Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: July/August 2017
Taking the Family: Travel For Business & Pleasure
By: Buck Samuels

Blended travel - combing business and leisure trips with the family has gained momentum in recent years.   According to one survey, 77 percent took family or a significant other on their last business trip, and 47 percent do it a majority of the time.  The numbers are even high in the African-American market segment, where travel with families to everything from conference to family reunions has been a mainstay.

Many business-oriented hotels now make accommodations for children.  But there's more to blended travel than a comfortable bed.  You must consider things like local attractions and museums, amusement parks and outdoor activities, among other things.

Below are some family-friendly destinations perfect for the troubled business traveler looking to maximize time with the family.

BIRMINGHAM, AL


With world-class attractions, lodging and dining fueling its reputation and 15,000 guest rooms in the greater Birmingham area, the city is a popular, affordable meeting host for delegates traveling with families. Meeting planners enjoy the impressive inventory of convention services offered while family members of all ages will discover many exciting things to see and do.

If you are in to African-American history and culture, Birmingham is the place to be.  Richly detailed exhibits in the Civil Rights Institute reveal slices of black and white life in Alabama from the late 1800s to the present. A series of galleries tells the stories of daily life for African-Americans in the state and the nation and how dramatically different it was from the lives white people of that era took for granted. The powerful Movement Gallery presents the Civil Rights Movement for 1955 to 1963. Here a picture emerges of the bad old days of "Bombingham," a reference to the relentless violence that rocked the city in the late 1950s and early '60s. In the final exhibits, the Processional Gallery uses life-size figures representing all ages and races to portray the "walk to freedom."

Other family-oriented attractions include the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame (from the boogie-woogie beginnings of Clarence "Pinetop" Smith to the velvet crooning of Nat King Cole, legendary jazz greats are immortalized here); American Village (a unique attraction where costumed historical interpreters guide visitors back in history to participate in the drama of America's journey for independence); McWane Science Center (four floors of hands-on exhibits and an IMAX Dome Theatre); Birmingham Zoo (blazing new trails in elephant conservation with the opening of Trails of Africa); and Splash Adventure Park (visitors cool down in the Wave Pool and on daring water rides like Acapulco Drop, Neptune's Plunge, Splashdown and Upsurge).

Meeting planners will be happy to hear that the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex (BJCC) is Alabama's largest convention address, with meeting facilities all on one campus. The BJCC complex campus has 350,000 sq. ft. of convention and exhibition space.  The complex includes an 18,000-seat arena and 4,000 seats in two theaters.  One of the most convenient and unique features of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex is that it adjoins the 757-room Sheraton Birmingham Hotel. The hotel can accommodate groups from 10 to 1,000.

Other area properties include the 295-room Birmingham Marriott, 298-room DoubleTree by Hilton Birmingham, and the 242-room Embassy Suites Birmingham, to name a few.

For more information contact the Greater Birmingham CVB at (800) 458-8085 orbirminghamal.org.

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CINCINNATI, OH


Amidst the gently rolling hills along the Ohio River, Cincinnati USA spreads from the southwestern corner of Ohio into Northern Kentucky and southeastern Indiana. The city is located about mid-point on the shoreline of the 981-mile long Ohio River. Cincinnati USA is in the midst of an exciting renaissance. There's a convergence of new developments, projects and convention wins taking shape that collectively makes this one of the most progressive, game-changing eras in the region's history. It also makes the city the perfect destination for family friendly gatherings.

When the meetings end in Cincinnati, the fun just begins. Cincinnati has undergone a dramatic transformation in recent years with more than $2 billion in downtown and Riverfront development. The region boasts an outstanding lineup of arts and cultural attractions. Attendees can take in a Reds or Bengals game, visit art museums or put a couple bucks down on a roulette wheel. And foodies will be in heaven too, with more than 4,000 restaurants ranging from four-star French to Cincinnati-style chili.

There are so many things to do, places to go, stores to shop, and restaurants to sample that no visit seems long enough. Make certain you block out enough time to visit the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, dedicated to revealing stories of freedom's heroes, from the era of the Underground Railroad to contemporary times, while challenging and inspiring everyone to take courageous steps of freedom today. A history museum with more than 100,000 visitors annually, it serves to inspire modern abolition through connecting the lessons of the Underground Railroad with today's freedom fighters.  The center is also a convener of dialogue on freedom and human rights.

Other options include the Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal, Newport Aquarium & Newport on the Levee, Riverboat Cruises, an array of tours (American Legacy Tours and Gangster Tours, to name a few), as well as catching a Broadway show at the Arnoff Center for the Arts or being mesmerized by a Grammy-nominated ensemble at the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and Cincinnati Pops.

