• Lenora Kruk-Mullanaphy

Museums & Attractions for Special Events

Why not stand out when hosting an upcoming event, especially when there’s such a variety of venues that offer unique settings for networking, conferences, receptions and other gatherings throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region?

Museums, aquariums, quaint villages and other attractions all are available to entice attendees who will look forward to an experience that is truly unique. With so many choices, there’s something for every taste. These one-of-a-kind venues are sure to help set the tone for an event that will be unforgettable.

Schedule that next event at one of the nation’s top aquariums - the National Aquarium in Baltimore, Maryland. One of the state’s largest paid tourist attractions, its mission is to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures. The aquarium is home to 20,000 fish, birds, amphibians, reptiles and marine mammals in all.

Attendees will look forward to exploring five levels of award-winning exhibits and taking in views of Baltimore’s Inner Harbor - a natural and scenic backdrop for any occasion. Portions of the aquarium can be rented after hours, which allows guests to stroll through the venue with food and beverage while viewing everything from black-tip reef sharks to puffins.

The aquarium hosts a variety of events, including nonprofit groups, conference closing receptions, conservation and environmentally-focused groups, architectural firms, medical institutions, and - of course - veterinary and animal-centered organizations.

“At the National Aquarium, attendees can enjoy an educational tour through the wonders of the aquatic world,” said Victoria Payerle, event sales manager for the National Aquarium in Baltimore. “Imagine an Indo-Pacific reef as the backdrop for your reception, dining as dolphins swim by and exploring a touch tank filled with moon jellies. That’s the mark of a memorable venue.”

When attendees know their event is scheduled to take place at the aquarium, that typically serves as a huge draw. “It’s rare for us to not meet or exceed the number of anticipated event attendees,” said Payerle.

In historic Bucks County, just minutes from the quaint town of New Hope, lies Peddler’s Village in Lahaska, Pennsylvania. The Village, which looks like a picture from a postcard, offers 42-acres of shopping, dining, lodging and family-oriented entertainment. Created in 1962, the site is one of the state’s premier attractions and draws more than two-million visitors annually.

Its 18th century-style buildings, lush gardens and winding brick walkways make Peddler’s Village a scenic, all-around destination for hosting events. The historical storybook setting encompasses more than 60 retail shops, six restaurants and the Golden Plough Inn with its 66 guest rooms and suites.

Peddler’s Village provides three meeting locations that can accommodate up to 100 attendees. Giggleberry Fair indoor family fun center houses a four-story climbing mountain and an arcade with high-tech and traditional games. A fully restored Philadelphia Toboggan Company carousel dating back to 1922 is a treat for the eyes and offers an elegant ride for visitors that will transport them to the carefree days of their childhood.

Attendees will find that the property is ideal for strolling during breaks or after a busy day of meetings. With numerous year-round festivals and seasonal events open to the public, the village is a popular site for corporate events, reunions, picnics and holiday parties.

Peddler’s Village and the Golden Plough Inn host business meetings, training sessions, corporate retreats and a variety of social gatherings. With 6,000-square feet of flexible indoor meeting space that includes a dozen conference rooms, free Wi-Fi throughout the hotel and meeting spaces, a full spectrum of audio-visual and teleconference technology, and plenty of free parking, planners will find this to be a perfect location for events.

Curated gardens, sprawling lawns, a Gazebo and an iconic Water Wheel add to this already incomparable setting.

“Peddler’s Village offers more than just elegant, ample meeting space,” said Brian Shields, director of group sales for the property. “The Village includes an inn, a variety of restaurants and eateries, as well as team building opportunities and experiences that include wine, beer and spirit tastings, scavenger hunts, arcade game competitions, and cupcake and cookie decorating. The on-site spa and salon services, nearby museums, wineries, golf courses, theaters and historic events make it a prime selection for events.”

Peddler’s Village has hosted pharmaceutical, banking and financial planning groups, law and other professional firms, nonprofit organizations and more. These groups stay for multi-day or single-day events that often include meetings in the conference facilities and team building activities. The on-site lodging makes it perfect for multi-day business.

