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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Regional Hotspots

Location, location, location — every planner knows that’s what’s important when it comes to designing a meeting or conference, especially one accommodating groups from a regional market.

After all, even the most elegant events have the potential to flop if they’re not accessible to attendees. To solve this problem, many meeting planners seek out destinations centrally located in the regions where their attendees live.

These regional meeting destinations are situated perfectly to accommodate different markets across the country. They’re also worth looking into for their excellent venues, local activities and distinct charms. 

Hamilton County, Indiana

Hamilton County, Indiana, is a northern suburb of Indianapolis, representing four cities: Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville and Westfield. Because of its central location in both Indiana and the country, it’s a great location for Midwestern markets. It attracts plenty of regional association and SMERF groups thanks to the abundance of national corporate headquarters in the area, as well as its low hotel tax and free hotel parking. 

“Because of our central location and proximity to several major metropolitan areas, we are easy to drive to and offer big city amenities at a much lower cost,” said Laura Kelner, director of sales at Visit Hamilton County Indiana.

Embassy Suites Noblesville is the area’s largest convention hotel, with over 31,000 square feet of event space in total and a conference center that can accommodate up to 1,550 attendees banquet-style. Another popular destination for smaller to midsize meetings is the Hotel Carmichael, an upscale Marriott Autograph Collection hotel in Carmel featuring a musical theme and plenty of live entertainment for attendees to enjoy. The Hotel Carmichael also has a 2,400-square-foot ballroom seating 200 and several smaller meeting rooms that provide an elegant setting for any event. 

In the winter months, Hamilton County has an ice rink and inflatable igloos for attendees to check out in their downtime. The county is also home to a thriving performing arts district and a bourgeoning restaurant and brewery scene.

Gulf Shores/Orange Beach, Alabama

Serving the market in the Southeast is Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama. In addition to its most notable feature — its 32-mile white-sand, sun-soaked Gulf Coast beach — it offers plenty of venues for regional meetings and conferences. Also known for the ecosystems of its waterways and the nation’s largest artificial reef program, it’s a beautiful slice of the Gulf Coast for attendees to enjoy.

“Gulf Shores and Orange Beach is an ideal location for meetings, conventions and board retreats, being within an eight-hour drive of many major Southeast markets,” said Michelle Russ, vice
president of sales, sports and events at Gulf Shores and Orange Beach Tourism.

The Orange Beach Event Center at the Wharf is located in the Wharf Entertainment district. It offers 18,000 square feet of meeting and exhibition space, a catering kitchen and audiovisual equipment. Gulf Shores also features several full-service hotels and resorts ideal for hosting meetings and events, such as the Perdido Beach Resort. It has 44,000 square feet of newly renovated indoor and outdoor spaces for meetings, banquets and other events, including a 7,800-square-foot beach deck with a view of the water that can accommodate 400 banquet-style. The Lodge at Gulf State Park offers 40,000 square feet of sophisticated event space, featuring the largest beach-view ballroom on the Gulf Coast, which can seat 800 banquet-style. 

In their downtime, attendees can enjoy the beach or a sunset cruise to view dolphins and other marine life.

Newport, Rhode Island

Conveniently located between Boston, and New York City, Newport, Rhode Island, is an excellent destination for East Coast groups to meet. This well-known historic sailing town hosts meetings and events within every industry, from pharmaceuticals to associations, because of its accessibility and its array of offerings for attendees. In addition to its large selection of full-service meeting hotels, there is an impressive selection of elegant off-site settings for any event.

“There’s so much to choose from in this little town for activities and for the venues,” said Tim Walsh, vice president of sales at Discover Newport. 

One of the area’s top meeting hotels is the Newport Marriott, located in historic downtown Newport. This hotel, which is within walking distance from many of Newport’s local attractions, is the town’s largest, with 16 meeting rooms and over 24,000 square feet of meeting space. The Hotel
Viking is an elegant, historic setting for meetings and events, with ballroom seating 400 banquet-style and 12 total meeting rooms. There are plenty of other historic and boutique inns and hotels for planners to choose from, such as the Chanler at Cliff Walk and Castle Hill Inn, which features panoramic ocean views. Other popular venues in Newport include its many historic Gilded Age mansions, Newport Vineyards and the International Tennis Hall of Fame. 

Attendees can spend their free time soaking up the area’s history while they enjoy the harbor breeze and fresh seafood.

Spokane, Washington

Spokane is the second largest city in Washington and a jewel in the region known as the Inland Northwest. The city’s charm is enhanced by its abundant water features, including Spokane Falls and the Spokane River, which run through downtown. The Spokane International Airport and its easy interstate access, along with local gems like its historic carrousel, make it a delightful and convenient destination for conferences and meetings. 

“We serve a pretty big regional population that is part of eastern Washington and also northern Idaho, western Montana and even parts of southern Alberta, Canada,” said Ruth Fitzgerald, vice president of sales at Visit Spokane. “We’re kind of the place where everybody comes to meet and rest and recreate.”

The Spokane Convention Center is a bright, modern facility next to a river gorge that features 300,000 square feet of flexible meeting and event space, including 41 meeting rooms and two connected hotels. The First Interstate Center for the Arts is connected to the convention center but provides a separate event venue with 2,600 seats and a lobby with a capacity of 700 reception-style. 

Another member of the Marriott Autograph Collection, the Davenport Grand is a full-service meeting and convention hotel with nearly 64,000 square feet of sophisticated meeting space. For smaller meetings, the Ruby River Hotel has 3,000 square feet of meeting space with a relaxing view of the Spokane River. Other notable off-site venues include Arbor Crest Wine Cellars, a stunning winery on a historic property, and the Pavilion at Riverfront Park, an open-air venue with a unique light display and views of Spokane’s skyline.

Fredericksburg, Texas

Centrally located within easy driving distance of all major metropolitan areas in Texas, Fredericksburg is the ideal location for regional groups in the South and Southwest. The town was founded in 1846 by German immigrants and is still home to a thriving German culture, in addition to its Texas charm. Fredericksburg is also famous for its spot in the heart of Texas wine country and features plenty of wineries with event space in addition to hotels, ranches and other traditional Texas venues.

The small town is “where Texan hospitality and German traditions thrive,” said Amanda Koone, director of communications at the Fredericksburg Convention and Visitor Bureau. 

The Hangar Hotel is an aviation-themed hotel and event space. Its Pacific Showroom can accommodate up to 250 attendees, while its conference center can hold up to 350. It also offers full-service catering. Another popular hotel for events is the Fredericksburg Inn and Suites, featuring 3,700 square feet of total function space. 

Some of the area’s most prominent wineries to host events at include Lost Draw Cellars and Signor Vineyards, both of which offer tastings and outdoor event space. Other off-site venues include the Contigo Ranch, a working ranch with 6,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space in the rolling Texas hills, and the National Museum of the Pacific War, a 55,000-square-foot museum campus that can host events for up to 200 guests.