In a state the size of Texas, even smaller cities offer big opportunities for meeting groups. These Lone Star destinations make great meeting locations because they’re rich in history and agricultural traditions and have burgeoning music, shopping and culinary scenes.
Lubbock is in the heart of west Texas. The city is known for its live music venues and festivals. It also is steeped in agricultural history and has transformed into the hub of the Texas wine industry, growing 90% of the state’s wine grapes.
Groups that want to host a conference or event in the city have many options to choose from, including the Lubbock Memorial Civic Center downtown, with 100,000 square feet of usable space that can host groups of up to 2,500 people. The largest room offers 40,000 square feet of column-free space. The MCM Elegante Hotel and Suites across the street has 293 rooms and 15,000 square feet of meeting space. In January, a DoubleTree by Hilton opened across the street from the Civic Center with 140 rooms and 3,800 square feet of space. The largest meeting hotel in Lubbock is the Overton Hotel and Conference Center, with 303 rooms and 20,000 square feet of space.
Meeting space is also available on the campus of Texas Tech University.
Lubbock is home to some world-class attractions that also have event spaces, including the National Ranching Heritage Center, which has preserved 70 historic structures from around the state that show how farmers and ranchers lived during different periods in our history, and the American Windmill Museum, which hosts the largest collection of windmills in the world. Groups also can host off-site events overlooking the football field at Texas Tech’s Jones AT&T Stadium or schedule a west Texas wine tour.
Located along the Mother Road, Route 66, Amarillo is part of the Texas Panhandle. The area is steeped in Western heritage but has a modern and vibrant downtown with 6,500 hotel rooms and a huge convention center.
The Amarillo Civic Center Complex is the largest event space downtown with 410,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. It also is close to more than 2,000 hotel rooms. The center is excellent for corporate meetings and conventions, trade shows, sporting events and concerts, and it is only minutes away from the Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport.
The largest convention hotel in town is the Embassy Suites by Hilton Amarillo Downtown, an all-suite hotel next door to the Globe-News Center for the Performing Arts. It has 17,877 square feet of event space, including a 10,143-square-foot ballroom. The property is close to the American Quarter Horse Museum, Amarillo Botanical Gardens, Wonderland Amusement Park, the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Palo Duro Canyon and Cadillac Ranch, which are all major attractions in the area.
For a more intimate event, The Barfield is a boutique hotel that transformed a historic building downtown into luxury lodging, with 112 guest rooms and nearly 2,500 square feet of meeting space.
Groups that want to get off-site can plan events at Hodgetown Stadium, a ballpark that is home to the Sod Poodles baseball team; the Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, which is the largest history museum in Texas; or the Mack Dick Pavilion in the heart of Palo Duro Canyon State Park.
McKinney prides itself on having one of the most authentic and vibrant historic downtowns in the state. The buildings date back to the mid-1800s, and most look as they did back then. Downtown is full of locally owned restaurants, two wineries and live music on weekends. The city can host groups of as many as 800 people at the Sheraton McKinney Hotel and Conference Center, which has 187 guest rooms and 23,761 square feet of conference space.
Other convention hotels include the Holiday Inn and Suites McKinney-Fairview, with 99 rooms and 2,614 square feet of meeting space, and the Grand Hotel and Ballroom, which once housed the Old Heard Opera House, where John Philip Sousa’s band played. It has 44 guest rooms, a 2,500-square-foot ballroom and three smaller meeting spaces.
Chestnut Square Heritage Village makes a nice off-site venue. The village is home to historic homes and businesses from the late 1800s and early 1900s. The property has indoor and outdoor meeting spaces. Adriatica Village is a Croatian-style village with three meeting venues, shopping and dining options. For fun, smaller groups can take the Bad Boys and Desperados of Old McKinney trolley tour, a one-hour tour of famous outlaw sites and hangouts around old McKinney.
About 30 minutes north of Dallas, Plano is known for its thriving nightlife and dining scene. The city has four walkable districts full of boutique shops, restaurants and entertainment, three of which are anchored by meeting hotels.
The Plano Event Center is the largest convention space in the city with 86,400 square feet that can accommodate up to 5,000 guests. The largest space is a 21,600-square-foot carpeted, column-free exhibit hall. The Shops at Legacy has upscale shops and restaurants and is anchored by the Dallas Plano Marriott at Legacy Town Center, which has 35,000 square feet of meeting space and 417 guest rooms. Legacy West is a luxury shopping destination anchored by the Renaissance Dallas Plano Legacy West, with 34,869 square feet of meeting space and 304 guest rooms. Legacy Hall is the area’s high-end dining hall; it features a box garden with live music and an on-site brewery. The box garden can be rented out for events.
The Boardwalk opened in 2018 and is anchored by the Hilton Granite Park, with 299 guest rooms and 30,000 square feet of conference space. The Boardwalk features seven waterfront restaurants in Granite Park with outdoor patios and fire pits. The Downtown Plano Arts District has several hotels, a railroad museum, murals, performing arts venues, art galleries and unique dining. Groups that want to add teambuilding to their itinerary should visit Go Ape in the Oak Point Park Nature Preserve. It features a treetop adventure course, zip lines and Tarzan swings.
New Braunfels, in the beautiful Texas Hill Country, is rich in German history, which it celebrates with summer beer gardens and an annual Wurstfest. The city’s tree-lined streets are full of bars and cafes, and because of its proximity to the Guadalupe and Comal rivers, the area is also a fantastic place to produce wine.
The New Braunfels Civic/Convention Center has more than 50,000 square feet of meeting space that includes an 11,780-square-foot column-free exhibit hall and a 9,288-square-foot ballroom. The Courtyard by Marriott New Braunfels River Village is the city’s main meeting hotel, with 125 rooms and 6,676 square feet of event space. It can host groups of up to 250 people.
The Historic District of Gruene has two great off-site meeting locations: the ruins of an 1878 cotton gin that was turned into a restaurant and bar and Gruene Hall, Texas’ oldest continually operating dance hall, which has 6,000 square feet of space.
Groups that want to tap into New Braunfels’ German heritage should plan an event at Krauses Café and Biergarten, which offers Old World charm, good beer and German cuisine. The Chandelier of Gruene has a 12,000-square-foot indoor event venue with a striking chandelier in the entranceway, exposed wood beams, hand-troweled walls and Chicago brick. It also has 3,200 square feet of covered outdoor patios. In their downtime, groups can visit the Schlitterbahn Waterpark, drive through the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch or tube down the Comal River.