Less than three hours from Washington, 90 minutes from New York and an hour from Philadelphia, the Lehigh Valley is a convenient destination for groups from the Eastern Seaboard looking to take their meeting somewhere with a slower pace but with the amenities they’re used to in major cities.
“If you’re looking for a different kind of meeting venue so your attendees have a different experience, Lehigh Valley is the perfect place,” said Suzanne Stianche, national sales manager for Discover Lehigh Valley. “We have many options for out-of-the-box venues.”
In Allentown, which has undergone a total transformation of its downtown in recent years thanks to additions like the PPL Center, groups’ evening entertainment can range from a Cirque du Soleil show to a Lehigh Valley IronPigs minor league baseball game. The Renaissance Allentown hotel, which opened in 2015, offers nearly 18,000 square feet of meeting space across from the PPL Center, which is also available for rentals. Also downtown, Fegley’s Allentown Brew Works offers more than 8,000 square feet of meeting and event space, and the entire 45,000-square-foot America on Wheels Museum can be rented out in the evening for dinners and receptions and can accommodate day meetings in its upstairs rooms.
For mixing meetings with team building, Stianche recommends Lehigh Valley Grand Prix, which, in addition to its conference center, includes a quarter-mile go-kart course, as well as two mini bowling lanes for those that aren’t up to the drive.
With two airports in Butler County and highways connecting it to half the United States within 500 or fewer miles, the area has become home to a plethora of international companies, allowing meeting planners to have access to the state-of-the-art venues that have sprung up to cater to locally based businesses. “We’re one of the fastest-growing areas in Pennsylvania,” said Amy Pack, director of tourism development for the Butler County Tourism and Convention Bureau.
As Butler County has modernized, historic farms continue to exert a major role in the local economy — but as event spaces rather than centers of food production. “We have a lot of barn venues for corporate retreats and meetings, and we do get a lot of awards for our barn venues and unique spaces,” said Pack. “Some are very rustic, and some are very modernized.”
On the rustic end, Armstrong Farm in Saxonburg, has three barns dating back to 1816 available for group rentals, though larger groups can take over the whole campus to use all three barns for breakout areas. Betsy’s Barn, another popular rustic offering on a family-owned and -operated working farm in Portersville, has become a go-to venue for oil and gas industry meetings, according to Pack. In Prospect, the White Barn has its own airstrip, in addition to a modernized meeting space that can handle 250.
For more of a retreat setting, Pack recommends the Atrium.
“It’s more removed from the business community, but a lot of corporate meetings and events go there as well,” she said. “It’s a good mix of both formal and rustic.”
Originally started as Eisler Nurseries in the 1920s, the greenhouse and horticultural center was restored as a modern event space by a third-generation Eisler in 2002.
Fall, when Butler County benefits from abundant foliage, has the highest demand for meeting venues, but Pack said summer weekends also fill up with weddings.