• Lenora Kruk-Mullanaphy

Oceanfront Destinations

Meetings at the South Jersey Shore

The South Jersey Shore’s beautiful beaches and rolling waves present an iconic picture for a postcard, and also serve as the perfect lure to net record attendance numbers for group meetings, conferences and trade shows.

But there’s a lot more drawing group business here than just the natural scenery. Ample and desirable meeting space, hotel accommodations, entertainment and dining options make this an ideal - and year-round - group destination.

The Atlantic City Convention Center, for example, is home to nearly 500,000-square feet of meeting space, five exhibit halls, 45 meeting rooms and 29 covered loading docks, and the building recently received the prestigious Gold LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Certification. Meet AC is the sales and marketing force that supports the center, responsible for marketing and attendance building.

Housing attendees is no problem in Atlantic City with its inventory of 17,500 hotel rooms, and there’s an abundance of casino resorts, including Tropicana, Borgata, Resorts, Caesars, Bally’s, Harrah’s Waterfront Conference Center, Ocean Resort, Golden Nugget, and Hard Rock.

When meetings wrap up for the day, attendees will want to head to AC’s world-famous boardwalk, which is located along the beach and Atlantic Ocean. The resort’s activities include: the Orange Loop, which is steps off the boardwalk and features three blocks of restaurants, bars, live music, coffee shops and more; Steel Pier with its amusements and Observation Wheel, the third tallest wheel in the nation; as well as dozens of shows and concerts at the city’s casino resorts and Boardwalk Hall.

Climbing the 228 steps of the Absecon Lighthouse is exhilarating, as are the views from the top, and touring the Little Water Distillery, Atlantic City’s first and only distillery, makes for a “spirited” adventure. These activities are sure to build up an appetite among attendees, and luckily, the variety of dining choices available will please every taste and budget, from local favorites to celebrity chef inspired dining. Attendees will want to extend their stay just to sample as many of the resort’s diverse restaurants as possible (both in and out of the casino hotels).

“Atlantic City is a beach resort destination that offers world-class entertainment, dining and shopping, and is the second largest gaming destination in the country,” said president and CEO of Meet AC, Jim Wood. “Located within a few hours’ drive of nearly one-third of the nation’s population and 20 percent of its business addresses, the convention center is easily accessible for trade show, meeting and convention attendees.”

Attendees headed to the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City will be excited to experience this legendary casino gaming resort, its 365 days of entertainment and commitment to “rocking around the clock.”

The venue offers 150,000-square feet of meeting space with 30 meeting rooms - the largest room measures 63,000-square feet and the second largest encompasses nearly 30,000-square feet. A variety of options are available to accommodate groups of all sizes, from intimate board meetings to large-scale events and conferences. For the largest gatherings, Hard Rock Live at Etess Arena can stage a general session for 7,000 people or a 300-plus booth trade show. The 29,000-square foot Seminole Ballroom is divisible into six sections and can be configured to accommodate everything from banquets and corporate events to intimate private concerts.

These spaces are easily accessible from the Hard Rock’s 2,000 hotel rooms and all offer Wi-Fi access, audio-visual and technological integration, plus the top-notch food and beverage for which the Hard Rock Café brand has become known, with additional dining options, as well.

For things to do after the meeting, networking or group event, there’s entertainment around every corner. Attendees won’t have to leave the property to visit Sound Waves, Howie Mandel’s Comedy Club, DAER Nightclub, Rock Spa and Salon, Body Rock Fitness Center, and an indoor/outdoor swimming pool area. Attendees feeling lucky can take their pick of 2,200 slot machines and 120 table games.

“The Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Atlantic City takes the meeting experience to the next level,” said director of public relations and community affairs, Nikki Balles. “Set on 17 acres of the Jersey Shore with the Atlantic City boardwalk as its backdrop, it’s the perfect place to make a moment shine. The show-stopping amenities truly turn any meeting up a notch, providing attendees with a memorable experience for years to follow."

Another South Jersey Shore community, Stone Harbor, is home to The Reeds at Shelter Haven, which has been voted one of Conde Nast Traveler’s “World’s Best Hotels.” Steps from the beach, this luxury boutique hotel and resort features 58 distinctively designed guestrooms and suites, 9,000-square feet of flexible event and meeting space, dining options, amenities that include concierge services, seasonal bay activities and the newly opened Salt Spa. This venue offers a perfect blend of work and play.

The Reeds offers three hospitality suites that are ideal for small meetings, dinners, presentations and breakouts, along with a ballroom for larger conferences - all of which boast state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment. On-site event coordinators and a concierge team attend to every detail, from board meetings and team building activities to dinner reservations and escorting attendees to the beach via a Global Electric Motorcar.

The property offers several dining options, too, including: SAX; Water Star Grille; Stone Harbor Pizza Pub; Buckets Margarita Bar and Cantina; and Wafflewich (open seasonally).

The new Salt Spa at The Reeds opened in the beginning of May and it is a haven for relaxation, offering: massages, facials, Turkish bath treatments, manicures, pedicures, hairstyling, makeup application and other indulgences.

