Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: November/December 2014
African-American Guide To Meeting, Incentives & Traveling In The Northeast

By Rufus McKinney & Michael Bennett

Arguably the most vibrant region in the United States, the Northeast is the epicenter of media, government, business, history and culture and has become the destination of choice for the global travel and tourism public. The most economically developed and culturally diverse region of the country, the Northeast is home to over half of all African-Americans. When the international traveler thinks of visiting America, the Northeast is usually first and foremost in their mind.

From the great metropolitan centers of New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and Washington DC, to the quaint villages and small towns of Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut, this region belies the words "America the Beautiful."

Meeting planers flock to the region for its numerous elite institutions of higher learning, nightlife, museums, magnificent waterways, great hotels and unique convention space that adds value to any group gathering.

CONNECTICUT

This state offers one of the most varied and robust tourism products in the country, including an outstanding collection of over 100 African-American themed museums and landmarks to help visitors celebrate Black History month year round.

Start that journey in New Haven at the Amistad Memorial where a 14-ft. bronze statue stands on the former site of the New Haven jail where kidnapped Africans awaited trial.  Stop by the New Haven Museum and Historical Society, home to the world's largest Amistad artwork collection.

Check out the Freedom Schooner Amistad, a meticulous recreation of the original ship.   Make sure the ship is in port before you stop by (amistadamerica.net).

Foxwoods Resort with six casinos, Four-Diamond hotels, restaurants and world-class spas and award-winning golf courses is a top destination.For cold-weather outdoor enthusiasts try sleigh rides, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, outdoor ice-skating at places like Winding Trails Cross Country Ski Center and Mohawk Mountain State Forest.

DELAWARE

America's first state is a shopper's paradise offering tax-free shopping. Try Christiana Mall or the Tanger Outlet Centers and save those precious dollars.

Take a step back in time by exploring the Delaware History Trail.  The trail highlights significant historical locations statewide from the Air Mobility Command Museum at Dover Air Force Base to Rehoboth Avenue and Boardwalk, founded in 1873 a beach community that became known as the "Nation's Summer Capital."

Also visit places like Legislative Mall; Capital Square in Dover and see a replica of Philadelphia's Liberty Bell and Constitution Park where the U.S. Constitution is encased in a cube with a12-ft quill hovering above.

Savor the flavor of grapes and grains on the Delaware Wine and Ale Trail.  The trail is a collection of twelve wineries and breweries that will take you from the Riverfront in Wilmington to the shores of the Atlantic Ocean.

MAINE

The Pine Tree State is also known as "Vacationland" features a unique natural setting with a spectacular 5,000-mile coastline, a mountainous interior, 6,000 lakes and 32,000 miles of rivers.

Visitors to southern Maine will see beaches, resort communities and cosmopolitan cities such as Portland.  Those who start their journey in the northern part of the state will experience a very different Maine, one of forests, farms and one of the globe's top cross-country ski centers in Presque Isle.

From the shops of Kittery to the dogsled races in Fort Kent, Maine is an outdoor paradise.  Maine features whale watching, hiking trails, some of the best skiing in North America, the finest sailing waters in the world and some of America's best museums.

More than 60 lighthouses dot the Maine coast from Nubble Light in York to West Quoddy Head, the easternmost lighthouse in the U.S.

The outstanding Maine cuisine will almost assuredly feature their famous lobster.

MARYLAND

More than any other state, Maryland has probably played a more central role in American history than any place in the country.   From the war that inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner, to its Civil War contributions and African-American heritage, Maryland has pretty much experienced it all. 

In Annapolis, visitors can take a photo sitting next to a bust of Alex Haley, the famed author of Roots at the Kunta-Kinte Alex Haley Memorial at the City Dock.  Annapolis is home to the United States Naval Academy and the Bannaker-Douglass Museum named after Benjamin Bannaker and Frederick Douglas.   Annapolis is also a major sailing and powerboat destination.

The College Park Aviation Museum opened in 1998 is a 27,000 sq. facility on the grounds of the world's oldest continuously operating airport.

The Surratt House and Museum in Clinton played a vital role in the conspiracy to assassinate President Lincoln and one of the stops where John Wilkes-Booth fled after killing the President.

