Find the real deal in Dallas, Fort Worth, Little Rock and Oklahoma CityCasual sophistication. Easy access. Affordability. Add an array of rousing entertainment and shopping with infinite dining possibilities, and you have the makings of a great meeting. Whether it’s the tap of cowboy boots on a wooden floor or the click of high heels downtown, attendees are guaranteed to enjoy these four great cities. In Fort Worth, you’ll cowboy up at the famous stockyards and watch a twice-daily cattle drive through town. You can recharge with a Texas-size steak or dine on dishes with a more international flair. You might opt for a more casual refreshment, sampling one of the city’s plentiful microbrews, or take in some culture at four acclaimed museums. Meanwhile, commerce-friendly Dallas puts on the ritz with its brand of luxury and fashion. The city has invested billions of dollars in development in recent years, meaning there is no shortage of new things to do and see. You’ll also find plenty of food, shopping, entertainment and the arts. And rest assured that both Dallas and Fort Worth will indulge you with Texas-style hospitality. Oklahoma City welcomes ranching enthusiasts from across the globe to enjoy its blend of enterprising and equestrian productions. A public-private partnership is funding an array of new projects that are adding luster to the city and providing visitors with new things to do and places to explore. Situated on the banks of the Arkansas River, Little Rock, the capital city, is experiencing a downtown revival that has captured the attention of business owners and tourists alike. You’ll feel welcome in the new South culture, with its rich blend of cultural and culinary offerings.
Fort Worth Stockyards
Fort WorthFor an authentic Western experience, Stockyards National Historic District downtown features historic buildings, saloons and ample places to enjoy rib-sticking cowboy fare. Or experience dining options ranging from Egyptian to Turkish to vegan, and shops aplenty for the perfect pair of cowboy boots. Stay for the cattle drive that pushes through town twice daily. If that’s not cowboy enough, meander over to the weekly Stockyards Championship Rodeo, relive history at Stockyards Museum and Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, or visit the world’s only National Cowgirl Hall of Fame. Close the night at Billy Bob’s Texas, the world’s largest honky-tonk, where you can ride a mechanical bull or two-step across the floor. “Fort Worth’s major convenience, world-class attractions and flexible meeting spaces make the city a natural fit for events,” says John Cychol, vice president of meeting sales for Fort Worth Convention & Visitors Bureau. “Groups can dine under the stars in downtown’s Sundance Square Plaza or enjoy rustic charm at River Ranch. Breweries, part of Fort Worth’s Ale Trail, offer planners access to 10 spacious taprooms just minutes from downtown.” Other city highlights include five internationally acclaimed museums in natural settings. These lush landscapes neighbor Will Rogers Memorial Center, hosting a gamut of business, cultural and equestrian events. A $450 million multipurpose arena with 14,000 seats is expected to open in December 2019. Updated Fort Worth Convention Center offers plenty of elbow room, with more than 250,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space and 60,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Gather at the 55,000-square-foot Events Plaza adjoining the city’s famed water gardens, the 13,500-seat arena or the majestic 28,160-square-foot ballroom. Texas Motor Speedway, another exciting venue, is one of the nation’s largest racing facilities, with seating for nearly 155,000 spectators.
Convention Center image by Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center
DallasIt’s no secret Texas does things in a big way. Consider Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center Dallas, one of the country’s top 10 convention centers, according to Trade Show Executive Magazine, with 1 million sq. ft. of exhibit space. This includes 726,000 sq. ft. of contiguous space; a 203,000-square-foot, column-free exhibit hall; and versatile outdoor space. Three ballrooms add 65,124 sq. ft., and the arena provides 21,290 sq. ft.
Victory Park, DallasRecognized as America’s most business-friendly city by MarketWatch in 2015, the Dallas metro area offers immense entertainment, an impressive arts district, and shopping and dining options ranging from Highland Park Village to Galleria Dallas. The $100 million redevelopment of Victory Park, a walkable urban district with restaurants, shops and a luxury movie theater, is scheduled to open later this year. “We’ve invested billions of dollars in new development, including several new hotel projects that were recently completed or are in the works,” says Phillip Jones, president and CEO of Visit Dallas. “Dallas is also home to two major airports, DFW and Love Field, and you can reach either coast in about three hours.”
Statler Hotel & ResidencesHotels opening in 2017 include the historic Statler Hotel & Residences’ $175 million redevelopment under the Hilton flag and the 104-year-old Butler Brothers Building’s $90 million rebrand as a Marriott. Others include the 22-story Mercantile Commerce Building’s conversion to a Marriott Residence Inn, an AC boutique hotel; Historic Tower Petroleum’s transformation to Saint Elm Hotel downtown; and the converted Element by Westin Hotel near Baylor University. Two more new properties, The Virgin Hotel and Dream Hotel, will open in 2018.