Seeking a venue that will make attendance skyrocket and take upcoming meetings to new heights? Then head to One Liberty Observation Deck in Philadelphia, PA. Located atop the iconic One Liberty Place skyscraper, it features sweeping views of the historic City of Brotherly Love. There’s no need to add décor when photo opportunities are complemented by sunset backdrops of the city and the shining lights of Philadelphia at night.

Up to 275 attendees can be accommodated on the Observation Deck level (on floor 57) for a single event. Guests will have the opportunity to get a bird’s eye view of key landmarks in and around the city with the “Go Find Your Philly Interactive Boards.” Six touch screen monitors are located throughout the deck, where attendees can experience a closer, high-definition look at sites around the region. Guests can zoom in to get more information about the landmark’s history, architecture and impact on culture.

“We’re the highest event space with 360-degree views in the city,” said Jessica Blank, marketing manager for the One Liberty Observation Deck. “Our modern architecture and floor-to-ceiling windows highlight the city as the backdrop for your next event.”

Blank said the venue has hosts seated dinners, corporate holiday parties, fashion shows, cocktail receptions, product launches and networking events for a variety of clients. Professional sports teams, law and healthcare companies, conventions and other major corporations have chosen the site for their conclaves, as well.

“Our clients have indicated that we provide a new and unique venue that’s impressive to guests,” said Blank. “As a new attraction in the city, many attendees haven’t yet visited the site and are excited to view Philadelphia from a new vantage point.”

The Science History Institute, formerly known as the Chemical Heritage Foundation, is located in the heart of Old City Philadelphia within easy walking distance of Independence Hall along with a host of historic buildings. The property includes a museum with a collection of scientific instruments, as well as books and artwork related to chemistry and alchemy. Free and open to the public, the museum is accessible from both floors of meeting space on-site.

Attendees can wind their way through the museum to find out how plastics are made, where crayons get their colors, how the code of DNA was cracked, or how oxygen is measured on Mars. They’ll be intrigued to learn about the successes, failures and unusual surprises behind the scientific discoveries that have changed the world. The special exhibit in the Hach Gallery houses a collection of 17th- through 20th-century oil paintings that depict alchemists at work.

“Our building has a contemporary and clean design, combined with the quirky flair of arcane and vintage scientific imagery,” said Lou Marrocco, CMP, director of the conference center at the Science History Institute. “It’s exemplified in the frosted glass walls and panels, which create a light-filled, sleek atmosphere and are decorated with subtle alchemical symbols and imagery from centuries-old manuscripts.”

A salute to old apothecary shops is found in the antique glassware that’s tucked in wall niches and nooks within the meeting space halls. The venue unites the visuals of future technology with ancient historical objects to create a truly unique atmosphere.

Attendees often make their way to the museum to explore it during breaks. Some groups arrange for guided tours from one of the trained visitor services staff, and planners can request to make special arrangements for keeping the museum open late.

“Our museum is considered a ‘hidden gem’ in Philadelphia,” said Marrocco. “The uniqueness of our collection, the attractive design of its presentation, and the knowledge of our visitor services staff make it an enjoyable experience for individuals of all levels of scientific curiosity.”

For the Gettysburg Foundation and the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center, attendees will have the chance to stand where a pivotal battle raged between the Confederate and Union armies during the Civil War. Today, visitors are encouraged to walk these fields where soldiers fought and died.

The monuments, exhibits and landmarks tell a story, and visitors are invited to explore the Cyclorama, a film about the battle, and the museum at the Visitor Center, as well as to tour the battlefield and check out the historical sites around town.

Licensed Battlefield Guides train for years and must pass extensive tests given by the National Park Service for qualification to host tours. Guides master the core knowledge of the Battle of Gettysburg and its place within the causes and consequences of the Civil War in order to interpret history and impart that knowledge to visitors.