Cincinnati USA's 750,000-sq. ft. Duke Energy Center recently underwent a $135 million expansion and renovation to become the Midwest's best-in-class center. The expansion means Cincinnati can accommodate 75 percent of the existing convention, conference and meetings market in the United States.  The facility offers 200,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space, a 40,000-sq. ft. grand ballroom, 17,400-sq. ft., junior ballroom, and 30 deluxe breakout rooms.

There are nearly 3,200 hotel rooms within three blocks right of the Duke Energy Convention Center, with 11 downtown altogether. Thousands more rooms are a few minutes away throughout Cincinnati USA and on the Kentucky riverfront.

For more information contact Cincinnati USA CVB at (800) 543-2613 or http://www.cincyusa.com.

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DENVER, CO


Just 340 miles from the exact center of the Continental United States, Denver is closer to the center of the nation than any other city of comparable size. In addition to easy air access, Denver is at the intersection of two major Interstate highways, has two AMTRAK passenger trains daily and is a major hub for interstate motorcoach travel.  What's more, Denver boasts the 10th largest downtown in America and one of the most exciting and walkable. Within a mile radius, downtown Denver has three major sports stadiums, the nation's second-largest performing arts center, an assortment of art and history museums, a mint that produces 10 billion coins a year, a river offering white water rafting, more than 8,400 hotel rooms, a $140 million theme and water park, a $100 million aquarium and 300 restaurants.  Ideal for attendees traveling with their families.

            Kids are often tough to please - but they'll be grinning from ear to ear whenever they're in The Mile High City, thanks to Denver's wide array of kid-friendly activities. Interactive museums, incredible zoos and aquariums, wide-open parks - they're perfect ways to entertain your little travelers.

For example, the History Colorado Center brings history to life with amazing interactive presentations, while at Dinosaur Ridge in Morrison, an outdoor museum and visitor center, you can touch the bones of Allosaurus and Stegosaurus at the site where important dinosaur discoveries were made in the late 1800s.  At the Wings Over the Rockies Air & Space Museum, more than 50 planes and riveting space-oriented displays occupy the sprawling space, an aviation wonderland that allows families to get up close and personal with giant bombers, fighter jets, antique planes and a Vietnam-era Huey helicopter. The Denver Black American West Museum provides a glimpse into the life of African-American cowboys of a bygone era.  Located 25 minutes west of Downtown Denver, the 3,000-sq. ft. Morrison Natural History Museum offers a relaxed environment that is perfect for kids of all ages to explore rocks and fossils.  And the Butterfly Pavilion, another nearby attraction, is the perfect indoor refuge in which to interact with live invertebrates fluttering around a lush rainforest, or to hold Rosie, a Chilean Rose Hair tarantula, in the palm of your hand - if you dare.

Located in the heart of Downtown Denver lays the Colorado Convention Center, which is ideal for any size meeting or convention group. Loaded with 584,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space, a 50,000-sq. ft. Mile High Ballroom and a 35,000-sq. ft. Four Seasons Ballroom, this venue definitely has the space to accommodate a group of just about any size. The convention center is also equipped with 63 meeting rooms and a Bellco Theatre, which can accommodate up to 5,000 people in an auditorium-style fixed seating format.

The downtown area is home to 10,000 rooms (by the end of 2017) within short walking distance of the Colorado Convention Center and 45,000 first-class hotel rooms in the greater metro area. Here's a rundown of new hotels that will open in 2017 and beyond. 

            For more information contact Visit Denver at (303) 892-1112 or visitdenver.org.

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FORT LAUDERDALE, FL

Greater Fort Lauderdale / Broward County is emerging as the most diverse area in the country and it's the gathering place of choice for large professional organizations, including the country's most influential African American groups.  The Urban League, the Newspaper Publishers Association, and 100 Black Men of America have all made return visits to plan their national social justice agendas. Members of Delta Sigma Theta and Omega Psi Phi made history leading the famed Seminole Hard Rock Winterfest Boat Parade and the Alpha Kappa Alphas will convene there in 2018.  Family reunions are drawn to Broward County for the experiences in suburban cities that offer affordable lodging and intergenerational activities.  And for group or vacation travelers, the area offers a myriad of opportunities to celebrate the spirit of diversity in a friendly resort setting, or beyond the beach.

