by Linda Hayes | January 01, 2016

Just the mention of the great state of New York is enough to get the attention of attendees. The state offers stellar accommodations, meeting venues and attractions, not to mention a variety of price points and hospitality professionals that demonstrate confidence and capability.

With such a solid meetings infrastructure in place, groups can get right to the business at hand and still have time to enjoy the sights.

New York City: Where You Want To Be

It's hard choosing just where to host an event in the Big Apple, given all the appealing options. Each of New York's five boroughs offers outstanding venues, historic buildings, singular sights and unique neighborhoods and entertainment, providing planners with countless ideas for incomparable agendas. Add more than 1 million square feet of event space and 102,000 hotel rooms (with another 60 hotels in the construction pipeline) and it's easy to see why the city appeals to so many groups. "New York City is one of the most attractive meetings destinations in the world, with 6 million delegates visiting the five boroughs each year," said Jerry Cito, NYC & Company's senior vice-president of convention development. "From a diverse array of hotel offerings to one-of-a-kind venues to unique group experiences, there is no shortage of only-in-NYC meetings experiences to be had."

In Manhattan, the silver LEED-certified Jacob K. Javits Center hosts many of the world's top 250 trade shows. This month it will welcome back the National Retail Federation's annual Big Show, its convention and expo; last year's event was attended by a record 35,000 people. Features of the Javits Center include 814,000 square feet of exhibit space, including a column-free exhibit hall with 110,000 square feet of space; kitchens that can prepare simultaneous meals for up to 10,000 attendees; and new, free wireless service throughout the facility (up to 70,000 users at once).

A few months ago, New York City opened its first new subway station in more than 25 years: 34th Street/Hudson Yards (at 11th Avenue) on the 7 Line, convenient to the Javits Center, Penn Station and the northern end of the High Line elevated park. The ongoing, 28-acre Hudson Yards development continues to improve the area, with plans for commercial and residential space, a 200-room luxury hotel and 14 acres of green space, including the newly opened Hudson Park & Boulevard and, to open in 2018, the 4.5-acre Public Square.

Beyond the Javits Center, many of the city's attractions are proven event sites, including the thoroughly modernized Madison Square Garden, which features a 19,500-seat arena, the 10,000-square-foot Delta Sky360 Club, a 5,500-seat theater, an 8,000-square-foot lobby and an executive bar space, all of which are available to groups. Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts, home of the New York Philharmonic, can host events as large as 4,500 in various spaces, including the recently renamed David Geffen Hall (formerly Avery Fisher Hall). Radio City Music Hall can entertain groups of up to 6,000. The Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) features special-event space for up to 1,500, or special functions of up to 450 can be held at the new Whitney Museum building in the Meatpacking District. Carnegie Hall has three dedicated spaces. The Empire State Building's 80th and 58th floors can be used for events of up to 175 and 275, respectively, while in Grand Central Terminal, private gatherings are often held within the 12,000-square-foot Vanderbilt Hall. At Rockefeller Center, the iconic Rainbow Room reopened in late 2014 after a renovation and can host up to 300, while its 620 Loft & Garden has indoor-outdoor space for up to 165.

On the West Side, along the Hudson River, the Chelsea Piers Sports & Entertainment Complex can be used for meetings of up to 2,000 and offers active team-building events for up to 250 that range from dodgeball to rock climbing to sailing outings.

On the East River, within the Alexandria Center for Life Science, an event venue called Apella offers 10 high-tech, eco-friendly rooms, the largest of which can accommodate up to 300 people. Laser-illumination projectors were recently installed, enabling detailed projection onto three 188-inch screens.

Lower Manhattan offers a wealth of options. The National September 11 Memorial & Museum is a must for many (admission requires a reservation), and adjacent is One World Trade Center, with an observatory on the 100th floor, a café, fine-dining options and more than 9,000 square feet of event space. A mile south, the year-old Pier A Harbor House has indoor space for up to 550 and an outdoor promenade boasting views of the Statue of Liberty.

On Ellis Island, the renamed Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration opened the new Peopling of America Center galleries on May 20. Both Ellis and Liberty islands can accommodate private events of up to 1,200.

When it comes to choosing a hotel, the incredible number of options means there's a perfect fit for every group. East Midtown has seen a number of new openings including the Marmara/Park Avenue, which opened last summer two blocks from the Empire State Building with 128 guest rooms and meeting space for up to 120 people, and the Renwick, located in a historic building closer to Grand Central Terminal, with 173 guest rooms and a private dining space. And the SBC Hotel Group plans to open the Redbury Hotel this summer in what was formerly the Martha Washington Hotel, not far from Madison Square Park.

