Corporate and group market segments have a host of options when it comes to meeting in the Mid-Atlantic region. From the sand and surf that beckons visitors to the beachfront to the history and culture of the city and suburbs to the lush greenery and mountains that comprise scenic settings, there’s something for every taste, budget and itinerary.
The professionals in these destinations have their fingers on the pulse of what attracts these groups. They’ve shared the current trends driving planners to choose these locations and what activities are popular with attendees while there.
Ocean City, Maryland is so close to many Mid-Atlantic metro areas; it’s a natural getaway.
“The rural resort atmosphere and regional area are within a reasonable travel time for so many visitors and meeting attendees in the Mid-Atlantic,” said Larry Noccolino, executive director of the Roland E. Powell Convention Center in Ocean City, MD. “While leisure groups are a bit smaller in some cases, they’re more discerning about what they visit and see. They really want something the average traveler won’t experience or an insider’s view of the area.”
With 10 miles of beautiful, free and award-winning beach on the Atlantic shoreline and the excitement of the boardwalk, it’s the perfect respite after a day filled with meetings and conferences. If it’s action attendees seek, they’ll find it. If some quiet time is needed, a morning cup of coffee along the shore is just outside the door.
“Organized tour groups find the Harriet Tubman Visitor Center in nearby Dorchester County to be of special interest,” said Regina S. Brittingham, convention sales manager for the Roland E. Powell Convention Center.
“This important historical and cultural facility has become incredibly popular since it opened in 2017, and it’s a real asset to add to group spousal tours, reunions and more.”
From water activities to fishing charter trips to foodie tours, attendees are sure to find a variety of activities after business or for creating an extended “staycation” with their families.
Groups meeting in Baltimore are increasingly looking for ways to integrate authentic experiences of the city in their planning.
“Whether it’s pointing attendees to locally sourced and sustainable restaurant options in our downtown neighborhoods or finding ways to work with local artisans, innovators and tastemakers as part of their programming, we’re seeing renewed interest in experiences that go beyond the walls of our hotels and convention center,” said Visit Baltimore’s president and CEO, Al Hutchinson.
Hutchinson added that Baltimore has experienced one of the largest millennial booms in the country, and the resurgence is visible in its eclectic neighborhoods that boast new food venues, breweries and boutiques, which are “popping up around every corner.”
Planners find the destination’s value and convenience attractive. The Inner Harbor, first-class hotels, an award-winning culinary scene, cultural attractions and a variety of local shopping within the “convention campus” are easily navigable by foot, free Charm City Circulator buses and water taxis.
Baltimore’s waterfront and easily accessible East Coast location is a huge draw for groups. The city’s reputation for fresh seafood, particularly the renowned Maryland blue crabs, and its culinary scene has transformed Baltimore into a destination with high-end and inventive eateries opening their doors in charming neighborhoods.
Attendees will find themselves in a haven for all types of cuisine, earning the city top ratings in Yelp, which named Baltimore one of “The Top 10 U.S. Cities for Food Lovers” and Zagat dubbing it “One of the Most Exciting Food Cities.”
Groups will find there’s so much to do and explore in Baltimore, and it’s an ideal destination for networking events, spousal activities and extended vacations for the whole family.
As the centerpiece of downtown Baltimore, the world-famous Inner Harbor is home to the Maryland Science Center, which houses a planetarium and observatory, the National Aquarium, historic warships, and Power Plant Live!, a complex of bars, eateries and music venues.
New developments and experiences to the waterfront in 2019 include the unveiling of a multi-million-dollar renovation of the 230-year-old Broadway Market in Fell’s Point and Cross Street Market, which is in the heart of Historic Federal Hill. Broadway Market, a year-round, indoor market built in 1786, still offers locally made food items. Cross Street Market, an old-fashioned fresh food market that first debuted in 1846, is currently undergoing a $7.3 million renovation that will provide a facelift and add a feature room for new concepts - all while keeping true to its neighborhood roots.
Fell’s Point, which was established in 1763, is a city, state and National Historic District with 161-plus buildings on the National Register. The area includes the Robert Long House, which is the oldest standing residence in Baltimore City. Visitors can travel back in time with tours of the house.
Baltimore is known as a city of neighborhoods that have their own history, culture and personality. The rich architecture of Mount Vernon, the National Historic District of Fell’s Point, and the aroma of mouthwatering recipes of Little Italy are just a sampling of the eclectic collection of neighborhoods that await visitors.
The restoration and modernization of buildings boast historic architecture across the city and have resulted in design-rich and architecturally significant spaces.
Reimagined spaces include majestic theaters, hotels, schools, breweries and waterfront warehouses that have been transformed into art galleries, distilleries, offices and living spaces.
“This urban renaissance combined with Baltimore’s rich history and world-class museums offers an incredibly authentic, yet new, visitor experience,” said Hutchinson.
Getting to the Pocono Mountains is easy for a large portion of the nation’s population, and that bodes well for planners. Once there, attendees will find more than 2,400-square miles of natural outdoors.
“Groups choose the Poconos because of the team building options and our all-inclusive pricing that encompasses lodging, meeting space, meals and group activities, which makes life easy for the busy planner,” said David M. Jackson, vice president of sales for the Pocono Mountain Convention and Visitors Bureau in Stroudsburg, PA. “Free parking and Wi-Fi help in the decision making process, as well. The fresh mountain air also is a draw for groups.”
