Boston is a very stimulating place for forward-thinking groups

Founded in 1630, Boston is one of the oldest cities in the United States. Among its main features is the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile walking route of historic sites that tells the story of the American Revolution.

Such historic attractions remain extremely popular among meeting groups and others visiting the city, and always will be an essential part of the city’s fabric. But Boston is by no means stuck in its gloried past: It also is a very progressive city, and is becoming more so by the minute.

Innovation is key to the city, as seen in names of city blocks, conferences and businesses, including the once-dilapidated Seaport Innovation District. Bostinno, an online news site and community publishing platform, has covered “the view from inside” innovation taking ahold of the city’s core and reverberating out into other parts of Greater Boston. The media company also holds an annual State of Innovation conference, a leading forum for the city’s startup and business communities.

There’s even an Innovation and Design Building, which houses a dynamic mix of companies and industries, such as architecture and creative service studios, specialized manufacturing facilities, research and development firms, and technology startups.

The city’s innovative ethos is enhanced by the creative minds at its prestigious universities and colleges, including Harvard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Boston University, Northeastern University and Boston College.

Groups have ample opportunities to experience Boston’s innovativeness before, during and after meetings. Here are some of the highlights.

Thriving Innovation District

Seaport Innovation District

The introduction of innovation districts is a recent, progressive trend in urban planning. Intended to stimulate economic growth, they encourage collaboration, support mixed-use development, are wired for public Wi-Fi and are easily accessible via public transportation.

Official innovation districts first emerged in Barcelona, Spain, and Boston. In May 2010, the late Mayor Thomas Menino announced plans to develop 1,000 acres on the South Boston Waterfront into an Innovation District. His plan was to redevelop the mostly abandoned Seaport District into the Seaport Innovation District, a hub for Information Age jobs and an area for cutting-edge industries such as health-care information technology, clean tech and mobile media.

The $14.6 billion project has been implemented, and focuses on three key strategies.

Urban lab: Use the land to experiment in areas including social infrastructure, clean energy, transportation and citizen participation.

Sustainable leadership: Maximize present use of the land while ensuring sufficient resources for future generations.

Shared innovation: Enable all Bostonians to benefit from the shared-idea economy and the products that emerge from the district.

The Innovation District has been highly successful. It is the fastest-growing area in Boston and has stimulated the emergence of more than 200 new companies and 5,000 new jobs. Some 40 percent of businesses in the district share their work spaces. More than 1,100 housing units have been created, including 300 innovation micro-units.

Boston’s Innovation District is a fascinating, stimulating place for forward-thinking groups to visit. Companies and buildings in the Innovation District—including the following—have developed new strategies, models and products, often while sharing work space and collaborating.

MassChallenge is the world’s largest startup company accelerator, providing more than $2 million in grants to startup companies. Successful applicants are provided free shared office space, expert mentors, marketing and media resources.

Factory 63 is a converted shoe factory that now accommodates small housing units for Innovation District residents. The units are less than 600 sq. ft. and are designed to encourage density and entrepreneurial collaboration. Factory 63 also provides low-priced office space for entrepreneurs and startups.

The world’s first public innovation building, District Hall, provides civic gathering space where the innovation community gathers to exchange ideas. It houses open workspace, classrooms, assembly space and flexible-use pods. Most services and amenities are provided at little to no cost.

In September 2015, Mayor Martin J. Walsh released a report that recommends the creation of additional innovation districts in Boston, particularly in the Dudley Square-Upham’s Corner District. The report also provides recommendations for all Boston neighborhoods, based on the successes in the Seaport District.

Walking tours of South Boston’s Seaport, including the Innovation District, are offered by Boston by Foot. They aren’t on the public tour calendar this winter, but can be arranged as private tours. Other companies and organizations offer occasional tours of the area.

Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston

Groups can experience much of the ingenuity by walking along the Seaport portion of The HarborWalk, a pedestrian path that hugs the waterfront connecting several neighborhoods. Along the way, they can enjoy Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston, featuring cutting-edge exhibitions, music, dance, film, family activities and teen programming. Group tours are available.

