What do you get when you cross the natural beauty of the Atlantic seaboard with one of the most industrial, educated and politically influential regions of the United States? Coastal Virginia — a region as marked by the sea that it borders as the rest of the state lying to the west of it.
It’s easy to understand why coastal Virginia, which includes Newport News, Hampton, Norfolk and Virginia Beach, has long been a staple in meeting planners’ repertoires: It lies well within proximity of the northeast corridor of major U.S. cities from Baltimore to Boston. However, as the region continues to draw from the state’s interior strength and the seacoast’s natural resources, there are more reasons to consider holding meetings there in 2015 than ever before.
Virginia was named the top state for business by Forbes in 2013, thanks to some of the best government incentives for businesses and a commerce-friendly tort system. Proximity to Washington and having the eighth-highest number of government employees in the United States adds a heavy dose of political savvy to the local culture. You’ll also find some of the nation’s top universities, including the University of Virginia, the College of William and Mary, and James Madison University, all within a few hours’ drive of each other and the Virginia coast.
Unlike the vacationland beaches of its neighbors to the north and south, Virginia’s seaside is influenced by the cultured character of that powerhouse state. Those looking to plan meetings in that coastal region will enjoy the blend of history, government and industry mixed with the distinctly maritime scenery.
Newport News may sound like an odd name for a city, but it represents some serious history: The name Newportes Newes first appeared in Virginia company records as early as 1619. Local folklore attributes the nomenclature to Capt. Christopher Newport, who commanded one of the three first ships to land on Jamestown Island in 1607. Today, it is the fourth-largest city in Virginia by square miles.
For meeting planners looking to create an educational experience for attendees, there are many historical venues available to host meetings. One popular location is the Mariners’ Museum and Park. The space can seat 300 banquet- or theater-style, and provides more than 60,000 square feet of gallery and event space. There, attendees can browse everything from maritime artwork to Civil War ships and skeletons of aquatic dinosaurs.
“It’s the only place in the world where you can walk the deck of a full-scale replica of the USS Monitor,” said Cheryl Morales, marketing manager of the Newport News Tourism Development Office.
For smaller groups, planners should consider the J. Thomas Newsome House, which can accommodate up to 18. The preserved late-19thcentury Queen Anne-style house was once home to J. Thomas Newsome, an important figure in the new black, urban professional class of the early-1900s South.
The Newport News Marriott at City Center offers the largest meeting space in the city, with a maximum capacity of 1,410 attendees seated theater-style in the grand ballroom. Other more traditional meeting venues include the Hilton Garden Inn and the Kiln Creek Golf Club and Resort, which offers fine dining and accommodations on-site.
Morales said that Newport News treats meeting planners to “small town” hospitality and tailored services.
“Our office provides several services that make a meeting planner’s life a little easier,” she said. Her staff can provide items such as welcome bags, promotional materials and coupon books.
“More than just saving you money, the coupon book can also save time for meeting planners by providing great ideas on where to visit, eat and shop,” she said.
Spotlight on Newport News
Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport; Norfolk Airport; Amtrak;
interstates 64 and 664.
Newport News Golf Club at Deer Run, The Mariners’ Museum and Park, Newsome House Museum, Newport News Marriott at City Center, Hilton Garden Inn, Kiln Creek Golf Club & Resort
Hotel Rooms: 4,000
Ella Fitzgerald Theater, Peninsula Family Skating Center, The Hilton Tavern,
99 Main, Midtown Eats, Hayashi at City Center