I love you Las Vegas and Orlando. But as far as conference destinations go, I am getting pretty tired of both. It’s nothing personal; it’s just I’d like to see other cities get some love.
For years, I headed to those cities a combined minimum 10 times a year. And for years, it worked. Orlando was always a favorite as it brought back great childhood memories, especially if the event was at the Walt Disney World Resort. Even as an adult the memories kept coming. Consider the Contemporary Resort: it's where I found out my bride was having twins! And I’ve since brought those boys back several times to enjoy it through their eyes.
Las Vegas is just plain exhausting at this point. More than 75 trips in, I still love it as the birthplace of future hotel and F&B dining trends. But conferencing all day, catching up with a bevy of local friends I’ve made over the years and trying to experience the new stuff and my favorites gets tickers me out. My old bones can’t handle things like they did in my younger years.
I get why events are held repeatedly in these top draw markets. They are fun—albeit for different reasons—inexpensive, and easy to get to via air. But there are other cities out there that I’d like to see industry conference organizers hit more frequently. Here are five:
Perhaps my favorite city in all of North America for conference going, it’s a bastion of great culture, amazing food and terrific energy. This past summer HITEC was there, but sadly I could not attend because of a scheduling conflict. I hope to get the chance to visit again sometime soon because I crave a Café Du Monde beignet, must have some reasonably priced oysters and listen to some great jazz.
Plus, it’s home to some great culturally relevant hotels and the home to the first Moxy hotel in the U.S.
Forget the Alamo, which incidentally I hear has no basement, this town has tons of compelling reasons to hold an event there. Credit goes to AAHOA for holding next year’s conference in this great convention city.
The convention center is spacious and its adjacent to RiverWalk, the ultimate conference amenity. For those that are unfamiliar, it’s an area chockablock full of restaurants and bars all set against walkways on the banks of the San Antonio River. Its proximity to the convention center keeps attendees in a relatively small area so everyone can have bump-into moments and the energy created by a robust event in the town makes it memorable.
The self-proclaimed music capital of the world is spectacular. Astonishingly different, and more exciting than other Texas conference destinations (sorry Dallas and Houston, you don’t compare to the fun factor here), I love the barbecue, bars and booze.
There are tons of great locations to hold the inevitable side parties and it feels very culturally cosmopolitan. Plus, there are literally hundreds of thousands of bats living under a downtown bridge that provide an amazing show at dusk during parts of the year when they wake up to feeds.
I have only been here once, and not for a conference. I used to think of this city as a decaying steel mill town, but I couldn’t have been more wrong. Great food, a vibrant arts district and nearby sports stadiums make this a super fun destination. How’s about someone host an event in this city please.
It's everybody’s darling of late, so I had to mention it. But the event must be held at the downtown convention center to really count as Nashville. While I appreciate the Goliath facility many hold events at, it’s so far removed from a fun downtown environment that makes this city a real draw for conference attendees.