Team building activities run the gamut here, too: beer, wine and whiskey tastings; ziplining; beach and bay activities; escape rooms; paint night; private yoga classes; and golf outings at the Stone Harbor Golf Club using The Reed’s exclusive private membership. Rejuvenating at the Roof Garden’s soak pool and two hot tubs serves as a perfect recipe for unwinding after a day of meetings.

The Allure of the Ocean

There’s nothing like the salt air, ocean breezes and crystalline beaches to get the attention of attendees. Nature’s surroundings seem perfectly designed for making meetings inviting, refreshing and invigorating.

“Ocean City provides the opportunity for planners and attendees to mix business with pleasure,” said Larry Noccolino, executive director of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, Maryland. “It’s definitely a year-round facility with panoramic views.”

Encompassing more than 214,000-square feet of exhibit space, the convention center boasts a bayfront ballroom, 23 breakout rooms and the Performing Arts Center with seating for more than 1,200 guests, which appeals to planners of general sessions and awards ceremonies, among others. By the spring of 2021, the convention center will add another 30,000-square feet, bringing its largest exhibit space to more than 75,000-square feet. As an added enticement, parking is always free!

Planners will find that Ocean City’s amenities are abundant. With 10,000 hotel rooms and 5,000 rentable condos, there’s plenty of room for attendees and the convention center is within an easy walk of several hotels.

Whether it’s time for a break - or if attendees are staying for a mini-vacation - there’s plenty to do outside of the convention center. Ten miles of free beach, a three-mile boardwalk, more than 200 restaurants and 17 championship golf courses offer something for everyone. Attendees will find the views of the ocean, sunrise and sunset to be an added bonus.

It’s easy for attendees to navigate their way to the destination, too, which is within five hours of New York City and Richmond, VA, and less than three hours from Baltimore, Washington, DC, and Philadelphia. For those who prefer to fly, the Salisbury-Ocean City Regional Airport is just 30 minutes away.

“A clean beach and ocean flanked by a three-mile boardwalk, as well as 17 championship golf courses can make the opening day of a conference a great way to start,” said Regina Brittingham, national sales manager for the Ocean City, Maryland CVB.

Bethany Beach in Southern Delaware is known as a smaller, serene beach resort that has long been enjoyed for its family-friendly peacefulness and fun diversions. The town has it all, from sunning or running on beaches to tax-free shopping to gourmet dining. It’s little wonder that it has become a favorite haven among celebrities.

One of the town’s top meeting properties is the Bethany Beach Ocean Suites Residence Inn by Marriott, which is located on the boardwalk along the Delaware shoreline. “The location allows for relaxation, which can help conference attendees focus and motivate during the meeting or conference, increasing productivity during the event,” said area director of sales and marketing for the hotel, Lorna Petchey. “It also allows guests a chance to absorb the meeting’s message in a relaxing environment.”

In close proximity to several major cities, including Washington, DC, Baltimore and Philadelphia, Bethany Beach is centrally located for bringing together multiple offices. With 4,332-square feet of total event space, planners will find three event rooms and two breakout rooms on-site. The largest space accommodates up to 324 attendees and boasts a modern design. The on-site catering team will create a lunch menu or cocktail hour to add to the meeting’s agenda, while free Wi-Fi, a 24-hour business center and audio-visual equipment rental are available, as well.

For those seeking team building opportunities, the Southern Delaware Shore offers something for just about every group, too.

The Big Chill Beach Club, also in Bethany Beach, provides 360-degree views of the Atlantic Ocean and Indian River Bay. In this unique atmosphere, planners will find the perfect setting for any event. The main dining area consists of a 200-seat rooftop deck that lies oceanfront at the corner of the Indian River Inlet and the Atlantic Ocean at the South Side Delaware Seashore State Park. Among its offerings is a fire pit that provides the ultimate in relaxation after business is done for the day.

The Big Chill’s Event Tent is the newest event venue in the area with ocean and bay views. A full-service catering kitchen and restaurant is located next door to the Event Tent and can whip up any creation desired. Planners can take their gatherings to the next level as dramatic views combine with a dedicated cocktail area, sit-down dinners for up to 160 guests, cocktail parties for up to 200 attendees, full bar offerings and more.

Attendees will enjoy stunning sunsets only steps from the Atlantic Ocean when they meet at the Hyatt Place and Lighthouse Cove Event Center in Dewey Beach along the Southern Delaware shore. Situated on the Rehoboth Bay, the award-winning Hyatt Place offers 130 guest rooms and 10 luxury condominiums.

The Lighthouse Cove Event Center is well suited to accommodate receptions, corporate meetings, trade shows and special events, as it houses more than 14,600-square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor function space. It boasts a 4,300-square foot ballroom, a 3,000-square foot pre-function room that opens to a 7,500-square foot patio with the Rehoboth Bay as its backdrop, along with an additional 2,400-square feet of flexible meeting rooms.

The Hyatt Place’s indoor saltwater swimming pool and on-site restaurant and fitness center make it one-stop shopping for those planning for groups. The venue’s on-site team can assist with room selection, setup, F&B options and more.

