There’s something special about getting after-hours access to public places. All the daytime visitors leave, the doors close and the venue comes back to life at night for private events.
Whether it’s playing electronic instruments, strolling through verdant rose gardens, steering a ship’s wheel or shadowboxing with Muhammad Ali, these Southern after-hours venues mix it up for meeting attendees and make it easy for planners to keep events interesting.
Grammy Museum Mississippi
The Mississippi Delta is world-renowned as the birthplace of the blues. Though Clarksdale is home to the infamous Crossroads, Cleveland is now home to the new Grammy Museum Mississippi, which opened in 2016.
The 28,000-square-foot museum is affiliated with the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles, so although it’s located in the heart of Mississippi blues country, the museum celebrates all great music: rock ’n’ roll, R&B, hip-hop, classical, country and jazz. But among the galleries and exhibits, the museum does reserve a moment for its heritage. The Mississippi Music Table is a crowd favorite and “an area that’s special to our history” where visitors can learn about Mississippi music-makers and award winners, said sales manager Carlee Calderon.
The 5,400-square-foot wraparound Paul and Lucy Janoush Front Porch offers views of the museum’s sculpture garden and plaza. Alone, it can seat about 200 for dinner, or groups can pair it with the museum’s sleek lobby for seated meals for up to 330 guests or mix-and-mingle receptions for up to about 500 people. The spaces can even be used before hours; Calderon has hosted buffet-style breakfast events in the lobby.
The lobby “flows right into the exhibits, which we always include in our rentals, so there’s a fun entertainment aspect to that event,” she said. Along with the Mississippi Music Table, visitors love the Roland Room, which has eight stations where guests can put on headphones to listen to themselves play electronic drums, guitar and keyboards, sing or mix at the DJ station.
Sanders Soundstage is a 130-seat theater that, along with a 25-person classroom and a 14-person conference room, is also available during business hours.
Clinton Presidential Center
Little Rock, Arkansas
President Bill Clinton chose to build his library and museum in an abandoned industrial warehouse district in Little Rock, Arkansas. Now, 14 years after its opening, the center is a glass jewel box perched in the middle of a 30-acre urban park on the banks of the Arkansas River that’s an extension of the city’s walkable downtown and accessible by the streetcar.
The modern glass building opened in 2004 and is available both during the day and for after-hours events. The Grand Hall and adjoining terrace is the center’s largest event space at more than 5,000 square feet and with ceilings that are more than 30 feet high and “beautiful views of downtown through the glass walls,” said catering manager Paige Thurmond. Paired with the gallery and atrium areas just outside the Great Hall, the space can handle upward of 750 people for receptions or about 400 for seated meals.
The on-site restaurant, 42 Bar and Table, reopened in November after extensive renovations that included a new private dining room for 20 people, new seating and a new bar, along with fire pits and lounge chairs on the outdoor patio. The patio and flat terrace space below it face the Arkansas River, where the Clinton Presidential Park Bridge glows with LED lights, “so there’s a light show every night,” said Ben Thielemier, communications manager with the Clinton Foundation.
Groups will often do progressive dinners or receptions at stations set up throughout the center. The museum recently changed its policies, so after-hours events aren’t allowed access to exhibit galleries; but groups can still include tours before an event.
The park offers plenty of options for company picnics and corporate barbecues, and the nearby Choctaw Station is a refurbished historic train depot where 150-person receptions can use the lobby and 40-person meetings can use the on-site classroom.