The South has many charms, including its lush natural scenery, white sand beaches and Southern hospitality. It also has plenty of meeting space, including these full-service convention centers in the heart of some of the South’s most visited and historic cities.
Surrounded by boutique and upscale hotel offerings, these convention centers are also within walking distance of some notable attractions, including the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum; the Virginia Capitol building, which was designed by Thomas Jefferson himself; and two Smithsonian-affiliated museums.
Here are some notable facilities to consider for your next convention in the South.
Clarence Brown Conference Center
The Clarence Brown Conference Center just celebrated its 10-year anniversary. The 40,000-square-foot building offers everything a group could need on-site, including production stages, risers, state-of-the-art audiovisual equipment and dance floors. The 10,000-square-foot ballroom can host everything from proms and weddings to general sessions and trade shows. It can handle up to 800 people banquet style and up to 1,200 people theater style. There are six additional meeting spaces, including an auditorium that can seat 350 people. A Courtyard by Marriott recently opened on the conference center campus with 116 guest rooms. The space between the conference center and the hotel is rentable outdoor space.
Within two miles of the conference center, there are about 800 guest rooms. The Cartersville-Bartow County Convention and Visitors Bureau offers a shuttle bus to and from the convention center from area hotels. Known as Georgia’s Museum City, Cartersville has two Smithsonian-sanctioned museums — the Booth Western Art Museum and the Tellus Science Museum — which are huge draws to the area. Its newest museum, the Savoy Automobile Museum, is scheduled to open in the third quarter of this year.
Knoxville Convention Center
The Knoxville Convention Center opened in 2002 with 250,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. Its 27,300-square-foot ballroom has floor-to-ceiling windows on all sides and naturally illuminated concourses. Its exhibit hall, which has 119,922 square feet of space, can be split in two with room for 600 booths, 5,000 banquet attendees or 10,400 general session participants. A lecture hall, Plaza Terrace and 14 individual meeting rooms are also available for events. The convention center is separated from the World’s Fair Exhibition Center by World’s Fair Park. That facility has an additional 67,000 square feet of exhibit space.
There are 11 hotels in downtown Knoxville, all within one mile of the Convention Center. The Knoxville Marriott, slated to open in October, will have 286 guest rooms and about 16,000 square feet of meeting space. It is connected to the convention center via a covered pedestrian walkway. The Hilton Knoxville, which is connected to the convention center, has 320 guest rooms and 14,000 square feet of meeting space. Nearby attractions include the Knoxville Museum of Art, the East Tennessee History Center, numerous art galleries and two theaters.
Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center
Charleston, West Virginia
In the capital city of West Virginia, the Charleston Coliseum and Convention Center is in the heart of Charleston’s entertainment district. The campus includes the 13,500-seat Civic Center Coliseum, the newly renovated 100,000-square-foot Charleston Convention Center, a 3,483-seat Municipal Auditorium and a 738-seat theater. The 50,000-square-foot exhibit space works well for trade shows and corporate events, and the 25,000-square-foot ballroom can host galas for up to 2,400 people. The complex is large enough to host concerts, sporting events, conventions, corporate events and trade shows.
Since opening its doors in 1959, the convention center has been expanded three times. Its most recent renovation and expansion took place in 2018. There are more than 1,400 guest rooms within walking distance of the convention center and 3,500 citywide. The center sits along the riverfront and is just minutes from Charleston’s historic neighborhoods and the state capitol. Other nearby attractions include the Appalachian Power Park, home of the West Virginia Power, a minor league baseball team; the Shawnee Sports Complex; and the Mardi Gras Casino and Resort, which features 1,500 slot machines, table games and daily greyhound races.
Statehouse Convention Center
Little Rock, Arkansas
The Statehouse Convention Center sits on the Arkansas River overlooking Riverfront Park and the Vogel Schwartz Sculpture Garden with its 100 whimsical sculptures. Operated by the Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, the convention center has 80,000 square feet of exhibit space and an 18,360-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into five meeting rooms. The Little Rock Marriott is connected seamlessly to the convention center and offers 418 guest rooms and 44,747 square feet of meeting space.
The Convention and Visitors Bureau also operates the Robinson Center, a performing arts center that seats 2,222 people and has 25,000 square feet of meeting space. It is attached to the DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Little Rock, which has 288 guest rooms and 15,000 square feet of meeting space. The most visited attraction in Little Rock is about a half-mile from the convention center: the William J. Clinton Presidential Library and Museum. Anyone who loves World War II history should visit the Arkansas Inland Maritime Museum, home of the tugboat Hoga, which was at Pearl Harbor during the attack in 1941, and the submarine USS Razorback, which was in Tokyo Bay during the formal surrender of Japan.
Cajundome and Convention Center
Opened in 1995, the Cajundome Convention Center was an add-on to the Cajundome Sports Arena, which was built in 1985 by the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. The dome itself is a 70,000-square-foot arena that holds 13,500 people. It was built to house the Louisiana Ragin’ Cajuns men’s and women’s basketball programs and other university athletic events. The arena did so well that the university built a convention center.
The convention center has 60,000 square feet of space, including 37,000 square feet of exhibit space. The 9,519-square-foot Festival Ballroom breaks into five rooms and can seat 1,000 people theater style or 420 people for a banquet. The Mardi Gras Ballroom has 6,075 square feet of space and can be broken into five meeting rooms. Additional meeting rooms are scattered throughout the convention center and arena. Lafayette has about 5,600 guest rooms citywide.
The Hilton Garden Inn is across the street from the convention center and has 130 rooms. Visitors can walk from the convention center to downtown with its shops and restaurants in five minutes. The city is known for its diverse music venues and many museums. Avery Island, where Tabasco Pepper Sauce was developed, is a short drive away.
Greater Richmond Convention Center
Built in 1986 and expanded in 2003, the Greater Richmond Convention Center is the largest facility of its kind in Virginia, with 700,000 square feet of space. In the heart of Richmond’s historic downtown, the center offers 178,000 square feet of exhibit space and a 30,550-square-foot grand ballroom with 36 breakout rooms and plenty of prefunction spaces. It also has a 258-seat lecture hall.
There are nearly 3,800 guest rooms close to the convention center. The largest convention hotel, the Richmond Marriott, is connected to the center via skywalk. It is just finalizing a multimillion-dollar renovation, and it has 26,000 square feet of meeting space. The Hilton Hotel Downtown Richmond is across the street and has more than 20,000 square feet of event space.
The area surrounding the convention center is walkable and steeped in 400 years of the city’s history, including a canal designed by George Washington and the Virginia State Capitol, which was conceived by Jefferson. The Virginia Museum of Fine Arts, which features one of the largest collections of Fabergé eggs in the world, the Virginia Museum of History and Culture and the Science Museum of Virginia are all nearby.