“We offer great outside team building activities, such as water sports, bonfires on the beach and water tours on the bay,” said Falan Mifflin, director of sales for the Hyatt Place and Lighthouse Cove Event Center. “We also have an on-site restaurant with beachside seating and an expansive outdoor patio.”

In addition, the property is within walking distance to coastal cuisine and tax-free shopping in more than 150 outlet stores.

Attendees can’t get any closer to the oceanfront and have a bird’s eye view of the boardwalk than they do at Boardwalk Plaza Hotel in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Its oceanfront banquet rooms provide a breathtaking background for conferences, special occasions and meetings, and the spaces offer state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment. Whether it’s a gathering for 15 or 100 attendees, there’s a wide array of menu entrees and buffet-style dining for breakfast, lunch, dinner and breaks created by the chefs at Victoria’s Restaurant.

With its tagline proclaiming, “Think of us as a beach house with 84 bedrooms,” attendees will find a true oasis at the hotel. Combining business and pleasure, it offers a comfortable respite from the world, where guests can enjoy a relaxing escape.

“There really is no comparison when booking meeting space with an ocean view,” said Karen Zakarian, sales manager for Boardwalk Plaza. “Planners find their events are better attended when they mention that attendees can spend free time walking our mile-long boardwalk year-round.”

Boardwalk Plaza is located in the heart of Rehoboth Beach in Southern Delaware, known for its clean beaches, tax-free shopping and mild climate.

“Planners have come to know us as a destination that combines both work and leisure,” said Zakarian. “We often have to make adjustments to room lists to allow for spouses and families to attend. We’re an easy destination to reach, and the car drive from either direction is quite beautiful.”

Fun in the Sun

Seeking a destination where attendees can enjoy the beach, boardwalk and all types of amusements during breaks, after business is concluded or for networking that’s unmatched? Looking for a location with plenty of hotel accommodations and a vast choice of restaurants?

There’s no need to continue the quest, because destinations that offer “fun in the sun” are ready to wow every group and make upcoming meetings astoundingly successful.

“The Wildwoods Convention Center hosts meetings, banquets, trade and consumer shows, sports events and competitions, and regional dance and cheerleading championships in a building that offers 260,000-square feet of flexible meeting space with an address right on the beach,” said Ben Rose, director of marketing and public relations for the Greater Wildwoods Tourism Improvement and Development Authority.

It includes a 75,000-square foot exhibit hall, which can be configured into two 37,000-square foot separate areas. A 7,500-seat concert arena for live shows, 30,000-square feet of lobby and pre-function space, and 10 meeting/breakout rooms make it an attractive option for a wide range of group functions. The property boasts state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, free Wi-Fi, professional service and support personnel, as well as priceless ocean views from almost every angle.

The world-famous Wildwoods, NJ is situated on the southernmost barrier island off the coast of the Garden State. Recently named among the “25 Best Family Beach Vacations to Take with the Kids in the USA” by TripAdvisor, the destination is perfect for bringing the family along as part of an extended stay after business is over. With five miles of free, white sandy beaches, seasonal events and lots of fun things to do for every age, it’s no wonder the Wildwoods is known for its value as a family vacation destination at the Jersey Shore.

Attendees will enjoy the Wildwoods’ two-mile boardwalk and its variety of amusements, waterparks, arcades, games, shops and eateries. Touted as the “Event Capital of the East Coast,” the Wildwoods hosts 160-plus special events and festivals throughout the year - and most of them are free!

The Wildwoods’ beaches are ideal for swimming, kayaking, fishing, body surfing or even just relaxing. The adventuresome can take part in surfing, boogie boarding, power boating, jet skiing, sailing, and whale and dolphin watching. The beaches also are the place to catch big-name concerts, festivals, youth sporting events, monster truck beach courses, and vintage car and motorcycle drag races.

More than 100 rides and attractions, including roller coasters, waterparks, midway games, arcades, retail shops and eateries, help to make the boardwalk itself an exciting destination.

Home to some of the most interesting plant and wildlife that can only be found on the dunes and shores of southern New Jersey, the Wildwoods provides a great option for exploring and learning more about its one-of-a-kind ecosystem. Attendees will treasure memories of dolphin, waterfowl, fish and other sea creature sightings.

Other intriguing stops include the historic Hereford Inlet Lighthouse and English Gardens, and the George F. Boyer Museum, which holds the largest collection of the Wildwoods archival history with photos, memorabilia, artwork and artifacts.

The Wildwoods serves as mecca of restaurants, too, from dining by candlelight to casual fare at a variety of themed Doo-Wop diners throughout the island decked out with retro jukeboxes, futuristic exterior architecture, plus waitresses in poodle skirts.

Wildwoods is home to the nation’s largest concentration of mid-century Doo-Wop architecture. Bright neon signs and “far-out” themes make touring these buildings a fun and historic adventure. A stroll through the Wildwoods’ Doo-Wop District, the Doo-Wop Experience Museum, and the award-winning “Back to the ‘50s” Doo-Wop Bus Tour are great for networking or team building.

There are so many options from which to choose at each of these oceanfront destinations. But all share the cool breezes, scenic views, and attractive beaches that keep attendees and vacationers alike coming back again and again.

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