BALTIMORE

Baltimore's central location at the crossroads of the Mid-Atlantic region makes it easy to get to by air, rail and highway. And once you are there, the city, with its trendy Inner Harbor and distinct and welcoming neighborhoods, is easily walkable.  The city's distinguished venues are the perfect fit for any size gathering, whether it's a major tradeshow at the 1.2-million-sq. ft. Baltimore Convention Center, a general session at the Baltimore Arena; a mid-size conference at one of the area's first-class hotels; a cozy crab feast at a waterfront seafood restaurant; or a product introduction in one of Baltimore's world-class museums;.

Speaking of museums, the city features the National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, the Frederick Douglass - Isaac Myers Maritime Park Museum on the waterfront in Fells Point, and The Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture. To commemorate the 50th anniversary years of the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act, a new exhibition is on view at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum.  "Struggle: Portraits of Civil Rights and Black Power" by City Paper photographer Joseph Giordano are nearly life-sized portraits of luminaries from these movements that create a new visual history of this era.

MASSACHUSETTS

The state is separated into several distinct regions.  The South of Boston features the town of Plymouth and famous historical sites such as Plymouth Rock. 

The North of Boston and the Cape Ann region is know for art galleries, seaside beauty and fine foods.  The city of Salem is the site of the 17th-century witchcraft trials that attracts thousands of visitors.  Lexington and Concord have several museums chronicling the Revolutionary War.

Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket are two islands off the coast of Cape Cod with great beaches, shopping and dinning.  Martha's Vineyard has a 17-site African-American Heritage Trail.

The Central Region is an area of small towns with fall harvest festivals.

Cape Cod is the most famous beach in all of New England featuring the John F. Kennedy Memorial Museum in Hyannis and the Heritage Museums and Gardens in Sandwich.

Western Massachusetts is the state's mountainous region with ski resorts and other outdoor fun.

BOSTON

Famous for its hospitality and friendly spirit, Greater Boston is one of the premier meeting destinations in the United States. Known as the "Athens of America," Boston's renowned medical and educational institutions have helped to make it an international center of learning and intellectualism.  With a thriving economy, history and charm, Boston is ideal for both business and pleasure. Each year, it welcomes over 18 million visitors, convention delegates and business travelers.

The best way to explore Boston history and landmarks is on foot strolling the Freedom Trail or the Black Heritage Trail. 

The three-mile Freedom Trail passes 16 sites of historic importance in downtown Boston and Charlestown that includes the State House, Granary Burying Grounds, Fanueil Hall and the USS Constitution.

The Black Heritage Trail explores the history of the African-American community on Beacon Hill in the 1800s and the abolitionist movement that was rooted there.  Beacon Hill was the largest free Black community in America in the 19th century and is home to the Museum of Afro-American History and the nation's oldest Black church, the African American Meeting House.

Activities for children can be found everywhere starting with the Boston Children's Museum, the Franklin Park Zoo, the Museum of Science, the USS Constitution Museum, the New England Aquarium and Boston Duck Tours.

If shopping is your thing the hotspots are Newberry Street, Prudential Center, Copley Place, Fanueil Hall and Quincy Market.  Another place to shop is Harvard Square in neighboring Cambridge.

The new Boston Convention & Exhibition Center is not only spectacular but user-friendly too.  The 1.6 million-sq. ft. facility has everything you need to stage a successful event, from 516,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space and 82 meeting rooms, to a 40,020-sq. ft., column free ballroom.

Another meeting spot is the John C. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center with 193,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space.

NEW HAMPSHIRE

The Granite State is divided into seven different regions all filled with natural beauty and cultural events shrouded in a classic New England setting.

The Merrimack Valley is home to the state's three largest cities Concord, Nashua and the largest Manchester.  It's a region rich in culture and year-round activities sure to satisfy that adventurous spirit.

If you need a little peace and tranquility try one of the scenic drives the region is known for - Rt. 127 Hopkinton to Salisbury or Rt. 13 & 77 Mont Vernon to Weare are great choices.

Other great attractions in the area include Falls Overlook and the Millyard Museum.

For a taste of the African-American experience head to the Seacoast Region and the town of Portsmouth and visit the African-American Cultural Center and a downtown Black Heritage Trail featuring 24-sites.

Make sure you visit the beaches and resort towns to enjoy whale watching, harbor cruises and more.

NEW JERSEY

The state's top tourist destination is the seaside resort Atlantic City.  The gaming capital of the east coast hosts 30 million visitors annually.  Even Hurricane Sandy couldn't dim the spirit of this east coast mecca known for its entertainment, world-renowned restaurants and the Boardwalk.

