by Barbara Beckley | February 01, 2017

From dazzling Las Vegas—North America’s top destination for trade shows—to peaceful ranch-land destinations to the pristine moutainous surroundings of Lake Tahoe, the Silver State never fails to spark the interest of meeting-goers.

Whether their groups are big or small, association planners can count on record return on investment when they meet in Nevada.

Greater Las Vegas: Still Number One

While big, splashy trade shows have put Las Vegas on the map—the city has been North America’s top trade-show destination for 22 consecutive years, according to the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority—Las Vegas is also an excellent choice for small meetings.

“You don’t have to be a big show or event to use Las Vegas or the Las Vegas Convention Center,” said Moya Phelleps, senior vice-president of member services for the National Mining Association, who speaks from experience. Although her association’s big show, MINExpo International, held every four years in Vegas, attracts some 44,000 attendees, Phelleps also organizes a pre-show Exhibitor Briefing for just 200.

MINExpo, next scheduled for 2020, utilizes the 3.2 million-square-foot Las Vegas Convention Center (LVCC) and 24 hotels to welcome attendees. “The LVCC is one of few convention centers in the nation that can accommodate our very specific needs,” Phelleps said.

Convention center perks that appeal to groups include its location adjacent to the Strip and within three miles of more than 100,000 guest rooms and its newly installed Neutral-Host Distributed Antenna System (DAS), which is the equivalent of 14 cell towers and offers attendees the best in advanced wireless voice and data cellular service. “Today’s world is a wireless world, and to provide a first-rate customer experience, we have to have the infrastructure to ensure visitors have seamless coverage and service,” said Hugh Sinnock, vice-president of customer service at the Las Vegas Convention & Visitors Authority.

Other trade shows that make up the city’s nearly 22,000 annual meetings and conventions include the International Baking Industry Exposition, IMEX/America, the Specialty Equipment Market Association Show, the 2016 American College of Emergency Physicians’ Scientific Assembly, the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists’ Midyear Clinical Meeting, the 2016 American Association of Clinical Endocrinology Annual Meeting and the Irrigation Association’s 2016 Irrigation Show.

Additional venues offering significant event space include the 2.25 million-square-foot Sands Expo and the 2 million-square-foot Mandalay Bay Convention Center. The Cashman Center, the University of Nevada/Las Vegas and the adjacent Thomas & Mack Center, can also accommodate groups.

One of the newer projects in town is a 6-acre swath of landscaped green space between the New York-New York and Monte Carlo hotels called The Park, which features four eateries. The Park also serves as a gateway to two new event venues: the 5,200-seat Park Theater, which opened in December, and the 20,000-seat T-Mobile Arena, which opened in April and is home to the new NHL team, the Vegas Golden Knights. The arena offers a variety of event spaces including the two-acre Toshiba Plaza.

Meanwhile, the Monte Carlo is undergoing a $450 million transformation that will culminate in 2018 with two new hotels: the 2,700-room Park MGM and the 292-room NoMad/Las Vegas. Nearby, the Aria Resort & Casino is also undergoing a major project expected to wrap up in February 2018. It is adding 200,000 square feet of function space. The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas is rolling out 21 Boulevard Penthouses ranging from 2,000 to 5,000 square feet.

In celebration of its 50th anniversary last year, Caesars Palace opened its 587-room Julius Tower, the Montecristo Cigar Bar and Mr Chow restaurant and featured performers such as Mariah Carey, Reba McEntire and Brooks & Dunn. “With our portfolio of entertainment superstars and celebrity chefs, the recent room enhancements and new restaurant offerings, Caesars Palace is well poised for the next 50 years,” said Mark Frissora, president and CEO of Caesars Entertainment.

On the grounds of the SLS/Las Vegas, the new, 289-room W/Las Vegas offers a hotel-within-a-hotel experience. Amenities include the 2,382-square-foot Extreme WOW Suite and 15,000 square feet of new meeting space.

The Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino completed a $100 million remodel of more than 3,000 guest rooms last spring, while the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino completed a $13 million update of 575 guest rooms within its Casino Tower in December, with its 65 luxury suites to follow. At Harrah’s/Las Vegas, 600 guest rooms and 72 suites within the Valley Tower have been renovated, and check-in and check-out kiosks in the main lobby have been added.

