Best of Smart Meetings’ 2019 Destination Stories

Each issue of Smart Meetings features stories about intriguing destinations that offer outstanding hotels, facilities, restaurants, attractions and events for meetings groups. It’s always a challenge to pick the best of our destination stories—and many others could have been included—but we’re confident these 12 stories easily fit the bill.

Australia (January): Drawing inspiration from the recent visit to Australia by the Duke and Duchess of Sussex—Prince Harry and Meghan Markle—in “The Royal Treatment in Oz: an Australian Meetings Itinerary for a Duke and Duchess,” we decided to show how groups meeting there can experience many of the same exciting things. Experiences range from catching a show at Sydney Opera House to meeting koalas and joeys at Traonga Zoo Sydney.

New Mexico (February): This stunningly beautiful state offers plenty of wow experiences for groups, but they’re not all simply fun and flash—many of them are transformational, and even life-changing. In “Taking Wow to a New Level: The Land of Enchantment Offers Oodles of Exciting Transformational Experiences,” we describe some of these opportunities, including visits to Taos Pueblo, where groups can immerse themselves in tribal culture during one of the 13 annual Feast Days, and Meow Wolf in Santa Fe, which creates immersive and interactive experiences that transport groups into fantastic realms of story and exploration.

Virginia (February): Virginia features a variety of landscapes, including rolling green hills and valleys as well as stunning, mystical mountains. Its urban centers are also diverse, ranging from the bustling, high-rise avenues of Norfolk to the clippety-clop of horses’ hooves on the 18th-century streets of Colonial Williamsburg. Planners can choose from a diversity of destinations when planning a trip in Old Dominion. In “Virginia Has You Covered: The Commonwealth Has a City, a Landscape and a Meeting Place for Every Need,” we describe the best of the best.

Northern New England (March): The talented community of craftspeople in this region—with its commitment to technique and a strong brand identity—can provide inspiration to meeting groups that carries over into their own work. This story, “Engaging Master Classes for Attendees: Lessons from New England’s Artisan Community,” covers not only how groups can learn skills and work ethic from these craftspeople, but also have hands-on workshop experiences that enable them to gain a more deeply personal awareness.

Louisiana (March): The Bayou State boasts a very distinctive culture that isn’t at all limited to culinary treats such as jambalaya and gumbo, and legendary music traditions including jazz and zydeco.  These and a wide range of other intriguing Louisiana traditions are on full display at annual fairs and festivals throughout the state. “Let the Good Times Roll: Louisiana’s Buoyant Festivals Enhance Meetings” provides a glimpse at some of the most vibrant, pulsating events throughout the state.

New York State (April): New York City is so dominant that it’s easy to forget about other cities and regions in The Empire State. But many of them offer attractive alternatives—including unique settings, more intimate experiences and a slower pace—that some groups eagerly welcome. “More to Love: Upstate New York’s Charm and Substance Attract Groups” highlights the many offerings of Albany, The Adironacks, Hudson Valley, Oneida County, Rochester and other areas.

Colorado (April): We are all personally affected by seasonal changes, especially in places such as Colorado, where they are very distinct and vivid. So, attendees experience this amazingly colorful state differently each season. By attuning to the unique qualities of each season, groups can have meetings that harmonize with their surroundings, and therefore, are potentially more productive. In “Blending with Nature: Each of Colorado’s 4 Distinct Seasons Offer Unique Options for Planners,” we describe, season by season, the offerings of Colorado’s major cities.

Island Time (June): Resort islands provide meeting groups with built-on opportunities for productivity and play. They boast some of the world’s leading resorts, with plenty of indoor and outdoor meeting space, as well as a plethora of water sports and other activities. But that only begins to tell the story: Resort islands also offer attendees an opportunity to slow down the pace of their lives, thereby breaking usual routines, becoming replenished and gaining a fresh perspective. “Set Your Clock to Island Time: Island Meetings Offer Enhanced Opportunities for Work and Play” delves into the offerings on some of the most spectacular islands in the Americas.

Central Florida (August): The opening of the Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge exhibit at Walt Disney World in Orlando and the announcement of an upcoming $650 million upgrade of Orange County Convention Center were among the many exciting developments in this region in 2019. Plus, Orlando-Kissimmee, America’s most visited destination area in 2018, is in the midst of its biggest guest-room expansion in more than two decades, which will add 9,300 rooms in 2019–2020. In “New Adventures Abound in Greater Orlando: Epic Meeting Venues in the Heart of the Sunshine State,” we reveal the new possibilities this growth phase will offer to planners.

Hawaii (August): Ancient Hawaiians developed beliefs and rituals that flowed from their concept of aloha, used today as a greeting, but more generally referring to the spirit of unconditional, universal love. The aloha spirit can be experienced in the Hawaiian Islands’ healing and wellness customs, including lomilomi (the classic island massage) and laau lapaau (using native plants in healing). In “True Bliss-Aloha Style: Rejuvenation Awaits in Hawaii,” we describe many of these experiences that are available to attendees.

Northern California (September): It’s no coincidence that Northern California is both one of the world’s top meetings destinations as well as having one of its leading foodie cities. One of the main joys of groups gathering in this region is experiencing the rich, diverse, cutting-edge culinary scene. A whopping 59 Bay Area restaurants—as well as one in Sacramento and another in Mendocino County—earned Michelin stars this year, and many others are arguably just as deserving. In “Meeting and Eating in Northern California: Arrive Hungry, Because the Bay Area is Steeped in Culinary Options,” we describe places where groups can have not only a superb meal, but also an unforgettable overall experience.

Texas (December): The Lone Star State often turns up atop the list for planners seeking a destination for sports-loving groups. The large cities boast fervent fan bases, championship-winning teams and historic stadiums and arenas, while the smaller markets typically feature gorgeous golf courses, first-class minor-league sports facilities and plenty of outdoor recreation. Regardless of the Texas destination they choose, groups inevitably find exciting sports activities to participate in or watch—and most sports facilities offer outstanding team-building and/or meeting options. “Texas for the Win: The Lone Star State’s Elite Sports Scene Creates a Competitive Advantage” provides the details.