Groups don’t have to fly to the coast to incorporate waterfront destinations into their events. Illinois has several cities situated along rivers, streams and lakes that make perfect conference destinations with full-service hotels, conference centers and plenty of ways to get outside and enjoy nature.
Moline serves as the global headquarters of Deere and Company. John Deere moved his operations to the city in 1848 to take advantage of the Mississippi River’s waterpower and transportation. Two of the city’s main attractions have ties to the Deere family — the John Deere Pavilion and Butterworth and Deere-Wiman historic mansions.
Meeting planners have their pick of 502 downtown Moline hotel rooms. Stoney Creek Hotel and Conference Center in the heart of downtown has 140 rooms and 10,000 square feet of meeting space. It is located right on the Great River bike path, giving guests an opportunity to stroll along the Mississippi River. The hotel is across the street from Bass Street Landing, a unique outdoor venue for events and festivals. RiverStation is a mixed-use riverfront development with retail and restaurants that connects to the bike path.
To incorporate the riverfront into their meetings, groups can use the riverfront bike path for recreation, exercise or planned activities. The Celebration Belle, a 750-passenger paddle-wheel boat, offers themed sightseeing and lunch cruises. It also offers special events cruises and all-day cruises. The boat can be rented out for corporate functions and events for up to 800 people. Meeting groups can also plan a dine-around that incorporates riverfront restaurants.
The Mississippi River Visitor Center in nearby Rock Island gives visitors a chance to watch commercial ships navigate Lock and Dam 15.
The Galena area is home to some beautiful waterways that are ripe for exploration and connecting with nature. The Galena River, which runs adjacent to downtown, offers beautiful views of the city as it meanders through lush vegetation on wooded hills and around attractive bluffs. Visitors will see a variety of wildlife, including bald eagles. Galena on the Fly at Eagle Ridge offers kayak, canoe and electric bike rentals.
The Apple River, which runs through Apple River Canyon State Park, features incredible limestone bluffs, deep ravines, springs, streams, wildlife and prime fishing spots. The Mississippi River is also nearby, and groups can take an educational river cruise or paddle the backwaters in a canoe.
Meeting planners can host their events at Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa, which has 80 guestrooms and 23,600 square feet of meeting space. The facility has 14 meeting rooms. Chestnut Mountain Resort, which sits up on a bluff above the Mississippi River, offers everything from Segway tours and ziplines to an alpine slide. It has 99 guestrooms and a 5,700-square-foot conference room. Both resorts feature plenty of outdoor recreation and fun activities for attendees to take part in during their down times.
The Desoto House Hotel has 55 guestrooms and a 3,846-square-foot event space. For fun, groups can take tours of the Ulysses S. Grant Home, the Galena History Museum and downtown Galena, with its 140 independently owned businesses, including wineries, breweries, boutiques and canning companies.
The city of Quincy got its start as a Mississippi River town in 1822. Situated about two hours north of St. Louis and 90 minutes west of Springfield, Quincy is an affordable group destination that is known for its historic architecture. Groups can get a taste of Quincy’s early history by touring 17 historic homes in the area. The Mississippi River is an ever-present fixture in the city, which has worked hard to improve its waterfront.
Quincy offers kayak tours on the river. Its riverfront is on a quieter stretch of the Mississippi, making it a perfect place to get out on the water. There is also a trail along the river for hiking or biking. Nearby Bob Bangert Wetland is an interpretive wetland project on 26 acres that offers prairie restoration, an observation deck, educational exhibits and environmental programs. The wetland is just north of Quincy’s main riverfront, where visitors can spot ducks and other waterfowl.
The Oakley Lindsay Centre is a 30,000-square-foot convention center a couple of blocks from the river in Quincy’s hospitality district. The Quincy Community Theatre, inside the Centre, also has meeting space. Two hotels are near the convention center, The Atrium Hotel on Third and the Microtel Inn and Suites, both of which have views of the river. Holiday Inn Quincy is a full-service hotel with 4,500 square feet of meeting space. The Quincy Armory Event Center, housed in a historic Fifth Infantry Armory building, has 10,000 square feet of open space to host events for up to 600 guests. It is near the Dr. Richard Eells House, home to the Quincy Underground Railroad Museum.
Peoria is located between St. Louis and Chicago on the Illinois River, making it very accessible to meeting groups wanting to host events in the area.
The Peoria Civic Center features 110,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 30,000-square-foot ballroom and smaller meeting rooms that can be used for breakout sessions. The arena seats 12,000 and the theater seats 2,400.
Peoria Marriott Pere Marquette is connected to the Civic Center via skywalk. The full-service hotel features 18,167 square feet of event space, with the largest space able to host groups of 650. The Courtyard by Marriott Peoria Downtown is also next to the Civic Center and has a small meeting room for up to 50 people. The two hotels together offer 400 guestrooms. The Embassy Suites Hotel and Conference Center is on the riverfront. It has 225 guestrooms and 32,000 square feet of meeting space. The hotel has a nice patio that overlooks the river.
Groups wanting to get out on the water can rent speedboats, jet skis and sailboats or take a sunset cruise on the Spirit of Peoria, a historic paddle-wheeler. The boat offers lunch and dinner cruises. Groups can rent out the boat for private cruises that can host 200 for a buffet-style meal or 500 for a reception.
Home of Northwestern University, Evanston sits alongside Lake Michigan. The city is known for its sandy beaches, historic mansions, bicycle paths and beautiful parks. And although there are no businesses on the beach, group visitors can get out on the water by renting kayaks or sailboats.
Chicago’s famed Wrigley Field is situated between downtown Chicago and Evanston. O’Hare Airport is just west of Evanston, making it very accessible to groups wanting to fly in for an event.
The city has several full-service meeting hotels, including Hilton Garden Inn Chicago North Shore/Evanston with 178 guestrooms and 5,800 square feet of meeting space. The hotel is within easy walking distance of Lake Michigan.
Hilton Orrington/Evanston has 269 guestrooms and 26,705 square feet of meeting space, while the Holiday Inn Chicago North-Evanston has 159 rooms and 6,578 square feet of meeting space. The Westin Chicago North Shore in nearby Wheeling is the largest full-service hotel in the area, with 35,000 square feet of venue space and 412 guestrooms.
The Double Clutch Brewing Company makes for an interesting off-site venue, with its exposed brick and custom car showroom. Groups can rent out its Bier Hall, Showroom or the entire venue, including the Brew Pub. Northwestern University has plenty of meeting options on campus, and Rotary International’s headquarters features several event and meeting spaces.
In their free time, groups can tour the Baha’i House of Worship, which is right on the lake and features beautiful architecture, or the Illinois Holocaust Museum.