Event planners are a well-traveled bunch, and they are no strangers to beautiful locales with top-tier amenities. But there are some places that make even this experienced crew stop and say “WOW!” Here are a few of our favorite dazzling destinations.
International Spy Museum, Washington, D.C.
Wow factor: A daring backdrop of international espionage
Expect secrets and intrigue around every shadowy corner at this one-of-a-kind Washington, D.C. destination. The International Spy Museum boasts the largest collection of international espionage artifacts ever publicly displayed, arranged in interactive and immersive exhibits. With in-depth stories, the museum puts visitors in the shoes of the officers, agents, and analysts who work in the shadows, as well as the leaders who make use of their work. During the pandemic, the museum has focused on cultivating its virtual offerings. Virtual activities include an undercover team building mission, spy trivia, private cocktail parties, and a virtual ‘infiltration’ of the museum itself. Founded in 2002, the museum moved to a striking new building in May 2019.
Extra Wow! The museum’s landscaped rooftop terrace and seventh-floor ballroom feature breathtaking views of the nation’s capital, including the Washington Monument, the U.S. Capitol, and the Potomac River.
The Classic Center, Athens, Ga.
Wow factor: Outstanding special events services
Home to almost 700 events each year, The Classic Center is Northeast Georgia’s premier award-winning convention center, performing arts theatre, multipurpose arena, and covered outdoor pavilion. Located in the heart of downtown Athens, Ga., The Classic Center provides unique meeting space and a wide range of entertainment choices, making this unconventional convention center a top pick for conferences, meetings, and special events. Only 60 miles from Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, the center is surrounded by more than 150 unique dining, shopping, and excursion options in the charming downtown core.
Extra Wow! The center has earned GBAC STAR accreditation, the cleaning industry’s only outbreak prevention, response, and recovery accreditation for facilities.
Cumberland House Knoxville, Tenn.
Wow factor: Tail wags and puppy love
The recently opened Cumberland House Knoxville, Tapestry Collection by Hilton is taking their pet-friendly policy a paw further with pet bonding sessions for special events. COVID-19 permitting, Cumberland House is offering all meeting and event guests the opportunity to upgrade their gathering with a Yappy Hour, which includes up to two hours of doggie rubs, hugs, and wet kisses. Coordinated in partnership with the Young-Williams Animal Center (YWAC) in Knoxville, the $500 package includes two hours with the pets, with onsite shelter staff present to ensure everyone has a chance to cuddle with the four-legged visitors.
Extra Wow! Pets are available for adoption, which can be arranged with the YWAC staff.
West Baton Rouge, La.
Wow factor: Southern hospitality, seasoned with Cajun flavor
A down-home welcome, combined with modern meeting facilities and ample tech capabilities at the West Baton Rouge Conference Center, makes this south Louisiana destination a superb choice. The area is steeped in history and natural wonders, which means event planners have plenty of opportunities to build education, reflection, and the outdoors into their meeting agendas. Plan a visit to the West Baton Rouge Museum, a four-acre campus that tells the story of sugar agriculture from the Civil War through the Civil Rights era. Or, to get attendees moving, schedule a 5K along the banks of the Mighty Mississippi. To top it all off, you know you can always feed a crowd with an abundance of hearty home cooking.
Extra Wow! Situated conveniently along the I-10 corridor, West Baton Rouge is an ideal drive-in destination.
River Parishes, La.
Wow factor: A region imbued with history and culture
In Louisiana’s River Parishes, history and tradition can be felt in the movement of each day, from Bonfire Country at Christmastime to the smokehouses along The Andouille Trail, each offering its unique take on this local delicacy. Throughout the region, there are restaurants offering recipes handed down through generations and with a flavor unlike anywhere else. Out here, each day brings something new. Feel the weight of history on a visit to the centuries-old homes of New Orleans Plantation Country and the museums of the 1811 Slave Revolt Trail, or immerse in nature on an excursion to the local bayous and lakes.
Extra Wow! Visitors can cruise down the beautiful bayous of New Orleans Swamp Country from the comfort of a pontoon boat.
Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Wow factor: Sky-high standards for health and safety
Myrtle Beach has the distinction of being the only destination in the Carolinas and Georgia where both the convention center and airport have received GBAC STAR accreditation. Facility staff have implemented a comprehensive cleanliness strategy: The center’s HVAC units recirculate clean air throughout the exhibit halls; there are hand sanitization stations situated throughout the facility; and surfaces are cleaned with a Graco disinfectant sprayer paired with hospital-grade Shockwave cleaning agent, which dries in just 10 minutes. Moreover, recorded messages play throughout the building to remind guests of mask-wearing and physical distancing requirements.
Extra Wow! Obtain temperature checks in seconds with the SnapXT by Certify, a product available in coordination with one of Myrtle Beach’s show producers.
