Mr Flexible Space
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

The Orlando/Orange County area has more than 112,000 hotel rooms, with over 4,000 projected to be added by 2009. The Orange County Convention Center, which boasts 2.1 million sq. ft. of exhibit space, is just 15 minutes from Orlando International Airport.

The airport has service to 72 U.S. destinations and 13 international cities, including direct service to more than 100 cities. Amtrak service includes two daily trains originating from New York and Miami and a tri-weekly train from Los Angeles. Getting around is easy via the city's Lynx bus system, the free downtown Lymmo transit system and the I-Ride trolley running along International Drive.

CVB perks include the Orlando Preferred Visitor Magicard®, offering discounts at restaurants, attractions, shops and other places, which is downloadable from the bureau's Web site.

PHOENIX, AZ

Sure, Phoenix is a favorite spot for grownups to go golfing or get pampered at a luxurious spa, but travelers arriving with kids will also find plenty to like.

For some Western-flavored adventure, you can go horseback riding in the Sonoran Desert, tour the Goldfield Ghost Town & Mine or visit Rawhide, an authentic 1880s western town. For an only-in-Phoenix experience, you can view the world's largest collection of desert plants at the Desert Botanical Garden or check out the world's largest collection of fire-fighting equipment in the Hall of Flame. The Arizona Museum for Youth, the Arizona Science Center, the Phoenix Zoo, and Island of Big Surf water park also promise lots of family fun.

The George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, housed in the former Phoenix Union Colored High School, is a great place to learn more about the life of a great African-American scientist. A family night out might include seeing a performance by the Black Theatre Troupe, Inc. at the Helen K. Mason Center for the Performing Arts.

There are about 55,000 area guestrooms in Greater Phoenix. More than 20 airlines fly into Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Starting in December 2008, the new METRO light rail will transport visitors from the airport to the downtown Phoenix. The free Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) runs on weekdays, and the Phoenix Transit System bus service will get you to many other points of interest in the area.

The Phoenix Convention Center will begin welcoming groups into the second phase of its $600 million expansion in January 2009. The latest additions include a 310,000-sq. ft. exhibition hall, 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and a 50,000-sq. ft. ballroom. The Greater Phoenix CVB can help event planners with ideas for spouse programs, site inspections, Passkey housing services and otherneeds.

RALEIGH, NC

"The Raleigh area is known as the 'Smithsonian of the South,' due to its unique concentration of museums, most of which are free," says Loren Gold, executive vice president of the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau. "Along with our state museums of art, history and natural sciences, the Raleigh area boasts more than 30 free attractions and numerous festivals and events throughout the year, making this area a family-friendly and affordable destination."

You might head for the North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences to meet Willo, the world's only dinosaur with a fossilized heart, or mingle with some live animals at Dead Broke Farm, where you can go horseback riding. Even the North Carolina Museum of Art, set on 164 acres of woodlands, is a great place for the family to get in touch with nature. The Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Gardens provide another picturesque outdoor setting for visitors to enjoy.

Raleigh is home to Shaw University - the oldest historically Black university in the South - and another HBCU, Saint Augustine's College. The African American Cultural Complex offers a variety of programs and exhibits highlighting the area's Black heritage.

With 124 area hotels and other accommodations, families will find plenty of lodging options in Raleigh. Meeting or reunion groups using two or more hotels can access the CVB's Passkey housing service.

The new Raleigh Convention Center, which opened fall 2008, contains more than 500,000 sq. ft. of space, including 150,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space and 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The Raleigh-Durham International Airport services 450 daily flights to more than 40 destinations, and the city is accessible via Amtrak from 56 destinations. Economical modes of getting around the area include the Capital Area Transit bus service and the Triangle Transit Authority bus service between Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill.

WILMINGTON, DE

"In addition to location and accessibility, the most attractive attribute for families is that we are a tax-free destination," says Esther Lovlie, director of sales and marketing for meetings, events and group tours at the Greater Wilmington Convention & Visitors Bureau."

That's right, there's no state sales tax on any of the great shopping, dining and entertainment options in the Wilmington area. Among the many family-friendly attractions are the Brandywine Zoo, the Delaware Museum of Natural History, the Enchanted Woods Children's Garden at Winterthur Museum and Country Estate and Longwood Garden, which features daily kid's activities. The Delaware History Museum has a special section called Grandma's Attic that kids love to explore, and the new Delaware Children's Museum will open in 2009.

Wilmington's Quaker Meeting House was the last stop on Delaware's Underground Railroad. It's also the burial site of abolitionist Thomas Garrett. For another walk through history you can tour the Tall Ship Kalmar Nyckel, a full-size replica of the vessel that brought the first permanent European settlers to the Delaware Valley.

Historic New Castle, a Delaware River town filled with shops, restaurants, museums and historic homes, is a popular waterfront destination, as is the Riverwalk area adjacent to Wilmington's Christina River.

Located midway between New York City and Washington, DC, Wilmington is just 30 minutes from Philadelphia and 90 minutes from both Baltimore and Atlantic City. Air travel is serviced by the Philadelphia International Airport and the ILG/New Castle County Airport. Amtrak offers service to Wilmington from all Northeast Corridor trains, and Lovlie notes that several Amtrak discount programs are available through the GWCVB.

There are approximately 6,000 area guestrooms and an array of meeting rooms, with space for up to about 3,000 people in one venue. The GWCVB is ready to assist with planning your reunion, meeting or other event, including coordinating site inspections.

GETTING IN TOUCH

  • Greater Houston CVB - (800) 4-HOUSTON
  • Visit Charlotte - (800) 722-1994
  • Ft. Worth CVB - (800) 433-5747
  • Greater Raleigh CVB - (800) 849-8499
  • Greater Phoenix CVB - (877) 633-8749
  • Chicago CTB - (312) 567-8500
  • Greater Wilmington CVB - (800) 489-6664
  • Baltimore Area CVA - (800) 343-3468
  • Greater Miami CVB - (800) 933-8448
  • Orlando Orange County CVB - (407) 363-5800
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