Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: January/February 2019
TAKING THE FAMILY: TRAVEL FOR BUSINESS AND 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.

LOS ANGELES

Reception at LA Live

With world-class attractions, lodging and dining fueling its reputation and a magnificent convention center, the city is a popular, 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.

When planning meetings and events in the City of Angels, discover L.A.'s vibrant regions, incredible diversity of cultures, attractions, hotels, restaurants, museums, and activities, not to mention the area's stunning beaches, picturesque mountains and year-round warm weather. A collection of distinct neighborhoods filled with unique experiences, Los Angeles has everything you need to host your next perfect event while keeping attendees entertained and inspired.

Located in the heart of Downtown, the Los Angeles Convention Center (LACC) is the premier venue for conventions, trade shows and exhibitions. The LACC is one of the most technologically advanced convention and exhibition centers in the world. The venue is equipped with 720,000 sq. ft. of exhibit hall space, 147,000 sq. ft. of meeting room space, and 64 column-free meeting rooms. There is a newly renovated 299-seat presentation theatre and the venue is LEED® Gold level certified.

From intimate events of 100 to receptions for up to 20,000, find classic style and glamour throughout the 45 unique event venues at Universal Studios Hollywood . Its unique meeting facilities include spectacular attractions like Terminator 2 3D, the Special Effects Stage and WaterWorld. Universal Studios Hollywood℠ has the largest solar array of any theme park or studio, which generates enough power to sustain nearly 1,400 homes a day.

Be sure to take in the Leimert Park area, the African-American cultural heart of Los Angeles, with its many boutiques, book stores, craft vendors, restaurants and annual festivals.

Need more reasons to meet in LA?  Reach out to Ernest Wooden and his team at the Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board.  They will provide you with all of the information and support you need to make your event in Los Angeles a truly memorable and successful experience.

The California African American Museum is a wonderful place to see. And it's also a fabulous place to meet.  The museum is newly renovated and ready to host your next meeting or event. The venue offers  13,000-sq. ft. spacious, glass-ceiling Sculpture Court that is perfect for banquets, receptions or meetings for groups up to 600 seated auditorium style and 400 seated banquet style,.  The museum also boasts a multi-functional 3,000-sq. ft. Conference Center with full kitchen, an extensive outdoor patio area, and a convenient location in downtown Los Angeles' Exposition Park, five minutes from world-class cultural attractions and sport facilities.

Ranked seventh in the world for number of passengers and tonnage of air cargo handled, the Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) provides conference attendees and leisure travelers alike easy and stress free access into the city.

For more information contact the Los Angeles Convention & Tourism Board at (888) 733-6952 or www.discoverlosangeles.com.

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WASHINGTON, DC

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial

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.  It also makes the city the perfect destination for family friendly gatherings.

In DC, your clients will enjoy access to leaders in politics, media, research and industry, plus dozens of colleges and universities with the potential to boost attendance. Tap in to these DC resources to tempt your clients with an experience they can't find anywhere else.

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 sq. ft. exhibit hall that can be subdivided into three rooms, 198,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space, a 52,000-sq. ft. 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.

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. Families can 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.  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.

Approximately 37,000 artifacts have been acquired by the museum's 18 curators, including Nat Turner's Bible; Emmet Till's original casket; Harriet Tubman's shawl; and a vintage open-cockpit biplane used to train Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.

Other options for history and culture buffs include the Anacostia Historic District and Prince George's African American Museum & Cultural Center. 

Washington, DC also boasts the presence of Elliott Ferguson as the president/CEO of Destination DC, the city's official convention and tourism corporation, and Gregory A. O'Dell as the president and CEO of Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia.  Definitely a dynamic duo!

The Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport, and the Washington Dulles International Airport all provide both national and international flights to the Washington DC/Baltimore area.

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

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BALTIMORE

Family enjoys visit to Reginald F. Lewis Museum

Baltimore is famous for its beautiful waterfront, world-class museums, one-of-a-kind attractions, three centuries of history and much more.   What's more is that Charm City is situated at the crossroads of the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and a region of 50 million people, giving planners an edge in attracting attendees. Located off I-95, at a convenient stop on Amtrak's Northeast Corridor and 15 minutes from Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport - with 650 daily flights from 70 destinations - Baltimore is well positioned to make it easy for your attendees to get there. For those who drive, which includes many traveling with family members, more than 40,000 off-street spaces in downtown garages and lots make parking convenient.