For planners looking for dedicated conference space, the Conference Center of Las Vegas (formerly the IPEC Las Vegas) can host groups of up to 750. Features include a 10,000-square-foot ballroom and 49 on-site guest rooms.  

Unique venues and experiences are another mainstay of this creative city. The 1,400-square-foot Bordello is a new event space inside the Rí Rá Irish Pub at the Shoppes at Mandalay Place. It seats up to 64 people for dinner or can host up to 100 for receptions. Other fun choices include the High Roller at the Linq or Mandalay Bay’s Shark Reef Aquarium.

Icons of a bygone Vegas—vintage flashy neon signs—electrify events at the Neon Museum near downtown. Groups can gather amid the Neon Boneyard, the La Concha Visitors Center or the newer, 3,500-square-foot North Gallery.

For a quieter gathering, nearby Henderson is home to the Westin Lake Las Vegas Resort & Spa. Off-site options include the 13,800-square-foot Henderson Convention Center and adjacent Henderson Events Plaza & Amphitheatre, with 60,000 square feet of outdoor event space and a 500-seat amphitheater.

Southern Nevada’s Border Towns: Unexpected Treasures

Just 45 miles south of Las Vegas on the Nevada/California state line, the Primm Valley Casino Resorts in Primm brim with opportunity. The hotel trio includes the newly renovated Whiskey Pete’s Hotel & Casino, Buffalo Bill’s Resort & Casino and the Primm Valley Resort & Casino. And when sessions are over, there’s plenty to occupy attendees. Possibilities include the Spa at Primm, the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas and two Tom Fazio-designed championship golf courses.

Ninety miles southeast of Las Vegas, the Colorado River and its water activities add excitement to gatherings in Laughlin. Larger properties with meeting space are the Aquarius Casino Resort and the Edgewater Casino Hotel, while seven other resorts offer a combined 113,000 square feet of additional space. The Laughlin Event Center’s amphitheater can seat up to 21,000 people.

Attendees may be interested in new nonstop service on American Airlines between Phoenix Sky Harbor and Laughlin/Bullhead international airports, expected to begin in February.

In Boulder City, 25 miles southeast of Vegas, the renovated Hoover Dam Lodge features 4,300 square feet of meeting space. In downtown Boulder City, the Forge Social House can host events for groups of up to 148 people.

Heading northeast of Vegas, the city of Mesquite on the Arizona border is a golfer’s retreat but offers other ways to wow attendees including camel encounters at the new Camel Safari ranch, home to 20 resident camels. Also new is the Rising Star Sports Ranch Resort, which includes 7,000 square feet of function space, 210 guest rooms as well as various sports facilities.

Reno, Sparks & Carson City: The Sky’s the Limit

Big changes are underway in Reno, much to the delight of group leaders like Doug King, who recently orchestrated the Tesla Motors Club conference in town for the first time. The annual gathering attracts attendees from as far away as Russia, China and enthusiasts who drive in from across the United States.

“Reno is on an upswing. More people are visiting and moving in,” he said. And when it came to helping to plan the event, he praised the efforts of the Reno-Sparks Convention & Visitors Authority—“really proactive and helpful”—and the staff at the Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, which “went above and beyond to make us feel welcome.” The Atlantis delayed the opening of its own Tesla Supercharger stations by about a month to coincide with the group’s meeting, which attendees appreciated, King said.

While many attendees stayed in the Atlantis, all the Tesla meetings, seminars and vendor expo were held at the adjacent, 650,000-square-foot Reno-Sparks Convention Center (the two are connected by a long bridge). “The flexibility of the convention center space gives you lots of options,” he said. He also praised the center’s audiovisual team and was surprised and impressed by the abundance of Reno hotels with dedicated meeting space, some of which “would rival convention centers in other cities,” he said.

Other groups that have taken advantage of Reno’s meeting options recently include the National Federation of State High School Associations, the Information Builders and the Pacific States Division of the Improved Benevolent & Protective Order of Elks of the World.

Several downtown hotels have undergone changes or are scheduled to soon. The Siena Hotel Casino has been rebranded as the non-gaming Renaissance/Reno Downtown and features remodeled guest rooms and a new event venue called Bundox Bocce, which offers bocce and shuffleboard courts, skee ball, two projection walls, two private rooms and an additional space that can accommodate up to 1,500 people. Just across the Truckee River, the Courtyard/Reno Downtown Riverfront opened last summer with 135 guest rooms and meeting space for up to 80 people.

