• Lenora Kruk-Mullanaphy

Historic Hotels, Venues and Destinations with Stories to Tell

Planners who want to offer attendees an impactful meeting or conference - an event they’ll look forward to and make a point not to miss - will find historic venues and destinations to be great choices. Attendees will anticipate going to business functions, networking and events when they take place in these unique locations dotted throughout the region.

Bucks County, Pennsylvania boasts a wide range of options when it comes to historic sites available to host meetings and events. Established in 1682 by colonial proprietor William Penn as one of the four original counties in the commonwealth, this destination offers an abundance of landmarks with historical ties.

For example, planners can arrange events near historical sites such as William Penn’s former home, Pennsbury Manor, at a number of 18th- and 19th-century estates and farms, where George Washington crossed the Delaware River during the American Revolution, at sites that served as stops along the Underground Railroad, as well as dozens of other locations with plenty of their own stories to tell.

The Continental Tavern in Yardley is in the center of the town’s historic district and is only a couple of blocks from the Delaware River. Restored to its look and configuration from 1877, the venue has an outdoor porch that offers views of Lake Afton and is the perfect spot for dining alfresco in Bucks County. For decades, the tavern has hosted groups for lunch and dinner. Its on-site planning professionals can help with menu planning and recommend vendors for things like decorations, flowers and more.

Aldie Mansion, named for the William R. Mercer family’s ancestral estate in Perthshire, Scotland and modeled after the Compton Wynyates in Warwickshire, England, is situated on more than 10-acres of manicured grounds in Doylestown. This 20th-century estate’s charm lends character to special events while providing contemporary space and amenities.

Large meetings for up to 230 guests and meal functions can be accommodated in the mansion’s atrium, while its library, gallery and Great Hall offer classic settings for smaller events. Outside are gardens, stone terraces, fountains and flowering trees for creating a picture-perfect backdrop. With Aldie Mansion’s architecture, elegant landscaping and team of professionals, every event is unforgettable.

Washington Crossing Inn’s traditional colonial-style structure features a preserved 1817 home. Scenic views and a seasonal menu sprinkled with the freshest ingredients for continental cuisine with an American flair help to make it a great choice for events. Planners will find the property’s Secret Garden and patio to be truly one-of-a-kind spaces for events.

Located in Washington Crossing, this award-winning inn has earned commendations from the Bucks County Courier Times, Open Table and WeddingWire.

“Hosting an event at one of Bucks County’s beautiful, historic venues - either outdoors on scenic grounds with lush greenery and gardens or inside surrounded by exquisite architecture - will take attendees back in time and create a unique experience with accommodations to fit the needs of any meeting or event,” noted Jenna Worrell, business development and events manager for Visit Bucks County, the local convention and visitors bureau.

“From the restaurants with space for private parties, mansions and estates for weddings or other large celebrations, and everything in between, Bucks County in itself is a historical landmark,” she added. “It offers a beautiful setting for any event to be enriched with charm and important history from the 18th- and 19th-centuries.”

A bit further westward in Pennsylvania, groups will feel as if they have stepped right into a book about U.S. history when in Gettysburg, especially because it was the site of a turning point during the Civil War back in July of 1863.

With so many historic places to visit, attendees may want to extend their business trips and bring their families along to do some exploring on their own.

Attendees can tour a battlefield shrine dedicated to both the Union and Confederate soldiers who fought here. Guests can stand on the hallowed ground where the Gettysburg Address took place, and check out sites like Robert E. Lee’s headquarters, Little Round Top, visit the Devil’s Den and many other historical sites.

Planners can opt to treat attendees to presentations and encampments that bring history to life. Private presentations for groups that include historians and reenactors who engage with attendees at events provide an opportunity for guests to come face-to-face with a famous general or ordinary civilian who lived here 150 years ago.

Attendees will look forward to the variety of dining options available in Gettysburg, too, including authentic Civil War-era foods. Group tours never tasted so good!

