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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Destination: Downtowns

Winston-Salem, North Carolina

True to its title as the City of Arts and Innovation, Winston-Salem, North Carolina, has experienced tremendous growth in recent years, attracting a multitude of new businesses into its vibrant downtown area and surrounding neighborhoods.

“In the past decade or so, we’ve invested nearly $1.5 billion in downtown development,” said Richard Geiger, president of Visit Winston-Salem. “We’ve really reinvented our downtown with new retail, restaurants, bars and entertainment.”

Planners will find all the meeting amenities they need in the Twin City Quarter, which encompasses the newly renovated Benton Convention Center, the Marriott Hotel Winston-Salem and the Embassy Suites Winston-Salem. The convention center and two downtown hotel properties offer a combined 176,000 square feet of meeting space. From the Twin City Quarter, attendees can walk to more than 100 restaurants, craft breweries, bars, shops and museums in the Downtown Arts District and Fourth Street’s Restaurant Row.

“We’re lucky to have a very vibrant, active, walkable and safe downtown that attendees can explore,” said Geiger. “You can come and meet and never have to worry about getting in a car or taxi.”

Planners can also take advantage of resources and expert speakers at the Wake Forest Innovation Quarter, one of the fastest-growing urban-based districts for innovation in the United States and home to more than 170 companies and five leading academic institutions. In addition, the Wake Forest Biotech Place, a former tobacco manufacturing facility, features a conference center and auditorium so groups can attend an event and tour the building afterward.

Just outside downtown, visitors can explore notable sites such as the Reynolda House Museum of American Art and the Old Salem Museum and Gardens, which contains a beautifully restored 18th-century Moravian settlement.

Albany, New York

Albany was founded along the banks of the Hudson River as a small Dutch settlement more than 400 years ago and eventually grew to become New York’s thriving state capital. Today, it boasts numerous historic sites and national landmarks, as well as world-class museums, eclectic dining and activities on the waterfront.

“We have so many great historic sites and some new things sprinkled among that, so there’s something for everyone,” said Jill Delaney, president of Discover Albany.

Downtown Albany is anchored by Empire State Plaza, a conglomerate of towering government buildings and one of the most impressive capital centers in the nation. Free tours of the plaza and the New York State Capitol are offered daily. Groups will not want to miss the chance to visit the striking capitol, which resembles a Gothic castle, and see the famous million-dollar staircase inside.

“It’s not something you can describe; you need to go see it,” said Delaney. “It’s just gorgeous.”

Nearby, visitors can also stop by the New York State Museum, the oldest and largest state museum in the country, which showcases the cultural and natural history of New York State from the Ice Age to the present.

The state-of-the-art Albany Capital Center is in the heart of downtown within walking distance of restaurants, shops, art galleries, nightclubs and more. Opened in 2017, this exquisite new structure is directly linked to the Empire State Plaza Convention Center and the Egg Performing Arts Center, which together form the Capital Complex, the largest meeting space in upstate New York, with over 159,000 square feet of exhibit space.

For a savory team-building experience, meeting groups can sign up for the new Albany Food Tour, which introduces participants to signature dishes and drinks throughout the city. Along the waterfront, travelers can experience the scenery and history of the Hudson River during a dinner and cruise with Dutch Apple Cruises, or take a tour of the USS Slater, the world’s last remaining destroyer escort, which is permanently stationed at the docks as a ship museum.