Spirit of Boston Cruises

Spirit of Boston Cruises offers excursions with spectacular views of the city, along with food, drinks, DJ entertainment and a variety of onboard activities. Corporate events can be arranged, including dinner cruises.

Many unique restaurants have recently popped up in the Seaport District, including Empire Restaurant and Lounge, featuring Pan-Asian offerings, and Gather, a restaurant and bar overlooking Boston Harbor that serves inventive, modern American-inspired cuisine. Located in District Hall, it’s a popular hangout for Boston’s creative young minds.

Groundbreaking Conferences

John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center

Boston’s concerted effort to encourage and cultivate innovation is perhaps most clearly seen in the many cutting-edge conferences it hosts.

BostInno was founded in 2008 as a community startup blog by Chase Garbarino, CEO and co-founder of Streetwise Media, and Kevin McCarthy, chief technology officer and co-founder.

During the past four years, the publishing platform’s State of Innovation conference has served as a leading forum for conversations evaluating the key issues and trends facing Boston’s startup and business communities. It provides participants with candid commentary from the most influential thought leaders in the area’s fastest-growing sectors.

The conference, which attracts more than 1,000 of Boston’s most prominent business leaders and young professionals, features stimulating keynotes, digital content and interactive panels. Last year, the summit was held on June 7 at The Westin Boston Waterfront, located adjacent to Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC).

MIT Sustainability Summit is a student-led event that takes place every year during Earth Week on the Massachusetts Institute of Technology campus. It attracts more than 350 attendees, ranging from professionals to academics and students. The summit features discussions with thought leaders and expert practitioners.

“MIT is committed to accelerating research and outreach on topics of climate change and sustainability, and the MIT Sustainability Summit is the flagship event,” says Hanson Gong, co-managing director of the MIT Sustainability Summit. “In its ninth year, the summit will continue its tradition of convening cross-sectoral thinkers seeking to embed critical environmental and social issues into organizational discourse.

“This year’s summit focuses on ‘Funding the Future’ and will explore the intersection of sustainability and finance. We believe the value created by the strategies discussed at the April 28, 2017 Summit can help accelerate capital allocations towards sustainable investments.”

Innovation Enterprise Limited, a business media company specializing in enterprise innovation, shares its cross-industry knowledge with business communities through a combination of digital media and live summits. Businesses and organizations are provided with cutting-edge insights to drive growth in the rapidly changing business environment.

Innovation Enterprise has scheduled six major events in Boston this year: CFO Rising East Summit, March 8–9; Data Visualization Summit and Risk Management Summit, Sept. 6–7; Internet of Things Summit and Big Data Innovation Summit, Sept. 7–8; and Product Innovation Summit, S&OP Innovation Summit and Open Innovation Summit, Sept. 20–21.

B2B Marketing Forum brings together leaders, innovators and other people who make things happen to focus on the latest in B2B marketing and convey insights that can be used for successful marketing. The 11th annual show, which is organized by the MarketingProfs, will take place Oct. 3–6 at The Westin Boston Waterfront hotel.

Hundreds of businesses, companies, investors and more gathered for Ceres Conference 2016 at Boston Park Plaza Hotel May 4–5. Ceres is a non-profit organization advocating for leadership in sustainability. The conference focused on how disruption is sweeping across the business world—from water and electric utility business models to the sharing economy, to how we receive and convey information. Ceres also zeroed in on how business sectors are adapting to 21st-century sustainability challenges and the roadblocks ahead to address threats on an increasingly crowded, connected and warming planet.

Cutting-Edge Meeting Facilities

Lawn on D Powered by Citizens Bank

Dynamic, progressive change also can be seen in Beantown’s major meeting venues.

Groups wanting to meet in the Seaport District often opt for the award-winning Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center, which overlooks Boston Harbor and features spectacular city and water views. The hotel’s central location makes it easily accessible to Logan International Airport (BOS), the financial district and major city attractions.

