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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Southern Suburbs are Perfect for Meetings

Chapel Hill, North Carolina

The cities of Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill form North Carolina’s Research Triangle, but “we are our own town,” said Marlene Barbera, director of sales for the Chapel Hill/Orange County Visitors Bureau.

“It’s a quintessential college town,” she said. “We have a vibrant downtown; it’s walkable and superfriendly. We have everything you could want but in a small town.”

Chapel Hill is home to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which is the nation’s first and, therefore, oldest public university. The university offers plenty of meeting venues, including the William and Ida Friday Center where planners will find 25 meeting rooms surrounding a central, sunlight-flooded atrium. There, Grumman Auditorium can seat 400, and the Trillium Room can accommodate up to 450 people for seated meals.

Adjacent to campus, the historic Carolina Inn has 185 guest rooms and 14,000 square feet of function space, including four ballrooms. Just three miles from the main campus, UNC’s Rizzo Center sits on 28 acres with the historic DuBose house as its centerpiece. Most of the IACC-certified center’s 30,000 square feet of flexible space is in Loudermilk Hall. A recent expansion gave McLean Hall 183 guest rooms and 14,500 square feet of meeting space, as well a new courtyard with a pool. The 16,000-square-foot DuBose house was built in 1933 and serves as the center’s dining and social hub, and the DuBose family’s four-acre, brick-walled garden offers attendees pergolas, benches and a reflecting pool.

Another university-owned facility is the North Carolina Botanical Gardens, where the James and Delight Allen Education Center offers classrooms, seminar rooms and an auditorium for meetings.

Alpharetta, Georgia

Alpharetta, Georgia, is a well-to-do city of 63,000 residents nestled between the North Georgia Mountains and downtown Atlanta. The big news in the upscale suburb 30 miles outside of Atlanta is the new conference center slated to open in 2018.

The Alpharetta Conference Center will be in the mixed-use community of Avalon, which boasts residential and retail, office and entertainment space. The conference center will have 44,000 square feet of flexible meeting space that can accommodate groups of up to 1,400 people. Plans also call for a 330-room Marriott hotel, all within walking distance of Avalon’s restaurants, boutiques and entertainment. In addition to the hotel and conference center, future development will include another 90,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space. The development will also feature a central plaza where visitors can enjoy free concerts and movies in the spring and summer or go ice skating in the winter, said Caitlyn Blizzard, director of communications for the Alpharetta Convention and Visitors Bureau.

At the Metropolitan Club, groups of 400 can sit down to dinner in the ballroom, or up to 800 people can mingle during receptions. The area is also home to several golf and country clubs, and in Alpharetta, the Echelon Golf Club has a pavilion that can accommodate events for up to 100 people or up to 400 with a tent. The Golf Club of Georgia offers the Lodge, a space for up to 250 people with a balcony overlooking the course, as well as two smaller meeting rooms and a boardroom.

The Alpharetta Marriott is a full-service hotel with nearly 10,200 square feet of event space in 13 meeting rooms, including the 7,680-square-foot Magnolia Ballroom that can be split into eight smaller sections.

Alpharetta recently started a bike-share program, Blizzard said, and visitors can ride along the Big Creek Greenway trail.

Jacksonville, Arkansas

People may not expect someone to describe the Little Rock suburb of Jacksonville, Arkansas, as a “melting pot.” But that’s how Amy Mattison, director of the Jacksonville Chamber of Commerce, explains the city of 30,000.

“We have so many different people who are here because we have the Little Rock Air Force Base, and we have international students here who train at the Air Force base,” she said. “I would call it a melting pot.”

On base, the Walters Community Support Center has a 200-person-capacity ballroom, a conference room for up to 60 and a party room for up to 40 people. Groups of 15 to 50 people can also request base tours, which are offered one Thursday a month, or can arrange guest speakers from the base for events and ceremonies.

The Jacksonville Community Center can be described as a recreation-center-meets-civic-center. With a pool, gymnasium and racquetball courts, the center offers recreation activities to the community, but its 5,500-square-foot banquet room with a stage and a 1,500-square-foot meeting room with a kitchen offer groups options for meetings and events.

The city’s newest facility is a public shooting range with 14 trap fields, three skeet overlays, three lit fields, two pavilions, a lake and the 5,100-square-foot Witt Stephens Jr. Clubhouse that includes a classroom. Groups can reserve the classroom or pavilions and try their hand at skeet shooting.

Meeting attendees can also visit the Jacksonville Museum of Military History or Reed’s Bridge Battlefield Heritage Park, where they’ll find a replica 1860s homestead and a walking trail with historical markers.