The Savor Gettysburg Food Tour makes eight stops as part of a culinary adventure combined paired with stories of local history. The Farnsworth House Inn serves game pie and pickled watermelon rind. Seafood, like the crab dip at Gettysburg Eddie’s, is a rich concoction to whet the appetite. Tommy’s Pizza hand tosses pies while pouring some great beer, and Appalachian Brewing Company offers pub food and brews of its own, including root beer.

Wineries are abundant in this area, too, and attendees will undoubtedly enjoy stopping at a few of their tasting rooms.

Gettysburg Foundation partners with the National Park Service to preserve the Gettysburg National Military Park and the Eisenhower National Historic Site, as well as to educate the public about the significance of both.

Gettysburg is one of the most historically significant sites in the nation and offers an abundance of unique venues replete with history of their own.

The Gettysburg National Military Park Museum and Visitor Center offers a spacious, LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design)-certified, state-of-the-art venue boasting a number of experiences relating to history. Attendees will have an opportunity to be immersed in history through its Film, Cyclorama and Museum Experience. “A New Birth of Freedom” is a film that takes participants through the epic story of the Battle of Gettysburg and highlights its causes and outcomes within the context of American history.

The Gettysburg Cyclorama is a painting-in-the-round that includes both lighting and sound effects. It stretches more than a football field in length and stands taller than a two-story building! The Cyclorama depicts Pickett’s Charge, the climactic event of the Gettysburg battle, and places attendees in the heart of the action.

In addition, the museum features artifacts from the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War.

“With the perfect blend of history, elegance and convenience, Gettysburg National Museum and Visitor Center is the ideal location for a meeting, conference or private event,” exclaimed Debbie Joyner, facility events and rentals manager for the Gettysburg Foundation.

“From intimate meeting spaces to dramatic banquet halls, the museum and visitor center offers state-of-the-art conveniences paired with rustic, yet refined architecture inspired by the past. Our facilities can be tailored to provide a one-of-a-kind experience in Gettysburg, and our professional consultants will work with planners to make their event historic,” she added.

On the National Register of Historic Places, Gettysburg Lincoln Railroad Station™ is located downtown and features three galleries of exhibits housed within its period-restored facility.

Joyner noted that this site, best known as the railroad station where President Lincoln arrived more than a century-and-a-half ago to deliver the Gettysburg Address, is perfect for hosting corporate events, networking, business development meetings, kick-off campaigns and closing receptions for events. With accommodations for up to 200 guests, depending on configuration, on-site consultants work with planners to make every event held here memorable.

Collectively, these venues have hosted companies and organizations, such as the PA Chamber of Commerce; Bayer Corporation; County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania; University of Maryland; PA Bar Association; the Austin Healey Club USA; Corvette Club of America; and many other groups.

Steeped in 288 years of history, Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania is a suburban Philadelphia landmark. Situated in close proximity to King of Prussia, Norristown, Plymouth Meeting, Conshohocken and Valley Forge, it offers a convenient location.

What started as an inn and tavern in the 19th century has since blossomed into a 21st century premier hotel and conference center. Normandy Farm is home to 113 elegantly appointed guest rooms, as well as both an East and West Gatehouse, a Carriage House, and an original Manor House, which have all been renovated to serve as 28 guest suites on the property.

Hansen Properties holds three venues in Blue Bell that accommodate group functions: Normandy Farm, the farmer’s daughter restaurant, and Blue Bell Country Club. Between them, planners will find many options in which to plan receptions, meal functions, networking, and countless other events. Another bonus - planners can opt to utilize two in-house and award-winning service providers: Willow & Thistle Florist and Tyler Boye Photography.

For golf outings, Normandy Farm’s sister property, Blue Bell Country Club, is just a block away and offers complimentary shuttle service to and from the hotel.

With a reputation as one of the finest golfing facilities in the Delaware Valley, its 18-hole Arnold Palmer signature designed course features challenging rolling hills, water hazards and strategically positioned bunkers. A modern, full-length driving range, one-of-a-kind short game facility, and a golf staff led by Professional Golf Association head professional, Joey Pohle add to its offerings.

