West of the Windy City, DuPage County offers a breath of fresh air.
That’s not to say it’s small. Located about 20 miles away from Chicago, DuPage County is home to approximately 925,000 people, making it the second-most populous county in Illinois. Yet this population is spread across 38 communities and over 300 square miles. Many of its communities offer a quaint feel, with charming downtown districts boasting boutique shopping and local eats. It’s also a nature-lover’s haven, with plenty of green spaces, hiking trails and forest preserves.
That’s not to say it’s missing urban amenities. With plentiful shopping, including one of the country’s largest outdoor shopping malls, and a diverse array of dining experiences, there’s plenty of worldly entertainment to go around.
This collection of energetic communities will be the site of the 2024 Small Market Meetings Summit. On May 22–23, 25 meeting planners will sit down with representatives from hotels, conference centers and destinations to network and make plans.
They’ll be meeting in the village of Burr Ridge at the Chicago Marriott Southwest at Burr Ridge, a 184-room hotel with almost 11,000 square feet of meeting space. This space includes an 8,000-square-foot ballroom, divisible into five sections, as well as three conference rooms and two board rooms.
With over 110 hotels featuring 16,000 sleeping rooms and a combined 2 million square feet of meeting space between them, DuPage County offers meeting planners an impressive array of conference hotels to choose from in each of its communities.
“I think our accessibility to downtown Chicago without being in Chicago is important,” said Angela Rauen, senior sales manager at the DuPage Convention and Visitors Bureau. “And we’re just 25 minutes from both international airports, and that really stands out for a smaller destination outside of Chicago.”
A Sweet Spot for Meetings
DuPage County’s accessibility is one of its top selling points for a reason. It’s eight miles away from the O’Hare International Airport and 17 miles away from Midway International Airport, and it has an airport of its own, the DuPage Airport, located in West Chicago. With eight major interstates close by or crossing through the county, it’s easy to get to by car. And thanks to commuter trains, it’s easy to travel between Chicago and DuPage’s communities.
Meeting in DuPage promises planners proximity to one of the country’s largest cities without the price tag. Its communities are poised to offer competitive rates and lower taxes, and these locations come with amenities such as free parking.
Event planners considering DuPage County should contact its convention and visitors bureau, which offers assistance with convention services, such as on-site registration and social media support, as well as assistance with sourcing catering or transportation needs.
In addition to its many hotel properties with meeting space, the county has plenty of off-site venues to spotlight.
DuPage County features 500 miles of trails and 60 forest preserves, which are perfect for hiking in the warmer months and cross-country skiing or sledding in the winter.
“We’re known for our outdoor greenspaces, and we’re the healthiest county in Illinois,” Rauen said. “We’re very active.”
Some of the county’s most famous greenspaces can be found at the Morton Arboretum, a 1,700-acre tree-filled garden and outdoor museum. Guests can wander the tranquil landscapes to learn about its many trees. It’s also an event venue offering elegant indoor and outdoor spaces for events of all sizes and types. In the community of Wheaton, another popular meeting venue is Cantigny Park, a 500-acre park featuring a historic mansion, lush gardens, a 27-hole golf course and a visitors center with a theater and café.
The county offers plenty of other ways for guests to enjoy nature via wildlife sightings. One of the Brookfield Zoo’s most popular venues is its Discovery Center, a traditional banquet facility with three spaces. But meetings at the zoo can also come with opportunities to see the animals close-up.
Another favorite outdoor activity in DuPage is golfing, as evidenced by the county’s 50-plus golf courses, many of which have meeting and banquet spaces in their clubhouses. But if attendees would rather golf in a climate-controlled setting, DuPage is also home to a 390 Golf Experience and a Topgolf.
One of the most distinct games offered in DuPage is WhirlyBall, which can be found in Naperville. The game, a combination of basketball, lacrosse, hockey and bumper cars, may have guests scratching their heads at first, but it’s sure to leave them smiling in the end.
One prominent outdoor space for events and activities is The Forge: Lemont Quarries, a park with abundant opportunities for adventure and exploration. While it doesn’t have meeting space, it’s one of the premier spaces to hold outdoor events or events centered around physical activity, such as races or outdoor concerts.
Visitors should be sure to leave plenty of room in their suitcases, because there’s some serious shopping to be done in DuPage County. The second-largest outdoor shopping mall in the country, Oakbrook Center, has over 160 shops, restaurants and entertainment venues.
“Here, you have high-end shopping, a wide range of restaurants and bars, and inside there, you have very unique venues,” Rauen said.
Within Oakbrook Center, several venues can serve as outings for off-sites, team-building or social events. These include Puttshack, a mini-golf course, bar and restaurant, and Pinstripes Oak Brook, which features a restaurant, meeting space, bowling and bocce courts.
Oakbrook Center’s newest entertainment venue is the Sony Pictures Wonderverse, a first-of-its-kind experience offering a virtual reality games and interactive experiences, alongside themed dining.
Additional shopping centers include the Fashion Outlets of Chicago, with 130 designer shops, and the Burr Ridge Village Center.
For more traditional avenues of entertainment, attendees can amuse themselves with a show at the Drury Lane Theatre. It’s also an elegant event venue, adorned with beautiful details like crystal chandeliers, with over 35,000 square feet of event space. This includes the Grand Ballroom, which can hold up to 1,800 for a banquet and can be divided into four rooms.
The Elmhurst Art Museum, a contemporary art museum, features plenty of galleries for visitors to explore, including a preserved Miles van der Rohe home. The museum can be rented out in its entirety for events and can seat up to 160 for banquets.
Some well-known restaurants in DuPage also double as venues for group dinners, meetings or social events. These include Michael Jordan’s Steakhouse, prominently featuring one of the Windy City’s greatest sports icons and serving fine cuisine to as many as 250 guests; Dell Rhea’s Chicken Basket, a famous Route-66 restaurant that can be rented out; and the North American Pizza and Culinary Academy, a well-known restaurant and culinary school that can host events or cooking classes, which make excellent team-building activities.
To register for the 2024 Small Market Meetings Summit in DuPage County, Illinois, go to smmconf.com/summit.