Some cities are magnets for military events, both veterans’ reunions and military meetings. These cities have strong ties to the military, either because they’re near active military bases or simply because the community honors those who serve. Either way, groups flock to these cities to visit historic sites and active installations.
Annapolis is home to the U.S. Naval Academy, and planners often organize reunions and meetings to coincide with other academy events, such as football games and commissioning week, said Susan Steckman, vice president of communications for Annapolis and Anne Arundel County Conference and Visitors Bureau.
“There are a lot of people who are staying in touch with Annapolis because they are alumni,” she said.
The academy’s 1903 Dahlgren Hall houses Drydock Restaurant, which can seat 150 in the dining room, and the adjacent Assembly Room with soaring arched ceilings can host meals, formal events and reunions for up to 400 people.
The academy’s most famous venue is the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, which has nearly 20,000 square feet of function space. The 8,000-square-foot N* Room can seat 500 people for dinner or be divided into three smaller sections. The stadium also has the 3,000-square-foot Navy Lacrosse Hall of Fame Room, the 1,500-square-foot Flag Bridge and 18 sideline suites. Groups can also arrange for their members to kick a football down on the field or take in the view of the city skyline from the top of the stadium.
Other options are the William Paca House and Garden, the historic home of one of Maryland’s four signers of the Declaration of Independence, and the 100-acre Hidden View Farm, which opened in July 2014.
San Diego is home to so many military installations that it can be difficult to keep track. Naval Base San Diego is homeport for the Navy’s Pacific fleet, Naval Base Coronado on Coronado Island is home to the Navy Seals, and Naval Base Point Loma is home to the Submarine Base. Marine Corps Air Station (MCAS) Miramar is where the 1986 smash hit “Top Gun” was filmed, and Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton is about 40 miles north of the city.
Each base has meeting facilities and event space, and the San Diego Tourism Authority can help book events and arrange tours for most veteran or active military groups, said national sales director Gillian Ware.
“No matter what branch of the military you’re in, we’re a draw for everyone,” she said.
Although on-base function space is available to military groups, the MCAS Miramar is one of the few that is also open to civilian events. The station rents out hangars as well as the Officers’ Club, which has the 3,600-square-foot Main Ballroom and the 3,000 square-foot Officers’ Ballroom. Revenue from facility rentals benefits a fund for soldiers, and the program also requires every event to showcase the Marines. That could mean including a color guard or having an airplane on display, but “you have to agree to have them involved in your event, which is a great way to educate the public,” Ware said.
The USS Midway, an aircraft-carrier-turnedmuseum anchored in San Diego Bay, is another option for events or tours. With two hangar bays, each with more than 17,000 square feet, and a 50,000-square-foot flight deck, the Midway can accommodate 3,500 people for events.