Gone are the days when busy professionals attended conferences to experience the meeting alone. Today, meeting attendees want to interact as much with the city as they do with speakers and peers. Because meeting agendas are typically jam-packed, however, it's not always possible to steal away for a day of sightseeing. One solution: Instead of requiring attendees to leave the meeting venue to see a local attraction, bring a local attraction to the meeting venue. Many hotels have done exactly that by opening onsite museums dedicated to local history and culture. Here are five of them.
W Minneapolis - The Foshay (Minneapolis, MN)W Minneapolis - The Foshay
occupies one of the Twin Cities' most iconic buildings: Foshay Tower. Modeled after the Washington Monument, it was built in 1929 and was the first skyscraper built in the state of Minnesota. Along with the 27th-floor Prohibition Bar -- a sky-high speakeasy that originally was intended to be a full-floor retreat for the building's original owner, Wilbur Foshay -- check out the Foshay Museum and Observation Deck on the 30th floor. Open 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday through Monday, the museum is dedicated to the history of Foshay Tower and its namesake founder. The observation deck wraps around the entire building and offers a 360-degree view of Minneapolis that extends up to 30 miles on a clear day. The museum's docent can answer questions and is available to give short presentations. Groups of up to 40 people at a time can be accommodated.The Willard InterContinental (Washington, DC)
Washington, DC, is steeped in history. You can find it on practically every street corner in the national parks, monuments, and museums that dot the nation's capital. Although you might not think to look there, you also can find it in many local hotels, like the historic Willard InterContinental
(pictured), just two blocks east of the White House. Established in 1818, it was once known as the "Residence of Presidents" because it served as a transitional residence for president-elects in the weeks before their inauguration. In fact, every U.S. president since Franklin Pierce has either stayed at the hotel as a guest or visited it for an event. Along with its famous Round Robin Bar -- which was frequented by Presidents Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, and Ulysses S. Grant -- one of the hotel's main attractions is its History Gallery, a small walk-through museum dedicated to the hotel's storied history. Among its contents: a copy of Lincoln's bill from his 10-day stay prior to his 1861 inauguration.
Palmer House Hilton (Chicago, IL)
Located in the heart of Chicago's Loop business district, the Palmer House Hilton
is the Windy City's oldest hotel and one of the longest-running hotels in North America. Opened in 1873, it was America's first fireproof hotel, the first hotel to have electric lights and telephones in its guest rooms, the first hotel with elevators, and the birthplace of the brownie, which was created in the hotel's pastry kitchen for the 1893 World's Fair. You'll learn all that and more when you visit the Palmer House Museum. Hidden on the hotel's mezzanine level, it can only be viewed in the company of Ken Price, the hotel's longtime public relations director and its official historian. Price knows everything about the hotel's history, its founder, its famous guests, and the notable events it's hosted during its long tenure, and he's documented it all with historic newspaper clippings, artifacts, and memorabilia salvaged from within the hotel and donated by past patrons. He offers a "History is Hott!" luncheon and tour Tuesday through Saturday that includes lunch at the hotel's restaurant, a presentation in the museum, and a tour of the property's historic spaces.
21c Durham (Durham, NC)
Because they unlock a city's past, history museums can be a great way to experience destinations. Art museums can be equally enlightening, however -- especially when they feature art by local artists or art that's about local themes. One such art museum is the onsite museum at 21c Museum Hotels' North Carolina outpost: 21c Durham
. Located in downtown Durham, the hotel has over 10,500 square feet of exhibition space dedicated to contemporary art and cultural programming curated by Museum Director Alice Gray Stites. A highlight for those who want to learn more about Durham is "It Will Warm You Twice" by Brooklyn, NY-based artist Duke Riley. One of seven permanent site-specific installations collectively titled "Reflecting Transformation," it's a large-scale mosaic comprised of cigarettes and mini cigars that represent the ubiquitous role tobacco has played in Durham's history and development, as well as the ultimate decline of its influence.
Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations (Québec, Canada)
Visitors to Canada are typically keen on learning about the country's French and British influences. Anyone who really wants to get to know America's neighbor to the north, however, should acquaint themselves with Canada's First Nations, including the Huron-Wendat Nation, an indigenous community whose members occupy the Wendake reserve in Québec. There, the Huron-Wendat have established a four-star boutique hotel inspired by aboriginal dwellings known as "longhouses." Known as Hôtel-Musée Premières Nations
, it showcases natural materials such as stone, leather, and wood, as well as original Wendake crafts and aboriginal creations like beaver skin cushions, ceremonial pipe, and furs of all varieties. Onsite is the Huron-Wendat Museum, which was established in 2008 to protect and promote the heritage of the Huron-Wendat people. Featuring permanent and temporary exhibits teaching First Nations history, culture, and art, the museum is a gateway to Wendake's numerous heritage sites, including Notre-Dame-de-Lorette Church, the Kabir Kouba waterfall, the Tsawenhohi House, and the Ekionkiestha' longhouse.