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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Families Love These Heartland Meeting Destinations

In the light of soaring airline prices and ever-increasing fees, the nature of leisure travel is changing. Though this season saw near-record numbers of passengers traveling on Thanksgiving, families are often looking to take their vacations at off-peak times or to unexpected and thus inexpensive destinations.

Bringing the family along for an extra couple of days before or after a corporate or association meeting isn’t new. It’s an easy way to maximize budget and minimize use of vacation days. But in a post-recession environment, when families are branching out slowly from the “staycation,” it’s an important potential attendance driver for meeting planners to keep in mind.

Thankfully, meeting planners that are increasingly looking for destinations that encourage attendees to mix business with pleasure — especially family-oriented destinations with activities for all ages within easy driving distance — have a wealth of options in the Heartlands.


Ann Arbor, Michigan

Less than an hour from hub airport Detroit Metropolitan and a convenient drive from Illinois, Indiana, Ohio and other parts of Michigan, Ann Arbor is a centrally located Heartland meeting destination that offers planners 150 meeting sites and more than 4,000 hotel rooms from which to choose.

When it comes to bringing families to an event, however, Ann Arbor is full of unusual activities and attractions that you likely won’t find anywhere else. If your group includes families with young children, Ann Arbor’s “fairyologist” gives tours of local fairy doors, art installations hidden throughout town that can be found nowhere else in the country, and guides children to create gifts to leave for the fairies.

Business meetings can take advantage of the new meeting and event space opened by Zingerman’s, a collection of community businesses that has been named “The Coolest Small Company in America” by Inc. magazine. In addition to catering from Zingerman’s seven food businesses and speakers and training from its training arm ZingTrain for events, the renovated historic barn offers interactive educational tours and visits to the goat parlor for families.

More traditional entertainment options, including 13 live theaters, are also available if your meeting has attendees explore destinations with their families independently.

Ann Arbor’s largest event space, the Towsley Conference Center, offers 26,000 square feet of meeting space and an additional 415-seat auditorium. The fullservice Marriott Ann Arbor features 27,000 square feet of meeting space, and the Sheraton Ann Arbor has 15,000 square feet of meeting space.