Even a short ramble here will have you singing the state's praises
“Sweet Georgia Brown,” “Ramblin’ Man,” “Rainy Night in Georgia,” “Midnight Train to Georgia,” “Back to Georgia,” “Chattahoochee”—whatever your music taste is, Georgia just might be the perfect place for your group’s next meeting. like bluegrass and country, but you’ll also be introduced to styles you’ve probably never heard of: shape-note singing, Gullah, ring shout and Piedmont blues. Southern rap groups such as Outkast and Goodie Mob, along with famous rock, pop and country artists including R.E.M., Family Force 5 and the B-52s, are all from the fuse blues, rock and gospel into a Southern soul-driven, hard-rockin’ sound. The music scene here is so vibrant, even Brit Elton John chooses to spend a good part of his time in Atlanta, as does guitarist and singer John Mayer.
Unique to the state are the Georgia Sea Island Singers of St. Simons Island, off the state’s southern coast. Vital to African American folk music and famous worldwide, this group performs the traditional Gullah music of the Georgia coast, which dates back to slavery days. The Gullah language is still spoken by a few islanders.
Classical music also has strong connections in Georgia. Opera singer Jessye Norman was born in Augusta. Renowned music director Robert Shaw lived for years in Atlanta, directing the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chamber Chorus. As for native performers of more recent music, the list is remarkably varied, ranging from Boyz n da Hood, Chet Atkins, Alan Jackson, Gladys Knight & the Pips, Jason Aldean, The Indigo Girls, The Allman Brothers Band, Lady Antebellum, Otis Redding, Kenny Rogers and Little Richard to the incredible Ray Charles, who gave the state its signature song.
After a trip here to mix music with your meeting, you’ll find yourself feeling like Charles, with Georgia on your mind. Evocative Georgia does linger in one’s memory.
Where to Meet
Georgia offers diversity in just about every category: beautiful beaches, lush green mountains, verdant pastures and orchards, small towns, idyllic islands and vibrant, sophisticated cities—all with venues in which to convene.
Georgia Aquarium, Atlanta
Why we love it: Atlanta is one happening place. The vibe here is always exciting, full of neighborhoods sprucing themselves up, new hip bistros and clubs and immigrants settling in from all over the world. Yet the slow, Southern, take-time-to-smellthe- roses way of life is still present. No matter how busy your day was, you can end it on the porch swing sipping a sweet tea. Atlanta is where the new South and old South mesh—and in such a nice way.
Standout feature: Buckhead. Atlanta has a booming nightlife scene, but particularly in the Buckhead area, which has more than 100 bars and restaurants within three blocks of the main neighborhood hub.
Convene here: The Georgia World Congress Center. The largest convention facility in Georgia— and the fourth-largest in the country—this center boasts 3.9 million sq. ft. Of exhibit and event space. It’s located in the city’s compact convention district, which has 12,000 hotel rooms within a one-mile radius and more than 315 restaurants, and many of the city’s top attractions are within walking distance. Another option is Georgia International Convention Center, conveniently situated adjacent to the airport. It offers 400,000 sq. ft. And is only 10 minutes from downtown.
Stay here: Loews Atlanta Hotel. Opened in 2010 with 414 rooms and 40,000 sq. ft., this hotel is located in the bustling midtown area. Its acclaimed restaurant, Eleven, offers fine cuisine onsite. There are also several choices in Buckhead, including The InterContinental Buckhead Atlanta with 420 com rooms and 27,772 sq. ft. And Grand Hyatt Atlanta in Buckhead with 438 rooms and 30,000 sq. ft.
Off-site here: The Georgia Aquarium. With 23,000 sq. ft. And four venues, the aquarium accommodates up to 5,000 for a reception. Incredible aquatic backdrops provide built-in decor for events. Dine alongside whale sharks!
Bond here: The Atlanta History Center. Set on 33 acres of historic gardens and woodland trails in Buckhead, the center includes the Atlanta History Museum (within two historic homes) and the Centennial Olympic Games Museum.
Listen here: The Fox Theatre and the Tabernacle. Both historic venues provide an almost constant offering of live music and arts, ranging from worldfamous acts to local performers.
