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Meetings With After-Hours Events

Oscar Wilde said “work is the curse of the drinking classes,” and Ernest Hemingway said he drank “to make other people more interesting.”

Although after-hours events don’t have to include alcohol, they should involve fun with friends. These social gatherings can help keep meeting and conference attendees happy and connected, and many destinations help set up pub crawls, casino hops and boardwalk bump-and-runs.


Virginia Beach, Virginia

In the summer, the Virginia Beach boardwalk is bouncing. But in the shoulder seasons and offseason, meeting planners can book the Beach Bounce, a trolley bump-and-run for their attendees to enjoy the boardwalk. For conferences that meet certain criteria, such as number of room nights, the Virginia Beach Convention and Visitors Bureau will arrange an after-hours trolley, SUV or minibus to run on a loop for a few hours with designated spots along the boardwalk where attendees can catch the bus.

“You have this beautiful line of products all up and down the oceanfront, which makes it easier for our conventioneers to enjoy and not worry about where to go and how to get there,” said Sally Noona, director of convention sales and marketing.

Trolleys run along the boardwalk from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but in the offseason, when the trolleys aren’t running, the CVB will work with groups to set up a custom Beach Bounce. Popular spots include Waterman’s Surfside Grille, which is famous for its signature Orange Crush cocktail, and Catch 31, a hip bar and restaurant in the Hilton Virginia Beach Oceanfront hotel.

Another popular stop for drinks and fresh seafood is Rockafeller’s Restaurant, which has a wraparound deck overlooking the inlet, or guests can kick back on swinging chairs on the deck at Rudee’s on the Inlet Restaurant and Cabana Bar.


Shreveport and Bossier City, Louisiana

The “bon temps” don’t “rouler” only in New Orleans. The sister cities of Shreveport and Bossier City know how to have a good time, too, and the Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau (CTB) helps meeting attendees do the same. Keep in mind, “after-hours” in Louisiana means something different than in other states; most downtown bars stay open until 6 a.m., and the river casinos never close.

The city works with Apex Events and other local tour companies and transportation providers to put together custom pub crawls and casino crawls for conference groups, said Melissa Small, communications coordinator for the CTB.

“After-hours events are definitely growing in popularity because everything in our downtown is within walking distance from our convention center,” she said.

Great Raft Brewing, which opened in 2013, has a large, hip tasting room and offers tours. The brewery is a good first stop because it closes earlier than other bars, Small said. Next up is Bear’s on Fairfield, which usually has live music and went smoke-free in January. Noble Savage is a locals spot that offers live music, a menu featuring wild game and a “really cool vibe,” Small said. The Stray Cat is a great last stop for late-night pizza in its New Orleans-style courtyard.

Six casinos line the Shreveport and Bossier City sides of the Red River, and many meeting groups opt for a casino crawl.

“We have great relationships with the casinos,” Small said. “They have great entertainment there, and the drinks are always flowing on the game floors.”