The Empire State boasts an array of destinations where top-tier meeting facilities offer ready access to vast, scenic beauty, from waterfalls and wine trails to state parks and rustic mountain retreats. See why many in the know view upstate as a hidden gem, brimming with a mix of charming small towns and modern city centers, all just minutes from destinations that showcase the natural appeal of New York.
As one of the United States’ most iconic vistas, Niagara Falls scores a spot on nearly every traveler’s bucket list. The breathtaking beauty and power of the roaring falls are reason enough to visit, but the region offers much more than postcard views.
The Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls, just two blocks from Niagara Falls State Park and under 30 minutes by car from Buffalo, offers 116,000 square feet of indoor meeting space and can host groups both large and small.
“They have everything from an in-house AV team to a world-class chef there,” said Lindsey Bowman, convention and meeting sales manager for Niagara Falls USA.
The city’s Seneca Niagara Resort and Casino, a AAA Four Diamond hotel, offers 10 on-site restaurants, more than 36,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and a fully appointed business center.
The New York side of Niagara is where you’ll get to enjoy the natural beauty of the falls thanks to 400 acres of state park land, miles of hiking trails and access to preserved historic sites such as Old Fort Niagara, where original 18th-century buildings still stand.
Guests can take in the beauty of the Niagara River Gorge via the trails at nearby De Veaux Woods State Park and Whirlpool State Park that often follow right along the river’s edge.
For fun team-building activities, consider a group trip to the famed Maid of the Mist boat ride under the falls. Or, for a more adrenaline-fueled trip, take a jetboat ride on the lower Niagara River through Whirlpool Jet Boat tours or Niagara Jet Adventures.
For those looking for a day trip option, the ever-growing Niagara Wine Trail USA now has 22 wineries near Lake Ontario where visitors can sample award-winning New York riesling, chardonnay and pinot noir varieties, as well as fruit wines, meads and ciders.
Albany and the Hudson Valley
Home to iconic settings such as Woodstock and West Point, the Hudson Valley is a National Heritage Area that covers a 10-county region from the edge of Manhattan north to Albany County. The area has long been a visitor favorite thanks to its scenic mountains, lakes and rivers, as well as thousands of miles of hiking trails and an ever-growing wine trail and microbrewery scene.
Albany, the New York state capital, offers an array of meeting options, including the Albany Capital Center. Opened in 2017, the mixed-use facility includes six meeting rooms and 22,500 square feet of ballroom and exhibit space that can accommodate groups of 10 to 5,000. “It’s a dynamic facility that can host a wide variety of events,” said Jay Cloutier, director of sales for the Albany County Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The nearby Times Union Center arena in Albany has adaptable meeting facilities and large-scale exhibition space that can accommodate groups of up to 17,500. The Egg, an architecturally unique downtown performing arts center, has two theaters available for group rental, with capacity for 450 and 982, respectively.
During meeting downtime, groups can enjoy tours of the New York State Capitol or the Albany Institute of History and Art and sample offerings on the city’s growing craft brewery trail.
For groups looking to enjoy the Hudson Valley’s natural beauty, John Boyd Thatcher State Park, just a half-hour or so from downtown Albany, offers panoramic views of the area as well as hiking trails.
Known for its breathtaking lakes and world-renowned wineries, New York’s Finger Lakes region is home to more than 30 state parks, dozens of waterfalls and myriad opportunities for boating, fishing, hiking and more.
“We’re definitely a nature-filled destination,” said Lisa Burns, executive director of the Finger Lakes Regional Tourism Council.
Easily accessible via airports in Syracuse or Rochester, and roughly four and a half hours by car from New York City, the Finger Lakes area includes 11 lakes, as well as more than 120 destinations, among them wineries, breweries, cideries and farms.
Groups can enjoy an array of meeting venues and lodging options in Syracuse and Rochester, which serve as bookends to the region. The George Eastman Museum in Rochester, on the former estate of the famous Kodak founder, offers an out-of-the-box venue option. Larger groups of up to 500 can enjoy the Dryden Theatre; smaller groups can opt to rent the museum’s Curtis Theatre or its Council Room. Groups of all sizes will enjoy the lush beauty of the museum’s Schuyler C. Townson Terrace Garden.
With 98 mountain peaks soaring over 3,000 feet high, the tree-covered skyline of Catskill Park, a region of nearly 300,000 acres of preserved forest in New York’s Ulster, Green, Delaware and Sullivan counties, offers a natural counterpart to the steel-sided skyscrapers of Manhattan.
Greene County, gateway to the Great Northern Catskills, is home to Hunter Mountain Resort, a four-seasons destination that offers winter skiing, snowtubing and snowboarding, as well as plenty to do in the warmer months, including zip lining, disc golf, fly-fishing, hiking and a scenic skyride to the top of Hunter Mountain. The Kaatskill Mountain Club, the resort’s premier on-site lodging option, offers dedicated, customizable meeting space for groups of all sizes, and its Copper Tree Restaurant can accommodate dinner for up to 275 guests or 300 for receptions.
Nearby Windham Mountain Resort offers winter skiing and other snow sports, as well as popular mountain biking trails, a pool and an 18-hole golf course in warmer months. The resort’s Seasons venue can seat up to 250 and offers panoramic views of the Catskill Mountains. The region is also home to more than a dozen all-inclusive family resorts, many of which offer dedicated meeting space as well as fun activities for kids.
In Sullivan County, the Sullivan Catskills is undergoing “a whole new resurgence,” said Roberta Byron-Lockwood, president and CEO of the Sullivan Catskills Visitors Association. The long-popular vacation destination is home to the new Resorts World Catskills hotel and casino, which opened in Monticello in 2018. Featuring 332 luxury suites, more than 100,000 square feet of gaming space and a 2,500-seat event center, the resort’s seven conference rooms and more than 48,000 square feet of meeting space can accommodate groups of up to 2,000.
Monticello is also home to the new Kartrite Resort and Indoor Waterpark, where guests can enjoy one of 324 suites plus a luxury lodge experience complete with spa, on-site dining and an expansive conference center.
Lake George and the Adirondacks
Spanning some 6 million acres and 12 distinct regional destinations, including the Lake Champlain region, the Lake George region and the Lake Placid region, the Adirondack Mountains represents one of the largest protected natural areas in the United States. With its many rivers and lakes, the region offers ample opportunities for hiking, camping, canoeing, kayaking, fishing and more.
“We are a small-market meeting destination,” said Kristen Hanifin, special event and convention sales director for the Lake George Regional Chamber of Commerce and CVB. “Smaller groups are really where our niche is.”
The historic Sagamore Resort, established in 1883 on a 70-acre island within Lake George itself, can cater to groups of up to 1,000 in its 52,000 square feet of total meeting and conference space, which includes a 10,000-square-foot ballroom. Guests can stay in one of the 137 guest rooms or 54 suites and enjoy on-site dining, a spa, golf, tennis, indoor and outdoor heated pools and waterfront activities on the lake.
The Fort William Henry Hotel and Conference Center in Lake George, which offers 193 guest rooms and 12 meeting rooms that span more than 16,500 square feet of total meeting space, can cater to groups of up to 300. The city’s new downtown Courtyard by Marriott also offers designated on-site meeting space.
In Glens Falls, roughly 20 minutes from Lake George, the 1920s-era Queensbury Hotel offers 114 rooms, 11 suites and more than 12,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, all within walking distance to area shops, museums, restaurants and pubs.