The farmer’s daughter includes wooden farm tables and has a contemporary “farm-chic” feel. Restaurant guests are invited to dine on its “modern farm cooking” with locally sourced ingredients. The culinary team uses seasonal harvests in the region to provide tasty and pure flavors. The farmer’s daughter is ideal for hosting up to 75 guests for private events. The Orchard, The Dowry and The Wine Room are each available for corporate events, fundraisers and more, as well.

At Normandy Farm, convenience is right at the guests’ fingertips. For trips within an eight-mile radius of the property, there is free shuttle service offered.

Karen Mandel, senior business development manager for Normandy Farm, said this one-of-a-kind venue recently was recognized by the Philadelphia Inquirer as the “Number One Multi-Generational Family-Owned Business.”

At 288 years “young,” its beauty has been preserved with nearly $4-million in recent renovations that included hotel guest rooms, the main lobby, and its IACC (International Association of Conference Centers)-certified conference center.

“Our properties feature magnificent ballrooms, spacious outdoor terraces and gardens, a farm-chic, contemporary restaurant, plus 141 hotel rooms - including suites in our meticulously restored gate and carriage houses - along with world-class amenities,” noted Mandel.

Normandy Farm recently was selected to host a retreat for a global food company. Because of its “farm charm” and the team’s ability to mesh the customer service vibe with the client’s brand, the property was an attractive choice.

Mandel said entry-level managers were escorted to the carriage suites for their overnight stay, while the company’s leadership team remained comfortable in the main hotel. The intentional “preferential treatment” to the new managers made the experience both welcoming and memorable for them.

“The event was a perfect example of precision planning and flawless execution that included rustic farm tables, customized menus with vegan and vegetarian options, team building activities that were ‘food centric,’ and room to ‘play’ in the spacious gardens,” stated Mandel.

Pocono Manor Resort and Spa is nestled on 3,000 woodland acres and is referred to as “The Grand Lady of the Mountains” by the local community of Pocono Manor, Pennsylvania. Built at the turn of the century, it is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and also is a Registered Historic Landmark.

The resort’s founders, the Quaker Society of Friends, selected its location to be a peaceful retreat that was convenient to metropolitan areas back in 1901. It’s been rolling out the welcome mat for guests ever since 1902, and offers a true mountain resort experience with comfortable accommodations, sumptuous meals, plus several indoor and outdoor facilities and amenities. Here, planners will find flexible meeting space and an attentive staff that offers personalized service for over 400 people.

The historic East Course at Pocono Manor was designed by some of the era’s great golf course designers, including Donald Ross and William Flynn, and has tested and challenged top professionals such as Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer and Jimmy Demaret.

“Pocono Manor is a world away, but close to home,” observed Susan Corrigan, director of sales for the property. “Our timeless and iconic resort offers distinctive service, amenities and ambience and has welcomed guests year after year. Whether your vision includes an outdoor team building adventure, a social responsibility event, or a culinary workshop, our team stands ready to assist down to the last detail.”

Offering a true mountain resort experience, the property boasts comfortable accommodations, fine dining, a variety of indoor and outdoor facilities and amenities, flexible meeting space, personalized service, and more. Its 240 guest rooms and suites are decorated in keeping with the period style of this century-old hotel, but provide all modern conveniences and amenities.

In addition to its 30,000-square feet of function space with meeting rooms that boast stunning mountain views, Pocono Manor also offers an array of team building and recreational activities on-site. During leisure time, attendees can walk wooded trails, golf on an 18-hole championship course, and enjoy a dip in its on-site swimming pools. Still more options for recreation include trapshooting, an archery range, horseback riding, a variety of outdoor experiences available through Manor Sports, as well as the opportunity to unwind and refresh at the full-service spa.

Choosing a venue with a rich history can provide a planner with a space that’s not only a conversation piece among attendees, but that also is a truly outstanding meeting or event venue in its own right.

These properties join many others throughout the Mid-Atlantic Region as venues with their own unique stories to tell as well as ties to American history. Today, each also serves as a destination where a group can make a bit of history of its own.

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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