Jackson said that team building and community advocacy are key components in today’s meetings. The corporate dynamic has become much more focused on the human side of life. Developing a healthy work environment and leaving a positive footprint in the areas where they host their meetings are very important.
Some of the best adventure the state of Pennsylvania has to offer lies in the Pocono Mountains, where golfing on a choice of 35 courses and whitewater rafting both rank tops with attendees.
“The Poconos is a four-season destination, so there’s something for everyone all the time,” said Jackson. “The warmer months offer hiking, biking, whitewater rafting, golfing and zip lining.
As the weather cools down, there’s fall foliage, dog sledding, skiing, culinary programs and indoor waterparks the size of Yankee Stadium.”
With its breathtaking vistas of the countryside, scenic vineyards, charming historic towns and miles of bike trails, picturesque Loudon County, VA is just 25 miles from Washington, DC. A hub for outdoor activities, food, beer and wine enthusiasts as well as history buffs, the area is a haven for group adventures.
“We’re seeing more requests from people who want to get out of the conference rooms to experience the destination with their teams,” said Visit Loudon’s director of sales: meetings and conventions, Ann Diamond Hayes. “Visit Loudon works with partners to enhance team building opportunities for corporate and group travel segments to ensure we have experiential and hands-on programming with which to connect them.”
She said that corporations choose Loudon because of its diverse offerings. Home to Dulles International Airport, it offers a high-tech feel along its Eastern corridor, but as attendees travel west, the landscape opens to magnificent horse country. In fact, 70 percent of the world’s Internet web traffic travels through Loudon - yet 15,000 horses and more than 40 vineyards also are located there.
“The diversity we offer is incredible,” said Diamond Hayes. “Companies choose Loudon because it’s unique and offers an ambiance conducive to creativity, brainstorming and team building.”
Planners find the diverse meeting space in Loudon enticing, with two resorts, two conference centers and spaces at wineries and historic homes. The area is a magnet for team building.
Some planners are tasked with including up to five generations in these activities, and Loudon offers many that are perfect for everyone, including sangria making, archery, ropes courses, wine education, and “voluntourism” opportunities.
It’s not hard to find something to do for everyone in the group during free time or for those attendees who want to add a few days of vacation to their stay. Loudon is touted as the craft beverage capital of the DC region, as more than 40 wineries and 30-plus craft breweries, distilleries and cideries dot the area. Visitors can engage with winemakers, walk through the production process and have the opportunity to label whiskey bottles.
History abounds with a chance to glimpse the country’s past during tours of historic homes. Mountain ranges and the Potomac River await for those seeking outdoor activities in this county that boasts numerous ways to enjoy the countryside.
With 11 finger-shaped lakes, The Finger Lakes Region in New York is synonymous with natural scenic beauty, the great outdoors, culture, small town charm and culinary offerings.
Whatever the season, every group will find there’s an abundance of things to do for attendees, including enthusiasts of outdoor recreation, nature, dining, wine and beer. The area is chock full of history from its Native American heritage, its role in the women’s suffrage movement, agricultural technology more, and there’s plenty of museums and landmarks to explore.
Groups meeting in the winter months are able to get their fill of skiing, ice skating and ice fishing, and the springtime offers the unique chance to view maple-sugaring demonstrations. Summer is ideal for enjoying the lakes, and autumn brings the finest palate of colors with fall foliage. Local food and wine in the area complements every season.
“Folks love coming to the Finger Lakes for corporate and group travel and then enjoy staying a bit longer on either end of the trip for leisure activities,” said Christen Smith, director of marketing and communications for Finger Lakes Visitors Connection. “The Finger Lakes is a four-season destination, and guests love to be pampered. Travelers specifically enjoy taking part in our wellness, experiential and culinary offerings.”
Planners choose the Finger Lakes for its beautiful lakes, wineries, breweries, one of-a-kind, hands-on culinary experiences, castles and mansions, shopping, lake activities and more.
“We can’t wait to share our Native American history at Ganondagan State Historic Site or have a walk through a rose garden at Sonnenberg Gardens and Mansion State Historic Site,” said Smith.
Visitors to the Antique Wireless Association Museum will enjoy roaming the venue, which houses an exact replica of the Titanic’s wireless room, the world’s first cellphone, the first transistor radio ever made and more.
The New York Kitchen is where attendees become student “chefs” and cook with professional chef instructors. Other options include learning about NY vintages from a sommelier, sampling a flight of New York State beer, wine or spirits in the tasting room, or enjoying lunch or dinner at the restaurant where chefs highlight ingredients harvested from within the state.
Groups give the experience of Lazy Acre Alpaca Farm rave reviews after meeting 75 alpacas and their new babies on a 180-acre farm with unique landscapes and lush gardens.
Whether traveling to the city, mountains, beach or country, planners have so many options available to satisfy the needs of even the most diverse and varied groups.
Activities abound at each of these destinations throughout the region. Planners can track current trends and provide their attendees with an exciting itinerary that will have their group buzzing and excited at the prospect of their next adventure.