Atlantic City's newest hotel, casino resort, the Revel has 1,100 rooms, 46 retail shops and 12 restaurants.

While in town checkout the Civil Rights Garden on Pacific Ave at MLK Blvd. and of course Steel Pier at Virginia Avenue and the Boardwalk.

Two other wonderful beach hotspots are Ocean City and Cape May.

If you're looking for a mix of history, fine dining and ivy-covered walls head to Princeton.  Take a walking tour of Princeton University and take in some of the shops, restaurants and entertainment venues along Nassau Street.

The state has numerous Underground Railroad sites and other monuments chronicling the Africa-American experience. Download a guide at: http://www.visitnj.org/african-american-visitor-guide.

ATLANTIC CITY

Planning a conference, convention, meeting or other event? Discover Atlantic City, a new kind of meeting destination. With event venues galore and more than enough attractions, activities and entertainment to keep attendees busy, AC should be at the top of your list.

Atlantic City has always been about entertainment, but in recent years, the focus has been more upon developing the city as a prime meetings destination.  So if you are seeking out a large corporate event venue, convention hall or trade show locale, the Atlantic City Convention Center is just what the doctor ordered. Hotels, restaurants, casino resorts and entertainment surround this 500,000-sq. ft. venue, offering convenience and fun for your attendees at affordable rates. The convention center is less than 20 minutes from Atlantic City International Airport, and shuttle service provides easy transportation for your guests.

The city has also become a must-stop location for popular Jersey shore events such as top musical acts in concert, championship boxing matches, celebrity sightings, family-friendly Boardwalk Hall events, and more.  Whether you're traveling to AC for vacation, a sporting event or a meeting, you'll find a full calendar of Jersey shore events , with a variety of Boardwalk Hall events and Atlantic City attractions to choose from throughout the year.

NEW YORK

From Niagara Falls to the Adirondacks and the Catskills this state has a physical beauty that's often overlooked. 

The Adirondack Mountains has wonderful ranch resorts, farms, horseback riding and hiking opportunities. Both the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympics were held in Lake Placid.  We all remember the "Miracle on Ice."  Stop in at the Lake Placid Winter Olympics Hall of Fame and Museum.

The Catskills has long been known as a playground for those looking to escape the hustle and bustle of city life.  The area is known for its picturesque colors, hiking trails, winter sports activities and romantic getaways.

There is no better display of the magnificent power and beauty of Mother Nature, than Niagara Falls.  Just 17 miles northwest of Buffalo, the three falls that make up Niagara Falls has as much as 100,000 cubic feet of water per second spill over its cliffs.

NEW YORK CITY

No place on planet earth exudes living life to its fullest more than the Big Apple.  The energy of this great city is palpable.  From the bright lights and excitement of Times Square to the sites and sounds of Harlem, New York City is the nation's top travel destination.

Everyone knows the iconic entertainment venues and tourist attractions that make up this great city:  The Empire State Building, Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Broadway, the Statute of Liberty, Yankee Stadium and the Bronx Zoo, just to name a few.  A don't forget Restaurant Row and fine dining.

Arguably the most famous of all New York venues is the Apollo Theater.  Located on W. 125th Street (Frederick Douglass Blvd), this theater exerted greater influence on popular culture than anyplace in the world, and for African-Americans this is the place where careers are made.

Amateur Night at the Apollo started back in 1934 with young, talented new performers such as 15-year-old Ella Fitzgerald.

Billie Holiday, Lena Horne, Count Basie, James Brown, Bill Cosby and numerous Motown acts all performed and/or debuted at the Apollo.

Today, the Apollo continues its fine tradition attracting new and seasoned world-class talent.

ONTARIO, CANADA

The Niagara Falls and Wine Country region of Ontario is a place of majestic beauty.  Explore the many vineyards and soothe your palate with world-class wines then retreat to one of the many spas in the area for a little pampering.

If you're feeling lucky head to the Casino Niagara or Niagara Fallsview Casino for a little gambling, nightlife and live entertainment 24 hours a day.

The Windsor-Essex-Peele Island region in Southwest Ontario, just across the river from Detroit is known for its sheer natural beauty with hundreds of miles of pristine coastline.

This region was the premiere entry point to Canada for escaped slaves using the Underground Railroad.  Learn more about this and other historical achievements of both Black Americans and Canadians at the North American Black Historical Museum in Amhertsburg.  The museum is a complex of several buildings including The Nazrey African Methodist Episcopal Church.

