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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Small-Town Ohio

When planners consider convenient and scenic Ohio, it’s usually the larger cities that come to mind. While these are well equipped to accommodate conventions and meetings, smaller towns and suburbs can also offer advantages. Among them are lower costs and less congestion, outdoor activities and the opportunity to take in sights and activities in the nearby bigger cities.

Ohio stretches from the shores of Lake Erie — which offers anglers the opportunity to catch more consumable fish than the four other Great Lakes combined — to the high hills and plunging valleys of the Appalachian Plateau. Cleveland to Cincinnati, Akron to Zanesville, you’re sure to find a destination that’s perfect for your meeting’s particular needs.

Here are five great places to evaluate when you’re looking to plan an event in the beautiful Buckeye State.


Planners seeking a destination that blends history, natural beauty and unique culture will want to put Newbury, a charming northeastern locale just 40 miles from Cleveland, on their meetings map. The area’s primary meeting venue is Punderson Manor at Punderson State Park. Owned by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources and operated by Great Ohio Lodges, the manor is a gracious English Tudor-style mansion settled next to a 150-acre glacial lake. Named for Lemuel Punderson, who settled on the lake in 1808, Punderson Manor is surrounded by acres of pristine forest including a boardwalk and miles of hiking trails.

The lodge’s conference center has more than 4,000 square feet of function space and four function rooms that can accommodate up to 100 guests. For entertainment there’s a marina, disc golf and the 72-par Punderson State Park Golf Course.

Punderson Manor is located near one of Ohio’s largest Amish settlements. Watch out for traditional horse-drawn buggies while exploring antique emporiums, quilt shops, and stores offering crafts, cheese, maple syrup and delicious old-fashioned treats to please every palate.


Faith and begorrah! Located only 20 minutes from the John Glenn Columbus International Airport, Dublin is a lucky destination for meeting planners.

“Dublin is a pristine, historic and forward-thinking community, full of Irish experiences, new developments and true charm,” said Joshua Bricker, sales manager for Visit Dublin. “We cherish celebration and reuniting with familiar faces.”

Home to the largest three-day Irish festival in the world, the city celebrates the St. Patrick spirit 365 days per year. Planners will appreciate the convenience of three full-service meetings hotels and four conference and event centers, including the Exchange at Bridge Park. Accommodating up to 700 diners, the venue is adjacent to the scenic Scioto River and Dublin’s historic downtown.

Golfers may wish to converge at The Club at Tartan Fields, which boasts a stunning Arnold Palmer Signature Golf Course and spaces that can accommodate events and meetings from intimate to extravagant. The Dublin Integrated Education Center has 15,000 square feet of meeting space spread over three floors, along with a 130-seat auditorium, while the Conference Center at OCLC features a light-filled, 2,000-square-foot, two-story atrium and 20,000 square feet of flexible meeting space.

Visitors will want to wander through downtown’s cozy Irish-influenced pubs and unique boutiques. The Columbus Zoo and Aquarium shelters more than 10,000 animals, and its Zoombezi Bay water park thrills with 17 waterslides, a wave pool and lazy rivers.

Shaker Heights and Beechwood

Only eight miles from the heart of downtown Cleveland, Shaker Heights is an oasis of tree-lined streets and historic, architecturally distinctive homes, nestled in diverse, welcoming and  walkable neighborhoods — and it’s the only suburb with light rail. Next door, its sister suburb of Beechwood offers lots of lodging choices and its own attractions, including Beachwood Place, which features over 100 shops and restaurants.

Named for the Shaker utopian religious community, leafy Shaker Heights has been designated a Tree City by the National Arbor Day Foundation for the past 39 years and has also earned the foundation’s Growth Award for the past 13 years. Interesting places for meetings and events include two coworking spaces: The Dealership, which can accommodate 220 people, and Ao, which can host up to 40. Ao is located in the downtown Van Aken District, which has galleries, shops and loads of dining options in the Aken Market Hall.

Guests looking for activities after their meetings will find an engaging and modern nature center; a history museum, the Maltz Museum of Jewish Heritage and the cultural attractions of Cleveland’s University Circle. There are excellent hiking options in the Cleveland Metroparks and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, along with Preston’s H.O.P.E., a unique outdoor playground that welcomes children who use special equipment such as crutches, wheelchairs, etc. to play alongside other children — with or without disabilities. Lodging options in Beechwood include a number of properties by Hilton, Marriott and IHG.


Groups that will have families in attendance will definitely want to put Mason on their list of potential meeting destinations. Located about 20 minutes north of downtown Cincinnati, “Ohio’s Largest Playground” is home to a wide variety of kid-friendly attractions that will keep the entire group occupied and entertained.

Built in 1972, Kings Island is one of the nation’s classic amusement parks, covering 364 acres and home to The Beast, which at 7,361 feet is the longest wooden roller coaster in the world. Smaller children will love Planet Snoopy. Expanded this season with Camp Snoopy, it features a family-friendly roller coaster, shaded play areas and the park’s signature Blue Ice Cream.

“Mason in general just is a really awesome place,” said Scott Hutchinson, director of marketing and communications for Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “In additions to attractions like Kings Island, there is a ton going on in terms of the restaurant scene and community events that appeal to visitors.”

For event space and family fun in the same location, planners will want to center their meetings at Great Wolf Lodge. In addition to an enormous indoor water park featuring 15 water slides and aquatic attractions, the lodge has more than 400 suites, 20,341 square feet of meeting space, 15 breakout rooms, a games arcade and a variety of restaurants. For off-site adventures, history and aviation buffs will want to make their way to nearby Miamisburg. The well-preserved earthen structure served as a burial ground for the Adana Native American tribe and is the largest conical burial mound east of the Mississippi. The free Wright B. Flyer Museum and Hangar celebrates the legacy of the Wright brothers at America’s first airplane factory.

Sandusky and Surrounds

Want water? Then center your next meeting along the shores and on the islands of mighty Lake Erie, where Sandusky, Cedar Point, Put-In-Bay and neighboring communities are ready to welcome groups of all sizes. Kalahari Resorts and Conventions has more than 1,000 rooms and can accommodate up to 5,000 guests in 215,000 square feet of authentic African-inspired meeting spaces.

Seeking something more intimate? Say “all aboard” and hop a ferry to Kelleys Island Venture Resort, which has 31 luxury suites and a conference room, and where the preferred mode of transportation around the island is by golf cart. The Caribbean-themed Put-in-Bay Resort and Conference Center has five full-service meeting rooms accommodating groups of up to 400 and offers fun team-building activities including golf, fishing expeditions, and themed entertainment around the heated pool and swim-up bar.

Attendees can visit one of the area’s six lighthouses; explore history and heritage, including the birthplace of Thomas Edison and the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Library and Museums; head to an amusement park; or indulge in retail therapy at one of the many unique shops and boutiques.