Encompassing 18 communities along the Fox River, the Fox Cities area stretches from Kaukauna west to Appleton and then curves around Lake Winnebago south to Neenah. The collection of river towns specializes in meetings of up to 2,000 in its 3,100 area guest rooms.
There’s room in these inns for Hogs (aka Harleys)
Hugging a beautifully preserved green shoreline of Lake Michigan, the Milwaukee metro area is an up-to-date, urban meetings center of 600,000, known for its motorcycles — big, loud Harley-Davidsons to be exact. Groups with an interest in Harley culture can meet, visit and sleep motorcycles.
New in 2008, the 130,000-square-foot Harley-Davidson Museum in the Menomonee Valley showcases the 105-year history of the legendary bikes. Indoors, there is room for seated dinners of 750; outdoors, parties as large as 15,000 can be held.
Downtown, the 100-room Iron Horse Hotel has a biker theme and special motorcycle accommodations. Guest rooms feature storage for bike gear with custom hooks designed to hold 80-pound leathers and a boot bench for storing helmets. There is covered motorcycle parking and an outdoor bike wash.
“The Iron Horse was named by Trip Advisor as one of 2008’s Top 10 New Hotels in the Country,” said Brent Foerster, vice president of sales and marketing for Visit Milwaukee. “And the property is near the museum and the Midwest Airlines Center, which is Milwaukee’s convention center.”
Near Menomonee Falls, 15 minutes from downtown and near two Harley Davidson plants where tours are given, the Hilton Garden Inn Park Place Milwaukee completed a $10.1 million expansion in May, upping its number of guest rooms from 128 to 184. Additions include a 5,000-square-foot ballroom, a garden room for 100 and three 10-person boardrooms.
“The hotel opened in 2000, and this expansion has made it a brand-new property,” said Annette Smiszek, director of sales. “We even added a full-service restaurant and bar — Allgauer’s in the Park — which is unusual for a Hilton Garden Inn. It’s white-tablecloth with a relaxed atmosphere.”
The Iron Horse Inn is geared to Harley Davidson owners.
Courtesy Fox Cities CVB
“We’re selling a region and not just one city, which gives planners more choices,” said Mae Ibe, director of convention sales for the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Our hotel rates are under $100. Planners like that. And you can walk to a restaurant and pay under $15 for dinner.”
In downtown Appleton, the Radisson Paper Valley Hotel is the most spacious of Fox Cities’ convention hotels. The 390-room property completed a $3 million renovation last year.
In addition to 40,000 square feet of meeting space, the hotel has a concierge section, a business center and an executive fitness center. One of its five restaurants is Vince Lombardi’s Steakhouse, loaded with the legendary Green Bay Packers coach’s memorabilia.
The hotel has another connection with Green Bay, 20 miles to its north.
“We’re the host property for the NFL teams that play the Green Bay Packers,” said Cindy Foley, director of sales and marketing and one of four on-staff Certified Meeting Professionals. “And the hotel was recently honored with the 2009 Most Valuable Property Award by the NFL Travel Directors.”
From the Radisson, attendees can walk to downtown Appleton’s 30 restaurants and 23 pubs. All are within a three-block area, as are off-site venues, including the 25,000-square-foot Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.
Event spaces in the $45 million facility include a 2,072-seat hall where guests sink into cushy red velvet seats and a black-box theater with a reception capacity of 400.
“Our Founders Room is gorgeous, with large mahogany bookcases and leather sofas,” said the center’s Maria Van Laanen. “It’s a private space for 25 seated and 75 standing that has its own built-in bar.”
In November 2008, about 900 vocalists attended the annual convention of Harmony Inc., an international women’s barbershop quartet group, and roomed at the Radisson, with overflow staying across the street at the 73-room Copperleaf Boutique Hotel and Spa. Performances and competitions were held at the performing arts center.
“The pricing for our meeting in Fox Cities was so reasonable compared to several larger cities we had considered, the performance venue was perfect, and the hotel had such longevity and an obvious sense of pride in their community,” said Marianne Cooke, Harmony’s vice president of corporate services. “So they won our hearts and our dollars.”
Fox Cities’ off-site venues are pure Wisconsin. The state’s paper industry comes alive at the Paper Discovery Center, where a meeting room overlooks the Fox River, and next door, Fratellos Waterfront Restaurant serves local beers, seafood and chocolate fondue.
Up to 400 can meet at the History Museum at the Castle and learn tricks of the magician’s trade at a permanent exhibit on hometown boy and escape artist Harry Houdini.
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