TORONTO

Toronto might be the trendiest and most diverse city in the Western Hemisphere and is ranked as the safest city in North America. Over 140 different languages and dialects are spoken in this most welcoming of cities.

Toronto hosts upwards of 16 million visitors a year and has everything you would expect to find in any large American city - outstanding restaurants, arts, entertainment, sports and culture.

For meetings and conventions the Direct Energy Centre has over 1 million sq. ft. of flexible meeting space and depending on configuration can hold up to 15,000 people.  The International Centre has over 500,000 sq. ft., the Toronto Congress Center has one million sq. ft. and the Metro Toronto Convention Centre has over 600,000 sq. ft.

Toronto has over 35,000 hotel rooms, many within minutes of local event centers. Whether you're on a budget or demand the utmost in opulence, there's a room for everyone. From boutique to headquarter hotels, Toronto has the room to accommodate events of any size. Stay within minutes of the airport, or hop on a shuttle bus for a quick ride to the city's centre, close to Union Train Station, shopping districts, theatres and restaurants.

Start with a trip up the CNN Tower, the highest free-standing structure in the Western Hemisphere.  The city views are spectacular

Canada's Wonderland features over 200 attractions and 65 thrilling rides including North America's greatest variety of roller coasters. The park usually opens in May and closes in October. 

Outdoor activities are in abundance in Toronto.  Take a trip to Riverdale Farm, the only farm remaining in Toronto.  For recreational activities try cycling in High Park, The Beaches or Toronto Island - a 10-minute ferry ride from mainland Toronto.  During the winter months Nathan Phillips Square turns into an outdoor ice skating rink.

PENNSYLVANIA

The Commonwealth and American history go hand-in-hand. From the country's founding to the Civil War and beyond, Pennsylvania has much to offer the tourist.  No visit here would be complete without a stop at Gettysburg, the signature battle of the Civil War.  The fierce conflict that cost over 50,000 Americans their lives is one of the best-preserved and most visited battlefields in the world.

Over in Pittsburgh the African-American experience is captured at the Kuntu Repertory Theatre, which showcases the works of African-American playwrights.  Also visit the John C. Peck Oyster House, a former Underground Railroad stop.

For a look back in time visit the Pennsylvania Dutch Country and visit an Amish Farm.  There are several tours in the greater Lancaster area to choose from.

And for you honeymooners or outdoor enthusiasts take a trip to the Poconos in northeastern Pennsylvania.  From gambling to skiing, the Poconos is Pennsylvania's top tourist destination.

PHILADELPHIA

The second-largest city on the East Coast and fifth largest in the United States, Philadelphia is within 200 miles of 46 million people. It's the cradle of liberty, a city of medical firsts and the only UNESCO World Heritage City in the nation. It's home to James Beard Award-winning chefs, was named one of the most walkable cities in the nation and lies less than 2 hours from New York City and Washington, D.C., by Amtrak's Acela Express.

The "City of Brotherly Love" is a living, breathing tribute to American democracy.  From the Liberty Bell to Independence Hall the city's well-preserved history is a tantalizing adventure into the birth of our democracy. 

 For a distinctly African-American experience try the African American Museum of Philadelphia, Mother Bethel AME Church, the Philadelphia Doll House and historic homes such as the Paul Robeson House, and the Marian Anderson Museum, or the numerous underground railroad stops in and around Philadelphia

The Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC) is the 14th largest in the county featuring 700,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and the largest contiguous meeting space in the northeast.  There are over 11,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the PCC, many directly across the street.

Philadelphia's six must see attractions are The Franklin Institute, Adventure Aquarium, Phila Trolley Works Tour & The Big Bus Company, Philadelphia Zoo, The National Constitution Center or Academy of Natural Sciences and the Eastern State Penitentiary or Please Touch Museum.

Philadelphia is also well known for its numerous festivals and events celebrating everything from Independence Day to food, gospel, the arts, music, and even ice cream.

There has been a 30 percent increase in the number of restaurants in or around City Center since 2005 featuring a little something for every palate.  If you have a craving for Soul Food try Ms. Tootsie's on South Street. 

RHODE ISLAND

There are myriad ways to explore this state's rich cultural and architectural heritage.  One of the more popular is through Rhode Island Heritage Trail tours such as the Providence Arts and Cultural Trail.

