5 Questions for Events DC’s Gregory A. O’Dell

Gregory O'Dell Events DC

Whatever the outcome of the 2016 election, there will be a Trump development creating excitement in Washington, D.C. as The Trump International Hotel Washington, D.C., set in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue's power corridor, opens in September. The nation's capitol will also see openings of hotels such as The Watergate (opening this month), Kimpton's Mason & Rook Hotel (also opening in April), and Glover Park Hotel (opening in late spring).

Successful Meetings sat down with Gregory A. O'Dell, president and chief executive officer of Events DC, the official convention and sports authority for the District of Columbia, to get an update about all that is happening in the destination. As president and CEO, O'Dell oversees Events DC's three lines of business: conventions and meetings, sports and entertainment, and special events, and he had this to say about what groups can expect to see in the city. 

What's new in Washington, D.C. for groups?

The nation's capital is known for its monuments, museums, and historic neighborhoods. But the city is attracting visitors for another purpose: its food. D.C. has seen a dramatic growth in its restaurant scene, from high-end steak houses, celebrity chefs, and ultra-posh eateries, to neighborhood cafés and ethnic locales. Two up-and-coming areas of the D.C. food scene are within walking distance of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, great for visitors to enjoy tastes of what the city has to offer. There will also be retail and restaurants opening soon in the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, making it convenient for event attendees to enjoy.

CityCenterDC, D.C.'s newest luxury development is home to renowned restaurants featuring the culinary industry's most famous chefs including DBGB Kitchen and Bar, French Chef Daniel Boulud's first restaurant in D.C. The restaurant serves everything from classic French dishes to hand-cut steak, house-made sausages and burgers. World-famous chef David Chang returns to his D.C. roots with Momofuku & Milk Bar. Momofuku features its famous pork bus and ramen. Next door, Milk Bar has savory sweets from cookies, truffles to crack pie.

This year, notable retail and restaurants will also open at The Walter E. Washington Convention Center. Opening in late April, Smoked & Stacked features a menu of sandwiches made with smoked meats and vegetables developed by popular Top Chef contestant Marjorie Meek-Bradley. Morris, a craft cocktail bar; Urban Athletic Club, a fitness center; and Union Kitchen Grocery, a locally inspired corner market, will open later this summer. 

What's a "hidden gem" for visiting groups?

Over the last decade, the heart of downtown Washington, D.C. was transformed by the Walter E. Washington Convention Center, which offers meeting planners unparalleled flexibility to create a unique and powerful experience. But located just across the street from the Convention Center is the Carnegie Library at Mt. Vernon Square, a historic landmark with inspiring architecture, spacious rooms, a 150-seat theater, and a grand exterior plaza, giving meeting planners more versatile space for any special event. Carnegie Library has hosted galas, weddings, receptions, holiday parties, and press events. 

What's a good outing for a group looking to get a sense of the culture or history? 

For groups looking for culture or history, visit www.washington.org where they can find trip inspiration for how to experience D.C.'s connection to the Civil War, African-American history and heritage, presidential experiences, and more. For something more specific, check out Cultural Tourism's self-guided heritage trails.

Where should a group go to get a truly local culinary experience?

The Shaw area is thriving with new restaurants and bars coupled with hot spots that have been around for decades and also features the culinary creations of local and famous chefs. Eat the Rich features local staples, with an oyster bar and Chesapeake Bay-centric menu items created by James Beard Award nominee Derek Brown. Chef-owner Jeremiah Langhorne brings a mid-Atlantic menu to The Dabney. While the menu changes nearly every day, patrons will find a delicious and creative mix of seafood, meats, and vegetable dishes made from fresh ingredients. 

Anything else that you think makes Washington DC a great destination for groups?

Recent multibillion-dollar developments around Washington, D.C. have attracted attention from visitors and meeting planners from around the globe. Washington, D.C. is a world-class city with iconic monuments and memorials, incredible (and free) museums, political prowess, foreign embassies, historic neighborhoods, and revered universities and colleges. D.C.'s exciting food scene will fuel gatherings; and the local, national, and international cultures of the city will inspire. Attendees can enjoy national landmarks, unique venues, and plenty of things to do after hours in the city. Additionally, there are 6,570 committable rooms within one mile of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.