Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: November/December 2011
Meeting The Needs Of Your Meeting
By: Darlene Donloe
It’s time to decide which destination and venue to book for your next event, conference, convention or board meeting. Back in the day, organizing those occasions was more of a routine task - make some phone calls, prepare an agenda, assemble the minutes, reports and documents and put them all in a neat little binder. That was then, this is now.

Meetings have taken on a life of their own. A lot more details are involved in making them a success. Bells and whistles aside, what meeting planners need to be armed with is information, information and more information.

This column aids meeting planners in their decision-making process by providing vital information on specific destinations.  Highlighted in this column are Miami, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Windsor, Canada and Macon-Bibb, Georgia.



MIAMI
My, oh, Miami! If you want it, Miami, known as the “Magic City,” has it.  “Miami has a proud history of welcoming culturally diverse travelers to the destination and offers unique experiences for our visitors and residents alike to embrace our vibrant multi-cultural community,” says William D. Talbert, III, CDME, president & CEO Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau (GMCVB). 

If you need information at your fingertips, Talbert says there is something available. “The Greater Miami and the Beaches Black Visitor Guide, which was recently updated and re-launched, helps visitors enjoy and experience the diverse sounds, tastes and sights of our diverse multi-cultural community that has contributed so robustly to the rich culture that makes Miami one of the world’s premier destinations,” he says.



The Black Visitor Guide is available online at www.miamiblackvisitorguide.com.

Whether you use the guide or not, you’ll find there is no lack of things to do in Miami. For instance: Check out the Little Haiti Cultural Center, the Haitian Heritage Museum, the World Erotic Art Museum, the Diaspora Vibe Gallery or The Frost Art Museum at Florida International University. Go to Virginia Key Beach Park, the city’s first colored-only beach. Liberty City is the home of the African Heritage Cultural Arts Center, which has a 300-seat music hall. Adjacent to Liberty City is the Brownville area, which hosts the Hampton House Motel, which boasts a banquet hall and a jazz club. Visit Coconut Grove, the city’s oldest Black community settled in the 1890s by Bahamian immigrants.

Overtown is Miami’s second oldest African-American settlement. The Black Archives History and Research Foundations serves as a manuscript and photographic repository. The Black Archives own the historic Lyric Theater, built in 1973. Overtown historic highlights also include the Greater Bethel AME Church, D.A. Dorsey House (home of Miami’s first Black millionaire), the Cola-Nip Building, the Chapman House and the Mt. Zion Baptist Church.



The Arscht Center has free Gospel Sundays. It hosts ‘AileyCamp,’ a six-week camp to bring at risk youth for dance, creative communication and personal development classes. This year’s season included the hit ‘Dreamgirls,’ the six-part Jazz Roots series and ‘In the Heights.’ In Little Havana stop and browse at Little Havana to Go, a souvenir, clothing, jewelry and art shop.

Curb your hunger at Chef Creole, which specializes in Haitian seafood. For a great dinner, try the Mahogany Grille, an upscale Neo-Soul Food restaurant or Sawa Restaurant & Lounge. If you want a meal while you lounge, you gotta have dinner in B.E.D., an eclectic restaurant and lounge that boasts large mattresses and pillows. Tap Tap Haitian Restaurant is a must for authentic Haitian cuisine and music.

The Doral Golf Resort & Spa, a Marriott Resort is one of America’s leading golf resorts, featuring five golf courses. It’s also the home of the PGA Tour Golf Tournament, the Jim McLean Golf School and the world-famous Spa at Doral (just say aaaahhh). It has 27 meeting rooms, 71,977 sq. ft. of total meeting space. The largest meeting room is Legends Ballroom with maximum meeting space of 24,079 sq. ft. and maximum seating capacity of 4,200. The property boasts up to 50 breakout meeting rooms.

The Miami Marriott Biscayne Bay is located at the intersection of Downtown and Miami Arts District, which is near the Miami International Airport, the Port of Miami and South Beach. It has 23 meeting rooms, 20,000 sq. ft. of total meeting space. The largest meeting room is Grand Ballroom with maximum meeting space of 9,860 sq. ft. and seating capacity of 1,350.

Also check out the Royal Palm Hotel Miami Beach in South Beach. It’s ideal for large or small meetings. Choose from six meeting spaces accommodating 10 to 300 guests. It features more than 10,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space. There are more than 210 hotels and three convention centers. Spanning four city blocks in the heart of Miami Beach, the Miami Beach Convention Center boasts more than one million sq. ft. of meeting space.



