Today's savvy planners increasingly are choosing unconventional event spaces -- with much of the impetus coming from popular demand. "Until recently, conferences have mostly centered around knowledge building and networking," says Juraj Holub, marketing manager at Sli.do, an attendee-interaction app. "But the paradigm is shifting. Attendees have a new objective in mind -- to gain a unique experience."
Julius Solaris of Event Manager Blog agrees. “Events are increasingly more about creating 'wow' factors," he says. "The same people in the same room won’t cut it. Unique venues stimulate curiosity and engagement. They challenge attendees to break traditions and evaluate the meeting on the basis of what they see, rather than on their expectations.”
Following are five off-the-beaten-track venues that will leave you asking, "Why didn't I think of that before?"
The Big Apple's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum transports guests back in time by placing them on the deck of a historic aircraft carrier. Docked at Pier 86 on the Hudson River in Manhattan's Hells Kitchen neighborhood since 1982, the ship served tours of duty in World War II and the Vietnam War, and was a recovery vessel for several space missions.
The floating venue features several areas capable of hosting events. The enclosed Hangar 3 spans 12,000 square feet and is ideal for breakouts, while the Flight Deck, running the length of three football fields, is the ship's grand outdoor space, able to accommodate up to 1,500 people, with the river and Manhattan skyline as backdrops.
The Intrepid has numerous displays for attendees to explore, including a space-shuttle pavilion, 28 restored aircraft and a submarine. Also on-site is an 18,000-square-foot education center and an interactive hall focused on life at sea and more.
Submit an RFP to the Intrepid Museum.
Once an industrial factory turning out tanks and automobiles (including the Ford Model A), the Craneway Pavilion in Richmond, Calif., is nestled on San Francisco Bay and now available for everything from corporate events to trade shows. Restored to its original open design, the venue offers 45,000 square feet of flexible space and an adjoining 20,000-square-foot open-air patio overlooking the bay and the East Bay Hills beyond.
Next door is the Assemble Restaurant, which works with the Craneway to cater events and has its own private seating for up to 150 people.
Submit an RFP to Craneway Pavilion.
In St. Augustine, Marineland bills itself as the world's first oceanarium and has been delighting visitors with up-close encounters with dolphins (along with sea turtles and sand tiger sharks) for some 80 years. More recently, the venue has become available to planners seeking an off-beat site for events.
After-hours, the attraction provides a 2,400-square-foot outdoor event tent that can accommodate full sit-down dinners for up to 125 people. Groups of 25 or more at a time can gather alongside the 1.3 million-gallon marine habitat to watch the sleekly beautiful and smart dolphins do their thing.
Once the business agenda is complete, groups of up to 10 at a time can opt to book a session of swimming alongside the gentle giants in either shallow or deeper waters. Social media memories are made of this!
Submit an event inquiry to Marineland Dolphin Adventure.
Hip breweries are no longer just for craft connoisseurs and trivia champs. Today's trendy distilleries come equipped with meeting space with all the tech, catering and, of course, drink options a group could want.
Take the Modist Brewing Co. in Minneapolis, for example. Its semiprivate lounge has standing room for 15 and seating for up to 30, while the 3,000-square-foot taproom can seat up to 130 and has a full roster of A/V capabilities. Connected to the taproom is a warehouse space with additional seating for 125, and there's an adjacent outdoor patio. Of course, when the meeting is done, attendees can enjoy brewery tours, tastings and more.
Contact Modist Brewing Co. to host an event.
5. TopGolf (Various Sites)
With 63 locations globally, including Houston, Las Vegas and New York City, this chain of golf attractions makes it easy to combine business with the pleasure of swinging a club. TopGolf outlets can accommodate as many as 1,500 attendees in flexible private and semiprivate event spaces adjacent to high-tech driving ranges where players score points by hitting microchipped golf balls into targets.
In D.C.'s National Harbor TopGolf, groups of up to 250 can gather in the 3,000-square-foot Signature Room, complete with WiFi, A/V capabilities and private F&B services. Other spaces here include a rooftop terrace for up to 178 people, a lower level lounge for 80 and a conference room that seats 12.
Send an event inquiry to your destination's nearest TopGolf location.