America’s maritime culture is best celebrated in the Mid-Atlantic, once famous for its ports and shipping and trade industry, and now known for its culinary prowess and cultural exhibits. Couple the area’s sweeping harbor views with the Mid-South’s rich history and you’ll find a region that’s rife with opportunities for meeting planners.
The vibrant seaport of Alexandria, home of the nation’s third-oldest national historic district, five miles south of Washington, D.C., is a meeting planner’s dream: easily accessible, affordable and accommodating. “Our team knows the city backwards and forwards, and we pride ourselves on only sending requests to the appropriate vendors,” says Lorraine Lloyd, vice president of sales for the Alexandria Convention and Visitors Association. Lloyd recently conducted a focus group with meeting planners regarding services and collateral to develop programs to satisfy their needs. “When a planner comes through us, we give them, for no fee, a destination toolkit, a plan to build attendance and other value-added services to help them make a really impressionable experience.”
Although Alexandria is best for mid-size groups, there are diverse hotel and venue options alongside unique off-property activities. While there’s no convention center, the Hilton Alexandria Mark Center is convention-certified and offers 55,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including 17 meeting rooms and outdoor event space. Similarly, the Westin can accommodate up to 700 guests with 20,000 square feet of meeting space and the largest ballroom in Old Town. Three boutique hotels, all Kimpton properties, anchor Old Town with outstanding service and flexible event space. “The city is walkable, quaint and safe, sophisticated, yet with that historic ambiance; where else can you walk down the same cobblestone streets as George Washington?” remarks Lloyd. No need to rent a car: There are four stops on the Metro system, plus the free King Street Trolley that offers accessibility to all of Old Town. There’s also the extremely popular Alexandria-National Harbor Water Taxi, which is available for charter for those seeking unique reception options. The Torpedo Factory Art Center makes for an ideal off-site venue on the waterfront with open spaces surrounded by studios and artwork, says Lloyd. Also of note, the 100-year-old, recently renovated Old Town Theater, which seats 220 in a plush theater and accommodates up to 120 in the balcony.