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KNOXVILLE, TN

Gathering at the river is favorite pastime in Knoxville. Some of the city's top recreational and entertainment attractions are set on the banks of the Tennessee River, and a free downtown trolley makes them easy to get to.

The riverfront area offers the chance to take a scenic cruise, enjoy the shops and restaurants at Volunteer Landing or explore some of the 150 acres of woodlands, meadows and trails at the Ijams Nature Center. Your meeting or family reunion group can have a back-to-nature experience at the Knoxville Zoo, which can host events for groups as large as 2,000.

Spring and summer brings special events like the free Sundown in the City series of free Thursday night concerts in Market Square and the Kuumba Festival in Chilihowee Park in late June and early July.

Knoxville's Beck Cultural Exchange Center, which focuses on the history and culture of African-Americans in east Tennessee, has a rooftop garden that can accommodate meetings and other events for up to 150 people. Morningside Park is the site of Heritage Square, whose focal point is a bronze statue of Roots author Alex Haley.

Sports lovers might check out the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame, while art aficionados might enjoy browsing the Knoxville Museum of Art, where one of the permanent collections showcases the work of works by African-American folk artist Bessie Harvey Haley.

The Knoxville Convention Center has 500,000 total sq. ft., including a 461-seat lecture hall and a 27,000-sq. ft. ballroom. The glass-enclosed concourse provides great views of the city skyline and Word's Fair Park. For lodging Knoxville County has a total of 7,500 guestrooms.

The Knoxville Tourism & Sports Corporation will work with meeting and travel planners to negotiate venue contracts; block rooms, contract services and rates; and make arrangements for staffing.


MIAMI, FL

Be a part of the action in Miami's bustling South Beach, or enjoy a relaxing view of a tropical waterfall while sampling the vintage at Schnedly Redland's Winery. Whatever mood you're in, this city offers plenty of fun ways to fit the bill.

Along with its trendy clubs and restaurants, South Beach is especially noted for the colorful architecture of its Art Deco Historic District. Another outstanding architectural treasure in the area is the palatial Vizcaya Museum and Gardens in Coconut Grove.

Some of Miami's oldest neighborhoods have deep African-American, Bahamian and Caribbean roots. They include Overtown, whose attractions include the historic Little Theater; Little Haiti; Little Havana; and Coconut Grove, where Bahamian immigrants first began settling in the late 19th century; and Liberty City, where you murals depicting African-American heroes are painted on the facades of several buildings. The African Heritage Cultural Arts Center in Liberty City offers space for receptions.

Other local cultural and recreational attractions that also have event space available include the Ancient Spanish Monastery, the Bass Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art, the Miami Museum of Science & Planetarium, the Miami Beach Botanical Garden and Dolphins Stadium.

The Miami Seaquarium, Parrot Jungle Island and the Miami Metrozoo are three great options for keeping the kids entertained. Bal Harbour Shops, Dolphin Mall, Aventura Mall and Coral Gables' Miracle Mile are among the area's favorite shopping venues.

The Art Deco-style Miami Beach Convention Center is the area's largest meeting venue, containing more than 500,000 gross sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space and 70 meeting rooms.

The Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau provides a free, centralized reservation system for groups using a minimum of 500 rooms and two hotels. Other perks include brochures, posters, guides and other attendance-building materials, plus help with planning tours, cruises, entertainment and speakers.


MUSKEGON COUNTY, MI

Muskegon County has a very friendly way of saying thanks to visitors that bring meetings to this Lake Michigan destination. Before they leave, groups of 200 or more get treated to an "Afterglow "farewell event sponsored by the tourism bureau, the county and local businesses. The Muskegon County Convention & Visitors Bureau will also host a welcome reception for meeting delegates and vendors, provide discount packages for local attractions and set up an information booth at your conference headquarters.

You'll find lots to see and do while you're in Muskegon County. There are 25 miles of beaches and two lighthouses along the shores of Lake Michigan. Michigan's Adventure Amusement & Water Park, the largest in the state, offers more than 60 rides and attractions, including a wooden roller coaster that's one of six onsite. One ticket gets you into both parks. Other choices for outdoor recreation include biking, boating and cruising.

Notable historical attractions include the Muskegon County Museum of African American History and the Scolnik House, an Anne Folk Victorian-style structure whose interior tells the story of two fictional Depression-era families. The Fire Barn Museum, the Muskegon Museum of Art, the Frauenthal Theater, the Great Lakes Naval Memorial Museum, Monet Gardens of Muskegon and several area wineries round out the list of attractions.

The I.C. Walker Arena has meeting rooms to accommodate up to 1,000 delegates and dining space for 1,000 in the annex. Other meeting space can be found at hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, and visitor attractions like the Muskegon County Art Museum, the historic Frauenthal Theater. There are more than 2,000 guestrooms countywide.

Muskegon County is only a three-hour drive from Chicago or Detroit and easily accessible from Milwaukee by high-speed ferry across Lake Michigan. The Muskegon County Airport offers 16 daily flights.


NATCHEZ, MS

During the popular Natchez Pilgrimage Tours every spring and fall, many of the city's grand, privately owned antebellum homes open their doors so visitors can get a peak inside. But you don't need to wait for a special time to get a taste of the Southern hospitality of this Mississippi River destination.

No other American city has more homes dating back to before the Civil War than Natchez. Melrose Plantation and the William Johnson House are two that are open year-round. Three local churches are also counted among the city's notable historical attractions. St. Mary's Basilica is known for its beautiful structure. Trinity Episcopal Church boasts two stained-glass windows that were designed and installed by Louis Comfort Tiffany. First Presbyterian Church maintains a photo gallery in its Stratton Chapel Gallery that chronicles nearly 100 years of Natchez history.

The Natchez Museum of Afro-American History and Culture and the Mostly African American Market focus on the city's Black heritage, while the Grand Village of the Natchez Indians allows visitors to experience its Native American culture.

A tour of the Old South Winery might make an interesting choice for a meeting group or spouse activity. If your group craves some outdoor adventure, consider a trip to the St. Catherine Creek National Wildlife Refuge.

The city's premiere meeting venue, the Natchez Convention Center Complex, is located in the heart of downtown. The facility offers more than 89,000 sq. ft. of divisible meeting and function space - more than 23,000 sq. ft. on the first floor and 6,670 on the second floor - and a 1,825-sq. ft. area for staging receptions. The Country Inn & Suites recently opened as the official host hotel for the Natchez Convention Center.

Natchez has a variety of lodging accommodations, including hotels, inns, and bed and breakfasts, some of which also offer event space.


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