Seaport Hotel, one of the greenest hotels in North America, offers 428 guest rooms, complimentary Wi-Fi and one of the city’s top health clubs. It provides more than 180,000 sq. ft. of eco-friendly, innovative meeting space—including seven ballrooms, 42 meeting rooms, a state-of-the-art amphitheater and dramatic outdoor spaces.

John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, located 15 minutes from Logan International Airport in Boston’s historic Back Bay neighborhood, offers 176,480 sq. ft. of versatile exhibit space (including four exhibit halls) and 91,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, divided among 38 rooms. The convention center also contains a 24,544-square-foot ballroom and a 4,000-seat multipurpose auditorium with a built-in balcony.

It provides the latest in technology and convention services, maintains a clean environment, promotes green practices and works to protect the environment around Boston’s two convention centers and city as a whole. The building has its own stop on the city’s MBTA public transportation line, known by locals as the “T.”

Boston Convention and Exhibition Center features a modern, glass-lined interior and 2.1 million square feet of space. The 41,000-square-foot grand ballroom overlooks the Boston Seaport, offering breathtaking views. BCEC also has 516,000 sq. ft. of column-free, contiguous exhibit space and 160,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, divided among 82 rooms.

BCEC uses green cleaning products, sources local food and beverage, composts food waste and increases diversion rates each year. The center minimizes power consumption through sensor-controlled utilities, high-efficiency lighting and strategies that minimize usage in unoccupied spaces.

“Boston is leading the way with the most advanced meetings technology available in the industry,” says Steve Snyder, chief information officer for the Massachusetts Convention Center Authority. “We know that being connected is necessary for doing business and essential to our clients’ success. At both the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center and Hynes Convention Center, we are continually investing in best-in-class technology for our customers, including free Wi-Fi access throughout both buildings with the ability to connect more than 35,000 devices simultaneously, a robust 10-gigabit fiber network, seamless cellular coverage and state-of-the-art digital displays.

“At the heart of our technology leadership is a dedicated team of award-winning IT experts who have been recognized for their innovations and service excellence.”

Lawn on D Powered by Citizens Bank, adjacent to BCEC, is an experimental event space designed to encourage engagement and foster creativity. It gives groups room to create exciting new event experiences outdoors.

Boston Lures a Major Player


In a nod to Boston’s thriving, progressive educational and business climate, last summer General Electric moved its global headquarters from Fairfield, Connecticut, to Boston’s Seaport District.

“GE aspires to be the most competitive company in the world,” said Jeff Immelt, chairman and CEO, in announcing the move. “Today, GE is a $130 billion high-tech global industrial company, one that is leading the digital transformation of industry. We want to be at the center of an ecosystem that shares our aspirations.

“Greater Boston is home to 55 colleges and universities. Massachusetts spends more on research and development than any other region in the world, and Boston attracts a diverse, technologically fluent workforce focused on solving challenges for the world. We are excited to bring our headquarters to this dynamic and creative city.”

In harmony with its new location, GE’s headquarters will place more emphasis on innovation. In Boston, GE will have roughly 800 people; 200 corporate staff and 600 digital industrial product managers, designers and developers split between digital, current, robotics and life sciences.

A GE Digital Foundry will be created for co-creation, incubation and product development with customers, startups and partners. The rest of the administration will be placed in shared service operations throughout the company.

In August, GE temporarily moved into a 66,000-square-foot building in the Fort Point neighborhood, but expects to move to a new three-building campus (rendering pictured) in the Seaport District by 2018. The campus will have 293,000 sq. ft. of space and include offices, a community lounge, a coffee bar and a museum showcasing the history and future of GE on its lower levels.

Major Meeting Venues


Boston Convention & Exhibition Center

Eight-minute drive from Logan International Airport; 516,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space; 160,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; Wi-Fi throughout.

Boston Harbor Hotel

High-end property on historic Rowes Wharf Harbor; 230 guest rooms; business center; full-service-spa; indoor pool; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Boston Marriott Copley Place

Downtown location near Boston Commons and Fenway Park; 1,097 guest rooms; sports bar; lounge; heated indoor pool; 61,085 sq. ft. of meeting space, divided among 47 rooms.

