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Warm fall destinations

Courtesy Visit Savannah

The Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE) has always held its annual conference in large cities across the country, but when it came time to plan the 2012 event, the Bethesda, Md.-based organization wanted something “quaint,” said Julie A. Gordon, SFPE education program manager.

When she visited Savannah, Ga., she knew she’d found the right spot. “It had everything I needed, including meeting space and things for the participants to do within walking distance of the hotel,” she said.

SFPE’s conference was in the fall, the off-season in Savannah and, as it turned out, a perfect time to be in the coastal city. The heat and humidity that slog the city in the summer had dissipated; room rates had dropped with the temperatures, which stayed in the mid-70s.

“It was beautiful,” Gordon said.

Other southerly cities, known more for bright sun than for colorful fall leaves, also make good fall meeting destinations. Baton Rouge, La., and Tucson, Ariz., are among them.

“September and October are two of the best months to visit Baton Rouge,” said Christy Chachere, communications coordinator for Visit Baton Rouge. “Fall is mild, and only a light sweater is needed in the evenings; it’s perfect for outdoor activities.”

Similarly, Tucson in fall is a “treasure,” said Graeme Hughes, director of convention sales for the Metropolitan Tucson CVB. “The climate is more temperate, and in the shoulder season, many facilities will negotiate on group pricing.”

Check out these six destinations, where the possibilities heat up when the temperatures cool off.

Baton Rouge, La.
In the fall, Baton Rouge is steeped in football and school spirit, thanks to Louisiana State University (LSU) and Southern University. Tailgating is in full swing.

Great options extend beyond the games, though. LSU’s Shaw Center for the Arts, for example, has a number of small and large meeting rooms that look out on the Mississippi River, brightened by the turning trees along the river’s banks. The city’s main meeting facility, the Baton Rouge River Center, also makes the best of its spot on the riverfront.

An event at one of the area’s plantations is another way to spend an autumn evening.

Plan an event at a plantation around Halloween, and a haunted tour might be part of the entertainment. Or groups can go to 13th Gate, a haunted house in the fall with 13 indoor and outdoor themed “haunts” that the Travel Channel has called one of the country’s scariest attractions.

“It’s a ghoulish good time down here around Halloween,” Chachere said.


Corpus Christi, Texas

Tourists throng to Corpus Christi in summer to frolic on the beaches, but fall, particularly October, is one of the most beautiful months in the city, said Colette Rye, communications director for the Corpus Christi CVB. “The water is bluer, the fishing is better, the birds are migrating, and the weather is nice,” she said.

Blue water and jumping fish are visible from the American Bank Center, a convention center and arena, whose jewel is the 20,000-square-foot Henry Garrett Ballroom. Its 7,000-square-foot prefunction area overlooks the bay.

Rye recommends offsite excursions to Padre Island or picnics in the area’s many parks.

“One of the best things about fall in Corpus Christi is to be out in nature,” she said.


Palm Springs, Calif.

It’s not unusual for summertime temperatures to reach over 100 degrees in Palm Springs, but by fall, temperatures in this desert resort typically taper off to the 80s.

Rates also go down, making fall a cost-effective and hospitable season for offsite team-building activities, corporate golf tournaments and horseback riding through the canyons, according to James Canfield, executive director of the Palm Springs Bureau of Tourism.

Canfield is also executive director of the 261,000-square-foot Palm Springs Convention Center, which relaunched in fall 2005 after a $32 million renovation and expansion.

In the off-season, meeting planners find more of Palm Springs’ 2,000 hotel rooms available. By this fall, there will be a few more, with the opening of the 160-room Hard Rock Hotel Palm Springs and its 20,000 square feet of meeting space.

More than $200 million in hotel renovations in the past four years also adds appeal.

Among the projects are a $10 million renovation at the Hilton Palm Springs Resort and a $60 million renovation at the Riviera Resort and Spa, which is now adding more conference space and a new pool.

Also new is the 245-room Saguaro Palm Springs, with two ballrooms and a 594-square-foot yoga studio that’s available for cocktail receptions and breaks.