Ohio is full of world-class universities, and the towns that host them have everything a meeting planner could want, from full-service hotels and unique meeting venues to historic and walkable downtowns, beautiful natural surroundings and interesting attractions. Here are five Ohio college towns that feature sports, meeting venues with university spirit or campus tours to spice things up for meeting groups.
Oxford is in the southwest corner of Ohio, about a 40-minute drive to Cincinnati and is the epitome of a college town. Founded in 1809, Miami University is a central focal point of the community, adding some historic flair. Meeting planners will love the town’s friendly and relaxed atmosphere, away from the bustle of the larger cities nearby but with the amenities a college town can bring out for its guests.
Oxford is an outdoorsy town with walking, hiking and biking trails. Its main shopping district, Uptown, has several boutique shops, restaurants, bars and entertainment options. A pavilion in the city’s main park offers a summer concert series, and the town has a designated outdoor refreshment area, allowing adults to walk around with alcoholic beverages.
The Oxford Community Arts Center is a unique venue in town. Built in 1849 as Oxford Female Institute, the first of three women’s colleges in Oxford, it now serves as a unique space for receptions, smaller meetings and performances. It has a theater, ballroom, gathering parlors and a catering kitchen. It also has beautiful gardens outside.
For larger events, Oxford and Miami can collaborate. The university can host groups of 500 to 2,000, using the majority of university spaces, including the Armstrong Student Center, with 203,000 square feet of space; the Philip R. Shriver Center; and the Marcum Hotel and Conference Center, with 55 guest rooms and meeting space for groups up to 160. The historic Slant Walk connects the university with the heart of Oxford, and there are 360 hotel rooms in Oxford from local hotels to popular chains.
Akron boasts metropolitan amenities alongside gorgeous outdoor vistas. It is a short drive to Cuyahoga Valley National Park, which was the seventh most visited national park in the U.S. in 2020, with 33,000 acres to explore. Brandywine Falls is a top stop for visitors in the park. Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad makes for a great group activity, taking guests on scenic excursions through the park.
The Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau works closely with the University of Akron to host sporting events, meetings and special events. Many groups use InfoCision Stadium for more traditional meeting functions with a birds-eye view of the 29,000-seat stadium in the heart of campus. The university has also repurposed several iconic buildings in downtown Akron that allow the campus to spread right down onto Main Street.
The largest meeting venue in the city is John S. Knight Center. The Goodyear ballrooms have 11,678 square feet of space and can host 630 for a banquet. The center also has 28,640 square feet of exhibit space that can seat 1,440 for a banquet and 2,800 theater-style. There are several breakout rooms, a patio, and the Maindenburg Concourse can seat 200 people for a banquet.
There are several full-service hotels in the area, including Sheraton Suites Akron/Cuyahoga Falls, which has 15 event rooms and 16,347 square feet of space that can accommodate up to 500. Other full-service properties include Marriott, Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Holiday Inn and Radisson.
In their free time, attendees can visit the Akron Zoo, Hale Farm and Village or Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens.
Bowling Green is a small town off Interstate 75 in northwest Ohio. It is best known as the home of Bowling Green State University. The town and university have a symbiotic relationship, with meeting groups tapping into the school’s meeting venues and fun campus activities as part of their events.
Bowling Green has several fun attractions that also make great meeting venues, including Snook’s Dream Cars automobile museum, which features vintage cars from the 1930s to the 1960s. The Wood County Museum is located within the historic Wood County Infirmary building and features rotating exhibits. It also has event space.
BGSU Bowen-Thompson Student Union can host groups of 600 for a banquet or 1,000 people theater-style. To get a taste of BGSU school spirit, smaller groups can rent out the university’s Ice Arena Lounge, which overlooks the ice and can accommodate 100 people for a banquet. The Stroh Center on campus has several meeting venues, including the Hall of Fame Lounge, Main Court, Practice Court and Upper Concourse.
There are five full-service hotels in the city, and all but one of them are within walking distance of the university. In total, Bowling Green has 425 lodge rooms.
The Clazel Theater, a beautiful 1920s-era theater, has been transformed into an event space. It still has the old marquis and glassed-in ticket booth outside, but the theater seats were removed. Groups of up to 300 people can host events on the main floor or in the balconies. For fun, groups can learn to curl at the Black Swamp Curling Center, grab a coffee or a bite to eat, or browse the shops downtown.
Kent State University seamlessly integrates with the town of Kent through fun events that bring the community together, like Oktoberfest, Wizardly World of Kent or three popular music festivals, to the eclectic restaurants, unique shops, galleries and breweries.
Visitors to Kent and Portage County have easy access to two of the area’s three state parks, Wingfoot Lake State Park and Wet Branch State Park, for hiking and outdoor recreation, or they can kayak the Cuyahoga River. To add some team spirit into a meeting or event, meeting planners can book tickets to a college game or take attendees on tours of the university.
Akron German Family Society offers a spacious banquet hall with a large dance floor and stage near downtown Kent that is a perfect banquet spot for up to 320 people. Groups can order traditional or European cuisine, such as schnitzel and German potato salad at their events. The New Event Center at Northeast Ohio Medical University in nearby Rootstown offers 177,000 square feet of space for corporate events, community activities and weddings, and The Event on Sunny Brook, at Sunny Hill Golf Course and Recreation Inc., can host events up to 315 guests, with additional guest seating on the patio.
The Kent State University Hotel and Conference Center is a short walk from campus and has 94 guest rooms, four meeting rooms and 5,000 square feet of event space. The nearby Hampton Inn has 75 rooms, and Holiday Inn Kent/Brimfield has 76 rooms.
Lima is the consummate college town, with Ohio State University-Lima (OSU Lima) campus, University of Northwest Ohio (UNOH) and Rhodes State College. Tours are available for groups wanting to incorporate the different campuses into their meetings or events. UNOH has a 25,000-square-foot all-purpose events center that is divided into four spaces and has full-service catering available. The Fairfield Inn and Suites Lima is located next to the events center. OSU Lima has many meeting venues, including Farmer Family Gallery and Martha W. Farmer Theatre.
Lima is well placed in the northwestern part of the state, right off Interstate 75 and U.S. Highway 30. Outdoor lovers will enjoy the Rotary River Walk, which winds along the Ottawa River from one end of Lima to the other, or visit Lauer Historical Farm, which is a working historical farm that dates back to the 1930s and 1940s. Groups can host retreats and events on the property if they want to get out of the city. Ottawa Metro Park Amphitheater hosts free family entertainment every Saturday night during the summer months.
The Veterans Memorial Civic and Convention Center is the largest meeting venue in downtown Lima, with a 13,950-square-foot exhibit hall, 10 meeting rooms, a 1,774-seat performing arts center and a banquet facility. It also has an outdoor reception patio and the third-floor City Club for smaller events. The convention center is connected to the 100-room Wingate by Wyndham Downtown Lima, which has smaller meeting spaces for up to 40 people.