Some of Tennessee’s most attractive destinations are just beyond the boundaries of its big cities.
Tennessee’s metropolitan areas have several suburbs that offer meeting planners a perfect mix of attractions, hotels and meeting venues. These five suburbs are close enough to the big cities to take in their top tourist sites but are far enough away to enjoy the state’s natural beauty.
Twenty miles from Knoxville and a 20-minute drive to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Maryville and Blount County are perfect for meeting groups that want to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city and get out into nature. Meeting attendees can easily get away from their events for a trip to the national park and Cades Cove, a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains that is one of the most popular destinations in the Smokies. The 11-mile one-way road loops through the cove, giving visitors a chance to slow down and enjoy the scenery and abundant wildlife. Historic buildings from the early 1800s, including three churches, a working gristmill, barns and log houses, are preserved in the valley.
The 241-room Hilton Knoxville Airport, adjacent to the McGee Tyson Airport, is the area’s largest meeting facility with 20,873 square feet of event space. Its Grand Ballroom can host 520 for a banquet or 1,000 for a reception, and there are 15 meeting rooms. Blount County also has several smaller venues. The Showroom at Five Points is a Maryville event venue that can handle more than 350 guests. Its 5,000 square feet of space can be divided into multiple rooms and features exposed brick walls and a patio. Dancing Bear Lodge can host groups of up to 125, and the RT Lodge on the Maryville College campus offers space for 35 to 100 guests.
Meeting planners will love Brentwood for its full-service amenities and proximity to both Nashville and Franklin. Brentwood is the first city south of downtown Nashville, about a 15-minute drive away from the Music City Center. It has plenty of shopping and restaurants to choose from, but the area is very residential. A top attraction is Owl’s Hill Nature Sanctuary, a 300-acre nature preserve that offers guided private tours where guests can learn about its history, meet its resident owls and take guided nature hikes. Private tours can include a meet-and-greet with a reptile or owl.
Brentwood has 15 hotels with 1,750 guest rooms. Two are full-service. Hilton Brentwood Suites has 203 guest rooms and 2,884 square feet of meeting space. Its large ballroom can hold 100 guests, and it has seven smaller meeting rooms. The AC Brentwood, which opened in late 2021, has 148 guest rooms and six event spaces that can accommodate groups up to 70 people.
Offsite venues include Mere Bulles Restaurant, for dinners or receptions of up to 150, and Ravenswood Mansion, a historic venue about 20 minutes from Nashville, perfect for weddings, holiday parties and corporate events. Its indoor spaces are limited, but there are plenty of outdoor spaces for groups of any size.
Surrounded by state parks with hiking trails and beautiful waterfalls and about 30 minutes from the Jack Daniels and Uncle Nearest distilleries, Manchester is a popular destination for many who want to explore the area.
The area’s largest meeting venue is the Manchester-Coffee County Conference Center, with 13,000 square feet of meeting space that can be divided into as many as seven smaller breakout rooms. The Center can host groups of 500 theater-style or 375 for a banquet. The facility is centrally located between Huntsville, Alabama; Nashville and Chattanooga and has hosted conferences, trade shows, political events and educational seminars. Services include in-house lighting, décor and food and beverage.
Manchester has 1,200 hotel rooms, and another hotel, a La Quinta, will open soon. A nice greenway system runs through the city and there are a number of hometown restaurants to choose from. The Common John Brewing Co. offers live music on Friday and Saturday nights with a food truck outside.
The Church @117 is a former church turned events venue for banquets of 120. The Atlantic in Tullahoma can host groups up to 288 for corporate retreats, meetings or conferences. The venue dates to the late 1800s, when the town of Tullahoma sprang up around the railroad. In 2021, it underwent major renovations that brought polished concrete floors, exposed brick walls and skylights. The Caverns in Pelham is a live music destination with natural settings above and below ground. Groups can tour the underground cave system, which is three football fields long.
Located in southeast Tennessee, Cleveland is a 15-minute drive from the Cherokee National Forest and 30 minutes from Chattanooga and its urban amenities and nightlife. The city’s charming and walkable downtown has unique shops and dining experiences. Whitewater rafting is a big draw. Groups can take a guided trip down the Ocoee River or learn how to paddle on the calmer Hiwassee River. Visitors to Red Clay State Historic Park and the Hiwassee River Heritage Center in Charleston can learn more about the Trail of Tears and the forced removal of the Cherokee from their ancestral lands.
In town, the Museum Center at 5ive Points tells the story of the Ocoee Region with temporary and permanent exhibits. The facility can host up to 400 people theater-style and 260 for a banquet. The Cleveland Country Club does banquets for up to 200 people. Conclave at PIE, a 14,000-square-foot assembly space, can host larger meetings and events.
Unique venues include the Johnston Woods Retreat Center, with overnight accommodations for up to 82 people and meeting spaces for groups up to 225, and the Old Woolen Mill, for groups of 100. The area has several familiar chain hotels with meeting spaces for smaller groups of about 50 people, including the Hampton Inn Cleveland, Fairfield Inn and Suites and La Quinta Inn and Suites. The area has 1,700 hotel rooms in total.
An easy 30-minute drive from Memphis, Germantown is known for its many parks and green spaces. Hikers and bikers will love traveling along the Germantown Greenway, a 13-mile-long paved path that follows the Wolf River. When it is completed, the greenway will extend 22 miles, encircling the city. Visitors should take a day to wander the flower gardens at Oaklawn Garden, Germantown’s botanical garden, park and museum, or take in the beauty of the Memphis Botanic Gardens, seven miles from Germantown.
Meeting planners who want to get away from the bustle of Memphis can host events at Great Hall and Conference Center, which offers 8,600 square feet of event space for parties, receptions and banquets. The high-tech Conference Center Theatre is perfect for meetings, presentations, training sessions, conferences and trade shows. The Pickering Center is a smaller event venue for meetings, receptions and reunions of up to 200 guests. Its large banquet hall has a kitchen and allows planners to bring in their own food.
Bobby Lanier Farm Park is a 10-acre education and demonstration center focused on sustainable living through agriculture and stewardship. The new Harvest Moon Pavilion at the park is suitable for meetings, retreats, banquets or parties. The multi-purpose facility has a reclaimed wood interior, full catering kitchen and sliding carriage doors that open to farm views. Events can spill out on adjoining lawns. The Hilton Garden Inn Memphis East Germantown, with 6,704 square feet of meeting space and 129 guest rooms, is only two miles from Oaklawn Garden and the Germantown Performing Arts Center.