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This museum, founded by Jim and Gloria Austin, would be a good place to take in one of the educational workshops. They can accommodate classes up to 100 people. Check in with the museum to see if they can host one of your small gatherings.

For more information contact (817) 922-9999 or cowboysofcolor.com.

BIRMINGHAM CIVIL RIGHTS INSTITUTE - Birmingham, AL

As many of you know from history, the cradle of the Civil Rights Movement is Birmingham, AL. There are some wonderful permanent exhibits including the cell bars behind which Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote his letters from a Birmingham Jail in 1963. They also have a host of rotating exhibits such as photos from the Chicago Freedom Movement. At press time the museum had a traveling exhibit "Remembering 4 Little Girls" about the bombing of a Birmingham church that took the lives of four little girls.

This would be a great place for meeting planners to offer their members some extra value by organizing a group tour of one of the great museums in the United States. The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) offers four different rooms to choose from for those small intimate gatherings:

  • The Reverend Abraham Woods Community Meeting Room seats up to 54 people or 80 standing. It's perfect for community meetings, seminars, professional organizational dinners, corporate cocktail events and receptions.
  • The Commons is a great place for training sessions, classes, organizational meetings, dinners and receptions. This venue seats 65 or up to 80 for receptions.
  • The Rotunda is the largest of the four facilities seating 60 for dinner and up to 300 for receptions and on the other end of the spectrum is the Lecture Room which seats up to 20 people and holds 60 for receptions.
  • The BCRI can provide any meeting planner with a list of caterers they've either worked with in the past or know of in the local area.

For more information contact (866) 328-9696 or bcri.org.


GEORGIA AQUARIUM - Atlanta, GA

This aquarium is billed as "the world's largest aquarium" with over 8 million gallons of water housing more than 100,000 marine animals. The aquarium is located in downtown Atlanta, just north of Centennial Olympic Park. The aquarium is just minutes from the Georgia Dome, the Georgia World Congress Center, Philips Arena and numerous hotels making this the perfect getaway for meetings and a day of park festivities.

The park has over 16,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The Oceans Ballroom has two large aquatic observations windows where guests can view exotic fish and animals from all over the globe. The room seats 1,100 for dinner and 1,500 for receptions.

The Oceans Ballroom can be subdivided into the Atlantic Room, Pacific Room and the Arctic Room for smaller gatherings with views of aquarium life. Make sure you ask about the Antarctic Pre-Function space. This might be the perfect space to separate your meal functions from your actual meetings.


Another option is the Atrium and Exhibits event space where you can see all five galleries while enjoying the cuisine of Wolfgang Puck Catering. It's perfect for guests up to 3,500. The Georgia Aquarium offers all the catering options your party will need whether it's breakfast, lunch, a more formal dinner setting or a cocktail reception.

And if your gathering is large enough you might want to consider an entire park buyout for an evening. It's a great way to get to know the park and share that experience with friends and colleagues.

For more information contact (404) 581-4126 or georgiaaquarium.org.


AQUARIUM OF THE PACIFIC - Long Beach, CA

Long Beach is one of Southern California's best-kept secrets. While Southern California is home to the Hollywood, it would be a huge mistake to miss out on Long Beach and the Aquarium of the Pacific. I'll admit right up front I am a little biased because I have a sister who lives in the city and my son lives nearby. They have both been to this aquarium and rave about the exhibits and marine life enclosed within its walls.

The exhibits include all the Pacific Ocean has to offer from Southern California and Baja to the frigid waters of the north Pacific and the colorful reefs of the Tropical Pacific. Learn about this great body of water that is primarily responsible for the beautiful weather of the region.

Check out the 211,000-gallon seal and sea lion exhibit or the 350,000-gallon Tropical Reef Gallery, the aquarium's largest exhibit. You can view the colorful fish, turtles and coral from three different locations.

This park is a great destination for a meeting or special event with several indoor and outdoor spaces available for receptions with great views of the aquarium exhibits or the many boats that traverse the Long Beach harbor. For something a little different try a picnic on the front lawn. There are preset packages for your group to choose from or you can work with the staff to create a special one-of-a-kind event tailored to your needs.

For more information contact (562) 951-1663 or www.aquariumofpacific.org.


ROYAL CARIBBEAN SHIP

I mentioned cruise ships at the beginning of this article as an alternative to the standard meeting venue. The Royal Caribbean fleet offers an outstanding array of destinations combined with all the amenities your group requires to conduct business at sea. Royal Caribbean is the largest incentive and meeting planner in the cruise line industry.

Royal Caribbean has several classes of ships to choose from such as the Voyager Family, the Radiance Family, the Empress Family and others. And within those classes are different ships with differing itineraries.

Most Royal Caribbean ships have dedicated meeting spaces to accommodate, theater, and classroom and boardroom style functions along with additional meeting and breakout rooms. Seating capacity for these meeting rooms varies depending upon the ship so make sure you check, but in general these meeting rooms can accommodate up to 500 people for a specific gathering. This space is usually complimentary based on availability.

The Royal Caribbean fleet is outfitted with the latest in technology to support any meeting such as color touch screens, wireless remote controls, teleconferencing equipment and other cutting-edge audio/visual services.

And one of the best features of Royal Caribbean is the all-inclusive nature of their offerings whether it is a three-, four- or seven-day cruise. Royal Caribbean can handle juggling those airline schedules, meals, entertainment and other activities whether they be onboard or at some port-o-call. A Meeting Service Coordinator will also be onboard to handle your group's needs.


For more information contact (800) 345-7225 or royalcaribbean.com.


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