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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

New and Now in the South

Several meeting venues have opened in the Southeast in the past year, with more scheduled to open soon. These new developments include a Romanesque amphitheater, three full-service hotels, a newly renovated convention center and a newly designed and award winning fine arts museum.

Check out these new and improved venues for hosting your next event in the region.

The Orion Amphitheater

Huntsville, Alabama

The 8,000-seat Orion Amphitheater in Huntsville, Alabama, was designed to look like an open-air Roman coliseum except with all the latest and greatest audio-visual equipment. The amphitheater, built in in the same vein as famous outdoor musical venues such as Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado or the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles, opened to the public in May 2022. Since then, it has hosted about 20 major concerts from the Dave Matthews Band to Widespread Panic and Stevie Nicks.

When the facility isn’t hosting concerts, the backstage areas, including a private dining space upstairs, are available for rent. The dining room can host groups up to 80 for meetings, luncheons or workshops. Groups also can rent out the entire amphitheater for concerts, lectures or other events.

“We are striving to do an elevated boutique hotel feeling for back of house,” said Ryan Murphy, managing director of Huntsville Venue Group-The Orion Amphitheater. “We’ve gotten tremendous response from that.” The backstage areas took inspiration from Huntsville’s Rocket City reputation and feature retro furniture from the 1960s and 1970s. There is a vast park space with a large dome that can seat up to several hundred people, and Jeff & Blues, a dive bar modeled after an old Amish barn, which can be rented out for events.

The Orion has a list of preferred caterers for events and features two full kitchens, one front of house and one back. It also provides tables, chairs, linens, audio-visual equipment and smart TVs for streaming purposes.

Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts

Little Rock, Arkansas

In Little Rock, the Arkansas Museum of Fine Arts is undergoing a $142 million revamp integrating aspects of the original 1937 building into a new more modern concept. The museum, which is known for its art collection, art school and performing arts experiences, will host its grand opening on April 22.

The 133,000-square-foot building, designed by architecture practice Studio Gang and landscape architecture firm SCAPE, has already garnered design awards. The building preserves some historic elements, such as the original entrance from 1937 combined with glass-enclosed spaces and a pleated roof that covers the entire building from north to south.

The light-filled atrium at the heart of the new museum building can host 300 people seated or 500 for a standing reception. The Cultural Living Room is a second-floor space with soaring floor-to-ceiling glass walls that overlook the courtyard entrance and Crescent Lawn. It can host 350 for a seated dinner.

The Glass Box makes for a more intimate space, while the Performing Arts Theater is perfect for presentations or performances. The facility also has some smaller meeting spaces, including a lecture hall and research center. Larger groups can rent the entire facility if it isn’t being used for fundraisers, proms or ticketed events. AMFA Catering is the exclusive full-service caterer and alcohol provider for events held there.

Savannah Convention Center

Savannah, Georgia

The 330,000-square-foot Savannah Convention Center, which overlooks the Savannah River in Savannah, Georgia, celebrates its 23rd anniversary in 2023, having served as a primary economic driver for the community by stimulating growth through new hotels, air service, restaurants and more, said Joseph Marinelli, president of Visit Savannah. The center is undergoing a major renovation and expansion, which will be completed by early 2024, doubling the size of its exhibit hall from 100,000 square feet to 200,000 square feet and adding a 45,000-square-foot ballroom and a 900-space parking garage.

The project will bring the number of breakout meeting rooms at the facility to 50, with more than 30 of them customizable for layout and size. A new 58-foot-wide hangar door will allow the center to stage vehicle and airplane exhibitions. The new entrance will feature an all-glass façade.

Beginning next year, the convention center will be able to host much larger groups and events up to 4,000 people. The expansion project is more than 50% complete and “the building has remained fully operational throughout the construction with minimal disruption to existing groups,” Marinelli said.

The convention center will go from being the 152nd largest center in the U.S. to the 74th largest once everything is completed. A new convention hotel is planned for the property.

Greenville’s New Hotels

Greenville, South Carolina

Greenville, South Carolina, recently opened two brand new full-service hotels: the Grand Bohemian Lodge and the AC Hotel by Marriott Greenville Downtown. The Grand Bohemian, which opened in September 2022, is a luxury hotel overlooking the cascading waterfalls of Falls Park on the Reedy and the famed Liberty Bridge. The hotel, which resembles a national park lodge, was built with weathered wood and natural stone as accents to help it blend seamlessly with its beautiful natural surroundings. It has 187 guest rooms, 30 of which are balcony suites, an art gallery, a 1,000-bottle wine room, a library, a spa, a restaurant and a bourbon bar.

Groups hosting events at the Grand Bohemian have their pick of both indoor and outdoor spaces. The hotel has a 1,900-square-foot ballroom, two meeting galleries and a private dining room, all of which can be reserved for meeting and events.

The AC Hotel by Marriott Greenville Downtown, which opened in February 2021, is located on the corner of Main and Broad streets in the heart of Greenville. The eight-story hotel has 196 guest rooms and suites, four food and beverage concepts and nearly 9,000 square feet of meeting and event space that can host groups up to 350 in its largest room.

The hotel also features a private collection of art, with more than 100 works by 35 local artists and on-site catering.

Kimpton The Forum Hotel

Charlottesville, Virginia

The brand-new Kimpton The Forum Hotel in Charlottesville, Virginia, is situated on the grounds of the University of Virginia Darden School of Business. Slated to open in April, the hotel has 198 guest rooms, 22,388 square feet of indoor function space and 17,969 square feet of outdoor function space. The largest indoor space can host groups of 480 at rounds and 360 in a classroom setting.

The facility’s backyard is a beautiful five-acre arboretum and botanical garden that overflows with lush greenery, walking trails, curated gardens and a tranquil pond that are perfect for hosting outdoor events. The arboretum extends to the Rivanna Trail, which connects UVA’s North Grounds and UVA School of Law to the larger Charlottesville community.

The hotel has an on-site steakhouse that offers regionally sourced cuisine for breakfast and dinner. The Taproom offers classic pub fare and a large selection of beer, spirits and wines. The lobby bar is another spot to have a drink with colleagues.

The Charlottesville area offers meeting attendees plenty of options for how to spend their free time. Three presidential homes nearby offer group tours: Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, James Monroe’s Highland and James Madison’s Montpelier. The Michie Tavern, a colonial-style tavern, serves up Southern fare daily, and the region is home to more than 40 wineries along the Monticello Wine Trail.