The U.S. side of the falls often takes second chair to the superior views of Horseshoe Falls available from the Canadian side. For meetings, The Conference and Event Center Niagara Falls has more than 116,000 sq. ft. Of meeting space, including the Event Center, which has 32,200 sq. ft. And can accommodate trade shows. An award-winning culinary team presides over catering services for the venue. And Buffalo, a 20-minute drive away, has additional space at the more than 110,000-square-foot Buffalo Niagara Convention Center.
Prime choices for group host hotels include the Sheraton at the Falls Hotel, two blocks from the falls, which offers more than 24,000 sq. ft. Of meeting space and 391 guest rooms. It’s across the street from the Four-Diamond Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel, which has 486 rooms and more than 30,000 sq. ft. Of space. Four Points by Sheraton Niagara Falls, a bright contemporary hotel about four miles from the falls, has 8,703 sq. ft. Of space and 141 rooms. Farther afield, the 356-room Buffalo Marriott Niagara has 11 meeting rooms within a total of 14,000 sq. ft. Of space. The Mansion on Delaware Avenue, located in downtown Buffalo, is a small luxury property featuring 28 rooms and suites and offers an elegant function space for about 200 and a smaller boardroom for 14. Total available function space is 6,760 sq. ft. Built in 1867 and converted to a hotel in 2001, it has just been named a member of the Historic Hotels of America group.
An alternative off-site option in Buffalo is rental of the 348-seat auditorium or 80-seat cafe and sculpture garden at the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. The collection is focused on postwar American and European works. The opulent original building was constructed for the 1901 Pan-American Exposition as the fine arts pavilion, but wasn’t completed in time.
As one of the original Seven Natural Wonders of the World, Niagara Falls draws meeting attendees. A vibrant meetings industry has grown up on the Canadian side of Niagara Falls precisely for this reason, offering 16,000 hotel rooms, a sophisticated culinary scene and nearly 700,000 sq. ft. Of total meeting space. Opened in spring 2011, the LEED Silver-certified Scotiabank Convention Centre Niagara offers 280,000 sq. ft. Of exhibition and meeting space and state-of-the-art A/V equipment.
Hotel rooms here often come with a view. Sheraton on the Falls Conference Hotel (669 rooms; 24,000 sq. ft.) Is part of a 20-acre complex that includes four hotels, the Fallsview Indoor Waterpark, several themed restaurants (Hard Rock, Planet Hollywood and Rainforest Cafe among them) and two restaurants with Canadian celebrity chefs—The Rainbow Room by Massimo Capra and Windows by Jamie Kennedy. The Fallsview Casino Resort (374 rooms; 30,000 sq. ft.) Is known for its sophisticated dining options, including 21 Club, Golden Lotus and Noodle Bar. The White Oaks Conference Resort and Spa (220 rooms; 67,000 sq. ft.) Is an IACC-accredited center tucked into a serene setting with a variety of teambuilding opportunities. Other meeting hotels include the 1,000-room Hilton Hotel and Suites Niagara Falls/Fallsview, with 50,000 sq. ft. Of meeting and function space connected to the Fallsview Casino, and the DoubleTree Fallsview Resort & Spa by Hilton Niagara Falls, a striking Four-Diamond property with 224 rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. Of meeting space.
The area boasts exceptional off-site meeting venues, too. “I wish planners knew of all the things we have to do in our area, so they’d allow a bit more free time or promote pre- and post-conference stays. While the falls are our ‘hook,’ people are always thrilled with what our area has to offer: the Niagara Wine Trail, the Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises, the Herschell Carrousel Factory Museum and the Whirlpool Jet Boats, just to name a few,” says Elizabeth Davis, director of sales for the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation.
Restaurants in the area are also noteworthy. Queenston Heights, with its original recipes and dedication to the local wine scene, offers stunning views of the Niagara River and event space for up to 800. Another restaurant, Elements on the Falls, is close to the falls and can also host 800.