Between Blue Wave beaches and exotic Everglades lie countless ways to play in Greater Fort Lauderdale, including kid-friendly attractions and sightseeing cruises, watersports and more.  Just minutes from the beach is the Riverwalk Arts and Entertainment District in downtown Fort Lauderdale, home to cultural attractions, shops, parks and restaurants.  Along Riverwalk, the brick-lined meandering promenade, discover the Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Museum of Discovery and Science with its AutoNation 3D IMAX Theater, Florida Grand Opera, Fort Lauderdale Historical Center, Stranahan House and the Museum of Art.

For planners, delegates and their families, a visit the African American Research Library and Cultural Center is a must. The facility houses a main library and a unique children's library with more Black history books and books written by Blacks than any other facility in the country. The auditorium and exhibit areas provide opportunities to exchange ideas and cultural values as well as promote an understanding and appreciation of the contributions of persons of African descent.

Want more things to see and do?  Discover the heritage of the Seminole Indians. Enjoy Caribbean-style and Latin fusion cuisine and some of the South's best soul food and BBQ.  And sport enthusiasts will be happy to learn that Fort Lauderdale will soon be home to the ATA Tennis and Education Complex, presently under development.

The city of Fort Lauderdale knows how to make a meeting planner shine. With the 600,000 sq. ft. Gold LEED Certified Broward County Convention Center, you'll enjoy high-tech meeting and exhibit space as well as five-star food service, an Internet café and elegant banquet rooms. Organizations of all sizes come to Florida each year to hold their meetings/conferences.

Six hotels in the Lauderdale Convention Collection offer clustered booking advantages, beach or Intracoastal views, discounts, amenities and are close to the Convention Center, where you'll enjoy complimentary space and welcome reception. The Collection is comprised of Embassy Suites, Fort Lauderdale 17th Street, Harbor Beach Marriott Resort & Spa, Hilton Fort Lauderdale Marina, Hyatt Regency Pier Sixty-Six, Renaissance Fort Lauderdale Hotel, and the Sheraton Fort Lauderdale Beach Hotel.

For more information contact the Greater Fort Lauderdale CVB at (800) 22-SUNNY or www.sunny.org.

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JACKSON, MS

Jackson is known as the "City with Soul" because of her perseverance and her triumphant spirit. She's birthed many historical marks that have shaped this country and beyond, from Civil Rights, to Civil War, to music, to world-class museums and exhibits, to thriving festivals and events, to award winning attractions to James Beard Foundation chefs and restaurants; she has so much to offer. 

Steeped in southern culture, Jackson is home to a multitude of world-class painters, sculptors, dancers, actors, architects, photographers, filmmakers, musicians, and artisans of many disciplines. The city pulses with music from classical to inspirational, home-grown gospel, blues, jazz, rock 'n roll, R&B and more that can be found all around town. Beautifully changing seasons offer numerous fall and holiday events rich with tradition, surprising spring flings for shaking off winter's chill, and laid back summer celebrations that detour off the fast lane. Jackson's a soulful kind of place for a weekend getaway, family fun, a group tour, a reunion, a convention or a small business meeting.

While Jackson features world-class meeting facilities and lodging, the city is more than just work. Jackson affords the meeting planner the ability to offer its delegates and their families a plethora of options through its rich music heritage, cultural offerings, seasonal events and festivals and sporting events, not to mention its friendly people and culinary charm.   Savor mouthwatering cuisine in some of their 300 restaurants. Experience dynamic culture at fascinating museums … devoted to the city's visual arts, history and heritage, and sports. And with a variety of year-round events, there's always something fun and festive going on. At the end of the day, you and your family members can sleep blissfully in some of Jackson's 4,800 hotel rooms.

From the proud Civil Rights legacy of Medgar Evers, to the intricate cultural tapestry that is the Farish Street Historical District, Jackson is alive with African-American heritage. Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center, served as the first public school for African-American students. It is now the home for thousands of artifacts.  The campus of Tougaloo College has a storied past and is recognized as "The Cradle of the Civil Rights Movement in Mississippi" because of the fundamental principles of freedom, equality, justice and America's promise.  Explore the Farish Street Historical District, a 125-acre late nineteenth century grid-patterned neighborhood, listed on the National Register of Historic Places. This is where you'll find over 100 years of rich African-American heritage. Stroll by Freedom Corner and view the memorial honoring Martin Luther King Jr. and Medgar Evers. Visit the newly renovated Alamo Theater and then stop in at Johnny T's (formerly known as The Crystal Palace Night Club) where the likes of Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton, and Louis Armstrong once performed.
            The Jackson Convention Complex features 330,000 sq. ft. of flexible exhibit, ballroom, and meeting space and is located in the heart of downtown Jackson.  The facility's largest exhibit hall measure 60,000 sq. ft., while its largest ballroom is 16,800 sq. ft.

