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Managing Meetings: Shoulder Season

Every destination has a different shoulder season. For some, it’s the heat of summer. For others, it’s the dead of winter. For others still, spring and fall shoulder seasons bookend peak tourist times. Meeting planners can take advantage of these slower times for better room rates at hotels, more flexibility when booking venues and fewer crowds at area attractions while still enjoying nice weather and seasonal amenities.

Macon, Georgia

In Macon, Georgia, about 90 miles southeast of Atlanta, the city experiences two shoulder seasons: The first is a natural slowdown around the holidays, usually from mid-November through the end of the year, and the second shoulder season happens in June and July when the heat is on, said Robin North, vice president of business development for the Macon-Bibb County Convention and Visitors Bureau. During those times, meeting planners can expect more availability at meeting venues and lower rates at convention hotels. It’s typically easier for planners to get into the Macon Centreplex, which includes the 102,000-square-foot Edgar H. Wilson Convention Center, the 9,200-seat Macon Coliseum and the 2,600-seat historic Macon City Auditorium.

Shoulder-season hotel rates are also typically lower, including at two major downtown hotels, North said. The 220-room Macon Marriott City Center, which has another 5,000 square feet of function space, is attached to the Centreplex, and the 101-room Hilton Garden Inn Macon is located on the Mercer University campus.

To boost slower summer months, Macon has added events to draw people to town, events that planners could incorporate into their conferences. The Macon Film Festival runs over five days in July, and the Bragg Jam Music Festival featured more than 80 acts this past July.

“We’ve kind of upped the ante trying to make it more attractive in July when it’s brutally hot here,” North said.

Attendees can also take advantage of area attractions with fewer crowds and less traffic. The Tubman Museum reopened in May in its new building that expanded it from 8,000 square feet to 49,000 square feet, just across the street from the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame. The Ocmulgee National Monument is a popular destination, with an on-site museum and mounds that were built by the Mississippian culture around 900 BC.

“It is hot, but if you go in the morning, it’s glorious,” North said. “You can walk the mounds without the crowds and have a peaceful moment.”

Colorado Springs, Colorado

Colorado Springs is home — or home base — for some of Colorado’s natural wonders. It’s close to Pikes Peak, next to Pike National Forest and home to Garden of the Gods. With all the outdoor wonder, it’s no surprise the city’s peak season runs from Memorial Day through September.

“We’re definitely known to be a summer destination,” said Chelsy Offutt, director of communications for the Colorado Springs Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Spring and fall are the city’s shoulder seasons, but winter has its perks as well, and “you’re not really giving up anything because it’s gorgeous year-round,” she said.

September, October and even early November deliver mild daytime temperatures, cool evenings and colorful foliage. Visitors get an eyeful of the state’s famous gold aspens along Colorado Highway 67 and the Gold Belt Scenic Byway and at Cheyenne Mountain State Park and Mueller State Park.

Spring is a time of rebirth, which includes the arrival of baby animals at local farms and ranches, such as C Squared Alpaca Ranch and Venetucci Farm, both of which offer tours, as well as Cheyenne Mountain Zoo, which has breeding programs.

People often assume that Colorado winters mean peak ski season, but that’s only true for mountain-town ski resorts. Colorado Springs sits on the Front Range at an elevation of 6,000 feet and, like much of the nonmountainous state, enjoys near-daily winter sunshine and even stretches of 50- and 60-degree days.

But many area attractions are open year-round. During shoulder seasons and winter months, those attractions offer completely different experiences. The Pikes Peak Cog Railway runs year-round, and although it may not be able to summit the mountain in the winter, “it’s still a great experience,” Offutt said. Cave of the Winds remains a steady 54 degrees no matter the outside temperature, and Garden of the Gods in a dusting of snow makes the red rock formations even more otherworldly. Groups can tour the U.S. Olympic Training Center anytime, and the Colorado Springs Fine Art Center offers tours as well as live theater.