Nestled in the heart of downtown Baltimore, the recently renovated Baltimore Convention Center is the premier location in the Mid-Atlantic region for organizations wishing to host conventions, meetings, banquets and other activities. With 300,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibition space, approximately 85,000 sq. ft. of meeting space (50 rooms) and a multifunctional 36,672-sq. ft. ballroom, the Center is able to host a variety of events large and small. Linked by a series of overhead walkways to Baltimore's renowned Inner Harbor, hotels and fine dining, the Center offers attendees a wide variety of attractions, and meeting planners with an affordable prime destination.

No need to worry about finding places to stay for all of your guests and attendees; there are more than 8,500 hotel rooms (5,500 committable) around the Inner Harbor and the Baltimore Convention Center, and thousands more just a short ride away. All of the major brands are there, along with charming inns and bed and breakfasts, offering many options for conference attendees with families in tow. 

Baltimore's shining jewel, the Inner Harbor, is surrounded by renowned attractions, a variety of restaurants, unique shopping, first-class hotels and the Baltimore Visitor Center. It's all within a quick walk from the Baltimore Convention Center.   From fine dining in restaurants that have drawn rave reviews to a traditional crab feast, Baltimore restaurants present a varied menu of culinary delights. Many of Baltimore's chefs have been touted in culinary publications and major newspapers, as well as featured on network television.

When time permits conference attendees might want to explore some of Baltimore's informative African-American historic sites and museums. Just a few blocks from the Inner Harbor is the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture, the largest African American museum on the East Coast. The Lewis Museum shares the stories of African American Marylanders' triumph over adversity and their influence on American life. Hop aboard a water taxi and visit the Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park & Museum. Within the walls of the restored "Sugar House," trace the path of one of America's most famous abolitionists - Frederick Douglass - who, along with Isaac Myers and 14 fellow African-Americans, started the first Black-owned shipyard in the United States.

The Great Blacks in Wax Museum featuring prominent African-American historical figures is another must-see. The museum exhibits feature over 100 wax figures and scenes, a full model slave ship exhibit which portrays the 400-year history of the Atlantic Slave Trade, an exhibit on the role of youth in making history, and a Maryland room highlighting the contributions to African-American history by notable Marylanders.

If you are thinking about bringing your event to Baltimore, be sure to reach out to Al Hutchinson, president/CEO of Visit Baltimore.  He and his team will make sure your event is a memorable one.

The Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport services the Baltimore/Washington DC area with 650 daily flights from 70 destinations.

For more information contact Visit Baltimore at (877) Baltimore or www.baltimore.org.

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BIRMINGHAM

Birmingham Civil Rights Institute Exhibit

Birmingham is emerging as one of the most diverse areas in the country and it's the gathering place of choice for some the most influential African American groups.  With over 15,000 guest rooms in the greater Birmingham area, the city is a popular, affordable meeting host. Meeting planners enjoy the impressive inventory of convention services offered and have come to expect exceptional service from the CVB Services Staff.

Birmingham's unique cultural history gives planners an interesting lineup of venues and sites to hold events ranging from private parties and weddings to larger conferences and trade shows. The Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex is Alabama's foremost convention, meeting and entertainment center. The venue is fully equipped with 220,000 plus sq. ft. of exhibition space, 74 meeting rooms totaling 100,000 plus sq. ft., a 1,000-seat theater, a 3,000-seat Concert Hall and two elegant ballrooms seating up to 2,000 guests.

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.

Birmingham is well known for its prominent role in the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s. A visit to the many educational institutions and museums throughout city gives visitors an in-depth look at that important era.  It also provides memorable educational opportunities for planners and delegates who've brought their families along.

The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (BCRI) is a "living institution" which views the lessons of the past as a positive way to chart new directions for the future. BCRI's permanent exhibitions are a self-directed journey through the Birmingham Civil Rights Movement and human rights struggles.

Distinguished as "A Place of Revolution and Reconciliation," historic Kelly Ingram Park serves as a threshold to the Civil Rights District. During the Civil Rights Movement, this public park became the focal point of a grassroots resistance to the inhumanities of racism and discrimination by law and by custom.

