Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: December 2007/January 2008
Walking Cities
By: Norman Mayers

 

While many groups choose to meet at large resorts or out of the-way communities, even more seem to be embracing the idea of walking cities. Small to mid-size destinations with compact downtown corridors offer an incredible advantage to meeting planners looking to cut costs in these crazy times. A walking city usually has everything your attendees require within walking distance or a short ride away. What a difference it makes to have your hotel across the street from the convention center as opposed to across town! Hosting a meeting in a walking city can dramatically reduce overhead as it relates to transportation to and from events, attractions and special activities. Meetings in these cities also open the door for a better quality of experience for attendees. Instead of becoming hindered by transportation woes, visitors can embark on their own for any multitude of adventures, fully exploring the destination they are in.



BALTIMORE, MD

Baltimore has invested more than $3 billion into making the city an exciting destination. And why not? Baltimore has plenty worth highlighting, including a beautiful waterfront that is the focal point of the city. In Baltimore not only are many of the city’s best attractions accessible on foot, but there are also unique ways to get around such as water taxis, harbor cruises, and trolley tours. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor, a scenic waterfront delight, is the crown jewel of Baltimore, with dozens of retail stores, restaurants and attractions all within walking distance of more than 20 major hotels and the Baltimore Convention Center. Popular sites and attractions include Camden Yards, home of the Orioles; the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture – the largest of its kind on the East Coast; the American Visionary Art Museum; the Maryland Science Center; and the National Aquarium in Baltimore and Port Discovery. Baltimore offers around 6,500 hotel rooms within walking distance of the Convention Center.

Charming neighborhoods abound just a short walk or water taxi ride from the Inner harbor, each with its own rich heritage and outstanding discoveries. Uncover Baltimore’s British roots in the waterfront community of Fell’s Point, where you can browse unique boutiques and antique shops or belly up to the bar at a local pub. For lunch, dive into a plate of homemade pasta in the restaurant-laden enclave of Little Italy. Or have a picnic outdoors and enjoy the spectacular view of the harbor and downtown skyline atop Federal Hill. And in the stylish neighborhood of Mount Vernon, you can peruse an array of local museums. Numerous other neighborhoods such as the southeastern waterfront are also worth an afternoon’s exploration.

For more information contact the Baltimore Area CVA — (800) 343-3468.


BOSTON, MA

As one of America’s oldest cities, Boston takes visitors back to another time. The true definition of a walking city, Boston is a joy to explore. The City of Boston labors to maintain the label of “America’s Walking City.” Marking crosswalks, regular maintenance of traffic signals and pedestrian pushbuttons, and innovative pedestrian safety signs at busy locations such as downtown, and at schools, parks, playgrounds, elder complexes and libraries are a priority. Visitors delight in the beautiful architecture, historic sites, and charming neighborhoods filled with eclectic shops and dining options that are all easily accessible on foot.

The Freedom Trail is a 2.5-mile walking trail though downtown Boston, the North End, and Charleston. This is the most popular walking tour in the city as it presents the perfect opportunity to see many of Boston’s favorite historic attractions. The Boston Common is America’s oldest public park and is the ideal place to walk along the Freedom Trail. The next stop is the State House, the oldest building on Beacon Hill and the seat of the Massachusetts state government. All along the trail there are heritage sites that will excite the history buff. The restored Old South Meeting House highlights the city’s architecture, while the Paul Revere House is the oldest house in downtown Boston. Stop by the USS Constitution, the oldest commissioned warship afloat in the world, and the USS Constitution Museum, a private non-profit museum, includes a theatre, historical artifacts, and interactive exhibits.

A Boston CityPass is a good idea for visitors looking to get more for their money. A pass costs less than $50 and will get you access to six of Boston’s most visited attractions: the John F. Kennedy Library & Museum; Prudential Skywalk, Museum of Science, New England Aquarium; and the Harvard Museum of Natural History.

For more information contact the Greater Boston CVB — (617) 867-8236.


DENVER, CO

Unlike some Western cities, Denver has a definitive, exciting, and walkable downtown – the 10th largest in the country. Within just a one mile radius, there are three sports stadiums, the country’s second largest performing arts complex, an assortment of art and history museums, a mint producing 10 billion coins a year, a river offering whitewater rafting, the country’s only downtown amusement part, a world-class aquarium, more than 7,400 hotel rooms and more than 300 restaurants, pubs and nightclubs. Also in the downtown area is the Colorado Convention Center, offering 2.2 million sq. ft. of convention and meeting space.