The Langham Place/New York-Fifth Avenue recently introduced The Gallery, a 7,600-square-foot space that is broken into three meeting areas. The addition is part of a $6 million renovation of the entire third floor, which doubled the property's event space. A mile north, the Lotte New York Palace's iconic, Renaissance-style Villard Mansion has been transformed into an event venue with five spaces, the largest of which can host up to 200. And the Westin/New York at Times Square recently unveiled a comprehensive $33 million renovation, which updated all 873 guest rooms and its 34,000 square feet of meeting space. Across from the United Nations, ONE UN New York has begun renovating its East Tower, which will remain closed until its completion, scheduled for this spring. And in TriBeCa, Smyth, a Thompson Hotel, has newly refreshed guest rooms, suites (four of which can be used for small meetings) and public spaces, part of a multimillion-dollar enhancement project. Also new is a private dining space within the hotel's restaurant, Little Park. It features a 10-seat mahogany bar, a stone fireplace and seating for up to 60.

Moving along to the boroughs, a new 34-room hotel in Brooklyn called the Brooklyn A Hotel opened last summer between Crown Heights and Bedford-Stuyvesant, with a 100-person event space. A restaurant and rooftop bar are planned for early 2016. In Williamsburg, the 183-room William Vale Hotel is in the works, with plans to open this spring with meeting space for up to 250 people, a rooftop garden space and a restaurant and bar. Brooklyn's largest hotel, New York Marriott at the Brooklyn Bridge, recently completed the second phase of a $45 million transformation project with the redesign of its 44,000 square feet of meeting space, which includes an 18,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom. The third phase of the project will renovate guest rooms and is expected to be complete later this year.

Unique meeting venues in Brooklyn include Barclays Center, whose Cushman & Wakefield Theater can seat up to 7,700; the Brooklyn Museum, which can host up to 880 people; and the adjacent, 52-acre Brooklyn Botanic Garden, with an atrium for up to 130 and glass-walled Palm House for up to 275. Groups will also have a great time at the expanding Brooklyn Bridge Park, famous for its views of Manhattan and home to the restored Jane's Carousel, a bike-rental station, public art and, this spring, a climbing wall that can be used for team-building activities.

Many attendees fly into the airports in Queens, where a major attraction is the U.S. Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center, which is undergoing a $550 million, three-phase transformation, expected to produce two new stadiums and add a retractable roof to Arthur Ashe Stadium by 2017.

On Staten Island, construction has begun on the 60-story-tall New York Wheel, which will be the tallest observatory wheel in the country when it opens in 2017. The local, 83-acre Snug Harbor Cultural Center & Botanical Garden is one of the island's largest event venues, with more than a half-dozen spaces.

Greater Albany: Capital Experiences

The capital of Albany in upstate New York attracts groups in more ways than one-the most obvious being its lobbying power. The city is pleasantly set along the banks of the Hudson River, draws top entertainment and sports events and has a shopping scene that ranges from antiques to outlet stores.

The face of downtown Albany is changing with the development of the Albany Capital Center, expected to open in early 2017 with space for up to 5,000 people and a walkway connecting it to the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, which will also undergo a renovation. It currently offers space for up to 10,000. The nearby Times Union Center will benefit from a $15.7 million renovation over the next year or so. Plans include an enclosed atrium at its main entrance, which will add 2,800 square feet of new meeting space. The center can be configured to seat upwards of 17,000. And a few blocks away is the Washington Avenue Armory, which can accommodate trade shows and conventions of up to 4,300 people.

Cultural options include the Albany Museum of Art and the Albany Institute of History & Art, the New York State Museum and the Egg Performing Arts Center, all with a variety of spaces. The year-old Events at 677, located within a popular steakhouse, has three rooms for meetings. The Palace Theatre seats up to 2,844, the State Room has meeting and banquet space for up to 400, and at Corning Tower, the 42nd-floor observation deck can be used for events of up to 200.

In hotel news, the Renaissance/Albany opened in October in what was formerly the historic DeWitt Clinton Hotel. Also new is the Home2 Suites by Hilton/Albany Airport-Wolf Road. Flag changes include the Fairfield Inn & Suites/Albany Downtown (formerly 74 State), the Radisson/Albany (formerly Holiday Inn/Wolf Road) and the Hampton Inn/Western Avenue-University Area (formerly a Holiday Inn Express).

