Downtown areas provide a vibrant backdrop to meetings and events. Attendees can often walk directly from the local convention center to nearby restaurants, shops and attractions. There are always things to see and do nearby, so guests can easily explore the area without straying far from their hotel or meeting venue.
Before you plan your next meeting or conference, consider taking it to one of the following destinations, where local flavor and significant investment in development have made downtowns dynamic settings for events.
Grand Rapids, Michigan
On the Grand River just 30 miles east of Lake Michigan, Grand Rapids is the second-largest city in Michigan and home to a growing number of craft breweries, farm-to-table restaurants and beautiful hotels. There are now five major hotels in downtown, with four more scheduled to open this coming year. Though it continues to flourish as a metropolitan area, the city retains all the charm and convenience of a smaller destination.
“One of the things that you notice right away in Grand Rapids is that you’re right in the heart of everything,” said Tim Nelson, director of convention services at Experience Grand Rapids. “You step outside the door of your hotel, and everything is right there.”
Overlooking the Grand River, the DeVos Place Convention Center offers a compact conference campus with three connecting hotel properties and more than 200 nearby attractions, shops and restaurants. Meeting groups of all sizes can take advantage of this facility, which includes a 162,000-square-foot, column-free exhibit hall; a 40,000-square-foot ballroom; and 26 subdivisible meeting rooms.
Many excellent museums in the area cater to after-hours events and activities. The Grand Rapids Public Museum accommodates groups of up to 900 people in unusual spaces, such as a planetarium, a theater and a galleria. Likewise, the Grand Rapids Art Museum sets a beautiful backdrop for corporate events and receptions. Other notable museums in the area are the Gerald R. Ford Presidential Museum, the Grand Rapids Children’s Museum, the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts and the Grand Rapids African-American Museum and Archives.
In the evening, many business travelers enjoy visiting some of the local craft breweries, with popular stops such as the Knickerbocker, Atwater, Founder’s Brewing, HopCat, the B.O.B. and the Grand Rapids Brewing Company. Planners can download a printable brewery map from the Grand Rapids tourism website.