For more information contact Visit Jackson at (800) 354-7695 or visitjackson.com.

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KANSAS CITY, MO


Along every boulevard and around every corner, there's something to do that's unique to Kansas City. With a thriving creative arts scene, eclectic mix of entertainment and die-hard sports - it's safe to say there's something for everyone in the family.

The city is brimming with exciting places designed to cultivate a sense of wonder and discovery for inquisitive toddlers and preschoolers. One of the most popular spots in town is Kaleidoscope, a free, hands-on art center for children.  Located at Crown Center it offers a unique multi-sensory, artistic environment where kids can design, cut, glue and decorate either on their own.  For hands-on adventures with the little ones, two other popular attractions at Crown Center are Sea Life Kansas City and Legoland.

Want more family friendly attractions?  For adventures in nature, visit the Anita B. Gorman Conservation Discovery Center in Kauffman Legacy Park. Play like Dr. Doolittle and talk to the animals at the Kansas City Zoo. More al fresco escapades can be found at Deanna Rose Children's Farmstead in Overland Park, while other area options include Planet Snoopy in Worlds of Fun, CoCo Key Water Resort, and Great Wolf Lodge in Kansas City,

For the active teens and tweens in your family there's Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art, internationally recognized for its outstanding collection of more than 33,500 objects from ancient times to the modern day. While at the Nelson, be sure to check out the iconic Shuttlecocks on the Great Lawn, one of the most photographed features in the city, Jaegers Subsurface Paintball (a paintball arena), and next door, Jaegerz Laser Tag (with plenty of room to "play tag"-up and over ramps, behind partitions, through fog, under strobe lights-with the latest tunes playing in the background).

Looking for Black history?  The Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in the 18th & Vine Historic Jazz District is a must see. The museum tells the story of the Negro National League (founded in 1920), its teams, players, innovators and more through historic timelines, artifacts and interactive themed galleries. The district is also home to the American Jazz Museum, which melds jazz history with modern technology in a multidimensional exhibit environment. Displays celebrating the lives and music of many jazz greats, jazz memorabilia, listening stations and interactive areas for experimenting with and discovering jazz fundamentals are part of the fun here.

            Encompassing more than 800,000 square feet, the Kansas City Convention & Entertainment Facilities can serve all your meeting needs under one roof. The eight-square block convention and special event facility can accommodate every need with 388,800 sq. ft. of column-free exhibit space on one floor; 48 state-of-the-art meeting rooms; a 2,400-seat fine arts theater; an arena that sits more than 10,700 people and a unique outdoor festival plaza. And not only is it all in one location, the complex is connected to major downtown hotels and parking by skywalks and underground walkways. 

            The Kansas City metro area offers more than 32,00 guestrooms, with over 3,000 of them in the downtown district.

            For more information contact Visit Kansas City at (800)767-7700 or visitkc.com.

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MIAMI, FL


Greater Miami and the Beaches' weather and atmosphere is perfect. Nowhere else on earth will you find a combination of cosmopolitan Miami conference facilities and tropical splendor. In short, this unique destination can only be described as "Tropicool," which means Miami meetings are the ultimate choice for your next conference. What's more, Miami is as family-friendly as it gets, with a plethora of possibilities for delegates bringing along the spouse and kids.

South Beach has been called the American Riviera and an Art Deco Playground. Yet there's more than fine white sand and colorful buildings to South Beach's fantasyland of exuberant Deco architecture. South Beach offers an eclectic mix of world-class boutiques, galleries and stores. It's also a culinary hot spot for everything from gourmet to casual beachside cuisine. At night, South Beach comes alive with crowds ready to go out and have a world-class evening out.
            No trip to Miami would be complete without exploring some of the area's rich cultural; heritage.  At the top of your list should be a stroll down the streets of Historic Overtown, where you can explore the legendary Lyric Theater, visit the Black Archives, enjoy artistic murals, savor some of the best soul food in Miami, stop by a farmer's market, and if your timing is right, kick up your heels at one of the many music and art festivals that unfold there on a regular basis.

Steeped in the complex and rich cultural histories of the Afro-Caribbean immigrants who brought life to its area, Little Haiti, another must see, has evolved into a colorful beacon in Miami's arts communities. Throughout the years, small businesses like celebrated record stores, kitsch bars, and authentic eateries have eased into the neighborhood, creating their own particular patchwork within the already distinct Little Haiti.

