With its many miles of Lake Erie shoreline, beautiful islands, rivers and smaller lakes, Ohio makes a great destination for meeting planners who want to incorporate water into their conferences and events. These five Ohio destinations offer plenty of waterfront activities, unique attractions, local restaurants and boutique shops, alongside a healthy dose of history, to keep meeting groups entertained.
The home of the famous Cedar Point amusement park, Sandusky is one of the most famous Ohio destinations that sit on Lake Erie. Several major resorts around Cedar Point make excellent spots to host a meeting or event. The newly renovated golf resort, Sawmill Creek by Cedar Point Resorts, opens in June of this year. It sits on 200 acres of lush woodlands and has a dock at Lake Erie marina. Guests can birdwatch in Sheldon Marsh Nature Preserve or play the resort’s Tom Fazio-designed golf course. The resort has more than 35,000 square feet of flexible meeting space in the Sawmill Creek Convention Center and has 239 newly renovated guest rooms.
Kalahari Resorts and Conventions features a 220,000-square-foot indoor waterpark and an outdoor waterpark that includes a Flowrider, a 5-foot wave simulator for boogie boarding or surfing, as well as indoor and outdoor spas, giant waterslides and a lazy river. There’s also a 40,000-square-foot interactive arcade that features black-light miniature golf, an XD Dark Ride, bowling and more. The resort has 890 guest rooms and 215,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including three ballrooms. There are 21 smaller meeting rooms and two luxury boardrooms. There’s also enough exhibit space for 400 booths.
For outdoor events, Mylander Pavilion at the Jackson Street Pier can host groups of 96 inside and 148 when exterior spaces are included. For fun, groups can book a sunset cruise or daytime island-hopping cruise on the Goodtime 1 out of Sandusky or drive the Cheers Trail, which includes wineries, breweries and distilleries.
Five waterways, including the Great Miami River, traverse Dayton. Visitors can explore these creeks and rivers via stand-up paddleboards, canoes and kayaks. There also are four riverfront parks to enjoy.
Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center at Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park tells the story of Orville and Wilbur Wright, who conducted most of their study of flight in Dayton before relocating to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, because of the wind. The National Museum of the United States Air Force is an aerospace museum at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. It has four hangars full of aircraft, including presidential planes and a stealth bomber.
One of the city’s top meeting venues is a beautiful ballroom in Carillon Historical Park that seats up to 500. Outdoor spaces can host up to 1,000 people. The Dayton Convention Center has over 100,000 square feet of meeting space and is connected to the Radisson Hotel Downtown Dayton, which has 200 guest rooms and 12,000 square feet of meeting space. A new Fairfield Inn is being built downtown and the Marriot at the University of Dayton has 399 guest rooms and 15,415 square feet of meeting space. In total, Dayton has 7,000 hotel rooms.
Some of the city’s top attractions also make unique offsite meeting venues. Dayton Art Institute has several elegant event spaces that can host gatherings up to 600, and America’s Packard Museum, which is housed in a former Packard dealership, can host events among the cars as attendees walk around viewing the exhibits.
On the shores of Lake Erie, Geneva-on-the-Lake is a popular summer resort town that also happens to be in the middle of Ohio’s wine country. The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake is the only full-service meeting facility in town with 8,500 square feet of flexible meeting space that can comfortably seat 300 people for a banquet. The resort, which has 109 rooms and suites and 25 lakeside cottages, also has several smaller meeting rooms and pre-function spaces.
Groups wanting to do some team building can stay on property and challenge each other at Lake Erie Canopy Tours, which offers ziplines and a self-guided ropes course that features more than 30 obstacles from easy to extreme. Guests also can rent swan pedal boats or kayaks to play around on Cowles Creek, a tributary of Lake Erie that flows through nearby Geneva State Park.
The park encompasses 698 acres of forests and beaches and is a prime spot for hiking, biking and playing in the water. Breakwater Beach is perfect for lounging in the sun and playing in the lake. Fishing charters, golf and the Adventure Zone are all available in the area. The Adventure Zone has an arcade, batting cages, miniature golf, bumper boats, go karts, climbing and rappelling. There are two spas in the area, Pure Joy Spa and The Spa at Lakehouse Inn.
Port Clinton and Islands
Port Clinton is the gateway to the Lake Erie Shores and Islands area. The ferry to Put-in-Bay launches from downtown. Top meeting venues include Lakeside Chautauqua, which has welcomed people to the Lake Erie shore for more than 145 years. The resort has 125 guest rooms and 29 meeting rooms, including a large outdoor pavilion on the lake, lawn and beach space and a gazebo.
Put-in-Bay Resort Hotel and Conference Center is on South Bass Island and is the only full-service hotel on the island. The resort has five meeting rooms that can host up to 450 people. The resort is only a block away from the town’s main street, harbor and Lake Erie with its many dining and entertainment options. Bayshore Resort is another hotel option on the island facing Lake Erie. It sits on three acres of waterfront property. The Niagara Event Center is a full-service conference center on the island that can accommodate up to 500 people. The center can be split into four sections.
In their free time, meeting attendees can take the Island Tour Train, visit Perry’s Victory and International Peace Memorial or Perry’s Cave Family Fun Center and Butterfly House. Nearby attractions include African Safari Wildlife Park, Liberty Aviation Museum, Watering Hole Safari and Water Park and Marblehead Lighthouse State Park.
Marietta began in 1788 as the first permanent settlement of the new United States in the territory northwest of the Ohio River. The city’s premium convention hotel, The Lafayette, was named after the French hero of the American Revolution, Marquis de Lafayette, who visited in 1825. The hotel, which opened in 1918, sits at the confluence of the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. It has 77 guest rooms and 11,016 square feet of meeting space, including a 5,040-square-foot ballroom that can host nearly 500 people for a banquet.
The Quality Inn Event and Conference Center has 120 guest rooms and 6,516 square feet of event space. The largest room has 5,000 square feet. In total, Marietta has 1,000 hotel rooms. Marietta College has meeting capacity for 1,000 people, and the Peoples Bank Theatre can be rented out for private events.
Key offsite venues include The Adelphia Music Hall, which can host groups of 80, and The Barn at White Pine Acres, which has 6,000 square feet of space and can accommodate 320 guests. The Valley Gem Sternwheeler can take groups of 165 people on a narrated cruise down the Ohio and Muskingum rivers. The double-decker riverboat offers onboard catering. For fun, groups can take a historic trolley tour of Marietta, learning about the pioneers who founded it and the many museums, historic homes and churches in the area.
Groups can set up themed itineraries through the Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau in Marietta, including a Southeast Ohio Black Heritage Tour. Marietta Adventure Co. rents kayaks and bicycles and gives tips on the best places to utilize them.