Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: August/September 2009
African-American Guide To Meetings, Incentives and Traveling in the Northeast
By: Sonya Stinson

Everyone can find a different reason to get excited about a trip to one of the great destinations in the Northeast. For some, it might be the chance to soak in some of the atmosphere in America’s most storied Black cultural center. Others might appreciate the religious heritage of the nation’s oldest African-American church or its oldest operating synagogue. 

The lively nightlife and world-class museums of the region’s big cities might thrill some, while others prefer the setting of a quiet seaside town or hillside village. America’s oldest art museum and its largest free city arts festival are both found in the Northeast. The region also is home to the world’s first boardwalk and a boundless list of other recreational and sightseeing attractions, from beach and mountain resorts to bustling downtown riverfronts. 

Meeting groups will find a wide choice of venues that includes major convention centers, large convention hotels, small inns, campus conference centers and casino resorts.

Here’s a state-by-state sampling of what the region has to offer.

CONNECTICUT

House in Connecticut’s capital city held the trial of Joseph Cinque, leader of the revolt aboard the slave ship Amistad. It’s just one of several state sites related to that historic event. Hartford’s Wadsworth Atheneum, the nation’s oldest art museum, houses the 6,000- piece African American Collection of the Amistad Foundation. Visitors to New Haven can view the 14-ft. bronze Amistad Memorial, sculpted by Ed Hamilton and located at the former site of the New Haven Jail. The New Haven Museum and Historical Society houses the world’s largest collection of Amistad artwork.

In the region known as Mystic Country, Ledyard boasts the world’s largest gaming facility, the Foxwoods Resort and Casino.

In Norwalk, part of Connecticut’s Coastal Fairfield area, you can take an excursion to Sheffield Island to explore a nature preserve and a historic lighthouse. Another area destination is Stamford, where the Whitney Museum of American Art is one of the most renowned cultural attractions.

UNCASVILLE

Situated on 240 acres fronting the Thames River, the main draw in this southeastern Connecticut Mystic Country destination is the Mohegan Sun Resort Casino. Consisting of three themed sections — the Casino of the Earth, the Casino of the Sky and the Casino of the Wind — the facility contains more than 300,000 sq. ft. of gaming, a 1,200-room luxury hotel, a 20,000-sq. ft. spa and 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

The WNBA’s Connecticut Sun have home court at the resort’s 10,000-seat Mohegan Sun Arena, which also can accommodate meetings and other events.

Other local attractions include whale watching cruises, golfing, outlet shopping and winery tours. 

DELAWARE

Delaware’s biggest historic claim to fame may be as America’s First State, but its 28 miles of coastline, scenic Brandywine Valley and tax-free shopping are more likely to rate as number-one reasons to visit.

Central Delaware includes the capital city of Dover, where you can view a replica of the Liberty Bell on a stroll through the Capital Square and Legislative Mall. Constitution Park is the site of one of Dover’s most unusual monuments: a copy of the U.S. Constitution encased in a cube beneath a 12-ft. quill.

Other notable Dover attractions include the Air Mobility Command Museum, which exhibits a wide range of military aircraft; the Biggs Museum, which focuses on fine and decorative arts; the Schwartz Center for the Arts, which showcases live entertainment; the Dover International Speedway, which features NASCAR racing; the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino; and the Delaware Agricultural Museum & Village.

WILMINGTON

Delaware’s largest city is part of a region where one of the nation’s most prominent and wealthiest families made an indelible mark. With its landscape dominated by the picturesque Brandywine Valley, the region could easily be dubbed Du Pont Country.

The Brandywine Valley offers such attractions as the Winterthur Museum and Country Estate, once the du Pont family residence; Longwood Gardens in Kennett Square; and the Brandywine River Museum and Chaddsford Winery in Chadds Ford. Nearby Bellevue State Park is the site of another du Pont estate, while Brandywine Creek State Park used to be a du Pont family dairy farm.

In Wilmington, key attractions include the Afro-American Historical Society of Delaware, which offers tours of a nearby gallery by appointment, and a replica of the tall ship Kalmar Nykel that brought the first immigrants — including a Caribbean freedman called “Anthoni, the Black Swede” — to the Delaware Valley in 1638.

Old Swedes Church, also known as Holy Trinity, is Wilmington’s oldest church still in use, while historic sites like Hendrickson House also preserve the city’s early Swedish heritage.

Wilmington’s largest meeting venue, the Chase Center, contains 87,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space and two ballrooms that overlook the Christina River.