Located in the heart of South Beach, the Miami Beach Convention Center (MBCC) boasts over 1,000,000 sq. ft. of flexible space, including; over 500,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, over 100,000 sq. ft. of versatile pre-function area space and 70 meeting rooms comprised of 127,000 sq. ft. The dynamic and international City of Miami Beach is a unique, sophisticated, urban paradise, offering world-class business amenities and cosmopolitan facilities in a laid-back tropical atmosphere.

Another meeting option, the Miami Airport Convention Center (MACC) 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.

For more information contact the Greater Miami & The beaches CVB at (800) 933-8448 or miamiandbeaches.com.

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MILWAUKEE, WI


Milwaukee's exceptional arts and entertainment scene, along with its stunning natural beauty, exciting Riverwalk, meeting facilities and Midwest charm, make it an exciting meetings destination for attendees traveling with their families.   The city's prime lakefront location provides plenty of opportunities for fun and adventure in the great "urban outdoors." Don't miss the chance to get out and get active while you're in town!

Get your family's morning (or afternoon) workout in with a spectacular view! Run or hike along the popular six-mile Lakefront Trail, beginning just north of the Milwaukee Art Museum along Lake Michigan. This paved, three-mile loop features a 20-station exercise course and the one-mile, Lakeshore State Park Loop ("Summerfest Island"), the perfect place to check out the city's warm weather festival scene.  Or you can rent a kayak, canoe or paddleboard from Milwaukee Kayak Company for a great way to view the city and its architecture from the river level.  Wheel Fun Rentals, located on a picturesque, tree-lined lagoon along Lake Michigan, also rents pedal boats, canoes, kayaks and more.  For a unique urban cycling experience, head west along the Hank Aaron State Trail in the Menomonee River Valley, where historical markers, artworks and wetlands preservation mark the trail through this former industrial area.

Milwaukee's African-American community is constantly growing with galleries, coffee shops, clothing stores, lounges, and new businesses every day, many of them located in the Historic King Drive Business District. This vibrant community has much to offer any visitor, so be sure to check it out.

Golfers can play a round at one of Milwaukee's 16 county parks and gold courses, While families can enjoy a game of beach volleyball at Bradford Beach, climb to the top of the 74-ft. tower of the historic North Point Lighthouse, or take in a Milwaukee Brewers game at Miller Park.

Centrally located in the heart of downtown, the Wisconsin Center is connected by skywalk to more than 1,365 hotel rooms at the Hilton Milwaukee, the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee and the SpringHill Suites Milwaukee Downtown Marriott. The center is an easy walk from a number of popular downtown attractions, including the scenic Milwaukee RiverWalk, the Milwaukee Public Museum and the BMO Harris Bradley Center and is surrounded by vibrant dining and nightlife. The facility feature 188,695 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space, a 37,506-sq. ft. Grand Ballroom, and an additional 39,640 sq. ft. of meeting space that can be divided into as many a 28 meeting rooms.

In addition to Hilton, Hyatt and SpringHill Suites, national brands that make business travel easy are located throughout the city. Upscale boutique hotels - including properties reflecting the city's brewing and motorcycle history - join a legendary historic hotel, a luxury casino hotel and value-priced offerings to round out a full range of accommodations to choose from in Milwaukee.

For more information contact Visit Milwaukee at (800) 576-6466 or www.visitmilwaukee.org/meeting-planners.

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MINNEAPOIS, MN


            In case you didn't know, Minneapolis is home to some of the best family attractions in the nation.  For instance, did you know that the nation's leading professional theatre company for young people is in Minneapolis? That Nickelodeon Universe is the nation's largest family indoor theme park with over 30 remarkable rides and attractions that shape the seven-acre park, which also features nine places to eat, entertainment and shopping? Or that Valleyfair is the Upper Midwest's largest amusement park featuring over 75 rides and attractions including eight roller coasters, Soak City Waterpark, live entertainment, Dinosaur's Alive, Planet Snoopy and the all-new family area, Route 76!

Minneapolis has a lot of things you can do with your family for FREE or a small cost! Seeing the sites of the city is a start, but when you want to entertain your family but not spend a lot, perhaps you can take a break at Lake Harriet Bandshell and watch a concert or a movie during Music & Movies in the Parks. Many Minneapolis parks offer free family-oriented movies under the stars and live musical performances throughout the summer.  Maybe a stroll the Mill City Farmer's Market where you and your family and take in free entertainment and fun shopping on the riverfront on Saturday mornings will interest you.  Off course there is always shopping at the Mall of America, the largest shopping complex in the country, visiting Como Zoo and Conservatory, flying a kite during the annual Lake Harriet Winter Kite Festival, or exploring the gorgeous Lyndale Rose Gardens and Eloise Butler Wildflower Garden and Bird Sanctuary.