Options for touring with a Licensed Battlefield Guide include a private tour in the visitor’s car or by motor coach. Individuals also can opt to take self-guided tours by car, foot or bicycle.

Guests receive access to the Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War, which highlights artifacts from the Battle of Gettysburg. Attendees won’t want to miss the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama painting-in-the-round that measures longer than a football field and taller than a two-story building that depicts Pickett’s Charge and includes lighting and sound effects.

A short film, “A New Birth of Freedom,” walks attendees through the epic story of the Battle of Gettysburg and illuminates the causes and outcomes of the battle within the context of American history.

The Gettysburg Foundation offers facility rentals at the Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center. Mixing history, elegance and convenience, the location is ideal for events. From intimate meeting spaces to dramatic banquet halls, planners will find state-of-the-art conveniences combined with rustic-refined architecture that’s inspired by the nation’s past.

Events can be tailored to provide a one-of-a-kind experience in historic Gettysburg. The property has been selected for ceremonies, receptions, conferences, meetings, military Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) meetings, reunions and more. Professional event consultants work with planners to ensure their event will be a success.

Planners will find the museum to be a one-stop shop for events with its ample space for after-hours functions; meeting rooms for board gatherings, workshops and seminars; in-house catering services for buffets, sit-down dinners, and cocktail receptions; free parking and motor coach access; a dedicated event staff; along with free Wi-Fi.

The James A. Michener Art Museum in Doylestown, PA, is named for the city’s Pulitzer Prize-winning author and philanthropist. Located in scenic Bucks County, the museum is situated in a restored historic site that had its start as the Bucks County prison in 1884. Now transformed into a center of culture and beauty, it offers an elegant setting in which to host guests.

With an assortment of exhibitions to make it a unique celebratory environment, the museum accommodates galas, corporate luncheons and more. Attendees will be awed by the sculpture garden and will enjoy the opportunity to walk through the galleries either at their leisure or as part of a formal tour.

Such tours are led by trained guides, and guests are introduced to the highlights of the permanent collection and current special exhibits. The museum hosts many changing exhibits, providing visitors fresh and exciting artwork each time.

Customized tours to meet the group’s interests focus on: the 19th century Pennsylvania Impressionist landscape painters; Doylestown native, author and museum champion James A. Michener; internationally known furniture designer George Nakashima; contemporary art by leading regional artists; examples of regional Studio Craft by woodworkers, ceramicists, and more.

The James A. Michener Art Museum’s exclusive caterer, Catering By Design, serves custom menus that are inspired by dishes and flavors from around the globe. The venue offers complete accessibility, plenty of free parking and on-site audio-visual equipment.

Planners will find several spaces for events at the museum, including the Edgar N. Putman Event Pavilion - a 2,500-square foot all-glass structure connected to a 4,500-square foot outdoor courtyard space for ceremonies and receptions.

Accessible by indoor connection to the galleries and also via a separate garden entrance, it accommodates banquet seating for 180 guests and theater-style seating for 200 people. The flexible space incorporates indoor and outdoor concepts, as well as alternate accommodations in the event if inclement weather.

The Grand Entrance Hall is adjacent to museum galleries and is accessible to the Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden Terrace. It offers room for 150-plus guests for a cocktail reception with minimal seating.

The Patricia D. Pfundt Sculpture Garden Terrace is ideal for a sit-down, served reception for 200 guests (no dancing); a sit-down, served reception (with dancing) for 160 people; and 200-plus individuals for a cocktail reception with minimal seating.

In addition, the Penn Color Board Room can accommodate up to 26 individuals for meetings and luncheons.

Museums and attractions such as these provide planners with environments and opportunities to present their attendees with something fresh, exciting and different from the norm.

Events can tap into the built-in themes to help energize their groups while generating buzz and creating events that will be both greatly enjoyed and long remembered.

Lenora Kruk-Mullanaphy has extensive public relations experience in the hospitality industry, having worked with the Atlantic City Convention and Visitors Authority and Morton's The Steakhouse.

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