At almost any conference venue, planners can count on Wi-Fi and air walls and audiovisual components. But they and their attendees can’t always tour two private floors of a historic mansion, stand next to a mining truck’s 14-foot-tall tires, learn how to make stained glass or take a cruise down the Mississippi River.
These one-of-a-kind Illinois venues provide all the amenities meetings need and deliver plenty of surprising delights.
Caterpillar Visitor Center and Museum
At the Caterpillar Visitor Center and Museum in Peoria, Illinois, guests watch a short film in the 797 Theater — located in the bed of a Cat 797F Mining Truck — where the seats rumble with the action on the screen. When the movie is over, visitors go downstairs and “stand in front of the mining truck and see how big it is — it’s two and a half stories tall,” said Susan Morton, Caterpillar guest relations manager.
The visitor center opened in October 2012 on the banks of the Illinois River and houses a museum as well as function space. In addition to the 62-seat theater, groups of up to 104 can use the dining room and connected balconies for meals or seated events. The adjacent classroom accommodates 50 people, and a 16-person conference room is ideal for board meetings. An outdoor plaza with a lawn and an amphitheater could host “really cool events,” Morton said.
Up to 200 people can roam among Caterpillar equipment on the museum’s show floor during a reception. The center changes out the equipment every June and, for the first time, in June 2017, it will put all of its historic Caterpillar equipment on display.
Attendees can tour the museum at their leisure, or the center can arrange team-building scavenger hunts. It will also set up competitions at five simulator stations to see who can best operate an excavator or crawler (track-type) tractor — and who drives the bulldozer off the road.