A mile-long pedestrian mall cuts through the heart of downtown Denver and is surrounded by a series of parks and plazas that soften the towering skyscrapers and provide viewpoints from which to see and appreciate the city’s modern architecture. Free shuttles leave either end of the mall as often as every 90 seconds, allowing visitors to catch a free shuttle ride to various downtown attractions.

A light rail system connects downtown to a series of nearby attractions, including the Downtown Aquarium, a world-class interactive aquarium featuring more than 15,000 fish. Close by is Six Flags Elitch Gardens, a theme park that offers 48 thrill rides, formal gardens, restaurants and shops as well as a complete water park with wave pools and water slides. Several neighborhoods in Denver are perfect for walking and exploring. Just a short walk from downtown, the Golden Triangle/Museum District is home to several galleries and museums and is one of the most desirable places to live in the city. The six-block Santa Fe Arts District is the largest concentration of art galleries in Colorado with nearly 30 galleries in historic brick buildings and warehouses. There are also more than 200 parks within the city and more than 800 miles of bike and pedestrian trails that connect the city’s neighborhoods. So get walking around Denver!

For more information contact the Denver Metro CVB — (800) 480-2010.


HOUSTON, TX

Houston is a first-class convention city mostly due to the expansive George R. Brown Convention Center, but partly because of the fact that visitors can find many of the city’s attractions on foot or courtesy of METRORail.  Downtown Houston boasts nearly 5,000 hotel rooms, including the 1,200-room Hilton Americas-Houston Hotel adjacent to the convention center. There is also a thriving social scene with dozens of music venues, restaurants and night spots, as well as the dynamic Theater District. Downtown is also the host of The Main Event every Friday and Saturday, which features a car-free party zone along Main Street and includes more than 70 bars, clubs, and restaurants. Houston’s Museum District has bolstered the city’s reputation as an internationally recognized arts center. Explore the many fabulous museums such as the Museum of Fine Arts and the Houston Center for Photography surrounded by the majesty of glorious of oak trees.

In Fall of 2008 three city blocks will be transformed into downtown Houston’s premier entertainment, retail and urban hub. Houston Pavilions, a $200 million project encompassing almost 800,000 sq. ft. of space, will include 350,000 sq. ft. of retail space with entertainment venues located on the third floor. A central courtyard and streetscapes will allow for alfresco dining and window-shopping. The tenant lineup includes House of Blues, upscale bowling lounge Lucky Strike, and Red Cat Jazz Café.

Discovery Green, Houston’s new 12-acre development, will be located in the “super block” in front of the George R. Brown Convention Center. The WiFi-connected park will offer restaurants, an amphitheater, picnic areas, dog runs, a pond, jogging trail, playground and many beautiful vibrant green spaces for personal recreation or special events. The park is scheduled to open in early 2008.

For more information contact the Greater Houston CVB — (800) 4-HOUSTON.


LONG BEACH, CA

Just 20 miles south of Los Angeles, Long Beach is a whole new world that is a perfect walking destination for mid-sized meetings. Most of the city’s attractions and meetings infrastructure is located in the very walkable downtown area. Pine Avenue is the center of Long Beach’s bustling downtown with many fine restaurants and shops such as Rock Bottom Brewery, King’s Fish House and the charming Omelette Inn.

Downtown Long Beach has seen resurgence in recent years thanks in part to the multi-million dollar expansion and reopening of the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, which is equipped with over 300,000 sq. ft. of space divided between an arena, several exhibit halls, two theaters, and plenty of meeting space.  The 120,000-sq. ft. Long Beach Aquarium of the Pacific has done much to energize the city and it is surrounded by a wealth of dining, shopping and entertainment options. The Aquarium is across the street from the Pike, once the site of an amusement park of the same name, but now a 300,000sq. ft. complex that includes shopping, cinemas, dining, and a Gameworks. Also close by is the adorable Shoreline Village, with the look and feel of a seaside fishing village complete with a boardwalk of specialty and souvenir shops and restaurants. Hotels in the area include the classic Hyatt Regency Long Beach, which is directly across from the Pike and Rainbow Harbor and adjacent to the Convention Center; and the 437-room Westin Long Beach with its 41,000 square feet of flexible space, including the largest hotel ballroom in the area.

The city’s most recognizable attraction, the Queen Mary, is easily accessible from anywhere in downtown. If your feet are getting a little tired, hop on a segway from Segway Long Beach. Zip around the boardwalk and downtown area on these nifty motorized and easy-to-operate devices for a uniquely new experience of Long Beach.

For more information contact the Long Beach Area CVB — (562) 436-3645.

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