The Biltmore, Asheville, N.C.
Wow factor: A storybook setting straight from the Gilded Age
The Biltmore offers a number of private facilities and non-traditional event venues, all set against a stunning Blue Ridge mountain backdrop. Because of such diversity, indoor and outdoor meeting locations can be customized for virtually any size and function. But the jewel of the property is Biltmore House, an architectural marvel as magnificent today as it was when it was built more than a century ago. Guests have the opportunity to tour Biltmore House, meander the estate’s historic gardens, taste award-winning handmade wines, stay in one of the estate’s lodging properties, and choose from numerous restaurants serving select products raised on the estate’s own farmland.
Extra Wow! The Conservatory, completed in 1895, is a beautiful greenhouse venue housing a wide variety of exotic plants and orchids. Its tall arched windows look out onto the terraced butterfly garden and the Walled Garden beyond.
Higgins Hotel, New Orleans, La.
Wow factor: The official hotel of The National WWII Museum
New Orleans’ newest hotel, at the center of the Arts and Warehouse District, offers an unparalleled opportunity to connect with history. When guests book their stay, they have the opportunity to select a World War II Museum admission package, which includes accommodations and a two-day museum pass for each adult registered to the room. Designated by Congress as the official Second World War museum of the United States, The National WWII Museum spans a six-acre campus, where five soaring pavilions house historical exhibits and onsite restoration work.
Extra Wow! The hotel’s location across the street from the museum makes it easy for guests to make their way to the museum’s event spaces, including the U.S. Freedom Pavilion, a space that can accommodate up to 650 for dinner beneath six vintage WWII aircraft.
Austin Convention Center, Tex.
Wow factor: Top of the class in certifications
Having already earned LEED Gold certification, the Austin Convention Center added another accomplishment to its portfolio last November when it achieved GBAC STAR accreditation. “When the submittal process was presented, our staff never hesitated with the thought of increased documentation and new cleaning protocols,” said Taje Allen, Austin Convention Center Department interim facilities manager. “We are excited about our new equipment that will assist us with infectious disease prevention and disinfection. I’m proud to say, our Convention Center staff has taken all changes in stride.”
Extra Wow! The Austin Convention Center offers robust and complimentary Wi-Fi, which can handle more than 20,000 wireless devices connecting simultaneously.
Bayou Country, Houma, La.
Wow factor: The new mouth-watering Bayou Country Crawfish Trail
Houma’s newest culinary attraction features 38 stops along the Bayou Country Crawfish Trail, a year-round celebration of the delicious mudbug. Once guests have collected five receipts from across the trail, they can claim a Crawfish Trail t-shirt as their prize swag. During ‘heads’ season, when the days are cold and everyone’s mind is on king cakes and parades, there are crawfish boils aplenty to be found. During ‘tails’ season, the menu shifts to savory Cajun dishes like jambalaya and étouffée. Houma is also known for its world-class fishing, a family-friendly Mardi Gras, and the Chauvin Sculpture Gardens, an internationally ranked folk art exhibit.
Extra Wow! Born from a legendary Prohibition-era family moonshiner, the new Bayou Terrebonne Distillers serves up group tours along with its Contraband whiskey.
Coushatta Casino Resort, La.
Wow factor: Hit the jackpot with your event attendees
Coushatta boasts the largest and most spacious gaming floor in southwest Louisiana, with thousands of slots, Vegas-style table games, live poker, and off-track betting. Hungry guests choose from eight delicious dining destinations, including award-winning Cajun cuisine. Coushatta offers two beautiful hotels, as well as the Red Shoes RV Park & Chalets. The onsite golf course, Koasati Pines at Coushatta, is ranked the 18th best golf course in the U.S. Coushatta offers more than 53,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as catering and banquet services that comfortably accommodate meetings, parties, wedding receptions, and business retreats of all sizes.
Extra Wow! Koasati Pines Golf Course features gently rolling terrain, looking-glass lakes, and tree-filled surroundings. The chairman’s boardroom in the clubhouse is available for meetings.
Wow factor: Getting here is a walk in the park
Greeneville is located within a day’s drive of 70 percent of the country’s population, which makes it an attractive choice for corporate and association meetings. Once the day’s business has concluded, event attendees have many opportunities for after-hours enjoyment at the area’s historic attractions and gorgeous landscapes. Margarette Falls is one of the most popular waterfall trails in the area, rewarding those willing to take the mile-long trek with a picturesque, fan-shaped waterfall formation. The trail to the falls crosses the stream several times, providing many opportunities to cool off in the creek.
Extra Wow! Stroll down the same streets as Andrew Johnson, 17th president of the United States, when he returned here from the White House in 1869. Visit the Andrew Johnson National Historic Site, which includes a homestead, a visitor center, and the cemetery where Johnson is buried.