Wilmington, North Carolina
People love to be around water, and with a downtown riverfront district and three barrier island beaches, Wilmington, North Carolina, “can offer that to them almost anywhere they go,” said John Sneed, vice president of sales and services for Wilmington and Beaches Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The recently extended Riverwalk on Cape Fear River “blends seamlessly” with the historic downtown, Sneed said. The new 186-room Embassy Suites by Hilton that opened in January on the Riverwalk’s northern end connects to the Wilmington Convention Center but also has its own meeting space that includes a flexible 3,000-square-foot Riverfront Ballroom and three flexible meeting rooms.
The Embassy Suite’s rooftop bar will open this spring. A new Aloft Hotel in downtown, also with a rooftop bar, is slated to break ground this year and open in late 2019.
On the Riverwalk, the city is also developing the new North Waterfront Park, with an amphitheater that, when complete next year, will likely be available for event rentals.
On the Atlantic side, three barrier island beaches offer a laid-back, coastal vibe. Wrightsville Beach is home to many of the area’s resort hotels. All Shell Island Resort’s 169 guest suites front the ocean, and the hotel has 6,000 square feet of conference space, including an oceanfront ballroom. The Blockade Runner Beach Resort straddles a narrow swath of island, so it fronts both the Intracoastal Waterway and the Atlantic, where groups can go kayaking or paddleboarding and take scenic boat tours. The resort’s largest meeting room is the 2,800-square-foot Lee Ballroom. The Holiday Inn Resort has 8,000 square feet of meeting space and two terraces for sunrises and sunsets.
Kure Beach has a small-town feel and few facilities, but Carolina Beach delivers a vintage vibe along with meeting venues. Marriott’s Courtyard Carolina Beach Oceanfront hotel has a 3,200-square-foot ballroom and connects via boardwalk to a 100-room Hampton Inn and Suites.
Outer Banks, North Carolina
The Outer Banks is a long strand of barrier islands that separate the North Carolina mainland from the Atlantic Ocean. With water on either side of the thin strip of land, the region offers plenty of sea, surf and sand, and much more.
A good 80 percent of the Outer Banks’ lodging accommodations are found in its vacation homes, said Aaron Tuell, public relations manager for the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau. Some vacation properties are practically their own hotels with as many as 16 bedrooms, double kitchens, elevators, swimming pools and in-home movie theaters.
The region’s largest hotel is the 180-room Hilton Garden Inn, with 5,800 square feet of event space, including a ballroom that can seat 250 for meals. The hotel also turned the old Kitty Hawk pier into the 2,200-square-foot Pier House, which can hold up to 150 people for events.
At Sanderling Resort in Duck, guests can watch the sun set over Currituck Sound from the 4,500-square-foot, climate-controlled Soundside Pavilion. On the ocean side, the 1,500-square-foot Event House has a large deck that leads down to a fire pit, and groups of 180 can reserve the event lawn.
The Sea Ranch Resort in Kill Devil Hills has 2,000 square feet of meeting space, and its on-site restaurant is one of the few where guests can step off the dining deck and onto the sand.
The top floor of Jennette’s Pier in Nags Head boasts the 3,500-square-foot Oceanview Hall and a 1,600-square-foot, covered wraparound deck. Jennette’s will also organize mini fishing tournaments and catch-and-cook fishing classes for groups, Tuell said.
Groups can take hang-gliding lessons over massive dunes at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, visit the sea turtle hospital at the North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island, tour the Graveyard of the Atlantic Museum in Hatteras and sample Kill Devil Rum at Outer Banks Distilling’s tasting room.