Ohio is home to a great selection of eclectic, easily accessible, and affordable cities, making the Buckeye State a top-notch destination choice. First up: Columbus, home to the award-winning, SMG-managed, Greater Columbus Convention Center (GCCC), with over 1.7 million square feet of flexible meeting space, and a $125 million expansion, slated for July, is under way. When complete, it will add 36,000 square feet of exhibition space, plus an additional 10,000 square feet designated for meetings, plus dining facilities and gallery space for local artists to display their work.
Stay in one of the 532 rooms at the Hilton Columbus Downtown (prices vary per season) or at The Joseph, a Le Méridien hotel, in the Short North Arts District, home to galleries, boutiques, restaurants, and bars. After hours, pick up a "Made in CBUS" passport for the Columbus Ale or Coffee Trail, to taste the best microbrews (Seventh Son Brewing) and local coffee (Stauf's Coffee Roasters) the city has to offer. Still need another reason to choose Columbus? The city was recently ranked the top Midwest destination for visitors, according to the J.D. Power Destination Experience Satisfaction Study.
Next choice for savvy meeting planners: Cleveland. "Our city's walkable downtown provides accessibility to assets like the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland and nearly 5,000 rooms in 18 downtown hotels," says Mike Burns, senior vice president of convention sales and services at Destination Cleveland. This summer, the $272 million, 600-room Hilton Cleveland Downtown Hotel, offering stunning views of Lake Erie from its full-service bar, opened its doors. Connected to the Huntington Convention Center of Cleveland, the hotel offers more than 46,000 square feet of meeting space, and visitors can dine at The Burnham, which specializes in fresh seafood, Cajun-Creole fusion, and what it calls "Midwestern" comfort food.
"The hotel was designed from the beginning to be optimized for meetings, conventions and events," says Ronnie Collins, director of sales and marketing for the property.
He points not only to its meeting space with floor-to-ceiling windows, but the half-million square feet of space at the Convention Center, to which it allows easy access. Thanks to these offerings, the property is able to accommodate a wide range of group demands -- hotel only, citywide, or a partnership (for those using all the Hilton's space, as well as additional space at the Convention Center).
"Cleveland is still undiscovered and the road less traveled," adds Collins. "Cleveland also offers big city amenities like cutting-edge and diverse dining, live theatre, legendary museums, and dynamic culture -- all in a very intimate package. The city really is totally walkable."
A big draw for music and pop culture lovers is the world's only Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, which recently upgraded its visitor experience, with a new atrium and an updated gift shop, and more renovations slated for 2017.
Overall, in the past five years, the city has invested more than $3.5 billion in visitor-related infrastructure and development. "All of these developments -- and many more -- illustrate Cleveland's commitment to growing the city's reputation as a destination that not only satisfies the logistical requirements of meeting planners, but also offers an overall fun and memorable experience to meeting and convention attendees," says Burns.
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This article appears in the December 2016 issue of Successful Meetings.