Sometimes it’s hard to say what makes a city hip. Maybe it’s a hopping college town or maybe the happening downtown. Whatever it is, meeting planners can use these hip cities not only to attract attendees but also to integrate funky venues and fun activities into their events.
Greenville, South Carolina
People who visit Greenville are often surprised by the extremes the city embodies: a Southern city with European flavor and an urban center just minutes from mountains.
“When people come here, they’re so amazed; we have traditional Southern hospitality, but we have a real European and international mix here with all the foreign development,” said Diane Wilson, director of information services for Visit Greenville SC.
BMW’s only American manufacturing plant, BMW Zentrum, sits just east of the city in Greer. The on-site Zentrum Museum takes visitors through BMW history, and guided factory tours are available, although they’re suspended until summer because of new-model production. The museum has meeting space for small groups, and just down the street, the BMW performance center and driving school provides some fast-paced team-building experiences, Wilson said.
Downtown Greenville has been undergoing a renaissance for 20 years, with the most change happening in the past decade, Wilson said. Today, downtown is a center for coffeehouses, boutiques, condos and lofts. Two new hotels are also under construction in downtown, Wilson said. Several historic downtown buildings have been renovated and repurposed to include meeting and event space, among them the historic Old Cigar Warehouse and the 12,000-square-foot Zen.
One of Greenville’s most iconic sites is the curved and cantilevered Liberty Bridge that lightly straddles Reedy River Falls, a multitiered waterfall that winds through and spills over giant red boulders, on the west end of downtown.
Rapid City, South Dakota
Two things anchor downtown Rapid City: public art and public spaces.
“We’re kind of like this little urbanite area in the middle of the country,” said Lisa Storms, director of sales and servicing for the Rapid City Convention and Visitors Bureau.
Tucked away in an alley between Sixth and Seventh streets is an ever-growing, ever-changing art installation. Art Alley is basically a living mural of street art and graffiti that has been drawing national attention.
“It’s a free expression of local artists,” Storms said “It’s a continually revolving art gallery that has really gotten a lot of attention.”
Located throughout downtown are 43 life-size bronze sculptures of the American presidents, collectively known as the “City of Presidents.” When President Barack Obama’s term ends, his sculpture will be added to the collection.
The city’s new Main Street Square acts as a sort of public hub for downtown. The square, located at Sixth and Main streets, was transformed from a parking lot into a public gathering spot complete with cafe seating, a lawn and interactive fountains. From spring through fall, locals and visitors alike go there for the farmers market, festivals, concerts and nighttime movies, and in the winter, the square becomes an ice skating rink.
“The rink is actually larger than Rockefeller Center,” Storms said. “Men in business suits downtown put on their skates, and they have a game of hockey.”
Besides its “huge accumulation” of shops, restaurants and galleries, the 150,000-square-foot Rushmore Plaza Civic Center and four hotels are within walking distance of downtown.