The Miami Convention Center (totally different facility) has 34 meeting rooms, including a 444-seat auditorium and a 117-seat lecture hall, and can accommodate from 20 to 5,000 people in a variety of configurations. The Doubletree Hotel & Miami Airport Convention Center is located adjacent to Miami International Airport, adjoining the Doubletree Hotel and the Miami International Merchandise Mart. Minutes from Downtown Miami, the MACC features 172,000 sq. ft. of high-tech meeting, conference and trade show space, including a 29,000-sq. ft. social catering ballroom (second largest in the region) and 100,000 sq. ft. of exhibition and function space.

Ride through the City of Miami Gardens, which is the host city of Jazz in the Garden. It’s also the home of the Sun Life Stadium, home of the Miami Dolphins and the Miami Marlins.
For information: www.miamiandbeaches.com/visitors/.

USVI
What can you say about a destination that is so beautiful it leaves its visitors speechless? You can say OMG, it’s the US Virgin Islands! St. Croix, St. John and St. Thomas are all located in the eastern Caribbean, just 1,100 miles southeast of Miami. St. John is just 20 minutes from St. Thomas by ferry, and there is frequent daily direct service between St. Croix and St. Thomas by small plane.



“Given the U.S. Virgin Islands is a U.S. territory, U.S. citizens like the fact that no passports are required to get here,” says Beverly Nicholson-Doty, Commissioner of Tourism, U.S. Virgin Islands. “With the non-stop flights available from many major U.S. cities, the destination really offers great value and hassle-free, city-to-beach access for meeting groups year-round.”



When it comes to deciding whether to make USVI your next destination, Nicholson-Doty says the choice is easy. “We offer accommodation and activity selections at every price point,” she says. “We have all-inclusive resorts, small and boutique hotels as well as private villas. There are also multiple Destination Management Companies (DMCs) that offer comprehensive services for groups and can handle everything from the moment they arrive to when the group departs. Another great incentive is the ability to hop between St. Thomas, St. John and St. Croix for day trips via the ferry and seaplane. This really offers meeting groups the opportunity to expand their vacation experience while on-island — they’re not just limited to one island.”

USVI highlights include tours of Fort Frederik on St. Croix, Annaberg Sugar Mill Ruins on St. John and historic Charlotte Amalie on St. Thomas, underwater trails at Trunk Bay, St. John or at Buck Island National Monument, St. Croix. Kayaking over to Hassel Island or through the preserved waters of the VI National Park on St. John. Take a quick 10-minute ferry ride from Charlotte Amalie, St. Thomas to Water Island, also known as the fourth Virgin Island.

Also, check out Emancipation Park, Market Square (This was the center of a large slave-trading market), Frederik Lutheran Church, The Waterfront, Seven Arches Museum, 99 Steps and Crown House. There are walking tours and driving tours. Visit the port of Charlotte Amalie, or the Butterfly Farm or see the colorful Caribbean water world from an Atlantis submarine dive. Explore island history in the red-brick Fort Christian. Check out Magens Bay, Secret Harbour on the East End or Limetree Beach or Vessup Bay.



When it comes to deciding where to stay, accommodations range from impressive luxury resorts to smaller intimate locations, all of which provide a professional atmosphere for business with an extensive list of off-site locations for hosting functions. There are more than 90 hotels & resorts, small hotels and campgrounds in the USVI. Nicholson-Doty says the Department of Tourism doesn’t track the total number of villa rental properties, but they estimate there are over 200 villas in total on all three islands.

Each island has a few hotels and resorts that can accommodate meetings and conventions. These include Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort, Sugar Bay Resort & Spa, The Ritz-Carlton and Windward Passage on St. Thomas; The Westin and Caneel Bay on St. John; and The Renaissance, Divi Carina Bay and The Buccaneer Hotel on St. Croix. Touch down with nonstop service on most of the major carriers from a variety of U.S. gateways, American, United, Delta, Cape Air and Continental. U.S. citizens DO NOT need a passport to travel to the US Virgin Islands.
For information: www.visitusvi.com/

WINDSOR, Ontario Canada
Windsor is a real treat. “With Windsor you get the best of both worlds,” says Gordon Orr, chief executive officer/tourism Windsor Essex Pelee Island. “Canada and the U.S. We are on the banks of the Detroit river. They are our neighbor to the north. We’ve got a major metropolitan city right next door.” Orr says Windsor’s highlights, include Caesars Windsor, the largest casino resort complex, the nearly 2,000 hotel rooms all within five minutes of the Convention Center, 15 award-winning wineries, first class art galleries and Canadian Club Whisky.