Conference attendees and their families have the option to explore the city's fine arts when the meetings are over for the day. Take in a show at the Guthrie Theater, one of the city's Tony Award-winning theaters. Discover new worlds at the Science Museum of Minnesota. Thrill to the arias of Rossini at the Minnesota Opera. Or visit the Walker Art Center, hailed by Newsweek as "possibly the best contemporary art museum in the country." Minneapolis is your ticket to groundbreaking art, architecture and performing arts.

Whether you are planning a board meeting for 30, a shareholder meeting for 2,500 or a party for 10,000, the Minneapolis Convention Center is equipped with the amenities and services to ensure your event is successful. Between the 475,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space and the 87 meeting rooms, you'll find the Center's award-winning Kelber Catering service and technical capabilities are second-to-none.  Minneapolis has 7,000 rooms downtown of varying price points and types, and nearly 5,000 of those are within half a mile of the Minneapolis Convention Center.

For more information contact Meet Minneapolis at (888) 676-MPLS or www.minneapolis.org.

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NORFOLK, VA


With the Chesapeake Bay, Atlantic Ocean and countless rivers in their backyard, you are never far from the water when you meet in Norfolk. The city's thriving arts community welcomes you into its studios, galleries and up and down the streets of downtown, the NEON Arts District and beyond. If you're looking for world-class cuisine, you'll find traditional Southern fare to a wide range of nouveau and international offerings at Norfolk's eateries.

            From sun up to sun down - there's so much for your families to do and see in Norfolk, VA the fun will never end! For example, from the plains of Africa to your own backyard, the Virginia Zoo has a world of discovery for you. Open year round, the Virginia Zoo offers family fun, education and excitement for everyone. Meet lions, kangaroos, red pandas and more. Go nose to nose with prairie dogs in their interactive habitat or take a ride on the Zoo train. Explore the gorgeous gardens and enjoy an adventure for the entire family!

For folks who'd rather spend more time at the beach than driving to it, Ocean View Beach Park on Norfolk's Chesapeake Bay is the popular place to be! With commercial piers, bait shops and tackle rentals, it makes an ideal fishing spot as well. Enjoy nature trails, swimming, windsurfing, jet skiing, kayaking, and canoeing.

            Norfolk celebrates the rich ethnic diversity of its population with sights, sounds, attractions and special events that pay tribute to the city's long multicultural heritage.  Fun-filled festivals on the downtown waterfront offer up the music, art and culinary delights of the city's diverse Asian-American, African-American, Pacific Island, and Latin American communities, while the traditions of the region's first citizens - Virginia's Native American tribes - are celebrated through numerous exhibits and festivals throughout Hampton Roads.

The Waterside Convention Center is located in the downtown waterfront area and is attached on three floors to the Waterside Marriott Hotel. The center contains 36,365 sq. ft. of function space, 19 meeting rooms and is elegantly decorated with fine furnishings and antiques. The largest exhibit hall is 14,400 sq. ft. and can accommodate 2,400 guests in a reception, 2,000 in a theater set-up and 1,400 for a banquet.

This historic destination offers a variety of hotels and venues ready to accommodate meetings of every size, with approximately 5,400 hotel rooms citywide (3,000 committable) and 263,370 sq. ft. of function space in the city and a downtown with 1,200 committable guestrooms and 222,934 sq. ft. of function space.

For more information contact the Norfolk CVB at (800) 368-3097 or www.visitnorfolktoday.com.

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ORLANDO, FL


Arguably the number one meetings and convention destination in the country, Orlando offers a world of possibilities for unique one-of-a-kind meetings and events. From a top-rated convention center, low-cost accessibility and wide variety of hotels to world-renowned theme parks and unforgettable experiences, Orlando is an exciting gateway city for meetings of all sizes, especially for delegates bringing along the family.

