Akron at a Glance
Location: Northeast Ohio
Access: Akron-Canton Airport, Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Ohio Turnpike, interstates 76 and 77
Hotel rooms: 5,400
Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau
John S. Knight Center
Exhibit Space: 41,000 square feet
Other Meeting Spaces: 13,000-square-foot rotunda, 18 meetings rooms with an additional 13,000 square feet
Guest rooms: 207
Meeting Space: 23,000 square feet
Hilton Akron Fairlawn Hotel and Suites
Guest rooms: 235
Meeting Space: 14,000 square feet
Hilton Garden Inn Akron
Guest rooms: 139
Meeting Space: 4,400 square feet
Who’s Meeting in Akron
Crain Communication’s International Tire and Exposition and Conference
Carter Lumber Management Meeting and Trade Show
Akron, Ohio, sits at the intersection of city and wilderness.
Effortlessly cocooned by nature yet welcoming attendees with sophisticated amenities, Akron ranks as Ohio’s fifth-largest city. The city is almost surrounded by the 33,000 acres of lush Cuyahoga Valley National Park, but it also features museums, restaurants and shopping. History abounds too. The city’s Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail is a major gateway to the state’s only national park, where locals and visitors alike come to unwind and unplug.
For many years, Akron was known as the Rubber Capital of the World, and Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company still maintains a strong presence in town. The stately Stan Hywet Mansion, once home to one of Goodyear’s co-founders, is less than a 10-minute drive from downtown. As the city’s first and largest National Historic Landmark, it’s the nation’s sixth-largest historic home open to the public. Surrounded by lovely gardens, this architectural beauty is filled with treasures from around the globe.
The nationally recognized Akron Art Museum shares the block with the John S. Knight Convention Center. The 5,000-object collection consists primarily of modern art. Outside, sculptures are interspersed among the terraced gardens, and flexible event spaces are rimmed by ornamental plantings and canopied by an elevated birch grove. Across the street, Summit Artspace hosts artists-in-residence and gallery space.
The Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail follows the canal in many spots. The historic canal allowed boats to travel from Cleveland to Akron, which is higher in elevation. Akron’s stretch bisects the heart of downtown.
“Our trail has been used as a model for many communities around the country who are reclaiming their history,” said Jim Mahon, vice president of marketing and brand management for the Akron/Summit Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Lock 3 has a shell pavilion for concerts and an ice skating rink in winter. At Lock 4, there’s beautiful cascading water and an outdoor jazz stage.”
From the Akron station, attendees can hop aboard the wildly popular Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad. It’s the only passenger excursion train of its kind that goes through the heart of a U.S. national park. Excursions can include breakfast or dinner, or wine or beer tastings.
Major Meeting Spaces
In the heart of downtown, the lobby of the John S. Knight Convention Center features a stunning glass rotunda and spiral staircase, plus a newly opened rooftop patio. The 29,000-square-foot exhibition hall is adjacent to the 12,000-square-foot ballroom, and there are an additional 18 meeting rooms. An in-house culinary team provides buffets and sit-down dinners for up to 1,500 attendees. An enclosed skywalk connects to city parking.
Across from bustling Summit Mall, the 235-room Hilton Akron Fairlawn Hotel and Suites offers 14 meeting rooms, theater seating for up to 900 people and classroom capacity for 400 attendees. In-house catering accommodates up to 580 for banquets. Last year, this hotel was recognized as the longest continuously owned and operated independent franchise property in the history of Hilton.
The 139-room Hilton Garden Inn Akron is situated in the East End. This up-and-coming neighborhood served as the former heart of Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company’s world headquarters before it moved to its new campus. The property offers five meeting rooms and theater capacity for 375 attendees, plus classroom and banquet facilities. A complimentary shuttle transports guests within a five-mile radius of the hotel. Nearby, the 1,458-seat Goodyear Hall and Theater was recently renovated and offers 20,000 square feet of exhibit space.
Nestled along the Cuyahoga River with idyllic views, the Sheraton Suites Akron Cuyahoga Falls offers 207 suites, 14 meeting rooms and theater capacity for 500, as well as banquet and classroom facilities. Jutting over the river and rapids and constructed primarily of glass, the signature restaurant, Beau’s on the River, affords stellar views.
Unique spaces and access to the original gardens make the Stan Hywet Mansion an inspired choice. The manor house can host receptions for up to 200 guests, and the former 10-car garage and attached three-season tent can accommodate up to 125 attendees. A break in the day allows time for a complimentary self-guided tour and access to the conservatory, which contains a waterfall and fruit trees. Four preferred caterers provide meals, while the property handles the bar.
The Akron Civic Theatre remains one of only five atmospheric theaters nationwide. The ceiling’s clouds seem to move, and its stars twinkle when the house lights dim. The interior of the theater, built in 1929, resembles a Moorish castle. With the empty theater as the backdrop, the mainstage can be used for a sit-down dinner, a performance, a meeting or a classroom.
“We regularly engage artists and entertainers for events, and we like to showcase Akron’s talented individuals, whether that’s music, dance or a live painting by a local artist,” said Mahon.
Another nontraditional site nestled in the Cuyahoga Valley, Hale Farm and Village, lies between Akron and Cleveland. Clustered around the village green, buildings date to the mid-19th century. Events can be held in the 1850 Greek Revival Meetinghouse, in the newly renovated Gatehouse or on the picturesque grounds.
Excellent for strategic retreats and board meetings, the Designer’s Barn and Gardens was formerly the extraordinary home of the late Robert L. Hunker, an architectural, environmental, and industrial designer. Hunker remodeled the 1860s barn using heavy copper entry doors and stained-glass windows salvaged from his grandparents’ church. Located in the quaint town of Peninsula, about 20 minutes from downtown Akron, this venue is available for daytime retreats, meetings and overnight accommodations.
After the Meeting
Several noteworthy trails have been developed by the Akron/Summit CVB. According to Mahon, the trails present Akron’s hospitality partners in a way that makes it easy for visitors to enjoy their time in the city. The Summit Brew Path, with 25 stops, became Ohio’s second official trail. New Again Akron, the second self-guided trail, features vintage and reclaimed shopping. Launched last fall, the Drip Drive highlights coffeehouses, some in historic buildings.
“Many of the stops have the most outrageously delicious food, such as Lock 15 Brewing Company,” said Mahon. “And one must-see boutique is called the Bomb Shelter. It sells everything vintage, including clothing, hardware, furniture and photography equipment.”
On more than 800 acres, the Blossom Music Center is the area’s premier destination for outdoor concerts, including the summer series of the Cleveland Orchestra. After massive renovations, this venue holds more than 19,000 people with 5,700 seats under the pavilion and another 13,500 spaces on the lawn. The complex includes a restaurant, an art gallery, outstanding gardens and picnic areas.
Meeting attendees who visit the Akron Zoo will find nearly 1,000 animals on more than 35 acres. Planners can arrange events there too, such as picnics in an outdoor pavilion, cocktail receptions at the Lehner Family Zoo Gardens and parties in Komodo Kingdom. VIP animal experiences feature feedings and behind-the-scenes tours with penguins, lions, grizzly bears, ocean creatures and numerous animal ambassadors.