“We have a lot of history, arts and culture,” said Orr. “We have a great presence in the marketplace. At the end of the day it makes for a well-rounded experience. We call ourselves ‘One region with countless stories.’ What puts us over the top is we’re a welcoming city. We appreciate the business and don’t take it for granted.”



Other highlights include boat tours, fishing trips, John Freeman Walls Historical Site & Underground Railroad. There is also the Underground Railroad Memorial Statues and The Charlie Brooks Memorial Peace Fountain. Pelee Island, in Lake Erie has pristine beaches, natural areas and a leisurely pace. Rent a bike or visit the local winery. Visit the Holiday Beach Conservation Area, the Jackson Park-Queen Elizabeth II Gardens, Coventry Gardens and Peace Fountain or Odette Sculpture Park. Willistead Manor is a 36-room mansion nestled within a 15-acre park, which offers accommodations for weddings, receptions, meetings, and other special events. Mackenzie Hall Cultural Centre is located in one of the most historic areas of Windsor. Originally a courthouse, it’s now the Cultural Centre for the City of Windsor, with performing arts space, theatre, art galleries, meeting facilities and a ballroom for private rentals and special events.

Other conference facilities include: St. Clair Centre for the Arts. It has a 1,200-seat performing arts theatre. Roseland Golf and Curling Club has five rooms for meetings and banquets that can accommodate from 20 to 500. Masonic Temple Ballroom offers a full service facility. It is centrally located close to hotels, casino action and picture perfect parks. Caesars Windsor's primary convention/meeting facility is the brand new 100,000-sq. ft. Convention Centre at Caesars Windsor. The expansion will include a 5,000-seat entertainment venue and an additional hotel tower. The Serbian Community Centre also caters conferences and meetings.




From the Detroit Airport you can fly in on Delta and American Airlines. There is a shuttle service from Detroit Metro Airport to downtown Windsor. It’s a quick 30-minute ride. The Windsor International Airport has direct flights. They offer frequent flight service. You can also take Amtrak.
For information: www.citywindsor.ca/

MACON-BIBB (Georgia)
"Macon has such a diverse cultural heritage,” said Steven Fulbright, Downtown Visitors Center Manager. “You can visit the Tubman African American Museum, attend the Pan African Festival or visit the Ocmulgee National Monument for the Ocmulgee Indian Celebration. We are rich in assets, spirit and culture."



Macon boasts 5,500 National Register historic structures in 11 historic districts. Cotton Avenue is a "main street" of African-American business; Pleasant Hill Historic District is one of the first Black neighborhoods listed on the National Register of Historic Places; the Rodney Davis Memorial pays homage to Macon’s only Medal of Honor winner.

Historic landmarks and memorials include: Otis Redding Statue, Otis Redding Memorial Bridge and Benny Scott Plaza. The area attractions feature rich and diverse cultures from 10,000 year-old Native American Indian mounds and the largest collection of ancient African artifacts, to the top 40 musical hits of Little Richard and REM and the 3,000 hits by Hank Aaron. The Cannonball House, a Greek revival mansion built in 1853, was the only house in Macon struck by a cannonball during Stoneman's Raid on Macon in 1864.

Visit the Georgia Music Hall of Fame, the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, the Washington Memorial Library or the Museum of Arts & Sciences. Step back in time with a guided tour of Sidney Lanier Cottage, a 1840 Victorian cottage. Take in a show at the Douglass Theatre, The Grand Opera House or Cox Capital Theatre. If you’re hankering for some good food, there are any number of fabulous restaurants serving up some Southern goodness.



Macon has three distinct accommodations clusters, each boasting hotels, motels, restaurants, shopping and attractions. The cluster of hotels total 51 with more than 4,500 rooms. However, there are more than 5,000 hotel rooms in Macon. The city offers a central location and budget friendly accommodations along with exceptional space for meetings, receptions, trade shows, and athletic events.

The Edgar H. Wilson Convention Center features 102,000 sq. ft. The Macon Coliseum has a 9,252-seat capacity adjacent to the Convention Center or take advantage of an additional 5,000 sq. ft. at the 220-room Marriott Hotel connected by a glass-enclosed corridor. Beyond the Center you will find a wonderful variety of unique spaces throughout the city of Macon. Choose one of our five distinct clusters designed for planning a meeting with spaces, hotel rooms, attractions, and restaurants within close proximity.

To get to Macon, there are three airports to choose from – Downtown Macon Airport, Atlanta/Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and Middle Georgia Regional Airport.
For information: www.co.bibb.ga.us/, or www.maconga.org/
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