MAINE

Sightseeing opportunities and outdoor adventure are abundant in Maine, which boasts 6,000 lakes, 32,000 miles of rivers, 5,000 miles of Atlantic coastline and 17 million acres of forest. Even groups meeting in urban destinations like Portland and Rockport will find a wide range of recreational and cultural attractions.

Portland visitors might enjoy a cruise on the Casco Bay and a visit to Portland Head Light, Maine’s oldest lighthouse. The Portland Museum of Art , Victoria Mansion, the Tate House Museum, the Portland Observatory and historic Old Port are a few of the other top places to see in Maine’s largest city.

Situated in Maine’s Mid-Coast Region on the Penobscot Bay, Rockport is home of the historic Windjammer fleet. Other local attractions include the Conway Homestead, the Cramer Museum and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. A great incentive trip idea for the shutterbug might be a course at the Maine Photographic Workshop.

MARYLAND

Best known as the home of the U.S. Naval Academy, Maryland’s capital city, Annapolis, also has notable Black heritage sites like the Thurgood Marshall statue at the Maryland State House and sculptor Ed Dwight’s life-size Alex Haley Memorial, located at City Dock.

The state’s Capital Region near Washington, DC, includes Bethesda, where art lovers can check out some of the 20 art galleries and music lovers can enjoy a special summer concert series. Also in the region is College Park, home to the main campus of University of Maryland and the world’s oldest continuously operating airport.

College Park is part of Prince George’s County, where the premier meeting venue is the Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center overlooking the Potomac River.

One of the most popular destinations on Maryland’s Eastern Shore is Ocean City, where you’ll find 10 miles of beachfront, a three-mile boardwalk and 15 area golf courses.

BALTIMORE

Visitors to Baltimore should definitely make room on their itinerary to experience the city’s famous Inner Harbor. It’s packed with activities and attractions, from shopping and dining at Harbor Place and The Gallery to cruising aboard the Spirit of Baltimore and touring the National Aquarium, the Maryland Science Center the Baltimore Maritime Museum and the Port Discovery Children’s Museum. The observation deck of the World Trade Center offers a great panoramic city view.

If you take the city’s free Heritage Walk tour you’ll not only get a taste of the Inner Harbor but also explore nearby Little Italy, Jamestown, the Flag House and Star-Spangled Banner Museum and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

Baltimore’s other Black heritage attractions include the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, Dorothy Parker Memorial, the Eubie Blake Jazz Institute and Cultural Center and the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park in Fells Point, a re-creation of the first African- American shipyard in North America. Summer visitors might be able to catch the African American Heritage Festival or the PAETEC Jazz Festival.

Another big summer event is Artscape, the nation’s largest free municipal arts festival, while the Waters Art Museum, Baltimore Museum of Art and American Visionary Art Museum serve up treats for the art lover year-round.

Other favorite Baltimore attractions include Power Plant Live, an entertainment district located near the Inner Harbor; the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore; Sports Legends at Camden Yards; and Geppi’s Entertainment Museum, which showcases the history of American pop culture.

The city’s largest meeting facility, the 1.2 million-sq. ft. Baltimore Convention Center, contains 300,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 85,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in 50 rooms and a 36,000-sq. ft. ballroom. The downtown area has 6,500 hotel rooms, most within walking distance of the convention center. 

MASSACHUSETTS

History buffs might appreciate the fact that first shots of the American Revolution were fired in the town of Marlborough just west of Boston. Planners of small conventions and corporate meetings will  appreciate the fact that Marlborough provides a cost-effective venue option close to the cultural and historical attractions of its big-city neighbor. As one of Massachusetts’ favorite coastal retreats, Martha’s Vineyard offers colorful sights of Victorian cottages and the Aquinnah Cliffs, along with a 17-site African American Heritage Trail.

On Cape Cod, meeting groups might want to save some leisure time for touring the John F. Kennedy Memorial and Museum or doing some gallery hopping and antique shopping on Old King’s Highway.

Springfield’s main downtown cultural attraction is The Quadrangle museum complex, while Six Flags New England and the Dr. Seuss Memorial Sculpture Garden are likely to make the must-see list for kids visiting with a meeting or reunion group.

BOSTON

Massachusetts’ capital is a great walking city, where pedestrians can easily take in views of historic sites, riverfront parks and the famous Boston Harbor. Maps of several designated historic trails — like the Abolitionist Walking Trail and the Freedom Trail, which features sites connected to the American Revolution — can help self-guided tourists find their way around.

The Museum of Afro-American History is located on Beacon Hill, which during the 19th century was home to the largest free Black community in America. The nation’s oldest Black church, the African American Meeting House, is part of the city’s Black Heritage Trail. 

