districts to renovated plantation homes and museums, North Carolina and South Carolina have plenty of unique meeting spots that are wonderful for an off-site meal, an executive board retreat or a cocktail reception.
Anne Springs Close Greenway Founders Dairy Barn
Fort Mill, South Carolina
The Founders Dairy Barn sits in a 2,100-acre nature preserve in Fort Mill, South Carolina. The Anne Springs Close Greenway is twice the size of Central Park in New York and has 36 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails, as well as five lakes and ponds for kayaking and fishing.
The huge white structure was built in 1947 as a working dairy barn before the greenway was a greenway. There were farms and forests on the property that all belonged to the Close family.
The dairy barn was renovated in the 1990s and turned into a popular event venue for weddings and other large gatherings, said Catherine Stovcsik, integrated marketing specialist for the Anne Springs Close Greenway. The space includes the milking parlor downstairs and an upstairs loft. The milking parlor can host 450 guests standing and about 280 guests seated.
An outdoor patio can be tented to accommodate an additional 200 people. The upstairs loft can hold up to 300 people seated for ceremonies. The facility works with different caterers for all types of events, including Rotary dinners and gala fundraisers.
Fort Mill sits about 30 miles from downtown Charlotte, North Carolina. It was started as a milling community, but once the mill left, the area had to reinvent itself. Now it is up and coming with “a great local restaurant and craft beer scene,” Stovcsik said. “It is great for families, has great schools and has got a nice hometown feel to it.”
Lynchburg, South Carolina
Tanglewood Plantation is a historic plantation home that was built about 1830 by the Rev. William H. Smith. The two-story building was constructed using trees from the property. The home has maintained its original cypress wide-plank floor and clapboard exterior.
Numerous outbuildings can be used as part of events, including a kitchen, a smokehouse and a one-room schoolhouse. The plantation home’s most famous resident was Ellison Durant “Cotton Ed” Smith, a U.S. senator from 1908 to 1944. President Theodore Roosevelt was one of the many famous people who graced the home with his presence.
Now the plantation home and grounds are used for events. The current owners bought the home in 2014 and have been restoring it to its former beauty. They also added a pool house, a catering facility and other modern amenities.
“What makes Tanglewood special is it is located within very easy access to Columbia, Sumter, Florence and Myrtle Beach,” said Sara Porter, event assistant at the plantation. “It makes a really good middle point for families and brides. The property is easy to customize depending on what the taste is.”
The plantation has hosted corporate groups and dinners, along with many weddings. Meeting planners can work with a recommended list of caterers and the plantation’s in-house floral and DJ services. The plantation can host events of any size on its five acres of usable outdoor space.
Mordecai Historic Park
Raleigh, North Carolina
Mordecai Historic Park — pronounced MORD-uh-key — was once part of the largest plantation in Wake County, North Carolina. The original plantation home, which was built in 1785, still stands on the site, along with several historic buildings that were moved to the area from other parts of Raleigh and North Carolina.
A small plantation church that was moved to the property from Chatham County in the 1970s is one of the most popular meeting venues in the historic park. A classroom space was built onto the visitor center, which resides in a building that served as an early travel home, like a bed-and-breakfast, said Joshua Ingersoll, historic sites manager for the city of Raleigh Parks, Recreation and Cultural Resources. The meeting space is equipped with audiovisual equipment and most modern amenities a group could want.
“From our classroom you can look out and see the historic park and the historic chapel on-site,” Ingersoll said. “It has a nice little feel to it.”
About 75 people can fit in the room for a lecture setup and about 40 with tables and chairs. Groups that rent space at the historic park can also take tours of the numerous buildings that are there, including one of President Andrew Johnson’s homes, which was moved to the property. Johnson was born in Raleigh but lived in the house for only a few years as a young child, said Ingersoll.
The Mordecai plantation home, which was acquired by the city of Raleigh in 1968, includes most of the original furnishings. Groups can organize tours of the park or add a historic trolley tour of downtown Raleigh.
Schiele Museum of Natural History
Gastonia, North Carolina
The Schiele Museum of Natural History, which sits on a nearly 20-acre campus, has both indoor and outdoor meeting spaces. The museum’s exhibits delve into the history of North Carolina, the American Indian, wildlife and nature; but its most popular displays — the ones that set it apart from other history museums — are outside and include the Catawba Indian Village, a farm with live animals, a nature trail, a stone age heritage site and a memorial wildlife garden.
Meeting planners can rent the entire museum, classroom space, the planetarium or outdoor spaces. Educators from the museum are happy to present live programs for meeting attendees, including planetarium shows and tours of the museum exhibits.
The Catawba Indian Village, which details the lives and culture of the Native Americans who called the region home, is the Schiele Museum’s most popular experience. Visitors go back in time 400 years as they explore the different types of dwellings and architectural traditions of the Catawba Indians.
“That is pretty unique to us,” said Leigh Ann Calvert, event coordinator at the Schiele. The nature trail is also popular because even though the museum is in the middle of Gastonia, “walking on the nature trail, you feel you are away from everything,” she said.
Beaufort, South Carolina
The historic Beaufort Inn was built in 1897 by William Sidney Smith as a summer retreat for his family. It didn’t start hosting overnight guests until 1920. That original building, which is a pink Victorian mansion from the antebellum period, now serves as the inn’s reception area. The rest of the 48-guest-room inn is made up of other historical buildings. The current owners of the inn have refurbished the older sections of the hotel and added event spaces, including Tabby Place Conference Center, which features indoor and outdoor event options. The building can host events for 320 people, including its outdoor patio, which is surrounded by gardens.
The Old Bay Marketplace Loft and Rooftop Deck gives meeting attendees a beautiful view of historic downtown Beaufort and its moss-draped trees. It can seat up to 150 people and has a staging area for catering.
The Craven Courtyard, which sits between four of the inn’s historic buildings, can accommodate up to 100 seated guests. The Garden Courtyard can hold up to 80 guests, and the Palmetto Courtyard can seat up to 50 people for a corporate retreat or a small wedding ceremony.
The hotel is walking distance from the famous Atlantic Intracoastal Waterway and a beautiful park that runs parallel to it. Beaufort is the gateway to 50 barrier islands. The town sits right at the mouth of the Broad River, which exits into the Atlantic Ocean.