Holding your meeting in a big city can be a big attendance draw, but you can often get the same uptick in sign-ups at a substantially lower price point by taking your group just outside a major city.
In addition to having lower rack rates, suburban meeting destinations allow attendees to drive in easily and park for free, often saving nearly $100 per person for multiday events, and then easily access the city for individual or group activities.
Here are five suburbs that make excellent hosts for small or midsize events.
Right on I-95, historic Fredericksburg is a major meeting destination for state associations and groups that pull from the Mid-Atlantic and central East Coast.
“One of our big draws is our location,” said Victoria Matthews, conference sales and services coordinator for the City of Fredericksburg Department of Economic Development and Tourism. “Quite a few choose Fredericksburg so they don’t have to go to northern Virginia. They can pull attendees from northern Virginia, which you can’t in the southwest.”
Larger groups gravitate toward the 110,000-square-foot Fredericksburg Expo and Conference Center, which is convenient to three hotels: the 121-room Hampton Inn and Suites Fredericksburg South, the 148-room Hilton Garden Inn Fredericksburg and the 124-room Homewood Suites by Hilton, and the Fredericksburg Hospitality House Hotel and Conference Center, which has 18,000 square feet of event space and 196 guest rooms.
But for smaller groups or groups looking for an inspiring space with its own personality, Fredericksburg also delivers. The Fredericksburg Square, a manor house built in 1854, has a garden with space for up to 200 and a ballroom for up to 450, and the 27-room Inn at the Olde Silk Mill, dating back to 1930, has meeting space for up to 50.
Just outside the city, Gari Melchers Home and Studio at Belmont, a historic home and 19th-century impressionist artists gallery with 27 acres of gardens and trails, hosts meetings for up to 150 in its studio pavilion in the woods. At Stevenson Ridge, an 87-acre property filled with restored period buildings, including a post office and a tobacco barn, the event lodge can hold up to 200 people.
Overland Park, Kansas
Within a day’s drive of more than 60 million people and two and a half hours by plane from either coast, Overland Park, home to the Culinary Center of Kansas City and a 237,000-square-foot convention center, is a destination of its own, a good choice for groups keen to take advantage of Kansas City style without the big city crowds.
Overland Park’s main meeting venue, the Overland Park Convention Center, underwent a soft-goods renovation in 2014 throughout its 237,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 60,000-square-foot exhibition hall. But many groups opt for the city’s more interactive event spaces. The culinary center can host up to 200 for team building, dinners and hands-on events such as barbecue classes at the center’s Midwest BBQ Institute.
A new facility, the Museum at Prairiefire, opened in 2014, adding five new meeting rooms, among them a great hall that seats up to 300.
Because much of the meeting business in Overland Park derives from local corporate groups, the pattern swings heavily toward Monday-through-Wednesday events and outside groups can find space and better rates on weekends.