At the Grand Sierra Resort, the 2,700-seat Grand Theatre underwent a $10 million renovation in 2015. And $50 million will be poured into the connected Eldorado and Silver Legacy resort casinos and Circus Circus Reno for improvements over the next three years.

Unique off-site venues range from sports stadiums to cultural sites. The 9,000-seat Aces Ballpark is enjoying a million-dollar upgrade. Events can also be staged at the Nevada Museum of Art’s new 4,800-square-foot Nightingale Sky Room. Other notable options include the Reno Events Center, the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center and the National Bowling Stadium.

In neighboring Sparks, a $25 million remodel of the landmark Nugget Casino Resort is underway. Renovations to its 110,000-square-foot convention center and the West Tower guest rooms are expected to be complete in late June. Redevelopment is also continuing in Victorian Square in downtown Sparks.

In Carson City, the state capital 32 miles south of Reno, creative choices include the Capitol Building and the Brewery Arts Center building. Larger venue options include the Marv Teixeira Pavilion at Mills Park and the Carson City Fairgrounds/Fuji Park.

Lake Tahoe: Majestic Meetings

New developments are gracing the shores of Lake Tahoe, a favorite skiing paradise and summer vacation destination. But with resorts ratcheting up their event offerings, any month makes for magnificent meetings in this alpine area.

In Stateline, on the south shore, the Lodge at Edgewood Tahoe is set to open in June with 154 guest rooms and more than 8,000 square feet of convention space. Its 18-hole course golf course continues to be one of its main draws. And five miles east, the Ridge Tahoe resort has expanded its conference facilities to 3,700 square feet.

In South Lake Tahoe, a hair over the state border in California, improvements are happening at lightning speed. “For folks who haven’t been to the South Shore in a few years, it’s quite an eye-opener,” said Mike Frye of the Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

Among the newest of the $500 million-plus revitalization plans is the new Hotel Becket, the first ski and summer resort for Joie de Vivre Hotels. The property, a merger of what were formerly two adjacent hotels (the Park Tahoe Inn and 968 Park Tahoe), features 168 guest rooms, a restaurant, 1,700 square feet of indoor meeting space, additional outdoor space and breakout programs.

Adventurous attendees will want to tackle the new Epic Discovery summer program at Heavenly Mountain Resort. Among its 12 activities are an alpine coaster and a guided forest canopy tour with zip lines and aerial bridges.

Near the base of the resort, the newly renovated Coachman Hotel offers more than 2,000 square feet of meeting spaces including a 1,000-square-foot roof event deck. The Beach Retreat & Lodge can host events of up to 300 thanks to a new conference center. The Zalanta Resort at the Village is set to open this month with shops, restaurants and 30 condos. And the 16-room Seven Seas Inn is now a boutique bed and breakfast.

On the northeast shore of the lake, in Incline Village, the Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa & Casino offers 422 guest rooms and 50,000 square feet of meeting and event space that includes the only lakeside ballroom in Tahoe. Nearby, the community-owned Diamond Peak Ski Resort is celebrating its 50th anniversary.

Rural Nevada: Cowboy Know-how

Every January, Elko hosts nearly 10,000 visitors who descend on this rural enclave for the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering. The rest of the year, the town is equally welcoming—and adept at hosting groups.

Two new lodging options, the 100-room Ledgestone Hotel and the 80-room Hampton Inn/Elko, have upped the town’s room count to 2,700. Both offer small meeting spaces. Larger venues include the 29,000-square-foot Elko Conference Center and the 50,000-square-foot Elko Convention Center. Both are connected by a large outdoor plaza for events. A mile away, the Western Folklife Center has space for up to 300.

If the cowboy mood suits attendees, a retreat at a guest ranch might as well. Red’s Ranch near Lamoille offers accommodations for up to 20 people, event spaces and a saloon. Red’s is the Nevada Mining Association’s preferred destination for meetings and training programs.

Best Bets

Nevada has everything it takes to win over attendees. Whether it’s a big glitzy casino-hotel with built-in entertainment, a lakefront resort with mountain views or a historic folk venue best entered with cowboy boots, the Silver State delivers in every way.