Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: May/June 2010
Rediscovering Texas Again, Meeting Planners...It Continues To Get Bigger And Better
By: Patricia Ann Jordan
“Bigger and Better, that’s what Texas continues to be with its 267,000 square miles of amazing meeting destinations. For your next convention, the Lone Star state is the perfect place to combine big business and big fun.

Focus on business has led Texas to be home to more Fortune 500 and 1000 companies than any other state. That’s just one of the reasons the state tourism office created a Texas Tour & Meeting Guide. It’s packed with useful information about all of the unique destinations for your next meeting or business event. Texas’ urban centers feature world-class facilities, hotels, resorts, dining and shopping. If you want a more relaxed setting, try a small town or a dude ranch. Or consider a luxurious golf resort or spa. Meeting planners can choose a big, bustling city or a relaxing locale where attendees always find time to play as hard as they work.
Choose from:

AUSTIN
As Austin’s popularity as a travel and meetings destination grows, so does the demand for entertainment, new attractions and distinct accommodations. Austin answers the demand with new hotels, museums, restaurants and retail projects.  The Westin at the Domain, now open, is an 8-story, 340-room Westin Hotel which is part of the large-scale Domain retail project. The project also includes an urban American bistro, WestinWorkout® fitness facility and 14,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, as well as retail shopping anchored by Dick’s Sporting Goods and Neiman Marcus.

Aloft Austin, also located at upscale Domain has opened for business. Aloft offers 140 guestrooms and more than 1,500 sq. ft. of meeting space. The hip guestrooms are designed with high ceilings, free wi-fi, 42” high-definition plasma televisions, iPod docks and more. Guests can also enjoy a fitness center, bar, pool and café in this hip, urban hotel. AT&T’s Executive Education and Conference Center at the University of Texas, the newest meeting facility on the University of Texas campus includes a 300-seat amphitheatre, 800-seat divisible ballroom, classrooms, conference rooms and breakout rooms. In addition, the center houses 297 guestrooms and three dining outlets. Dining includes The Carillon which features high-end cuisine and has been named among the best restaurants in Austin.

Austin is home to Carver Museum & Cultural Center, dedicated to the collection, preservation, research and exhibition of African-American historical and cultural material. The museum is a key source of information on the history and celebration of Juneteenth. On site are the Carver Library and The Boyd Vance Theatre with a proscenium stage with stadium seating for 134 persons, including accessibility for those who are mobility impaired.  Austin is excited about Austin’s East Side, which is home to the historic Victory Grill, and now considered one of the city’s hippest neighborhoods. It boasts cool restaurants like The Good Knight and Eastside Showroom and fun bars like the Victory Grill and Scoot Inn.

The Austin Convention and Visitors Bureau (Austin CVB), in partnership with griotmedia, recently unveiled the new website, www.AustinTexasSoul.org. The site serves as the ultimate online destination for African-American travelers seeking information on Texas’ capital city. For convenient travel, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is just seven miles outside of downtown. For more information: www.austintexas.org or (800) 926-2282.

BEAUMONT
Head to Beaumont and discover a southern city with a swanky swagger that will spice up your next meeting. Beaumont has Texas culture, Cajun style! Located 90 miles East of Houston on I-10 and minutes from Louisiana casino gaming, Beaumont offers over 3,700 sleeping rooms and close to 187,000 sq. ft. of meeting space city wide.

Ford Park Event Center is Southeast Texas’ premier convention and meeting complex with five versatile venues including a 48,000-sq. ft. Exhibit Hall; 9,000-seat Arena; 18,000-seat Pavilion; 12 championship softball/youth baseball fields, and a midway with 25,000 sq. ft. of barn space. Located in downtown, the Beaumont Civic Center Complex offers 42,000 sq ft of exhibit space. Beaumont also boasts two full service convention hotels including the MCM Elegante Hotel & Conference Center and the Holiday Inn Hotel & Suites Beaumont Plaza both offering 22,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 250+ sleeping rooms. Meeting attendees can experience Gator Country Adventure Show with over 300 alligators, Caymans and crocodiles, Gator Country offers every guest the opportunity to have a hands-on experience. At dinner, guests can meet the cast of Beaumont’s hit reality TV show, CMT’s Gator 911, and see (and even hold) live alligators.

Beaumont’s new website has a meeting planner tool kit with what the Beaumont folks like to call lagniappe – a little extra something. Not only will you find details to assist in planning your next meeting but learn of the major attractions such as Crockett Street Entertainment District in historic downtown and the Big Thicket National Preserve for birding, hiking and boating. New in Beaumont, Baymont Inn & Suites a 50-room hotel property is scheduled to open early summer 2010. Plus, Homewood Suites, scheduled to open in July of 2010 is a $3.2 million investment, which will host 80 rooms, all suites. The Holiday Inn Express Beaumont opened in mid-April. This 81-room hotel is a new prototype property from the Inter-Continental Hotels Group.