When tour groups get down to Birmingham, they get down to the business of exploring the city's personality. Among the themed tours are trips to sample the city's locally-produced snacks, real Southern dining and the influence of immigrants on the city's cuisine.  Other tours explore the diversity of Birmingham's ethnic communities, reflected in the architecture and cultural events throughout the city.  Plan a tour to visit the Eternal Word Television Network, founded by Mother Mary Angelica.  Take in the historic sites from Birmingham's tumultuous role in America's Civil Rights Movement.  Hear interesting tales from the city's rowdy pioneer days.  Visit the factory where the popular M-Class Mercedes-Benz is manufactured. 

Conference attendees can take a glimpse into the lives of Birmingham's prominent jazz musicians at 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 in the Alabama Jazz Hall of Fame, within the historic Carver Theatre. This 2,500 sq. ft. theater is an excellent option for planners looking to hold a smaller event with a touch of Birmingham flavor.

Sara Hamlin serves as vice president of Tourism at the Birmingham CVB. Her staff is available to work with travel agents and group travel leaders who are interested in bringing clients to Birmingham. If you are planning a reunion or wedding, the staff is also available to assist you in the selection of your hotel and can make suggestions to help you save time and money.

Michael Gunn is the vice president of Sales at the CVB. From the earliest planning stages of your meeting until the last delegate leaves the city, Gunn and the Convention Sales and Servicing team will assist you in finalizing the details of your meeting.

Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport is Alabama's largest airport serving the Greater Birmingham area and surrounding Southeastern cities as well as offering 126 daily flights to 50 airports in 47 cities throughout the United States.

For more information contact the Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau at (800) 458-8085 or www.birminghamal.org.

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US VIRGIN ISLANDS

Tranquil USVI Beach

The U.S. Virgin Islands is one of the most naturally beautiful places in the world. The white sand beaches with clear blue waters consistently rank among the top in the world. The islands also boast one of the most favorable climates with an average temperature of 77 degrees F in the winter and 82 degrees F in the summer. Steady trade winds keep the islands comfortably cool year round, ideal for meeting attendees combining business travel with a family getaway.

USVI's recovery from recent storms has been very strong. Power has been restored, beaches and attractions have reopened, restaurants are serving up extraordinary dishes, and the islands' spirit is as warm and inviting as ever. Airlines and cruise lines have returned to the shores, and many hotels, bed and breakfasts and condominiums are available to overnight visitors even as the rebuilding work continues. The USVI yachting industry is unrivaled, and there are wonderful villas to accommodate groups large and small. More hotels opened near the end of 2018, and it is confident that the USVI will have an even better tourism product.

Location is everything. Planners looking for an unparalleled destination will find plenty of choices in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Whether planning for a group of CEOs or an incentive retreat with spouses and children in tow, knowledgeable meeting managers and enthusiastic destination management companies (DMCs) are available to supply the latest technology and prepare creative itineraries. Diverse venues range from first-class luxury resorts to smaller, intimate hideaways, to elegant off-site locations for hosting functions.  Two of the USVI's popular meeting properties - the 151-room Carambola Beach Resort and the 478-room Frenchman's Reef & Morning Star Marriott Beach Resort are among those facilities scheduled to reopen in 2019.

If you're seeking a romantic island getaway that intensifies your feelings of love and captivates your adventurous spirit, the U.S. Virgin Islands is the ideal spot for your storybook wedding. Tying the knot in the U.S. Virgin Islands is as stress-free as it is breathtaking with the islands simple marriage laws, and there's no passport required for U.S. citizens. Once you arrive on the islands, you will coordinate with experienced wedding planners and specialists committed to every last detail of your wedding, reception and honeymoon so that you can fully bask in the beauty of your special day.

Once business concludes, the beautiful islands offer a stunning array of entertainment and recreation options, including yacht races, championship golf courses, and a $1,600 duty-free allowance and discounts up to 40%.

Carnival in St. John combines the excitement of carnival with the spirit of emancipation. July 3, 1848, marks the date slaves were emancipated in the USVI. In honor of the USVI's emancipation, the St. John Festival takes place in late June and traditionally culminates on July 4th. It's an exciting time of year, as Cruz Bay becomes hopping with life, and the ferries between St. Thomas and St. John are filled with Carnival revelers. Don't miss special events like the opening of the village, the food fair, the parade or the exciting 4th of July fireworks display.

