Great Meetings in Dallas and Beyond

Whether for events large or small, this area can provide for memorable meetings

Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden

This huge region is seeing some big new developments, from new hotels to new attractions groups can enjoy. For example, this past fall saw the opening of A Tasteful Place at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden (pictured), a 3.5-acre vegetable, herb, and fruit garden ideal for strolling. It offers shaded porches and patios that overlook White Rock Lake, as well as programs such as garden-to-table dinners and chef classes that groups can take part in. Its glass-walled, 2,400-square-foot indoor venue is available for rental, and can seat 160 for banquet-style seating, and up to 250, theater-style.

Looking ahead to next summer, the Dallas Holocaust and Human Rights Museum is expected to complete construction and move in to a permanent, striking building in Dallas' historic West End. The new, 50,000-square-foot home is expected to better meet the demand of the museum's more than 80,000 annual visitors and expand its cultural and educational programming -- while also offering state-of-the-art spaces.

Among the hotel offerings for groups are a pair of restored historic hotels. The first is the Adolphus Hotel, originally built by Anheuser Busch founder Adolphus Busch in 1912 as the city's first luxury property. It has now completed an extensive renovation that emphasizes the hotel's history and updates its amenities, including a remodeling of its 407 guest rooms and the reopened French Room restaurant (serving traditional French cuisine). It offers 24,000 square feet of flexible meeting space divided over 22 rooms. Second is The Statler, a 59-year-old landmark that wrapped a $255 million redevelopment and now flies the Hilton flag. Emphasizing its musical roots and a chic aesthetic reminiscent of Mad Men, it offers 33,000 square feet of meeting space (including a ballroom where Frank Sinatra and Michael Jackson once performed).

Another stylish option for groups is The Highland Dallas, A Curio Collection by Hilton, with mid-century architecture, cutting-edge amenities, and 13,490 square feet of meeting space -- as well as upscale steakhouse Knife from three-time James Beard nominee John Tesar. It was this last offering that stood out for Lee Papert, executive director of the Dallas International Film Festival, which has held its Honors Awards Dinner at the property three years running.

"Chef John Tesar and his team do an unbelievable job creating what I've found to be the best banquet dinner for 300 people," he says. "In addition to the cuisine, The Highland team strives to do one thing -- and that's to help you to host a terrific event. The service is impeccable. To top it off, the hotel is gorgeous."

For groups looking to go bigger, the 1,606-room Hilton Anatole boasts 600,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including 11 ballrooms and 79 meeting rooms (not to mention an impressive collection of more than 1,000 works of art). This month it celebrates the third anniversary of its three-acre outdoor water and activity park, JadeWaters (offering multiple pools, a lazy river, and swim-up bar that will have groups thinking they're at a beach getaway).

Whatever groups plan, they have a partner in the city's convention and visitors bureau, VisitDallas, which last month had a skill-building meeting of its own, bringing a training team from Southwest Airlines on site to run a master class in customer service for frontline employees in the Dallas hospitality community. The one-day immersive event included a keynote on creating "Magical Moments," and targeted sessions on elements of customer service such as "Creating Fans for Life" and "Listening With Your Heart."

"Dallas is making the total visitor experience our No. 1 priority," says Phillip Jones, president and CEO of VisitDallas. The program teaches, "engaging employees at airports, hotels, attractions, meeting spaces, and other hospitality professionals -- to make our brand and brand promise memorable and deliver best-in-class customer service to set our destination apart."

WHERE TO… FORT WORTH
MEET - Whiskey Ranch
Firestone & Robertson Distilling Co.'s newest creation, Whiskey Ranch, a "112-acre Whiskey Wonderland," includes the historic 18-hole Glen Garden Country Club as well as what it claims to be the largest whiskey distillery west of the Mississippi. It also boasts out-of-the-ordinary meeting venues, such as the 175-capacity Oak Room and 130-capacity Back Porch (a covered patio with outdoor fireplaces).

STAY - Omni Fort Worth Hotel
Adjacent to the Fort Worth Convention Center, this property offers 29 meeting rooms that add up to 68,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as memorable teambuilding activities such as a "pit crew" experience with members of the Texas Motor Speedway. Dining options abound, including the on-site Bob's Steak and Chop House.

PLAY - Stockyards National Historic District

It doesn't get more Texas than this place, where groups can check out the weekly Stockyards Championship Rodeo, try out their two-step at Billy Bob's Texas, learn some Fort Worth history at the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, and, of course, catch one of the two daily cattle drives.

Irving Excitement
Set between Dallas and Fort Worth, and next door to the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, is the city of Irving, TX. This city is singing a new tune this year as the new Toyota Music Factory, a 500,000-square-foot entertainment complex of restaurants, concert venues, and shops, has been opening in phases. Among its offerings are a 50,000-square-foot outdoor event plaza, an eight-screen Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, and The Pavilion -- a convertible indoor-outdoor amphitheater that can serve as an intimate theater for up to 2,500 or an open-air pavilion for 8,000.

The visitors district, anchored by the Irving Convention Center, also includes the $110 million, 350-room Westin Irving Convention Center Hotel (offering 16,000 square feet of meeting space) opening this year.

Among its other recent offerings is the Gables Water Street waterfront district of retail and restaurant options. Later this summer, the area also will see the opening of Valencia Group's 152-room Texican Court hotel, a short walk from the convention center and offering 3,500 square feet of its own meeting space. With Spanish mission-style architecture, fire pits, and bar, the property is said to be "inspired by the theme of The Good, the Bad and the Ugly."  

Questions or comments? Email apalmer@ntmllc.com

This article appears in the April 2018 issue of Successful Meetings.