12 Convention Centers of Excellence

These facilities have been honored with 2019 Stella Awards from Northstar Meetings Group. Find out why they are such a hit with meeting planners.

Events shine at Colorado’s Gaylord Rockies Resort.
Events shine at Colorado’s Gaylord Rockies Resort.

With more than 250 convention centers available in the U.S., there is no shortage of options for event planners looking to host larger gatherings. To help discern the best among them, Northstar Meetings Group, the parent of M&C, has honored the following 12 facilities with 2019 Stella Awards, which celebrate convention centers, hotels, conference centers, airlines, cruise lines, convention and visitor bureaus, and destination management companies. The awards are determined by votes from our community of experienced meeting planners. Explore all 278 winners and finalists here.


GOLD: Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, Md. 

Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center stands on the shores of the Potomac River in National Harbor, Md., just minutes over water from Washington, D.C. The 1,996-room property features 94 event rooms and more than 545,000 square feet of total meeting space. The resort can accommodate events for up to 10,000 people, and the signature 50,000-square-foot Potomac Ballroom offers a 4,300-square-foot theatrical stage. Plenty of shopping and dining awaits in the surrounding neighborhood, and attendees can hop on the Capital Wheel, a Ferris wheel offering views over the river to D.C. and beyond.

SILVER: Albany Capital Center, Albany, N.Y.

Downtown in the seat of New York's state government, Stella voters chose the Albany Capital Center for its walkability to restaurants, galleries and museums. The facility holds up to 5,000 people, and features a 22,500-square-foot ballroom that can be used for exhibits, and has six meeting rooms and 13,500 square feet of prefunction space. The center is connected to the larger Empire State Plaza Convention Center, which hosts groups of up to 10,000; the Egg Performing Arts Center, which seats 980 and 450 in its two theaters; and the 15,500-seat Times Union Center arena.


GOLD: Ocean Center Convention Center, Daytona Beach, Fla.

The name hints at this venue's special draw, as the Ocean Center Convention Center in Daytona Beach, Fla., is just steps from the destination's sandy beaches and the Atlantic Ocean. The facility features 93,000 square feet of exhibit space, a 9,300-seat arena, 32 breakout rooms, a 14,000-square-foot ballroom and an array of pre-event areas. An executive board room and a VIP suite round out the offerings.

SILVER: Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, Nashville 

The first in the portfolio of venerable Gaylord properties, the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, opened in 1977, really put Nashville on the map as a meetings city. The 2,881- room property's meeting space totals more than 750,000 square feet, including the 263,772 contiguous square feet of the Ryman Exhibit Hall. The largest of the Gaylord's six ballrooms is the Delta, at 55,314 square feet, and there are 86 event rooms and 106 breakout rooms.

BRONZE: Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center, Kissimmee, Fla.  

Organizations love hosting events at the 1,416-room Gaylord Palms Resort & Convention Center in Kissimmee, Fla., because it offers more than 400,000 square feet of event space wrapped up with guest rooms and a plethora of dining and shopping options. Attendees love it for its proximity to Walt Disney World and the Universal Orlando Resort for post-meeting fun. The largest space at the Gaylord Palms fits up to 10,000 people, and there are 72 event rooms, as well as 76 breakout rooms.


columbus smart farm
Chefs cut herbs and more from the Columbus facility’s hydroponic indoor garden.

GOLD: Greater Columbus Convention Center, Ohio  

Going green is a focus of the Greater Columbus Convention Center. The 1.8 million-square-foot facility completed a $140 million expansion and renovation in the summer of 2017, which earned it LEED Silver certification. Water conservation, energy efficiency and more contribute to its sustainability. The center, which is surrounded by an artsy and fun shopping-and-dining district, features 447,000 square feet of exhibit space, 114,000 square feet in three ballrooms and 75 breakout rooms. Adorning its walls is a large collection of contemporary central Ohio art.

TCF detroit
Detroit’s TCF Center now sports a green roof.

SILVER: TCF Center, Detroit  

One of the hallmarks of Detroit's TCF Center, which opened in 1960, is its green roof, which was added during the $279 million upgrade that was completed in 2016. Low-flow restroom fixtures, and energy-efficient kitchen equipment, heating and air-conditioning systems also were added at the time to boost the facility's sustainability efforts. The convention center offers 723,000 square feet of exhibit space, more than 100 meeting rooms and the 40,000-square-foot Grand Riverview Ballroom.


GOLD: Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center, Grapevine, Texas  

The 1,511-room Gaylord Texan Resort & Convention Center sits on the shores of Lake Grapevine with 4.5 acres of indoor gardens, 10 restaurant and the 10-acre Paradise Springs water park. Meetings are its bread and butter, with 87 event rooms and more than 490,000 square feet of meeting space available for groups. The property also offers group options from its Relâche Spa.

SILVER: Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center, Aurora, Colo. 

New to the Gaylord brand of convention resorts is Colorado's Gaylord Rockies Resort & Convention Center on the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains and minutes from Denver International Airport. The expansive property welcomes groups with the 34,500-square-foot Adams Ballroom, 114,648-square-foot Aurora Exhibition Hall, and a total of 69 event rooms and 78 breakout rooms. A series of specialty pools also dot the grounds, including an indoor lap pool, outdoor waterslides, and a lazy river, which will reopen May 1.

Far West

long beach cc
The Long Beach, Calif., complex satisfies groups indoors and out.

GOLD: Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, Long Beach, Calif.  

Southern California's Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center is an urban waterfront destination right on the Pacific Ocean. The facility, which has undergone a $60 million renovation, offers more than 400,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space, two theaters, four ballrooms, a 13,500-seat arena and 34 multipurpose breakout rooms. Special events can be held in the glass-domed Promenade Atrium, which offers views of the waterfront and the downtown skyline, or outdoors on the Promenade Plaza and Terrace Lobby.

SILVER: Hawaii Convention Center, Honolulu 

The Hawaii Convention Center has won three consecutive Stella Awards in the Far West category. The 1.1-million- square-foot facility, certified LEED Gold, features the 200,000-square-foot Kamehameha Exhibit Hall, as well as 47 meeting rooms, a 2.5-acre rooftop events garden, two theaters and a 35,000-square-foot registration lobby. A series of outdoor plazas are perfect for events touched by island breezes. The center's extensive recycling guide helps planners green their events.

BRONZE: Oregon Convention Center, Portland 

The Oregon Convention Center is one of only two LEED Platinum-certified facilities in the country. Some notable sustainability features are its rain garden, the 6,500 solar panels on the roof and an on-staff sustainability manager who helps planners with their green initiatives. The facility, which completed a $40 million renovation this past November, offers 255,000 square feet of exhibit space, two grand ballrooms and 52 breakout rooms. The 600-room Hyatt Regency Portland debuted next door in December.