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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Destination: Downtowns

Billings, Montana

Known as the trailhead to some of Montana’s greatest outdoor adventures, Billings provides the perfect blend of outdoor recreation and urban entertainment. It contains the largest downtown district in the state and is close to natural treasures such as the Rocky Mountains, Yellowstone National Park and Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument.

“The beauty of downtown Billings is that everything is within reach,” said Stefan Cattarin, sales manager at Visit Billings. “The airport is just two miles away, and within 10 minutes, you can be riding horseback through Yellowstone Valley and feel like you’re in the middle of nowhere.”

Billings is also home to Montana’s only walkable brewery district, an eight-and-a-half-mile loop of breweries, cideries and distilleries.

“The brewery trail is a hot ticket for today’s convention market. It’s a great selling feature for people who stay at convention properties,” said Cattarin.

Meeting planners can use two downtown hotel properties for larger events and conventions. The four-star Northern Hotel is an independent boutique hotel that combines luxury and Western aesthetic, and offers 12,000 square feet of meeting space for groups of up to 700 guests. The newly renovated DoubleTree by Hilton features a 400-seat Grand Ballroom with 12 breakout rooms and offers complimentary shuttle service to the Billings Airport every 30 minutes.

Groups can delve into the region’s rich Western heritage at the Western Heritage Center, which is housed in a beautiful Romanesque sandstone structure and shares the history of early cultures in the Yellowstone River Valley and Northern Plains. Another local landmark is the Billings Depot, a restored 1800s-era train depot that now serves as a special-events venue.

Owensboro, Kentucky

In the heart of Kentucky’s bluegrass, bourbon and barbecue region, Owensboro is one of the largest and most colorful cities in the state. It has been repeatedly named one of the country’s most significant music cities for its role in the rise of bluegrass music and will soon be home to the International Bluegrass Museum and Hall of Fame.

“In Owensboro, we’re convenient, we’re very affordable, and we have a kind of customized experience for everybody,” said Dave Kirk, destination management director at the Owensboro Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Meeting groups will find themselves right at home in this scenic riverfront city. Overlooking the Ohio River in downtown, the Owensboro Convention Center features nearly 102,000 square feet of space with beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows and an 8,900-square-foot outdoor pier.

Planners can also make use of the RiverPark Center, a world-class performing arts center with a 1,479-seat auditorium, a 300-seat cabaret theater and a spacious outdoor entertainment patio. Throughout the year, the center hosts a variety of performances from professional groups like the Owensboro Symphony Orchestra and the Owensboro Dance Theatre. During the summer months, the RiverPark Center stages a concert series by the river called Friday After 5.

A few other prominent attractions in the area are the Owensboro Museum of Fine Art, the Museum of Science and History, the O.Z. Tyler Bourbon Distillery and Smothers Park, which has been named one of the top playgrounds in the world. Before leaving town, visitors should be sure to stop by Owensboro’s world-famous Moonlite Bar-B-Q Inn for a taste of signature Kentucky cuisine, like burgoo, barbecue mutton and banana salad.