Boston Park Plaza

AAA Four Diamond, elegant property in Back Bay neighborhood; Boston landmark since 1927; $100 million renovation completed in early 2016; 1,060 guest rooms; 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 13,215-square-foot grand ballroom.

Fairmont Copley Plaza


1912 landmark in Back Bay; close to Beacon Hill and Freedom Trail; 383 guest rooms; 24-hour fitness center; 23,000 sq. ft. of Renaissance-inspired meeting space.

Hilton Boston Logan Airport

Connected via sky walk to Logan International Airport; 599 guest rooms; three eateries; business center; fitness center; indoor pool; 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, with largest room providing 5,280 sq. ft.

Hotel Commonwealth Kenmore Square

Luxury hotel close to Fenway Park, Boston University and Kenmore Square; 25 guest rooms; popular Eastern Standard restaurant and The Hawthorne cocktail bar; 13,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Hyatt Regency Boston Harbor

Located on waterfront, near Logan International Airport; winner of Boston’s Green Business Award; great views of harbor and skyline; 270 guest rooms; outdoor patio dining; 21,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 5,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space.

Hyatt Regency Cambridge


Situated along the Charles River; 470 guest rooms; Zephyr on the Charles offers locally sourced menu; 24-hour gym; indoor pool with retractable roof; 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 7,008-square-foot President’s Ballroom.

InterContinental Boston

AAA Four Diamond property overlooking the waterfront; 424 guest rooms; four restaurants; spa and health club; 32,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including two ballrooms.

John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center

Located in the heart of Back Bay neighborhood; sky bridges connect the center to three hotels and two shopping destinations; 176,480 sq. ft. of exhibit space; 91,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 4,000-seat auditorium.

Omni Parker House

Opulent property that opened in 1855; located along the Freedom Trail; 551 guest rooms; Boston Cream Pie and Parker House Rolls were invented at Parker’s Restaurant; two stylish lounges; 23,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including luxurious Rooftop Ballroom; spectacular views of city skyline.

Renaissance Boston Patriot Place Hotel

AAA Four Diamond hotel in Foxboro, adjacent to Gillette Stadium; 254 guest rooms; upscale Twenty8 Food & Spirits offers regional, sustainable American cuisine with modern flair; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Renaissance Boston Waterfront Hotel

Ultra-modern hotel overlooking Boston Harbor; 471 guest rooms; Italian cuisine at Sapore Ristorante & Bar; Capiz Bar; fitness center; heated indoor pool; 20,850 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 10 event rooms and 13 breakout rooms.

Royal Sonesta Boston

Newly renovated AAA Four Diamond property; stunning views of Charles River, Cambridge and Boston skyline; indoor pool; fitness center; 28,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 3,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space.

Seaport Hotel & World Trade Center

Waterfront location in the Seaport District; outstanding city and harbor views; 428 guest rooms; largest meeting space (180,000 sq. ft.) of any Boston hotel; 118,800 sq. ft. of exhibit space.

Sheraton Boston


Adjacent to Hynes Convention Center and a few blocks from Copley Square, Charles River, Fenway Park and Museum of Fine Arts, Boston; 1,220 guest rooms; Sidebar and Apropos restaurants; Green Tangerine Spa; 70,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 19,928-square-foot Grand Ballroom Complex.

The Colonnade Hotel

Luxury hotel in Back Bay; 285 guest rooms; Brasserie Jo gourmet restaurant; 24-hour business center; fitness center; rooftop pool; 13,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

The Westin Boston Waterfront

AAA Four Diamond property in the Seaport District; connected to Boston Convention & Exhibition Center; 793 guest rooms; Sauciety waterfront restaurant; comedy club; fitness studio; indoor pool; 89,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

The Westin Copley Place, Boston

Located in Back Bay; convenient to shopping, entertainment and restaurants; 803 guest rooms; three restaurants; 54,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 15,337-square-foot America Ballroom.