Event Destination Guide: Cities for Your Next In-Person Meeting
Destination search has evolved immensely in such a short timeframe. In the past, meeting organizers have selected locations based on factors such as access to airports, abundance of hotels, transit infrastructure, cultural attractions, and venues. Now, there’s something else to consider when selecting the right venue for an event: the level of COVID-19 restrictions.
Restrictions vary from state to state — sometimes even between cities within the same state — and are being ramped up and scaled down at a moment’s notice. Keeping up with levels of restrictions and what’s allowed in which city has been quite the challenge for event planners and producers, which is why the LAI Live team put together this guide highlighting cities to consider if you’re planning on holding an in-person meeting.
Destinations That Are Business as Usual
As close to the pre-pandemic days of meetings as possible, these cities are ideal if you aren’t planning on making many modifications to your event. Social distancing measures are more relaxed and you’re not as likely to encounter capacity restrictions.
Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world and named the number one trade show destination in North America for 26 consecutive years. The long-anticipated $1 billion West Hall expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center is complete, adding 1.4 million square feet to one of the country’s largest meeting spaces. The new wing was officially debuted ahead of World of Concrete, the first major convention since the beginning of the pandemic.
San Antonio, set on the River Walk in historic downtown, San Antonio has become a favored destination for meetings since the opening of the newly transformed Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, following a $325 million expansion.
Nashville, just a two-minute walk from the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum, the 2.1 million square foot Music City Center opened its doors in 2013 so that Nashville could host large, city-wide conventions in its bustling downtown area.
Orlando, where one building isn’t enough to hold all the excitement. Known as “The Center of Hospitality” the city’s Orange County Convention Center is split into three buildings with over 7 million square feet of exhibit space combined. It’s the second largest convention center in the United States, playing host to roughly 1.4 million attendees across more than 230 events each year. Check out the live event we recently produced for the American Resort Development Association's Spring Conference in Orlando, Florida!
Houston, a staple in downtown Houston since 1987, the George R. Brown Convention Center has transformed the city into one of the leading destinations for tourism and convention business. The 1.2 million square foot building is flanked by the Toyota Center and Minute Maid Park, and connects visitors to 2,200 hotel rooms via two skybridges.
Cities That Lend Themselves to Outdoor Meetings
Outdoor events are a great alternative if you’re looking to avoid the potential headaches that come with planning in-person events in this day and age. When the weather cooperates, the following cities offer creative ways to plan outdoor programming and receptions in various venues and parks to achieve social distancing in ways other than placing six feet of space between chairs in a stuffy ballroom.
San Diego, is known for its weather and walkability, making it the ideal destination for an outdoor meeting. There are several outdoor event venues to choose from in San Diego, with the San Diego Convention Center outdoor space among them. The venue offers seven terraces, 184,500 square feet of terrace space and a two-acre park for unique outdoor experiences.
Seattle, a hotspot for eye-catching outdoor meeting spaces, boasting venues such as Bella Luna Farms, IslandWood, and Fremont Foundry to name a few. In addition to being Instagram-worthy, Seattle’s outdoor meeting spaces are suited to meet the social distancing requirements for your event.
Charming Smaller Cities for Smaller Audiences
If you’re expecting a smaller turnout for your in-person events, this is an opportunity to visit smaller cities that you may have overlooked in the past since they’re not usually equipped to accommodate large attendance numbers.
Raleigh, located at the hub of Raleigh’s burgeoning entrepreneurial startup scene, innovative science and technology campuses, and storied cuisine, the Raleigh Convention Center offers 500,000 square feet of flexibility with pre-made event templates, as well as options to start from scratch.
Boise, a vibrant Northwest City that’s home to the 86,000 square foot Boise Centre. With 1,300 hotel rooms within walking distance, 100 restaurants in the surrounding six blocks, and 20 direct flights to the city daily, Boise is a smaller option for sure, but no less mighty.
Grand Rapids, offering picturesque riverfront views of the Grand River, the Devos Place convention center offers a column-free exhibit hall, 40,000 square foot ballroom, 26 meeting rooms, and a 2,543-seat performing arts theater. Its location is part of the vibrant Grand Rapids downtown offering big city attractions and sophistication paired with small-town charm and intimacy.
Portland, home to the Oregon Convention Center, the largest event venue in the Pacific Northwest offering innovative approaches and modern amenities for hosting events of all kinds. Portland offers award-winning transportation and customer-friendly hotel packages that are a hit with meeting planners.
LAI Live Can Help You Select Your Next Meeting Destination
Not sure if the in-person venue you're looking at is the right fit for your event? Check out these 5 questions to ask during a site and venue visit to gauge how successful the event location will be. The expert LAI Live team can help your organization choose a destination that’s the perfect fit for your next meeting. Contact us to get started.