NEW HAMPSHIRE

A visit to New Hampshire can be as action-packed as skiing in the White Mountains or horseback riding in the southern Seacoast Region, or as laid back as sampling some sweet treats and cocktails on the new statewide Chocolate & Martini Tour. Other possible diversions include hiking in the 200,000-acre White Mountain National Forest, taking a winery tour and viewing the Northeast’s highest peak, the 6,288-
ft.-high Mount Washington.

New Hampshire’s Merrimack Valley is the setting for its largest city, Manchester. City Hall, Falls Overlook, the Millyard Museum and several other sites are included on a self-guided walking tour.

The largest city in the Seacoast Region is Portsmouth, home to Seacoast African American Cultural Center. The 24-site Black Heritage Trail in downtown Portsmouth guides you to several historic homes and churches and a burial ground. Other notable local attractions include the Hampton Beach gaming casino and the summer-long Prescott Part Arts Festival. 

NEW JERSEY

The most popular convention and vacation spot in the Garden State is Atlantic City, well-known for its boardwalk, beaches, saltwater taffy and gaming casinos. Other top local attractions include the Civil Rights Garden, the Atlantic City Aquarium and Steel Pier.

Newark, New Jersey’s largest city, offers African-American heritage sites like the Polhemus House, which once served as an Underground Railroad station, and Kreuger Scott Mansion, which was once owned by the city’s first Black millionaire.

Small and mid-sized events might find ideal settings in destination like Parsippany, home to such attractions as the historic Condit House and the Stickley Museum and Craftsmen Farms; Secaucus, popular for its outlet malls and cruises on the Hackensack River; or Somerset, where the Delaware & Raritan Canal State Park provides opportunities for a variety of recreational pursuits.

Princeton’s famous namesake Ivy League university has an art museum, natural history museum and Gothic-style chapel on campus. 

NEW YORK

If you travel to Albany, you can get a peek at the famous Million Dollar Staircase in the State Capital and take a walk through historic Quackenbush Square.

New York City visitors can enjoy a night on Broadway and check out the newly renovated Apollo Theater in Harlem. A notable site on neighboring Long Island is the African American Museum in Hempstead.

Ithaca, located in the state’s Finger Lakes Region, is the site of Cornell University, Buttermilk Falls and other sightseeing attractions.

Nestled on Lake Erie,  Buffalo is home to the Paul Robeson Theatre, the Langston Hughes Institute and Shea’s Performing Arts Center. North of Buffalo is Niagara Falls, where attractions include an Underground Railroad tour and, of course, the 12,000-year-old falls.

Points of interest in Rochester include the Susan B. Anthony House and the Eastman School of Music. Syracuse is home to the Onondaga Historical Museum, which houses an Underground Railroad exhibit. 

PENNSYLVANIA

Pennsylvania tourism officials have highlighted the state’s rich heritage in handmade crafts in eight designated artisan trails. The guides lead visitors to sites showcasing the work of potters, quilters, glassblowers and other craft artists.

Besides exploring Pennsylvania Amish culture, Visitor’s to Lancaster can discover the area’s perhaps lesser known African-American heritage through experiences like the Underground Railroad re-enactment at Bethel A.M.E. Church and the Lancaster City Underground Railroad Tour.

Pittsburgh’s Black cultural and historical attractions include the John C. Peck Oyster House, which was once an Underground Railroad station, and the August Wilson Center for African American Culture.

Reading is home to the Central Pennsylvania African American Museum, open on Saturdays and by appointment. Seven family-owned wineries in the area make up the Berks County Wine Trail.

Top Harrisburg attractions include the State Capital —topped by a rotunda inspired by St. Peter’s Basilica — and riverboat cruises on the Pride of Susquehanna. 

PHILADELPHIA

The “City of Brotherly Love” is loaded with attractions for lovers of history, art and family fun. Your itinerary should definitely include visits to such iconic sites as the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall, along with Mother Bethel A.M.E. Church, where an onsite museum houses the crypt of African Methodist Episcopal Church founder Richard Allen.

Other places highlighting the area’s Black heritage include the Marian Anderson Residence Museum, Paul Robeson House, the Black Doll Museum, the All Wars Memorial to Colored Soldiers, Philadelphia International Records and the African American Museum, which exhibits fine arts, textiles and archeological finds.

The World Sculpture Garden at Penn’s Landing riverfront park and the more than 2,000 citywide public murals sponsored by the Pennsylvania Department of Recreation provide more eye candy for art enthusiasts. Meeting groups might be interested in the event space at attractions including the Civil War and Underground Railroad Museum of Philadelphia, the Betsy Ross House and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Kids traveling with the groups might enjoy a trip to Sesame Place or the Please Touch® Museum or the Franklin Institute Science Museum, an interactive science museum.

