Ohio is fortunate to claim a number of distinctive attractions, from one-of-a-kind museums to sandy beaches along Lake Erie to upscale vineyards. The state’s resorts, boutique hotels and event venues welcome attendees with diversions such as Italian cooking classes, kayaking and exploring our nation’s aviation history.
Here are five places to consider for your next gathering in the Buckeye State.
A Tuscan-inspired experience awaits attendees who visit family-owned and -operated Gervasi Vineyard. Located within Canton’s city limits, the winery produces 100,000 bottles annually. The six upscale villas feature 24 suites with fireplaces. The Casa opened last year and offers an additional 24 luxurious guest suites with in-room fireplaces, heated tile floors and private verandas.
The Villa Grande Event Facility’s indoor ballroom can host 40 to 120 for dinner. The outside pavilion has waterproof sides that bolt to the floor, making it perfect for networking, multiple vendor functions and award ceremonies for up to 300 people.
“We can cater to many types of meetings, and the feedback we often get is that our surroundings help break up the day,” said Steph VanKirk, event sales manager. “At the Still House, people can grab a specialty coffee during the day or relax with a cocktail, beer or glass of wine and live music in the evening.”
Three restaurants offer private group dining. The Bistro, housed in an 1820s barn, serves an upscale, rustic menu using fresh seasonal ingredients. Next door, The Marketplace sells local art, top-of-the-line jewelry and gifts such as imported Italian pottery. Wine and culinary options include in-depth pairing tours led by a member of the winemaking team, and hands-on or demonstration cooking classes for up to 30 participants.
“Our private winery and distillery tours offer an optional breakaway for lunch or before dinner,” said VanKirk.
Hocking Hills State Park
Hidden in southeast Ohio are 10,000 acres of unbroken forest punctuated by soaring rock faces, craggy caves and rushing waterfalls within Hocking Hills State Park. Many of the more than 900 lodging operations support everything needed for a successful meeting.
“Within the region there are hiking trails, zip lines, eco and geology tours, rappelling and off-road Segway tours,” said Amy Weirick, spokesperson for Explore Hocking Hills. “There’s a wealth of after-meeting activities and team-building options for all levels of adventure.”
The log-hewn Cedar Grove Event Lodge offers full-service catering and event services for more than 275 attendees in a 5,000-square-foot space, plus outdoor event areas with spectacular views. Within walking distance, eight cabins provide accommodations for up to 85 guests. Two miles away, neighboring lodging partners can accommodate 500-plus guests. The Inn and Spa at Cedar Falls offers more than 30 units, from rooms and cabins to yurts and new geodesic domes. The inn’s meeting facility has state-of-the-art green space for up to 50, plus breakout spaces and team-building activities, a full-service restaurant, catering, a spa and a tavern. The property’s meeting planners can help arrange custom tours and meeting details.
Experiences suitable for groups include apple tastings, nighttime astronomy and daytime solar experiences at John Glenn Astronomy Park, and 18 holes at the Hocking Hills Golf Club.
Lake Erie Islands
Midwestern island getaways are possible at Ohio’s Lake Erie islands. On Put-in-Bay and Kelleys Island, activities include golf, fishing charters, jet ski and kayaking outings, biking and hiking. Put-in-Bay bustles with activity the moment attendees step off the boat. A must-see, Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie that took place in the surrounding waters.
“The memorial has an extensive welcome center, and it’s the third-largest monument in the nation, with a 352-foot-high observation deck that has panoramic views,” said Amanda Smith Rasnick, group sales manager for the Lake Erie Shores and Islands Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The 120-room Put-in-Bay Resort and Conference Center has five meeting rooms for 10 to 400 attendees, a poolside deck, and a landscaped courtyard for events. The Niagara Event Center offers 8,100 square feet of space.
On laid-back Kelleys Island, the Kelleys Island Venture Resort can host smaller meetings in this 31-room lakeside property, with 1,600 square feet of space. Nearby, the North Shore Loop Trail skirts the water, and there’s a half-moon beach plus kayak rentals. Foodies will gravitate to the brewery, the winery and the second-generation-owned Village Pump for traditional fried perch sandwiches.
“Groups heading over to either island can take a passenger or car ferry,” said Rasnick. “Most attendees come without cars. In Put-in-Bay, there’s a tour train that picks up attendees at the dock and golf cart rentals are right there, too.”
Stan Hywet Mansion
The stately Stan Hywet Mansion, surrounded by lovely gardens, was once home to F.A. Seiberling, one of the co-founders of the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company. Less than 10 minutes from downtown, it’s Akron’s first and largest National Historic Landmark and the nation’s sixth-largest historic home open to the public. Enormous effort went into building the 64,500-square-foot Manor House, which included 3,000 blueprints and architectural drawings. Filled with treasures from around the globe, the house contains 21,455 glass panes, 23 fireplaces and hand-carved paneling of oak, sandalwood and black walnut.
“The multiple gardens are original to the property, and guests also have access to the conservatory, which has a waterfall and fruit trees,” said Sara Crane, sales and catering manager.
The estate’s largest reception hall, on the lower level of the Manor House, holds up to 200 guests. Additional space in the former 10-car garage with an attached three-season tent accommodates up to 125 attendees. A small conference room in the carriage house seats 12 guests. Four preferred caterers can provide breakfast, lunch or dinner, and the property handles the bar.
“Attendees can break in the middle of the day and take a complimentary self-guided tour, and then finish their meeting,” said Crane. “About 95% of the furnishings are original to the estate, so the house looks as it did in 1915.”
National Museum of the United States Air Force
The National Museum of the United States Air Force ranks as the world’s largest and oldest military aviation museum. Hangars showcase more than 360 aerospace vehicles and missiles, many rare and one-of-a-kind, plus thousands of historical items that highlight aviation pioneers to today’s technology. Group photo ops take place in front of a green screen with a choice of aviation backgrounds. The museum store stocks books to toys to apparel.
“We can personalize a visit with a guided tour or several types of scavenger hunts that can be used for teambuilding,” said Kat King, event manager for the Air Force Museum Foundation. “We have daily movies and screenings, but we can also schedule special showings for evening events.”
Meeting planners will find 10 event spaces in four hangars, with self-guided museum tours available in the adjacent galleries. Small classrooms and large auditoriums can seat from 10 to 490 attendees. Open spaces within the hangars can support up to 1,200 for an evening reception, concert, team outing or dinner served by an approved caterer.
“Some groups simply want exclusive access to the hangar and aircraft,” said King. “We have several spaces used for touring receptions, with high-top tables set up near the World War I exhibit or Memphis Bell. Volunteers are available to answer questions and are happy to share their personal ties to the aircraft.”