Main image: Maid of the Mist
–Attendees can get up close to the falls by taking the Maid of the Mist boat ride at the foot of the falls’ plunging water. It’s the full immersion experience that has been thrilling visitors since 1846. The 30-minute tour is a must. The ship holds up to 600.
–East of Niagara Falls, the Lockport Locks and Erie Canal Cruises and banquet center offer a step back in time along the canal on cobblestone streets. Cruises feature two-hour trips through five locks, moving 50 feet up (or down) in the lock system, while learning about other history of the area and era.
–Old Fort Niagara in nearby Youngstown, N.Y., can host cocktail receptions in the visitor center, brunch and dinner in the Officers Club or a reception in the French Castle. Filled with history, from the French and Indian War to World War II, this campus offers versatility for planners.
Old Fort Niagara
–The needle-like Skylon Tower offers an unsurpassed view of the falls from 775 feet up, with indoor and outdoor observation areas. A 3-D/4-D 60-seat film theater features Legends of Niagara Falls. Groups of up to 200 can gather at the Summit Suite Buffet restaurant or in the upscale Revolving Dining Room for surf and turf specialities.
–For those who bring along their golf clubs, Legends on the Niagara Golf Complex has 45 holes and a golf academy. Indoor and outdoor venues can accommodate groups of 12–1,000.
–The Daredevil Museum offers memorabilia from those who took the plunge since 1901, including Steve Trotter and Lori Martin’s two-person barrel, the Jet Ski used in Robert Overacker’s attempt over the falls and a pictorial history of other daredevils who thrilled onlookers over the years. For a video experience, see the waterfall from another angle at the Niagara Adventure Theater or head over the border to see The Falls Movie: Legends and Daredevils at the Niagara Imax Theatre.
–Group: NYS PTA, 360 attendees
–Based at: Sheraton at the Falls
–When: December 2011
–Planner perspective: “When I went to Niagara Falls for the first time to see the Crowne Plaza (now the Sheraton at the Falls) and the convention center, I felt as if I had known the staff forever. They were knowledgeable and friendly and always willing to answer a question. I have worked with many hotels and many venues, but this particular staff is one of the best!” –Clare Hart, events coordinator
Sheraton at the Falls
–First Honeymooners: Aaron Burr’s daughter Theodosia is thought to be the first to choose Niagara Falls for a honeymoon in 1801. Jerome Bonaparte (napoleon’s younger brother) and wife are rumored to be the second couple to honeymoon here in 1804.
–Best Festival: 36th annual Greater Niagara “Fall Classic” Derby – 2012: a Fish Odyssey is a long-running tradition that celebrates anglers with cash and prizes in the lakeside town of Newfane, N.Y. Species categories include salmon, rainbow/brown trout, lake trout, smallmouth bass, carp and walleye.
–Special Event: Bicentennial commemoration of the War of 1812 events will be held through October. Consult discover1812.com for scheduled programs.
–Ideal Place to Wander: The Floral Showhouse, about a half mile from the falls, displays collections of orchids, succulents and other tropical plant species throughout the year, along with seasonal floral shows, including the Reiger Begonia Show running September to October.
–Dine with a View: Windows by Jamie Kennedy features locally inspired cuisine, beverage recommendations by Tony Aspler, one of Canada’s foremost authorities on wine, and spectacular views of the falls.
–Contact: Niagara Tourism and Convention Corporation: niagara-usa.com; tourism Niagara (Canada): tourismniagara.com; Visit Buffalo Niagara: visitbuffaloniagara.com
–Getting There: Niagara Falls International Airport (IAG) and Buffalo Niagara international airport (BUF) are about 27 miles from Niagara Falls and 11 miles from Buffalo. Niagara Falls, N.Y., is connected to east Coast destinations such as new York City, Philadelphia and Washington, DC, via Amtrak. Similar service is available in Canada to Toronto, Montreal and Windsor.
–Who Knew? In 1961, the completed hydroelectric power plant was the largest in the Western world.