The Show-Me State has lots to show off to visitors from around the country. From the natural beauty of the Ozark Mountains to the urban delights near Kansas City to the rolling wine country in the central region, Missouri offers a little bit of everything to meeting and convention attendees.
Branson, a town of just over 6,000, is nestled in the Ozarks in southern Missouri, just north of the Arkansas state line. Visitors used to fly into Springfield, but the opening of the Branson Airport a year ago changed that. New attractions, new developments and a state-of-the-art convention center have pushed Branson into the major leagues when it comes to attracting meetings.
Independence is about a 20-minute drive from Kansas City and offers 16 heritage attractions, including the Truman Presidential Library and Home, Victorian mansions, the National Frontier Trails Museum and world-famous religious sites. There are specialty shops and festivals, a water park and walking trails, and more than 200 restaurants to enjoy.
For history buffs, it’s hard to beat St. Charles, which was the capital when Missouri was a territory. This restored historic city on the Missouri River about 25 miles northwest of St. Louis was an important trading center for countless pioneers. It is also where Lewis and Clark began their quest to find a route to the Pacific Ocean. Historic Main Street has nine continuous brick-lined blocks with shops, private homes, museums and restaurants.
Historic charm meets urban amenities in St. Charles, a 10-minute drive from Lambert Field, the airport that serves St. Louis. Groups of 20 to 3,000 will be able to find a venue there, and they will also have plenty to do after the meeting.
“People are always surprised at how quaint and beautiful it is here,” said Carol Felzien, public relations and communications manager for the city. “They are also surprised at the number of free things we have here: free parking, free iPod walking tours of the city, free historical sites like the Lewis and Clark Boathouse and Nature Center. There’s a lot to do here that doesn’t cost a thing.”
The St. Charles Convention Center, a three-minute drive from the river, has 154,000 square feet of meeting space, which includes a grand ballroom, an exhibit hall and breakout rooms. Connected to the center is the Embassy Suites Hotel and Spa, which has 296 suites.
The AmeriStar Casino-Resort-Spa, about a five-minute drive south of the convention center and on the riverfront, has 20,000 square feet of modern meeting and banquet space, which includes 14 meeting rooms. There are 400 all-suite hotel rooms with more than 600 parking spaces. And yes, the parking is free.
A free trolley connects the Embassy Suites, Ameristar and the convention center to the historic district.
“If you have a smaller group, there’s a new bed-and-breakfast that opened last year called Boone’s Colonial Inn and Market on Main Street,” said Felzein. “It was originally built in 1820, and it’s been rehabbed beautifully.”
The four suites at Boone’s are usually used by executives who decide to stay overnight in St. Charles. The proprietors get into the historical spirit by sometimes dressing in period costume and putting hot rocks in the beds to warm them up, and they also have period nightshirts available on request. Business breakfasts and dinners are held for up to 40 people. A favorite dish is the french toast stuffed with fresh fruit.
Up to 720 can be accommodated at the banquet facilities in the Columns, which is off Interstate 70 at Fifth Street downtown. Its 9,200 square feet of meeting space can be converted to three breakout rooms; the facility has 300 free parking spaces.
“I’ve been in one of the breakout rooms with 65 people, and there was a buffet, podium and DJ set up, and it was not crowded,” said Felzein.
The Foundry Art Center is a renovated factory built in the 1940s that was refurbished in 2004 as an art institute. There is 5,000 square feet of exhibition space on the first floor and 20 artists’ studios on the second floor. The Grand Hall on the first floor seats 400 but can accommodate up to 1,000 for a reception.
“The artists are actually working there, and you can stop in and talk to them,” said Felzein. “There are painters, potters, jewelrymakers, sculptors. It’s fun to ask them where their passion comes from, why they do what they do.”
There are also free tours of the original Missouri capital, many shops and restaurants, and a winery on Main Street. For the adventurous, Missouri Historic Wine Country is a 20-minute drive southwest of St. Charles.
For more Missouri Meetings:
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Meet (in) the new Branson
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