The Philadelphia CityPass offers discount coupons for six area attractions: the Franklin Institute, Philadelphia Trolley & The Big Bus Company tours, the Philadelphia Zoo, The National Constitution Center, Adventure Aquarium, and the option of The Academy of Natural Sciences or the Eastern State Penitentiary, where you can view the cell of Al Capone.

With a major expansion under way, the Pennsylvania Convention Center will soon offer 700,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, a new ballroom and 40 additional meeting rooms. There are about 8,500 guestrooms within walking distance of the convention center, including more than 3,000 rooms that are just two minutes away. 

VALLEY FORGE

Located just 18 miles from Philadelphia, Valley Forge would make an ideal setting for military reunions or a gathering of family members or conventioneers with a keen interest in American history.

The 3,600-acre Valley Forge National Historic Park, where George Washington’s Continental Army encamped during the winter of 1777-78, brings a key period in Revolutionary War history to life. Don’t miss a visit to the Monument to Patriots of African Descent, which honors the estimated 5,000 Black soldiers of the Continental Army. The park also contains Washington’s original headquarters, the Gothic Revival-style Washington Memorial Chapel, a variety of monuments and even recreational amenities like horseback riding trails.

At the American Revolution Center, you can view the world’s largest collection of  Revolutionary War artifacts. In the neighboring community of Plymouth Meeting, you can visit Black heritage sites like the Maulsby House and Abolition Hall.

Other notable attractions in Montgomery County include King of Prussia Mall, the Abington Art Center in Jenkentown, the Boyertown Museum of Historic Vehicles in Boyertown and the Highlands Mansion & Gardens in Fort Washington.

The area’s largest meeting space, Valley Forge Convention Center in King of Prussia, contains 108,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, and there are 7,300 area guestrooms. 

RHODE ISLAND

Sixteen Rhode Island Heritage Trails have been developed by the state tourism department to celebrate the history, culture, cuisine, landscape of America’s smallest state.

Six of those trails are found in Newport County, site of the island city famous for yachting, water sports and Gilded Age mansions like The Breakers, Belcourt Castle and Rosecliff. A stroll along the Cliff Walk offers great ocean views as well as glimpses of some of the opulent estates. Newport also is home to the oldest operating synagogue and oldest operating tavern in America.

Travelers to Rhode Island’s capital and largest city can visit sites on the Providence Heritage Trail and the Providence Arts & Culture Trail. Local historical and cultural attractions include the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society museum, the Meeting House of the First Baptist Church of America, the Providence Black Repertory Theatre and the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art. 

VERMONT

From fall foliage tours and winter sleigh rides to maple sugar season celebrations in spring and mountain biking in summer, Vermont offers lots to see and do in every season.

Situated on the banks of Lake Champlain, Burlington is the state’s the largest city. Highlights include the historic Church Street Marketplace, the ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center and the Robert Hull Fleming Museum at the University of Vermont. For a fun and delicious day trip, you can tour the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream factory in Waterbury Center.

In the mountain resort town of Stowe, you can browse the Vermont Ski Museum hike to the top of Mount Mansfield, zip down the Alpine Slide and even try out the Stowe Mountain Resort’s Bungee Trampoline. Other possible diversions include visiting a nearby working farm, sampling the vintage at the Boyden Valley Winery and hunting for bargains at the Ver mont Maple Outlet.

WASHINGTON, D.C.

One of the most appealing things about traveling to the nation’s capital is that it offers so many free and inexpensive attractions. Besides visiting the city’s famous national monuments at no cost, you can enjoy free Saturday morning performances at the National Theatre (first-come, first served tickets are available 30 minutes before the shows) and tour Cedar Hill, the home of Frederick Douglass, for just $1.50.

The Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History has a new exhibit of the lunch counter from the Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins. Another notable new attraction is the Pentagon Memorial, which pays tribute to the victims of the 2001 terrorist attack in Washington.

If you’d like to find out more about these and other Northeast destinations, you can start by contacting or visiting the Web sites of the official tourism office of each state in the region.

CONTACT INFORMATION
Connecticut Office of Tourism —
888-CT-VISIT
Delaware Tourism Office — 866-284-7483
Maine Office of Tourism — 888-624-6345
Maryland Office of Tourism — 866-639-3526
Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism 800-227-MASS
New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development — 603-271-2665
New Jersey Division of Travel & Tourism 800-VISIT-NJ
New York State Department of Economic Development — 800-CALL-NYS
Rhode Island Tourism Division — 800-250-7384
Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing — 800-VERMONT
Destination D — 202-789-7000

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