On this tour you can stop at the Rhode Island Black Heritage Society "Creative Survival," a permanent walk-through museum of 19th century Black life in Providence.

Another part of this tour is a visit to the Providence Black Repertory Company, a creative environment that celebrates the artistic contributions of Black artists throughout American history.

Rhode Island is known for its architectural beauty.  Numerous walking tours will take you to such places as Newport's world famous Cliff Walk where you'll see extravagant Gilded-Age mansions perched upon the rocky cliffs just above the Atlantic Ocean.

The Newport Gilded Age Trail will take you to opulent Victorian mansions, palatial summer residences and the International Tennis Hall of Fame.

VERMONT

What's a vacation without ice cream?  Vermont's top tourist attraction is Ben & Jerry's Factory Tours in the town of Waterbury.  Visitors view the manufacturing process and a little sampling is in order.

Vermont is an agricultural-paradise known for its abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables.  The farmers here make it easy to pick your own for the journey home.

The picking season starts in early summer with berry season and in fall it's Apple season.  Follow Route 2 into the Lake Champlain Islands to Hackett's Orchard where you can wander around trees weighed-down by 45 varieties of apples.

Vermont is also known for its maple syrup, cheese and of course chocolate.  There are several chocolatiers in Burlington, Stowe, Montpelier, Arlington and Brattleboro to choose from.

In addition to its pristine lakes and wilderness, there is a full menu of winter sports activities from skiing to snowboarding.

History buffs will enjoy a tour of the Rokeby House a National Historic Landmark and Underground Railroad stop.

WASHINGTON DC

The contributions of African Americans to the landscape and culture of our nation's capital runs deep.  From Benjamin Bannaker, a free African-American scientist and surveyor who was part of the team that surveyed the original borders of the District of Columbia to President Barack Obama, this city is the embodiment of the African-American experience.

The newest hotel on the DC landscape, is also the city's largest hotel - the 1,175-room Marriott Marquis Washington, DC, developed by Norm Jenkins.  Jenkins who is African-American, is president of Capstone Development, LLC Washington now boasts a hotel inventory of nearly 30,000 rooms.The monuments and memorials that pay homage to the African-American experience are many - the African American Civil War Memorial and the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial are two of the better known.

The National Museum of African American History and Culture, scheduled to open in 2016, will be a place where all Americans can learn about the richness and diversity of the African-American experience, what it means to their lives and how it helped us shape this nation.

The Frederick Douglass National Historic Site is administered by the National Park Service and sits at 1411 W. St, SE in the Anacostia neighborhood of DC.  Douglass lived in the house he nicknamed Cedar Hill for 22 years until his death.

Many of DC's major attractions are free like the Washington Monument, the Lincoln Memorial and the Vietnam Memorial to name a few, and many are within walking distance of one another. 

The Walter E. Washington Convention Center is the premiere gathering place for meetings and conventions including the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation held each September.  This 2.3 million sq. ft. facility has over 700,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 198,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in 77 rooms, and a 52,000-sq. ft. ballroom.The northeastern region is a vast land of culture and heritage.  It's the epicenter of this great country.  Most of our formative history and culture is found in the lands that make up this region of the country.  Its place in the global community is unmatched.

As the financial, media, cultural and government center of the world it's understandably the destination of choice for tourists, meetings and conventions.

CONTACT INFORMATION

  • Connecticut Office of Tourism - (888) CT-VISIT / ctvisit.com
  • Delaware Tourism Office - (866) 284-7483 / visitdelaware.com
  • Maine Office of Tourism - (888) 624-6345 / visitmaine.com
  • Maryland Office of Tourism - (866) 639-3526 / visitmaryland.org
  • Massachusetts Office of Travel and Tourism - (800) 227-MASS / massvacation.com
  • New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development - (603) 271-2665 / visitnh.gov
  • New Jersey Division of Travel and Tourism - (800) VISIT-NJ / visitnj.org
  • New York State Department of Economic Development - (800) CALL-NYS / iloveny.com
  • Ontario, Canada - (800) - ONTARIO / ontariotravel.net
  • Visit Pennsylvania - (800) VISIT-PA / visitpa.com
  • Rhode Island Tourism Division - (800) 556-2484 / visitrhodeisland.com
  • Vermont Department of Tourism and Marketing - (800) VERMONT / vermontvacation.com
  • Destination DC - (202) 789-7000 / washington.org

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