            The world of "make-believe" comes alive in the Magic Kingdom® Park, where new adventures, fantasy, and fun surround you in seven wondrous lands of enchantment. Travel through these lands and see how fantasy becomes reality when you learn how to be a pirate, match wits with funny monsters and conquer mountains.  At Disney's Hollywood Studios, salute the world of showbiz - from the Hollywood classics of yesteryear to the best in popular entertainment.  Journey off the beaten path at Disney's Animal Kingdom There Park! Create networking events in exotic surroundings with adventurous endeavors-a unique experience that will fascinate and excite your guests.  Enjoy an immersive delight for the senses at Sea World Orlando.  Go beyond the screen, behind the scenes, and jump right into the action of their favorite movies at Universal Studios Florida™. Explore innovative and immersive rides and attractions inspired by the greatest movies, heroes and legends at Universal's Islands of Adventure™ .
            For your meetings and events, the Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) is conveniently located in the middle of all the action, boasting more than 2.1 million sq. ft. of exhibition space and 480,000 sq. ft. of function space. The green-friendly complex - comprised of two separate buildings, is connected by a 1,500-ft, open-air bridge with moving sidewalks.  The OCCC is located just 15 minutes from the Orlando International Airport.  Four properties with 5,185 rooms provide direct access to the convention center via pedestrian walkways or covered walking bridges. There are nearly 7,500 rooms within a one-mile radius of the Orange County Convention Center. Widen that radius to just two miles, and the options expand to 40 hotels and 17,000 sleeping rooms.

With more than 400 hotels, Orlando is bound to have the perfect accommodation for you and your family.  From luxury golf resorts to themed hotels, Orlando's hotel collection is as diverse as the destination itself. Splurge on one of our new four-star resorts or stretch your budget a bit further at your favorite moderately priced hotel chain. There's an option in every part of town, whether you're looking to stay at hotels near Walt Disney World® Resort, hotels near Universal Orlando® Resort or hotels near SeaWorld® Orlando.   In all, Orlando is home to 119,000 guest rooms, and features the largest cluster of meeting hotels in the southeast - 150 - offering more than 5 million sq. ft. or more of flexible meeting space across the destination. 

            For more information contact Visit Orlando at (800) 972-3304 or visitorlando.com.

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ST. LOUIS, MO


St. Louis is a place where history and imagination collide, and the result is a destination like no other. The Gateway to the West offers exceptional music, arts and cultural options, as well as more free attractions than any place outside of Washington D.C. The city also boasts an impressive inventory of family friendly things to do and see.

            For instance, you can visit the region's first interactive children's museum, built in a sprawling Victorian mansion in suburban St. Louis. Kids will enjoy all sorts of fun and educational activities at the Magic House, including sitting at the president's desk in a spot-on recreation of the Oval Office and performing patriotic karaoke.  Or you can explore the City Museum's unique all-ages playground filled with caves, slides and climbing apparatus made from recycled and found objects. Visitors can interact with over 10,000 sea creatures in the World Aquarium, venture through the Museum of Mirth, Mystery and Mayhem and wander through the Elmslie and Sullivan architectural exhibit. 

Thrill seekers can drop by Six Flags St. Louis where they'll find fun for the whole family! Visitors can loop the loop on Batman the Ride, soar at speeds of up to 62 mph on the Screaming Eagle wooden coaster and get soaked on the whitewater rapids adventure of Thunder River.  History buffs can explore the Old Courthouse in downtown St. Louis, where slave Dred Scott and his wife, Harriett, sued for their freedom in 1847.  Shoppers, on the other hand, will find couture and designer brand name fashions available at dozens of high-end shops throughout the city, or can hunt for one-of-a-kind treasures at many area antique shops and independent bookstores.  And that's just the tip of the iceberg!  Other possibilities include the Saint Louis Science Center, and of course, the iconic Gateway Arch.

            When it's time to get down to business, America's Center, conveniently located in the heart of downtown St. Louis close to hotels, dining, attractions, shopping, and public transportation, offers three levels housing six exhibit halls, America's Ballroom,  meeting rooms, and the St. Louis Executive Conference Center.  The Cervantes Convention Center is part of the America's Center Convention Complex, consisting of 502,000 sq. ft. of exhibit and event space, a 28,000-sq. ft. ballroom, 1,400-seat theater and 67,000-seat domed stadium.

            St. Louis has a wide array of lodging options, from properties like the 910-room Hyatt Regency St. Louis at the Arch, to the 195-room Hilton St. Louis at the Arch, and everything in between.

            For more information contact Explore St. Louis at (800) 916-8939 or Explorestlouis.com.

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TAMPA, FL


A family that plunders together stays together!  The perfect family getaway is a blend of excitement and relaxation - and Tampa Bay has plenty of both. From exhilarating roller coasters to basking in the vibrant local culture, there's no shortage of entertainment. With its combination of accessibility, affordability and amenities, Tampa Bay is also the perfect place to unlock the potential of your next meeting. With a host of unique dining experiences, leisure and recreational choices and venues like no other, there is much to discover.

