It’s not enough these days to book a space, plan the meeting and hope attendees come. Attendees want an event loaded with one-of-a kind experiences and guaranteed memories. You want to create an opportunity that leaves them thinking, “I can’t miss that,” despite mounds of growing paperwork on their desk. And after they depart, you want them to have already marked their calendar for next year’s event.
Guaranteeing great memories doesn’t have to be hard. It’s a snap when the offerings are already on hand. Therefore, choosing the right destination from the start makes all the difference. In this two-part series we share advice on how to find a guaranteed must-attend destination as well as how to utilize its offerings to your advantage to serve up a memorable event.
Image credit: C. Davidson for VTC
Look for a location with authenticity.
Avoid the sterile city that looks like every other one. Find a destination in its own right, one overflowing with local ambiance. Directly across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C., Old Town Alexandria is a nationally designated historic district and the place George Washington called home. Host your event at Hotel Indigo Old Town Alexandria, a charming enclave of colonial treasures and historic waterfront architecture, distinctly fitting for one of America’s historic port cities. Traces of Alexandria’s colonial past are evident throughout the hotel, but the story got subterranean when crews unearthed a 50-foot vessel during construction. According to archaeologists, the ship was abandoned in the late 18th century and served as a crucial part of the process responsible for extending the waterfront. Or, book at The Westin Alexandria, located steps away from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. There’s always a bright idea at Trademark. Take inspiration from the innovators who’s once daring ideas set the standards -PTO inspired or in “infused” in the restaurant.
Check in with the experts.
The second part of the location equation is making sure all that local flavor is easy to access. That’s where the local CVB and tourism board come in. Not only do they know the destination and the players, their mission is to help ensure the very best events happen in their home city. Make sure the destination has a strong team of destination experts, like the Extraordinary Alexandria team, and talk to them early in your planning process.
Image credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria
A location steeped in history offers some of the most memorable and generally easy to access experiences for your group. With conference hotels and meeting spaces situated within walking distance, it’s easy to arrange a mid-meeting group history lesson with one of the many tour companies like Footsteps to the Past owned by a ninth-generation Virginian who offers a uniquely local flavor. Or, schedule an after-hours event in a local museum like Gadsby’s Tavern Museum where George Washington celebrated his birthday and Thomas Jefferson, John Adams and other prominent patrons danced and dined. Washington’s estate, Mount Vernon, is just eight miles south of Alexandria and is ideal for special events. Washington’s renovated Distillery & Gristmill is ideal for receptions. Where else can you party like it’s 1799?
Dive into the destination’s arts and culture.
Find a city with lots of arts and culture and you’ll find ready-made activities for your group. In Alexandria you can book the Torpedo Factory Art Center, a former torpedo factory from World War II and current day working studio for local artists. Or, give your attendees an after-hours festival experience. One of the city’s most lauded festivals honors Alexandria’s heritage. In 1749, the City of Alexandria was officially established by three Scottish merchants and named after its original founder, John Alexander, also of Scottish descent. Plan your event the first weekend of December for a true taste of Scotland with the Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend.
Image credit: K. Summerer for Visit Alexandria
Feature local food and beverage.
Attendees love experiencing the local culinary scene, so be sure to incorporate off-site dining experiences or catering from local restaurants. One of the region’s hottest food cities, Alexandria has a wealth of distinctive offerings from dine arounds in Old Town to Mount Vernon by Water tours that end with a colonial-inspired meal at the inn. Combine a little history with your culinary and visit Portner Brewhouse where Catherine and Margaret Portner are honoring their great-great grandfather’s legacy 100 years later by brewing up historic family recipes from Alexandria’s Robert Portner Brewing Co., the largest pre-Prohibition brewery in the South. Or it’s easy to bring the local flavor to you, like Chesapeake Bay oysters catered from Vola’s Dockside Grill or award-winning craft beers from Port City Brewing Company with their Beer Guides on Demand program.
Give back and make it easy to feel good about attending.
When you incorporate a community project into your program, not only do your attendees get to meet and impact the people who live there, they also get to leave a little bit of their heart behind. Through the Alexandria Cares program it’s easy to arrange a rewarding and engaging custom-tailored project for your group. By decorating historic sites for the holidays or landscaping the grounds of recreation centers and museums along Alexandria’s Potomac River you can even have them experience local sites while they help the community.
Insider Tip: Get 15% off Alexandria’s top venues and attractions. Check out all the deals here.
Stay tuned for part two coming soon. We’ve got more ideas to help you plan a memorable, local flavor-filled event!
Header image of evening at George Washington’s Mount Vernon by CSI DMC