Bennett Event Center, Oklahoma City
Oklahoma CityWith an illustrious cowboy legacy, Oklahoma City is home to one of the world’s largest livestock markets and is the Horse Show Capital of the World. The oil and gas industry also stakes a claim here. The city—a designated U.S. Olympic and Paralympic Training Site with a USA Canoe/Kayak facility—recently revealed that a new $45.2 million whitewater rafting center for recreation, events and team building will open in May. “Oklahoma City is a central location that easily accommodates groups from all over the U.S.,” says Tabbi Burwell, communications manager at Oklahoma City Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The city has so much in one area, including two arenas one block apart and an entertainment district just steps away.”
Cox Convention Center, Oklahoma CityBusinesses convene at Cox Convention Center, surrounded by three hotels and comprising some 150,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, with eight exhibit halls, meeting rooms and a 25,000-square-foot ballroom. A short walk leads to Bricktown Entertainment District, known for its music, canal-side dining and great shopping.
The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, Oklahoma CityOther venues include the Boathouse District along the Oklahoma River and the recently opened Bennett Event Center at the State Fairgrounds, with 200,000 sq. ft. of contiguous expo space. The National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, with an extensive collection of art works and artifacts, features a striking 16,500-square-foot event center and a life-size, turn-of-the-century cattle town.
Arkansas River, Little Rock
Little RockLittle Rock, situated on the Arkansas River, brings new South culture to life. The city offers a dynamic nightlife and world-class attractions including Heifer Village and the award-winning Little Rock Zoo. The culinary scene is abundant, too, with James Beard winners and artisans including a local cheese-maker, chocolatier and ice cream maker, as well as brew pubs, two wineries and an award-winning distillery. Named a top 10 best-value city by Trivago.com, Little Rock enjoyed a resurgence after William J. Clinton Presidential Center premiered in 2004. The center offers more than 20,000 sq. ft. of event space that includes exhibit tours. Great Hall, with 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, has 40-foot ceilings and glass walls for downtown viewing, while Forty Two restaurant and terrace overlooks the river.
River Market street viewFor events, Verizon Arena, located along the Arkansas River, has 28,000 sq. ft. for meetings. The unique River Market, with an indoor bazaar, has two open-air pavilions seating 1,000 guests each, while the riverside amphitheater accommodates 7,500. The reimagined Robinson Center performance venue opened in November 2016, reviving the original 1939 landmark structure. The new two-story conference center features a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, four meeting rooms and a 5,500-square-foot terrace. Adjoining the center is the $6 million renovated DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Little Rock, providing 11,141 sq. ft. of meeting space.
William J. Clinton Presidential Library CenterThree hotels will open in 2017: the renovated Four Points by Sheraton Little Rock Midtown, with 263 guest rooms and 13,000 sq. ft. of event space; Hilton Garden Inn Downtown Little Rock, with 140 guest rooms and 4,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; and Staybridge Suites Hotel, with 117 guest rooms and 4,200 sq. ft. of meeting space. Mona L. Hayden is an independent writer and an award-winning photographer. She publishes Louisiana Road Trips magazine.
Interesting Facts About Dallas-Big Tex, the official mascot of the Texas State Fair, is 55 feet tall and wears a 95-gallon hat. -Gunslinger Doc Holliday worked as a dentist in downtown Dallas before he made a career change. -Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW) covers almost 27 sq. mi., which is larger than Manhattan. -In 1950, the historic Adolphus Hotel in downtown Dallas became the world’s first hotel to offer guests central air conditioning. -America’s first shopping center, Highland Park Village, opened in Dallas in 1913. -Woodrow Wilson High School boasts a slice of Woodrow Wilson’s daughter’s wedding cake, placed in the cornerstone of the building by the architect, according to congressional records. -The Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders were originally called the Cow Belles & Beaux and included male cheerleaders.
MAPS 3 Benefits Oklahoma City
MAPS 3 rendering, Oklahoma CityMAPS 3 (Metropolitan Area Projects) is a public-private partnership for capital improvements funded by a one-cent, limited-term sales tax approved by voters. The program has completely funded numerous downtown civic projects, including a 70-acre public park, library, Bricktown’s water canal, senior health and wellness centers, city trails and sidewalks. MAPS 3 is also credited with the construction of Bennett Expo Center at Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, while the Modern Streetcar and Transit system now under development will link downtown businesses with 22 stops and Riversport Rapids. Another result of MAPS 3 is the much-anticipated $287 million convention center, scheduled to open in 2020. This new facility is strategically located near Myriad Botanical Gardens and will offer 200,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 50,000 sq. ft. of additional meeting space and a majestic 35,000-square-foot ballroom. Within walking distance will be three new hotels—Staybridge Suites (137 guest rooms), Hyatt Place (132) and AC Hotels (130)—thereby increasing the number of available guest rooms to almost 3,000.