Why we love it: Home to one of the largest concentrations of Fortune 500 companies in the Southeast, with top restaurants and shopping, all 20 minutes from downtown Atlanta, Dunwoody is about location and outstanding transportation alternatives, including MARTA rail, interstate highways and pedestrian walkways.
Standout feature: The Spruill Center for the Arts. The largest community education center in the Southeast is in Dunwoody Village, offering a variety of art classes. The renowned Spruill Gallery is located in a historic farmhouse in Perimeter Center.
Convene here: Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia. The 495-room hotel offers 14 meeting rooms and 32,000 sq. ft. Of space, including a 12,120-square-foot ballroom.
Stay here: The Atlanta Marriott Perimeter Center. With a recently completed $23 million renovation, the 341-room property has 18,400 sq. ft. Of meeting space. Additionally, the Atlanta Perimeter Hotel & Suites is soon to become Georgia’s first Le Meridien after a renovation to include both the interior and exterior. It’s scheduled to fly the Le Meridien flag in 2013.
Off-site here: Dunwoody Farmhouse. Listed on the National Register of Historic Places, this 1906 restored farmhouse in the heart of Dunwoody Village accommodates up to 125 for private events.
Listen here: Annual Dunwoody Beer Festival. At the Perimeter Mall, usually in May, the festival features a combination of more than 150 beers, malt beverages and liquors from all over the world, as well as a full lineup of live music.
Why we love it: This northern Atlanta suburb is nestled along the Chattahoochee River and is one of the most elegant, genteel and affluent communities in the metro area, with gorgeous stately homes and an upscale business district.
Standout feature: The King & Queen buildings at Concourse at Landmark Center. It’s among the most recognizable sights of Atlanta’s skyline.
Convene here: Heritage Sandy Springs at Heritage Green. A true gem, this site includes Heritage Hall, a newly designed 2,800-square-foot facility that accommodates up to 250. It also includes the Williams-Payne House with its Garden Room, Victorian-style gazebo and a terrace. The Sandy Springs Society Entertainment Lawn offers 14,000 sq. ft. Of terraced green space as well as a permanent stage.
Stay here: The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North. With 20,000 sq. ft. Of meeting space and 372 guest rooms, the property is less than two miles from the Perimeter Mall and less than 30 minutes from downtown Atlanta. The private lake setting offers tranquility along with a convenient location.
Off-site here: Three Sheets Atlanta. In the City Walk shopping center, this hip venue melds cocktails, music and small plates in 3,800 sq. ft. The intimate space features cozy alcoves and bars in a refined yet relaxed atmosphere.
Bond here: Young Chefs Academy of Sandy Springs. This school offers cooking workshops and classes for 20–55 participants.
Listen here: Cafe 290. Jazz lovers flock to this venue, one of only three jazz spots nationwide that earned the honor of launching the U.S. Postal Service’s jazz stamp. Watch for celebrities and performers enjoying the music, too.
Why we love it: All eyes turn to the city each year when Augusta National Golf Club hosts the prestigious Masters Golf Tournament. The course at the venerable club was ranked in 2009 as the third best golf course in the world by Golf Magazine.
Standout feature: Augusta Riverwalk. The city is located on the banks of the Savannah River, and its convention space is located steps from the Riverwalk, a beautiful two-tiered walkway running for several blocks along the river, with many independent shops and locally owned restaurants.
Convene here: The Trade, Exhibit and Event Center. Opening in January 2013, the new space will add 38,000 sq. ft. Of column-free exhibit space to the current 49,000 sq. ft. In the connecting Marriott Conference Center. The current planned name for the combo: Augusta Conference Center.
Stay here: Augusta Marriott at the Convention Center. This 372-room property, which features 45,000 sq. ft. Of its own flexible meeting space, is located in the heart of the business district on the banks of the Savannah River. It is adjacent to the soon-to-open Trade, Exhibit and Event Center.
Off-site here: Enterprise Mill Events Center. Part of a historic textile mill located along the Augusta Canal, the center’s exposed-brick and wood-beam meeting room has a capacity for up to 250 people; lovely courtyard space is also available. Additionally, groups can rent replica Petersburg boats for a relaxing tour of the Augusta Canal. This popular option becomes even more entertaining with the addition of live music.
Listen here: Stillwater Tap Room. Anything from jazz to rock to country can be heard at the Stillwater; PI Bar and Grill at historic Partridge Inn also features live music.