Beaumont is billed as the museum capital of Texas with 19 museums. Included are The Fire Museum of Texas where a 24-ft. Dalmatian-spotted fire hydrant welcomes visitors into Beaumont’s charming downtown cultural and historic district, and the Spindletop/Gladys City Boomtown Museum to see how the Lucas Gusher, the largest gusher in the world, blew in January 1901. Visitors can watch the world’s only working replica gusher blow water hundreds of feet into the sky. For more Information: www.beaumontcvb.com or (800) 392-4401.


FORT WORTH

The 17th-largest city in the United States and still growing rapidly, Fort Worth continues to be one of the premier meeting destinations in the nation. Known as the “City of Cowboys and Culture,” Fort Worth is an exciting meetings, convention and tourism destination.  One of the biggest reasons is the transformation of the city’s accommodations in its pedestrian-friendly and safe downtown. The number of guest rooms has doubled thanks to new and renovated hotels, which will allow the city to host larger meetings than ever before.

The recently-opened Omni Fort Worth Hotel is the new convention center headquarters facility. This luxury property features 614 rooms and nearly 68,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The 294-room Hilton Fort Worth and 504-room Renaissance Worthington Hotel have both completed extensive renovations. The Embassy Suites Hotel Fort Worth-Downtown offers 156 two-room suites along with meeting spaces that are ideal for smaller events. Now open less than a block from the convention center, the Sheraton Fort Worth Hotel and Spa offers 430 guest rooms and 22,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

In addition to new hotel rooms, Fort Worth has added 1,500 new restaurant seats downtown. Recently opened restaurants include Shula’s 347 Grill (Sheraton); Ruth’s Chris Steak House (Hilton); The Vault (The Tower); Bob’s Steak & Chop House (Omni) and Grace (Carter & Burgess building). The Fort Worth Convention Center recently completed a $75 million expansion and renovation. The Center features a total of 253,226 sq. ft. of exhibit space; 41 breakout rooms; a 28,160-sq. ft. ballroom, 13,500-seat arena and expanded dock facilities. In addition, the Center’s public events plaza for outdoor gatherings links the Fort Worth Water Gardens to the Convention Center’s new grand entrance.

While in Fort Worth, visitors can experience Sundance Square, with its exciting Western heritage in the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District and art in Fort Worth’s Cultural District. Heritage Trails consists of 22 bronze sidewalk markers, concentrated on Main Street from Heritage Park to the Water Gardens. These markers tell the story of Fort Worth’s history, people, places and events. A joint project of the Fort Worth Chamber Foundation, Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau, and Downtown Fort Worth, Inc., Heritage Trails plaques bear a signature cubistic longhorn design from 1936 by Fort Worth artist Evaline Sellors, a sepia-toned screened illustration, and a brief historical narrative. Each four-foot-tall, freestanding marker is sponsored by a local business.
For more information: www.fortworth.com or (800) 433-5747.

PLANO
According to CNN Money Magazine, There’s no place like Plano for meetings. Known as the “Star in Texas,” Plano hails as the safest city in North Texas, based on a recent survey by CQ Press, and a good place to visit and do business. Modern state-of-the-art facilities of every size, description and budget are located throughout the city. Whether it’s a convention, conference, trade show or board meeting, there is a variety of options from which to choose, including many that offer free parking and free wireless connectivity, as well as on-site tradeshow support. Centrally located in the United States and conveniently located near the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, travelers who stay in Plano are within a 30-minute drive to most major attractions, sporting, adventure and entertainment venues throughout the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

Plano Centre provides more than 33,000 sq. ft. of flexible function space that comfortably accommodates up to 5,000 people. Plus, 21,600 sq. ft. of carpeted, column-free exhibit hall. Plano offers everything corporate and business travelers are looking for – fine dining, exceptional shopping, nearby sports venues, top-notch public golf courses, inviting day spas, a variety of interesting and entertaining attractions and much more.

Southfork Ranch, located in Plano, is home to the infamous Texas ranchers, the Ewings, from the television series (i)Dallas(ei). Still open to the public, Southfork offers tours of the iconic mansion and grounds, along with an extensive array of meeting rooms perfect for family reunions.  Plano is also the “Hot Air Balloon Capitol of Texas,” hosting the Plano Balloon Festival each September since 1979.

Coming soon to Plano is a groundbreaking new African-American Museum, which will showcase African-American history at its finest. A unique mosaic mural dedicated to African-American history is also on display deep in the heart of the city. Plano’s convention center has just updated its Wi-Fi for faster free connectivity. Exciting is Plano’s new Group Assistance Program (GAP). The Plano CVB understands that the economy has made it hard for many of its partners to do business, so they have established the GAP plan to help first time meetings to Plano. This program will help in covering some of costs (up to $5,000) based on the number of rooms their event brings into Plano. Plano believes this is a great way for them to partner in bringing one of their upcoming meetings to Plano. For more information: www.planocvb.com or (972) 941-5844.

Bring your next meeting to one of these fair Texas cities. Attendees will not only have meetings in excellent facilities and stay in top accommodations, but experience exciting festivals, historical attractions and the best birding in the nation. No matter what their desires are, they’ll find it “big” in Texas. Contact the Texas State Office of Tourism at (512) 936-0101.
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