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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Warming up the Winter

When temperatures begin to drop, meeting-goers start to dream of sunnier, warmer climates. Popular destinations for winter meetings are known as such due to their warm weather in the traditionally cold season, but many also offer a wide selection of venues and exciting local attractions. 

There are few better ways to drive up meeting attendance than offering a reprieve from the elements, so planners can select the perfect setting for their next winter meeting in these cities with temperate climates.

Tucson, Arizona

With average temperatures resting comfortably in the 60s and 70s from December through February, Tucson has the perfect climate for a winter meeting. This high desert town is surrounded by a national park on both sides, which protects the Saguaro Cactus in the Sonoran Desert. 

“The No. 1 reason people come here is the warm weather,” said Mary Meade, director of sales at Visit Tucson. “The second thing they really come here for is the natural beauty of the Sonoran Desert.”

Visitors to Tucson can enjoy the plentiful natural beauty of cactus forests, canyons and waterfalls in the nearby national parks. Miles of hiking trails, scenic drives and golfing are all ways attendees can enjoy their downtime while soaking up the sunshine. Tucson was also designated the City of Gastronomy, or the city of good food, because of its long history of cultural influences at work today in its culinary scene.

The Tucson Convention Center is the largest venue in the city, with over 205,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including 10 meeting rooms, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom and three performing venues. Tucson also features many full-service conference hotels, such as the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa and the Westward Look Wyndham Resort and Spa. For a less conventional venue, planners have their pick of museums and outdoor spaces. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a botanical garden and living zoo, is the second most visited attraction in the state after the Grand Canyon and offers beautiful panoramic views of the desert and banquet space for up to 700.

Henderson, Nevada

Just up the road from the Las Vegas Strip, Henderson, Nevada, offers attendees all the amenities of Vegas without the cost or the hassle. This beautiful Nevada town enjoys mild and cloudless conditions in the colder months, with the temperature, on average, running between 50 and 70 degrees on winter days.

“You wake up every morning and it’s not overcast, it’s always sunny,” said Ed Kirby, national sales executive at Visit Henderson. 

While attendees are certainly welcome (and expected) to visit the Las Vegas Strip for at least one evening during their stay, a meeting in Henderson can provide similarly appealing restaurants, live music, shopping, craft breweries and golf, ensuring attendees stick together.

Henderson is home to five full-service hotels for planners to choose from. Green Valley Ranch, located just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, features just under 70,000 square feet of meeting space. This elegant, sprawling property features a spa and a casino, as well as catering services and multiple restaurants. Another gaming property, the M Resort offers a beautiful, modern backdrop for meetings. Its 17,000-square-foot ballroom can seat over 1,200 banquet-style, while its outdoor terraces, lounges and pool decks provide plenty of space for a memorable outdoor receptions and events. 

Sunset Station, located in downtown Henderson, has 13,000 square feet of meeting space and is perfect for smaller meetings.

Punta Gorda, Florida

The small town of Punta Gorda, Florida, is located in the Charlotte Harbor Gulf Island Coast area near Englewood Beach. This community, in addition to having excellent winter weather, has a broad appeal for travelers because of its walkable downtown, delicious seafood, small-town charm and preserved natural scenery. 

“Over 80% of our shoreline is protected, so it’s a less congested area, and of course, we’re in beautiful southwest Florida,” said Jeff Berg, senior sales manager at the Punta Gorda/Englewood Beach Visitor and Convention Bureau. 

Sunseeker Charlotte Harbor, just minutes away from Punta Gorda, is a new, full-service resort that’s scheduled to open at the end of 2023. The property will have 60,000 square feet of upscale meeting space, an abundance of dining options, a golf course and a spa. Nearby, the Charlotte Harbor Event and Conference Center is a stately waterfront venue in Punta Gorda that can seat up to 900 for a banquet and offers flexible meeting spaces and breakout rooms. 

In addition to the conference hotels in Punta Gorda, nontraditional venues such as the Peace River Botanical and Sculpture Gardens provide scenic backdrops for outdoor functions. Attendees can enjoy the warm weather on the Gulf Coast with sunset harbor tours or by exploring Punta Gorda’s numerous shops, restaurants, breweries, museums and galleries.

South Padre Island, Texas

Planners can find a year-round tropical beach destination in South Padre Island, Texas. Thanks to its location at the state’s southernmost point, the island boasts winter average temperatures near 75 degrees. These warm days are perfect for the beach, where planners can schedule team-building exercises of building sandcastles. Or, attendees can relax in the sand during their downtime while they watch for dolphins off the coast. 

“We’re the only tropical island in Texas, and we have 30 miles of pristine beach,” said Mayra Nunez, sales and services manager at the City of South Padre Island Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The South Padre Island Convention Centre includes a 22,500-square-foot exhibit hall, a conference theater seating up to 260, seven meeting rooms and a covered terrace, making it ideal for meetings, conferences and events of all sizes. The island has five full-service hotels, including the Pearl South Padre Resort and the Island Grand Beach Resort, with over 7,000 square feet and 10,000 square feet of meeting space, respectively. Some of the island’s unique venues for meetings include the South Padre Island Birding and Nature Center, where attendees can watch some of the island’s most colorful and fascinating wildlife, such as alligators, reddish egrets and peregrine falcons. 

Events can also be held at Sea Turtle Inc., a sanctuary and hospital for sea turtles, where visitors can learn about these protected animals and meet some of the sanctuary’s patients and its long-term resident turtles.

Mobile, Alabama

Mobile, Alabama, is known for its long history and vibrant arts and culture scene. This port city on the Gulf Coast enjoys mild weather in the 60s during the cooler season, making it an enticing setting for a winter meeting. A city as old as Mobile gives attendees lots of history to explore, in addition to its vibrant nightlife and delicious culinary scene. A trip to the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park allows visitors to climb aboard and explore this retired battleship from World War II. Visitors can glimpse the French architecture on Dauphin Street, tour Mobile’s historic mansions and visit the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, known for its beautiful design.

The Arthur R. Outlaw Mobile Convention Center is right on the Mobile River. Its mostly glass exterior fills the center with natural light while allowing attendees to enjoy unmatched views of the water and downtown Mobile. With over 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, multiple terraces and easy access to the rest of downtown via covered walkways and crossways, this expansive venue can accommodate a variety of conferences, expos, events and meetings. 

Planners seeking an opulent venue for a banquet or reception will find one at the Battle House Renaissance Mobile Hotel and Spa, with nearly 30,000 square feet of meeting space, ranging from gilded ballrooms to sophisticated and simple conference rooms.