The New York State National Alliance on Mental Illness held its 2015 Education Conference in Albany in November, the biggest and most inclusive educational event in the group's history, according to organizers.

Northwest of the capital, Schenectady boasts more than 75,000 square feet of meeting space, 800 guest rooms and 100 restaurants, many located in its historic downtown. The new, 120-room DoubleTree by Hilton/Schenectady offers event space for up to 200 and is within walking distance of the Museum of Innovation & Science, which can host up to 300.

Farther north, in Saratoga Springs, the new Embassy Suites Hotel is the first in the state to feature the brand's latest design concept, featuring natural light-filled guest rooms and an open-air atrium. The 149-room hotel features a Grand Ballroom for up to 440. Popular event sites include the Saratoga Race Course, the National Museum of Racing & Hall of Fame and The Lodge, the home and estate of a wealthy horse owner now run by the Saratoga Casino & Raceway.

Rochester, Niagara Falls & Buffalo: Ready and Able

A thriving city with year-round appeal, Rochester draws groups with its affordability, fine venues and dedicated hospitality experts. Those were just some of the reasons David A. Gay, coordinator of the National Atmospheric Deposition Program, chose Rochester for a recent meeting of 500 attendees. He also liked the proximity of the airport to downtown and the bus system, which easily moved people around the city.

The Rochester Riverside Convention Center has been renamed the Joseph A. Floreano Rochester Riverside Convention Center after its late executive director of 30 years. The center's 100,000 square feet of space is attached via skywalk to a renovated Hyatt Regency. Just across the Genesee River, the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial can seat upwards of 11,000, and Seneca Park Zoo, north of downtown, has event space for up to 225. The Eastman and the Strong museums can host up to 500 and 250, respectively, or groups can experience a taste of the farm-brewery movement at the new Swiftwater Brewing Company.

In the newly developed College Town complex on the eastern side of the University of Rochester Medical Center campus, a new, 136-room Hilton Garden Inn recently opened. Also new is the 106-room Hilton Garden Inn/Rochester Downtown, which is within walking distance of the convention center and has its own meeting space for up to 180 people. At the Strathallan, a DoubleTree by Hilton, a new rooftop bar can seat up to 40 people.

And several area hotels have changed names. The Best Western Inn at Rochester Airport was formerly a Comfort Inn and the Holiday Inn Express/Rochester-Brighton was formerly the La Quinta Inn & Suites/Rochester South. In Brockport, Dollinger's Inn & Suites used to be a Holiday Inn Express, and in Pittsford, the Hilton Garden Inn/Rochester-Pittsford was formerly the Brookwood.

In Niagara USA, home to the eponymous natural landmark, a bounty of historical sites, adventurous jet-boat rides, an award-winning wine trail and more than 1,000 hotel rooms are available. Most guest rooms are within a two-block radius of the Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls. Featuring 116,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, the center is ideally located on Old Falls Street USA, an entertainment district that leads to the Niagara Falls State Park. Groups that have held meetings at the center recently include the New York State Association of Municipal Purchasing Officials, the New York State Magistrates Association and the Buffalo Claims Association.

On the shores of Lake Erie, just 20 miles from Niagara Falls, is Buffalo. In recent years, more than $1 billion in new investments has transformed the city, giving it a slate of new and renovated meeting facilities, hotels and restaurants. Planners will find everything they need for their meetings at a pair of key venues: the 110,000-square-foot Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, with its recently renovated, 64,000-square-foot exhibit hall, and the adjacent Hyatt Regency/Buffalo, which has benefited from $18 million worth of improvements over the last three years and offers more than 23,000 square feet of event space.

One of the newest attractions downtown is the $170 million HarborCenter, a multiuse complex that features two hockey rinks, a 13,000-square-foot, two-story sports bar with 360 seats and a 38-foot television screen, and a Marriott Hotel with event space for up to 265.

In the suburb of Orchard Park, southeast of downtown, the 73,079-seat Ralph Wilson Stadium completed a $130 million renovation in the fall of 2014, which added a new fan lounge, three new scoreboards and an 80-foot-long sports bar, among other amenities.

One State Fits All

A group's size is of little concern in New York, a state that goes above and beyond when it comes to accommodating anything from executive gatherings to major trade shows. From the thrills of Manhattan to the exhilaration of Niagara Falls, there are thousands of ways to inspire and excite attendees.