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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Hip cities add cool factor to meetings


Anaheim, California

Anaheim is known for one fairly big thing: Disneyland. But Anaheim’s cool factor goes beyond being home to the “Happiest Place on Earth.” The city’s revitalized downtown centers on Center Street, a palm-tree-lined promenade that rivals Disney’s Main Street, USA.

LAB Holding bought a swath of downtown property in 2010 and set to work finding retailers that fit the “anti-mall” attitude along the two-block stretch.

“They’re not trying to sell their souls to fill a space,” said Juan Flores, communications manager for the Anaheim/Orange County Visitor and Convention Bureau. “They want to find the local, nonchain tenants.”

Each shop, restaurant or cafe has to fit with Center Street’s feel; retailers include the Gypsy Den, Healthy Junk and Barbeer, an old-fashioned barber shop where gentlemen can get a cut and a beer, Flores said.

Just around the corner is another LAB Holding project: the Packing District. The district covers most of a city block and includes a two-acre park and two renovated historic buildings. The 1925 Packard Building now houses Umami Burger and the Anaheim Brewery, which has a small patio that can be reserved for private parties, Flores said.

The 1919 Packing House, a former orange-packing operation, is slated to open in March as an indoor market/food hall filled with permanent vendor booths. A back patio is available for private groups, and the building’s garden level will become a large function space, Flores said.


Chattanooga, Tennessee

Nashville. Knoxville. Memphis: Each is known for its own special brand of hipness. But so is another Tennessee favorite: Chattanooga.

“Downtown has been cool for a long time,” said Candace Davis, marketing and public relations manager for the Chattanooga Convention and Visitors Bureau, but it became more walkable and accessible after the city redid the riverfront several years ago.

Today, the Walnut Street pedestrian bridge crosses the Tennessee River, connecting downtown to the shops, parks and art galleries on the North Shore. Nearby, the Ruth Holmberg Glass-Bottom Bridge crosses Riverfront Parkway and connects to the Hunter Museum of American Art, a modern space that sits on the riverbank and is a “great meeting venue,” Davis said.

Sitting on stone cliffs high above the river, the Bluff View Art District is a revitalized 1.5-block stretch with restaurants, a coffee shop, an art gallery, gardens, and the Bluff View Inn, a bed-and-breakfast that’s housed in three late-19th and early-20th-century homes. Event space sprinkled throughout the district includes the Back Inn Café, a sculpture garden, a bocce ball court and Renaissance Commons, a historic building that serves as an event hall and meeting venue.

The free Electric Shuttle runs through downtown from the Tennessee Aquarium to the Chattanooga Choo Choo. The city also has the Bicycle Transit System, 300 bikes at 30 stations around downtown and throughout the city, including one at the Chattanooga Convention Center. The agency will move bikes around to accommodate large groups, Davis said.