Galveston & Texas Beaches

The French and Spanish explored the Texas Coast and pirates and buccaneers once had the run of it. Today, it boasts plenty of charm, miles and miles of beaches, islands, and bays. Add to that the modern hotels and convention centers in Galveston, Corpus Christi, South Padre Island, and more, and you'll see why groups here have the ideal setting for everything from corporate retreats to large-scale meetings.

Galveston & Texas Beaches Essential Toolbox:
Convention Centers/Facilities:
GALVESTON Galveston Island Convention Center at The San Luis Resort, 43,000 sf of dedicated space; 15 meeting rooms.
CORPUS CHRISTI American Bank Convention Center, 76,500 sf of meeting space; 29 meeting rooms. Congressman Solomon P. Ortiz Int'l Center, 28,000 sf of meeting space; 7 meeting rooms. Memorial Coliseum Corpus Christi, 22,000 sf of space; 3 meeting rooms.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND South Padre Island Convention Centre, 22,500 sf of meeting space; 8 meeting rooms.
For complete listings, visit Facilities Quick Search at www.mimegasite.com
Average Daily Business Travels Costs* (Corpus Christi): Hotel $137.42 F&B $68.92
Car Rental $83.90
For More Information:
Galveston Island CVB
www.galvestoncvb.com
Corpus Christi CVB
www.corpuschristicvb.com
South Padre Island CVB
www.sopadre.com
Rockport-Fulton CC
www.rockport-fulton.org
*Business Travel News 2006 Corporate Travel Index

THE BIG NEWS
"There's about $1.9 billion worth of restoration and economic development taking place on Galveston Island," reports Paula Brown, public relations manager for the Galveston CVB. That includes the restoration at the Hotel Galvez, which is putting a sheen on its 1911 heritage and adding a new outdoor venue with a cascading waterfall. New properties in the over-4,000-room area inventory consist of a Holiday Inn Sunspree and Quality Inn and Suites, both of which offer meeting space.

Meanwhile, in Corpus Christi, apart from the 1,700 rooms within a two-mile radius of the 76,500-sf American Bank Center Convention Center, 1,000 new units in limited-service properties will come on board in 2007, pumping up the hotel inventory. Among the renovated hotels is the Best Western Marina Grand, which added high-speed Internet and a refrigerator, microwave, and safes to all rooms. (Likewise, new microwaves, refrigerators, and ceiling fans are being installed at the Bayfront Plaza Hotel & Conference Center.)

New additions to Rockport-Fulton's lodging mix include the 64-room Hampton Inn & Suites with meeting space for up to 60, free Wi-Fi in public areas, and high speed Internet in rooms. Other properties opened within the last few years include The Lighthouse Inn with lovely Victorian decor and two Wi-Fi meeting rooms that hold 50 and 40 attendees, respectively. (Guests can also fish for free off the dock.) The stylish Inn at Fulton Harbour, featuring suites with Jacuzzis and a function room with large bay windows overlooking the water that holds up to 64 persons.


Facilities Update
GALVESTON Moody Gardens has added new plush pillow-top mattresses to all rooms and opened a Secret Garden teen spa.
CORPUS CHRISTI Whataburger Field opened in 2005 with 5,050 fixed seats and 19 luxury suites. It can accommodate 600 under a pavilion.
SOUTH PADRE ISLAND The new Dolphin Research & Sea Life Nature Center gives visitors the opportunity to have hands-on-experiences with marine animals.
A multimillion-dollar, 8,800-sf World Birding Center will break ground in 2007.



Getting Acquainted
Big Town Highlights
The modern Galveston Island Convention Center at The San Luis Resort, the city's official meetings venue, overlooks the sea and provides a column-free exhibition hall with over 43,000 sf, a ballroom spanning 15,500 sf, 29,000 sf of exhibit and reception area, and 12,000 sf of breakout space.

Steps away, The San Luis Resort, Spa, and Conference Center has 23,540 sf of meeting space and is wrapping up upgrades to all guest rooms. The port's historic landmarks--such as the 19th-century Ashton Villa home, the Grand Opera House of 1894, and the Tall Ship Elissa--remain favorites for receptions, but nearby Schlitterbahn water park, which sports retractable roof sections to handle all types of weather (plus a 1,100-sf hot tub) can also supply some fun. Another option is the Moody Gardens theme park and its adjacent hotel, which is like an all-in-one venue for planners. Besides the exotic park attractions encased in giant glass pyramids, the hotel offers a convention center with 82,000 sf of space and a 60,000-sf exhibition hall.

Post meeting, cruise to the Aransas Wildlife Preserve, home in winter to several hundred migratory whooping cranes, and, for local flavor, to the town's four-day hummingbird festival in September. Dolphin watching, kayaking, dinner cruises, shopping for unusual keepsakes, even a line dancing lesson can also be booked.
In Corpus Christi, the American Bank Center Convention Center is part of a larger complex with an auditorium and arena, with an adjoining auditorium that seats over 2,500. Space can also be booked at the architecturally striking Solomon P. Ortiz Int'l Center, which holds flexible meeting areas for up to 2,000 attendees. Apart from enjoying a plethora of water sports, attendees can tee off on Corpus Christi's 11 golf courses, take in a baseball game of the AA category Corpus Christi Hooks in the new world-class Whataburger Field, and visit the Art Museum of South Texas or the Aquarium (event space for 1,000), a refuge for injured dolphins that cannot survive in the wild. Attendees can sign up for the interactive "Trainer for a Day" program.

Small Town Charm On 34-mile-long South Padre Island, there's lively nightlife, new dining outlets for every budget, and three shopping malls, as well as shops and boutiques. For meetings, the South Padre Island Convention Center, perched on the bay side, features 45,000 sf of conference and exhibit space, half of it column free, plus a 300-seat auditorium. Activities include kiteboarding, windsurfing, dolphin-watching cruises, and bird-watching along the Laguna Madre Trail, which is next to the convention center and crosses 1,500 feet of wetlands. As a bonus for fisherfolk, all the restaurants along South Padre Island's tourist strip will grill, blacken, fry, or bake their catch of the day.

Speaking of fishing, Port Aransas on Mustang Island, often referred to as "Port A," is a sports fisherman's Shangri-La. Hotels and condos provide meeting space for groups up to 80. Once the meeting is over, attendees can take advantage of power walking on the beach, surfing, parasailing, horseback riding, riding a bicycle built for two, or donning a wet suit to dive or snorkel out at the oil rig. For calming the spirit, there's hatha yoga at a fitness center, or--a favorite--shelling on the beach. After dark, music livens up the port scene and ranges from rock to rap to country and western to the Texas Top 40.

Port Aransas is a short ferry ride from Rockport-Fulton, a picturesque resort with a surprising number of meeting venues. The largest, Paws and Taws, is sized for 350 attendees; the octagonal-shaped Saltwater Pavilion has a capacity for 250 inside, plus a 2,000-sf outdoor area, and the Beachfront Pavilion holds 200 people, tops. Rockport's galleries and museums also double as reception venues. A few are the Texas Maritime Museum, the Gallery of Rockport, and the Rockport Center for the Arts. Attendees can also tour the Fulton Mansion built in the 1870s or take in a reception on the mansion grounds.

GROUPS SHOULD CONSIDER these recommendations from the Successful Meetings Home Team experts. Top choices include the 226-room Hotel Galvez and the 428-room Moody Gardens.

Contributors to this section include Home Team members Lisa Meller and Val Johnston. Contact them at [email protected]