Brunswick & the Golden Isles
Pool at The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North
Why we love it: Nestled on the Georgia coast between Savannah and Jacksonville, Fla., the city of Brunswick and the nearby barrier islands of St. Simons, Sea Island, Little St. Simons and Jekyll Island are known the world over. Their draw: pristine marshland, wide beaches, mild climate, Southern hospitality, fine restaurants and stellar golf facilities.
Standout feature: The beaches. No doubt about it, these barrier islands are ringed by some of the nation’s most gorgeous beaches. Anyone planning a meeting here should schedule in downtime for attendees to explore nature and its wonders in this relatively untouched paradise.
Convene here: Jekyll Island Convention Center. Opened in May 2012 and located near the historic district, this facility offers 78,000 sq. ft. Of meeting space and can accommodate up to 6,450.
Stay here: The King and Prince Beach and Golf Resort. On St. Simons Island, this gem stands in its glory as it has since 1935. It’s a member of Historic Hotels of America, with 194 rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. Of oceanside meeting space.
Off-site here: Village Creek Landing. On a St. Simons Island peninsula, surrounded on three sides by tidal creeks and marsh, the former fish camp affords views of an evocative landscape and neighboring coastal islands. The dock and outbuildings serve as an active outpost for SouthEast Adventures Outfitters. Attendees can try a variety of activities, including kayaking, fishing, birding and nature tours and sunset cruises. Village Creek Landing can also host catered private events for 10 to 300 guests.
Listen here: A Georgia Sea Island Singers performance. This amazing group can be booked for functions and conventions. They continue a tradition begun almost a century ago on St. Simons Island, bringing a rich element of music, culture and history to any meeting.
Hay House, Macon
Why we love it: Known as the Heart of Georgia, Macon offers a diverse cultural and historical heritage of American history, from pre-Colonial to Civil War to rock ‘n’ roll. Macon has meeting venues ranging from the former home of the famed Allman Brothers Band to the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and Museum, the largest state sports museum in the U.S.
Standout feature: A long tradition of soul and Southern rock music. Macon is the former home of Little Richard and Otis Redding, and also the place where James Brown recorded his first single. Capricorn Records launched the music careers of the Allman Brothers Band, the Marshall Tucker Band and Wet Willie. You can still see Little Richard around town occasionally.
Convene here: Anderson Conference Center.
Conveniently located near I-475, the center has more than 20,000 sq. ft. Of meeting space.
Stay here: Macon Marriott City Center. The property connects to the Macon Centreplex, composed of the Macon Coliseum, the Edgar H. Wilson Convention Centre and the Macon Auditorium, with a total of 140,000 sq. ft. Of event space.
Off-site here: Hay House. With capacity for up to 240 guests, this exquisite circa mid-1800s house was inspired by Florentine and Roman architecture and features 24-karat-gold leafing and stained glass. Hay House is a National Historic Landmark.
Bond here: The Allman Brothers Band Museum at the Big House. This is a fabulous musical history experience, where you can explore the world’s largest collection of Allman Brothers memorabilia and sit on the front porch where Duane Allman and Berry Oakley spent countless hours. An outdoor pavilion features a kitchen and a capacity of 500 for banquets and 800 for receptions.
Listen here: Grant’s Lounge. One of the oldest bars in Macon, it was also one of the first bars in the area to integrate after segregation in the South. This classic lounge has hosted a long list of performers, including Otis Redding.
Hyatt Regency Savannah
Why we love it: In 1961, Johnny Mercer wrote the beloved classic “Moon River,” most likely in homage to the Savannah River, which meanders through this decidedly romantic and beautiful city. Savannah is a place to escape, slow down and focus, yet it is also chic and sophisticated, with fascinating history.
Standout feature: The 22 shady city squares.
Savannah is famous for its delightful historic parklike squares, and best of all, they can be reserved for private events.
Convene here: Savannah International Trade & Convention Center. This 330,000-square-foot waterfront facility has 100,000 sq. ft. Of divisible exhibit space and 50,000 sq. ft. Of flexible meeting space, including a state-of-the-art auditorium.