Tampa is home to the Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI), the largest science center in the Southeast, boasting 450 interactive science exhibits and a colossal IMAX dome movie theater with an 82-ft. hemispherical movie screen.  It's also where the young explorers in your family can gain new appreciation for art and the way the world works in the air-conditioned comfort of the Glazer Children's Museum. More than 170 interactive activities provide a fun way to learn, exploring wide-ranging ideas with cultural applications from banking and commerce to flying an airplane.

Busch Gardens® Tampa is the ultimate family adventure, combining world-class thrill rides, live entertainment and one of North America's largest zoos with over 12,000 animals in an unforgettable adventure. Located right across the street from Busch Gardens® Tampa, Adventure Island® is 30 acres of water-drenched fun in the sun featuring the ultimate combination of high-speed thrills and tropical, tranquil surroundings for guests of all ages. Race down rapids, dig your toes into the sand or relax all day in a private cabana. New at Adventure Island, hurtle high and experience a feeling of weightlessness on Colossal Curl™, Adventure Island's newest family thrill slide.

The history of Tampa's African-American populace is embodied in newly opened Perry Harvey, Sr. Park. Named for a local civil rights leader, the park is situated just north of downtown in the area once dubbed "The Scrub." Ex-slaves settled there after earning their freedom and eventually created the bustling business Central Avenue district and Chitlin Circuit hub drawing musicians like Cab Calloway and Ella Fitzgerald.

Waterfront location brings the warmth and light of the Florida sunshine right into your meeting rooms. Treasure awaits you at the Tampa Convention Center, a 600,000-sq. ft. meeting and convention facility with unique architectural designs and spectacular waterfront views that provide an ideal setting for your next invasion. The facility's 200,000 sq. ft. exhibit hall can be divided into smaller spaces, as can the center's 36,000-sq. ft. ballroom.  Additionally, there are 36 meeting rooms and over 84,000 sq. ft. of flexible pre-function space.

Tampa Bay dares to be different - the selection of accommodations ranges from lavish resort hotels to cozy motels and four-diamond delights. Stay in touch with state-of-the-art business centers and complimentary Wi-Fi in many locations. From fully stocked kitchens for longer stays to delicious in-room dining, hotels in Tampa Bay can meet the needs of any event.

For more information contact Visit Tampa Bay at (813) 223-1111 or www.visittampabay.com.

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WASHINGTON, DC


From the founding fathers to Martin Luther King, Jr. to today's president, Washington, DC is a city steeped in history - and history in the making. Explore the city's museums and memorials, and discover the history of a nation. The National Museum of African American History and Culture along the National Mall, which opened in 2016, is a must see for all visitors, especially those traveling with families.  The stunning new building, which prominently sits between The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial, features three tiers of inverted half-pyramids, sheathed in a shimmering bronze-hue screen cut in an abstract pattern based on the intricate ironwork created by freed slaves in New Orleans and Charleston, S.C.

DC's wealth of museums and attractions means there are always magical places where kids are transported from the ho-hum of touring to the "Wow!" of experiencing. Many of these sites feature interactive entertainment to help capture the attention of even the littlest sightseer.   Options for history and culture buffs include the National Museum of Natural History, National Geographic Museum, International Spy Museum, The Newseum, National Air and Space Museum, National Gallery of Art, National Museum of the American Indian, the Anacostia Historic District and Prince George's African American Museum & Cultural Center. 

Host your next event in the nation's capital and wow attendees with national landmarks, unique venues and meetings. DC's exciting food scene will fuel your gatherings, and the local, national and international cultures of the city will inspire. With a variety of meeting spaces, convention halls and plenty of things to do after hours in DC, you can meet on your terms.

The cornerstone of downtown DC's renaissance, the Walter E. Washington Convention Center is as functional as it is artistically impressive. The 2.3-million-sq. ft. space hosts meetings, conventions and events of every kind, from medical industry annual meetings to comic book-inspired expos and board retreats.  Planners can book anything from small intimate occasions to large corporate events. The venue contains more than 700,000 sq. ft. of prime exhibit space, complemented by 198,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 77 meeting rooms.

You can mold all 703,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space inside the convention center into whatever shape you need. Within its two levels and five exhibit halls is a 473,000 square-foot exhibit hall that can be subdivided into three rooms, 198,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, a 52,000 square-foot ballroom and 77 breakout rooms. The space is versatile enough to accommodate events of all sizes, such as the world's largest sit-down dinner (16,2016 people!).

DC's award-winning hotels are as well known for their attentive service as for their must-have amenities. With nearly 30,000 hotel rooms in the city, there's a style and price point for every visitor.

For more information contact Destination DC at (800) 635-MEET or www.washington.org.

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