There’s no better way to combine business with leisure than with a beach meeting.
Attendees dream of the ocean views, warm weather and laid-back schedules that make up these coveted meeting destinations. In addition to the unmatched views and restful feel of coastal destinations, they are often teeming with fun activities designed to entertain. In these destinations, attendees will also find vibrant dining scenes with lots of fresh seafood, abundant shopping and opportunities to enjoy the natural beauty of the shore.
To host a meeting, conference or event attendees won’t want to leave, planners should head to these coastal havens.
Destin-Fort Walton Beach, Florida
Destin is known as the “World’s Luckiest Fishing Village” because of its range of fish species. As such, it’s a fantastic place for fishing and boating. From the Choctawhatchee Bay to the Gulf of Mexico, the emerald waters of the Destin-Fort Walton Beach area are its biggest attraction. Attendees can enjoy water sports and activities during their downtime or as part of team-building exercises, such as charter fishing, boating to Spectre Island for a picnic or taking a sunset dolphin cruise. Lessons and beginner paddleboarding, snorkeling and scuba diving are also available.
“Beyond our modern meeting space and accommodation options, there are a plethora of water adventures that visitors can discover,” said Melissa Read, general manager at the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center.
Right across the street from the beach, the Destin-Fort Walton Beach Convention Center is a modern venue with 32,000 square feet of flexible indoor space, including a 21,200-square-foot ballroom. To enjoy Florida’s beautiful weather, groups can use the convention center’s outdoor 30,000-square-foot Bayview Plaza. The Destin-Fort Walton Beach area is home to many upscale full-service meeting hotels, such as the Emerald Grande at Harborwalk Village, a Gulf-side resort that features a range of indoor and outdoor meeting spaces and Gulf-to-table cuisine. For a more unique venue that comes with a chance to meet with marine life, planners can check out the Gulfarium Marine Adventure Park, where they can participate in team-building activities during the day or rent the park after hours for a banquet in the park’s aquarium room or the outdoor, covered beachfront space.
Crystal Coast, North Carolina
The 12 communities that make up North Carolina’s southern Outer Banks are collectively known as the Crystal Coast, a seaside destination that has proven a charming destination for meetings. In addition to the dining, shopping and history offered by the Crystal Coast’s small towns, the abundance of conserved natural land and waterways also make it a bounty for nature lovers. Home to
Cape Lookout National Seashore, Fort Macon State Park and Shackleford Banks, where wild horses roam, this beach destination has no shortage of natural scenery and wildlife for visitors to take in.
The Crystal Coast is suitable for small or midsize meetings and events. The Civic Center features 20,000 square feet of meeting space with the largest space being 12,000 square feet. Meeting hotels in the area include the DoubleTree Atlantic Beach, with a 5,400-square-foot ballroom and 200 rooms, and the Beaufort Hotel, with 10,000 square feet of meeting space and 133 rooms. It also features an exciting selection of off-site venues. At the Carolina Home and Garden, a garden shop and nursery, attendees can gather for a magical gathering among beautiful plants. Merrell Estate and Gardens and the Cottage at the Crystal Coast are additional settings for elegant events.
Jim Browder, executive director of the Crystal Coast Tourism Development Authority said part of what makes this such a great meeting destination is its quaintness.
“When smaller meetings go to larger destinations they tend to get swallowed up,” he said. “Our environment allows for someone to feel like a small event is the only event. It gives them the opportunity to interact and get to know each other.”
Atlantic City, New Jersey
The most famous gaming city on the East Coast is also one of the best beach destinations for event planners. Atlantic City offers attendees a staggering range of amenities to accompany its resort casino properties. Gaming may be one of Atlantic City’s biggest draws, but the city is also home to plenty of enticing attractions unrelated to gaming. The five-mile Atlantic City Boardwalk on Atlantic City’s beach offers numerous places for attendees to shop, dine and explore the beach. Visitors to Atlantic City will want to see its famous landmarks like Lucy the Elephant in Josephine Harron Park and the Absecon Lighthouse, New Jersey’s tallest lighthouse.
Larry Sieg, CEO of Visit Atlantic City, said the location is within driving distance for a third of the U.S. population, which is one of the best reasons to consider Atlantic City for their next meeting.
“We’re situated only an hour from Philadelphia, two hours from New York City, three hours from Baltimore and Washington,” he said. “That’s really important to a lot of our meeting planners.”
The Atlantic City Convention Center offers nearly 600,000 square feet of meeting space, 45 meeting rooms and full-service catering. It should come as no surprise that Atlantic City’s many casino resort properties have plenty of meeting space and lodging for events while being conveniently located near the convention center. Bally’s Atlantic City has over 1,200 rooms and 80,000 square feet of meeting space, while Ocean Casino Resort has almost 1,400 rooms and 160,000 square feet of space.
Comprising 12 cities in three counties, the “Secret Coast” of Mississippi is a little-known beach destination on the Gulf of Mexico. This 26-mile stretch of man-made beach is a beautiful getaway for attendees, featuring picturesque scenery of lighthouses and piers stretching across the Gulf’s deep blue waters. It’s also a well-known golfing destination, with almost 20 golf courses across the 12 communities. The Secret Coast has another element of surprise that ups the ante and attracts attendees: gaming. Twelve casino properties can be found scattered among Mississippi’s coastal towns with a wide offering of amenities.
“I like to say we’re the only place you can golf, gamble and fish,” said Ari Covacevich, convention sales and development manager at Coastal Mississippi.
The beachfront Mississippi Coast Coliseum and Convention Center in Biloxi is one of the coast’s central meeting venues and includes 400,000 square feet of space, with a 129,000-square-foot exhibit hall and additional meeting rooms. For a resort with meeting space and gaming, the Beau Rivage Resort and Casino has 50,000 square feet of meeting space and 1,740 guest rooms for attendees, while the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino has 13,000 square feet of meeting space and 318 guest rooms. Receptions or smaller meetings can be held at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, which has its own kitchen. The Mississippi Aquarium gives a nautical background to any event and has in-house catering.
Long Beach, California
The only urban downtown waterfront between San Francisco and San Diego, Long Beach, California, is an extremely walkable city of 500,000 people. The city has 5.5 miles of beaches, 11 miles of waterways and over 120 restaurants within an eight-block radius of its convention center. Long Beach is home to several standout attractions for attendees to check out in their downtime, from the allegedly haunted Queen Mary to cultural gems like the Museum of Latin American Art.
“We are the quintessential Southern California meeting destination,” said Joseph Jenci, senior vice president of sales and services at Long Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re on the ocean, we have the best weather year round, the palm trees, the open space, all the amenities we can offer.”
The crown jewel of the tourism industry in Long Beach is its Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center, a contemporary, 400,000-square-foot venue. The convention center acts as a town hall and central venue for most of the town’s events. It has several turnkey event spaces that are each retrofitted with a grid system with speakers, rigging and lighting to help planners pull off their most technologically advanced meetings and events. The Pacific Ballroom is a 46,000-square-foot and can seat over 3,000 attendees banquet style. The convention center’s outdoor venues, the Terrace Plaza and the Cove, offer unique and stylish spaces for large events. Planners can hold smaller meetings in the center’s meeting rooms, or off-site at venues such as the Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden, a living museum and Japanese garden that provides an elegant space for receptions and banquets.