Some of Wyoming’s biggest possibilities are found in its small towns.
Wyoming is known for its wide-open spaces, blue sky that seems to go on forever, spectacular natural wonders, outdoor recreation and Wild West past. Meeting planners wanting to tap into all that makes Wyoming a great destination should consider hosting events in these five smaller destinations.
Founded between two rugged mountain ranges, Laramie attracts hordes of outdoor enthusiasts wanting to hike, bike, climb, fish, canoe or kayak through its incomparable scenery. In the winter, visitors can ski, snowshoe, cross-country ski or try their hand at snowmobiling. Another big attraction to the area is the University of Wyoming, the state’s only four-year institution, which also happens to offer several large conference facilities and classroom-style meeting options for groups of all sizes.
“Campus is gorgeous and historic in its own way,” said Scott Larson, executive director of Visit Laramie/Albany County Tourism Board. “I think that is a draw.”
The Marian H. Rochelle Gateway Center is the University of Wyoming’s welcome center, offering state-of-the-art technology, inside spaces and two outdoor plazas that can be used for intimate lunches or banquets of up to 600. The McMurry Foundation Grand Atrium is a wonderful gathering place for groups. The UW Events Center is an 8,000-square-foot ballroom with banquet seating for 560.
The 135-room Hilton Garden Inn Laramie is across the street from the Gateway Center. It features 3,483 square feet of meeting space. The Grand Teton Ballroom is 2,130 square feet and can host 120 for a banquet or 230 theater-style.
Steeped in western history, Laramie also has a lot to offer when it comes to arts and culture. Groups should make a point of visiting the Wyoming Territorial and Historic Prison, the only prison to ever hold Butch Cassidy, and the Historic Laramie Union Pacific Train Depot.
The energy capital of the nation, Gillette sits in the northeast corner of Wyoming, nestled among some of the nation’s most famous monuments, including Devils Tower National Monument, Mount Rushmore National Memorial and the Big Horn Mountain Range.
Visitors come to tour the Eagle Butte Coal Mine and learn more about the area’s coal mining history. The Durham Bison Ranch, founded in 1965, is home to more than 3,000 bison. Groups coming to the area for meetings or conventions can set aside time to tour the working ranch from May through early fall.
Groups looking for meeting locations in Gillette will want to explore Cam-Plex, which has an ice arena, theater, outdoor arena, indoor arena and multi-event center. The Energy Hall Ballroom has 21,000 square feet of space that can be divided into eight individual rooms. Three conference rooms adjoin the space. Wyoming Center offers 78,899 square feet of contiguous space that can be divided into three halls and lobbies.
The Best Western Tower West Lodge is the only full-service hotel in the area, with 190 guest rooms and a conference center that can hold 300. Frontier Auto Museum can host groups of 50 to 75 people for a meet-and-greet among the vintage cars.
Cody attracts many visitors annually because of its wonderful outdoor recreation and its proximity to Yellowstone National Park. Cody feeds into two of Yellowstone’s five entrance gates. Meeting groups wanting to attract a larger attendance for their events will offer guided tours of the park that travel through one gate and exit through the other.
Groups wanting to tap into an authentic Western experience can host events in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, which hosts five Smithsonian-affiliated museums under one roof: the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Buffalo Bill Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum, the Draper Natural History Museum and the Plains Indian Museum. There are 14 guest and dude ranches in the area that offer authentic Western experiences and team building for groups of different sizes.
Cody has 2,500 hotel rooms, campsites and guest-house options to cater to the needs of various groups, as well as several hotels and conference centers. The Holiday Inn and Convention Center offers finished banquet space for up to 250, along with several breakout rooms and exhibition space. It has 186 sleeping rooms, a restaurant and lounge, and catering services.
The Cody Cattle Company has space for up to 500 people, including a kitchen, a stage, a bar and audio-visual equipment. The Riley Arena and Community Events Center has 25,000 square feet of open exhibit space from April through October. It offers event setup and table and chair rentals; a kitchen and snack bar are available with local catering for groups.
Cody Trolley Tours can take groups on hourlong explorations of town before or after their meetings. Groups can visit the Heart Mountain World War II Interpretive Center, the site of a Japanese-American internment camp where more than 14,000 people were incarcerated during the war.
Rock Springs attracts visitors from across the country because of its spectacular scenery. Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is right outside town. It includes Lake Flaming Gorge, which is the size of Lake Powell and offers premiere aquatic activities.
Just north of Rock Springs, the Killpecker Sand Dunes are the second-largest active sand dune field in the world, covering 109,000 acres that stretch 55 miles east from the Green River Basin across the Continental Divide into the Great Divide Basin. Visitors can tackle the dunes with off-road vehicles like ATVs or hike the dunes and slide down them using skis or sleds. Some of the dunes are 100 feet tall. The area is famous for its interesting geologic formations, including Boar’s Tusk, an ancient volcano that rises 400 feet above the valley floor. If groups have time, they should seek out the area’s petroglyphs or try to catch a glimpse of a rare desert elk herd that is found nowhere else in North America.
Rock Springs has plenty of meeting spaces for groups of up to 300. Broadway Theater can hold 350, while the 100-room Best Western Outlaw Inn can accommodate up to 250. The 106-room Hampton Inn and Suites in Green River can host groups of 250.
Sweetwater Events Complex has a 20,000-square-foot exhibit building and a 42,480-square-foot agricultural complex.
Jackson Hole is the gateway to Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks, so the area has always attracted adventure seekers, from skiers, hikers, bikers and horseback riders to rock climbers and rafters. Group visitors can experience the wildlife and scenery of the area on a guided safari that takes them through less crowded areas of the nearby parks to observe and learn about everything from bears, wolves and elk to bison, moose, and pronghorn and bighorn sheep.
Meeting planners wanting to experience all that Jackson Hole has to offer can plan events at dude ranches or stay at national park lodges, luxury resorts or historic hotels. The Lodge at Jackson Hole offers 154 guest rooms and plenty of meeting space at the Jackson Hole Conference Center, which has 10,000 square feet of event space. Bridger Ballroom can host up to 420 guests.
Nearby Wyoming Inn offers an additional 69 rooms and suites. Teton Mountain Lodge and Spa has 145 guest rooms, 5,000 square feet of meeting and event space, and event-planning services. Its largest space can accommodate 162 guests. The resort is located slope side to Jackson Hole Mountain Resort and at the south gateway to Grand Teton National Park.
Snake River Lodge and Spa offers 6,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom, seven meeting rooms and a gorgeous outdoor deck. It is located on the slopes of Jackson Hole Mountain Resort.