Travelers who have questions about where they can book a meeting or packaged vacation featuring American Airlines and/or Delta Air Lines, should call Beverly Nicholson-Doty and her team at (800) 372-8784 or email their questions to info@usvitourism.vi. Nicholson-Doty serves as the Commissioner of the United States Virgin Islands Department of Tourism.

For more information contact Visit USVI at (800) 372-8784 or www.visitusvi.com.

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ORLANDO

Entrance to Walt Disney World

As 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-class entertainment and unforgettable experiences, Orlando is an exciting gateway city for meetings of all sizes.  With Orlando's iconic attractions like Walt Disney World, it's also the perfect destination for conventioneers traveling with children.

Whether an intimate group of 20 or a large convention of thousands, Orlando has the space to meet your needs. With one of the largest convention centers in the country and more than 118,000 rooms across the destination, Orlando has your group covered.

The Orange County Convention Center (OCCC) is one of the top convention centers in the country; it's also the second largest.  OCCC provides 2.1 million sq. ft. of exhibition space and 480,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space as well. Plus, its convenient location - just 11 miles from Orlando International Airport - with walkability to area hotels and entertainment, make it an enticing option.

At the end of the day, meeting attendees want to relax, recharge and be entertained. And Orlando serves up the excitement. Options include fine dining. Thriving cultural and entertainment scenes. National and indie music acts. Engaging shows. And amazing evening events at parks like Walt Disney World® Resort, Universal Orlando® Resort and SeaWorld® Orlando. The city's world-class golf courses, top-ranked instructors and luxurious resorts cater to the most discerning golf enthusiasts.

Bronze Kingdom is an impressive 8,000-sq. ft. gallery-museum located near the Orlando International Airport featuring the largest collection of rare African bronze sculpture in the world.

Collector, philanthropist, and entrepreneur, Mr. Rawlvan R. Bennett acquired this work over 35 years directly from African leaders through cultivated relationships and respectful negotiations, building schools, hospitals, and bridges for West African communities.

With over 2,000 pieces, Bronze Kingdom represents an important spectrum of African bronze, beaded, and wood sculptures from all over the continent including Nigeria, Cameroon, Mali, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana, Senegal, and The Democratic Republic of The Congo.

If you are fortunate enough o be meeting in Orlando during late January, be sure to block out time to experience the annual Zora Neal Hurston Festival in nearby Eatonville.  First presented in 1990, ZORA!™ is a multi-day, multi-disciplinary, intergenerational event composed of public talks, museum exhibitions, theatrical productions, arts education programming, and a 3-day Outdoor Festival of the Arts. The event takes place primarily in Eatonville, Florida (10 miles north of Orlando) and throughout Orange County.  This year the festival takes place January 26-February 3.

Few destinations are as traveler-friendly as Orlando. Orlando International Airport provides nonstop service from more than 100 cities around the world.

For more information contact Visit Orlandoat (800) 643-0482 or www.visitorlando.com.

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MIAMI

Miami aerial view at Night

"Why bring my meeting or event to Greater Miami and the Beaches?" one might ask. Where would one begin is the question. The weather and atmosphere are 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 meeting. After all, Miami has been attracting some of the most prestigious association and corporate meetings, conventions and trade shows from around the globe. This puts you in very good company indeed.  With its plethora attractions and entertainment options, Miami is also famous for being family friendly.

The magnificent Miami Beach Convention Center, a 1.4-million sq. ft., LEED certified facility, is a meeting planner's dream come true. Its 500,000 sq. ft. of state-of-the-art renovated and versatile exhibit space, featuring four massive halls, is set against a backdrop of stunning beaches, fine dining, art, shopping, luxury rooms and an abundance of glorious sunshine. Not to mention a state-of-the-art 60,000-sq. ft. grand ballroom, 20,000-sq. ft. glass rooftop junior ballroom, and the reimagined indoor/outdoor public spaces. That's a win-win for planners and delegates.

Another 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. With a great location, dynamic meeting space and professional, attentive service, the MACC has the flexibility to host everything from trade shows and social functions to conventions and conferences.

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.

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

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