On the James River in the coastal Tidewater region, Newport News has a rich military history.
“Newport News is home to Newport News Shipbuilding, the largest employer in Virginia, and the U.S. Army’s largest transportation unit, 20-plus international firms’ headquarters and two national laboratories, so we have meetings down to a science,” said Cheryl Morales, marketing manager of the Newport News Tourism Development Office.
Among the military-related venues is the U. S. Army Transportation Museum, which displays Army jeeps, helicopters and hovercraft, and has exhibits about conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan on a newly enclosed porch.
The world’s first Hampton Inn and Suites has upgraded its meeting space and added a business center. “We basically took the property down to the studs, modified some spaces and gave it new life,” said the hotel’s Craig Larson.
Among the area’s key meeting venues is the 256-room Newport News Marriott at City Center.
Part of a shopping-office-residential complex, the hotel’s 23,000 square feet of conference center space includes a rotunda with views of fountains in a five-acre pool.
Michael Mason, president of Mason and Associates, a financial planning company, plans 12 to 15 seminars and client events there annually. “The service is first-class, and the food is top-notch. You couldn’t do better for a meeting.”
In January, the Omni Newport News Hotel became Magnuson Hotel and Conference Center and, in June, opened the Green House, a restaurant and bar with a local focus.
Country music is the focus at Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar and Grill, opened last year in City Center, with two private rooms and a 50-capacity, glass-enclosed VIP room next to the stage.
Prince William County/Manassas
Thirty miles from Washington, D.C., the Prince William County/Manassas area is a haven of Civil War history and meeting sites with character.
“If a planner wants to ditch the traditional four-wall meeting space, we can make that happen,” said Michael Stoupa, sales associate for the Prince William County/Manassas CVB. “For instance, a group can meet at the Old Manassas Courthouse where President Taft and Union and Confederate troops reconciled after the Civil War.”
The 123-room Best Western Battlefield Inn, less than a mile from the site of the Civil War’s first land battle, can serve as a conference site. Its 4,000-square-foot ballroom got a $40,000 facelift in May.
The National Museum of the Marine Corps, near Quantico, is visible for miles, thanks to its 210-foot, stainless-steel spire. The museum tells United States and world history through the eyes of Marines.
“A Marine who was Lincoln’s escort at Gettysburg ‘tells’ his story of what the president went through,” said Gwenn Adams, public affairs director. “It’s not your average Civil War history.”
Vintage aircraft hang overhead in the Leatherneck Gallery, and tours are included when groups hold their events at the museum.
Attendees needn’t be Marine-tough for team building at the Edge, an experiential learning and organizational development center at George Mason University. Its menu of team-building ideas is extensive.
For a taste of history and local fare, the tiny colonial river town of Occoquan, 10 miles south of the Capital Beltway on the Occoquan River, has a progressive dining experience at family-owned eateries. A boat tour can follow dinner.