Stay here: The Westin Savannah Harbor Golf Resort and Spa. This 402-room property has 35,000 sq. ft. Of meeting space. Escape, its new poolside restaurant and bar, is opening soon; also reopening is neighboring Grand Prize of America Track, ideal for motor vehicle conventions and product demonstrations.
Off-site here: North Garden of the Ships of the Sea Maritime Museum. Just opened in June, the garden includes the covered, open-air Assembly Room, which seats 340 for a banquet.
Bond here: 700 Kitchen Cooking School at the Mansion on Forsyth Park. Hands-on classes here include the famed Low-Country Group Cooking Experience. Attendees can team up to make such southern faves as crab stew, fried green tomatoes and chocolate Coca-Cola cake.
Listen here: Jazz’d Tapas Bar. Industrial-chic in the historic district, Jazz’d features live jazz six nights weekly, plus tapas. Livewire Music Hall and Retro on Congress bring in local musicians as well as groups with regional and national followings. Bigger acts frequent the Trustees Theater, Lucas Theatre for the Arts or the Johnny Mercer Theatre in the Savannah Civic Center.
Main Image: Savannah River and the Talmadge Memorial Bridge
–Motto: “Wisdom, justice and moderation
–Tree: Live oak
–Size: 59,425 square miles; largest state east of the Mississippi
–Song: “Georgia on My Mind”
–Prepared food: Grits
–Claim to fame: The Poultry Capital of the World
–Coca-Cola: The beverage was invented in 1886 in Atlanta by Dr. John S. Pemberton.
–Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau: atlanta.net
–Augusta Convention & Visitors Bureau: augustaga.org
–Convention & Visitors Bureau of Dunwoody: cvbdunwoody.com
–Golden Isles Convention & Visitors Bureau: goldenisles.com
–Jekyll Island Authority: jekyllisland.com
–Macon-Bibb County Convention & Visitors Bureau: visitmacon.org
–Sandy Springs Hospitality & Tourism: sandysprings.org
–Visit Savannah: savannahvisit.com
Jekyll Island Club Hotel
Step out into these unconventional classrooms to bond and build skills: Augusta has its own version of team building based on the Amazing Race, the popular reality TV show, thanks to Kando Adventures. Races are for all abilities, as noted on the company’s website: “Whether you are an endurance athlete, an adrenaline junky or a first-timer who just enjoys the outdoors and wants to say ‘I did it,’ we at Kando Adventures have an experience for you.” Much of the action takes place on and along the Savannah River. For a more relaxed option, groups can enjoy a trip down the Augusta Canal in canoes or kayaks.
Located on the campus of Georgia Tech, the Leadership Challenge Course has both low and high ropes courses, giving participants an array of projects and challenges as they move from step to step. It’s designed to help groups of eight to 150 “convert team and leadership theory into action.”
Peak Pursuits offers challenging ropes courses on St. Simons Island, with highly trained facilitators who work with groups of all sizes and skills.
Listen Live at a Festival
Georgia has a widely diverse musical heritage. You just might hear a living legend or legend-to-be at one of these annual festivals:
–Savannah Stopover (March): A four-day festival headlined by performers enroute to Austin’s SXSW. savannahstopover.com
–Savannah Music Festival (March–April): Citywide festival with jazz, classical and international stars. savannamusicfestival.org
–Atlanta Jazz Festival (May): Jazz legends along with emerging performers in venues all over town. atlantafestivals.com
–Blind Willie McTell Blues Festival (May): Near Augusta, in Thomson, showcasing Americana, folk, gospel, rock and blues, with special tribute paid to country blues legend Willie McTell. blindwillie.com
–Bragg Jam (July): In historic downtown Macon, this is a one-day festival of rock, blues and soul music and arts. braggjam.org
–Music Midtown (September): Live music, artists market, vendors and food in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park. musicmidtown.com
–Jekyll Island Bluegrass Festival (December): A three-day festival with top bluegrass bands.
–Who: McDonald’s Corporation;
–What: Regional Leadership Conference
–When: May 2011
–Where: The Westin Atlanta Perimeter North
–Why: “The location was very convenient and the staff was amazing and flexible to work with. The attendees enjoyed their off-site dinners at nearby Maggiano’s Italian restaurant and also visited some of their own local restaurants to do quality control. It is a perfect location for convenience, amenities and service.” –Kimberly Corbin-Greene, CMP, CDS, ConferenceDirect