While Massachusetts debates legalizing casino gambling, the owners of Suffolk Downs, a historic racing park in East Boston, have proposed building a resort complex that would offer a variety of gaming options. The $600 million plan includes construction of a luxury hotel with a spa, plus new restaurants and nightclubs. (617) 567-3900; suffolkdowns.com
Local Update: The 27-member Convention Partnership, established by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and other political leaders, is examining ways to expand the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center and the possibility of building a 1,000-room hotel next door. The group is more than halfway through a yearlong dialogue, called the Top 5 Initiative, examining the benefits, drawbacks, financing and planning of the project. For updates, visit t5boston.com.
A $15 million renovation has been completed at the 470-room Hyatt Regency Cambridge Overlooking Boston. All guest rooms were redone and the atrium lobby was modernized. The hotel's restaurant, Zephyr on the Charles, also was revamped. The property offers 25,000 square feet of meeting space, including the 2,900-square-foot Charles View Ballroom on the 16th floor.
The 235-room W Boston opened last October on Stuart Street in the city's downtown theater district, but the developer declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy in April. Still, the hotel, which has 4,100 square feet of meeting space and a Bliss Spa, is operating normally. The property's underground bar, Descent, will open by the end of the year.
The Bayside Exposition Center, near the UMass Boston campus in Dorchester, has been purchased by the school and is closed. Plans call for new academic buildings to be built on the site.
The elegant 30-room Hotel Veritas opened in May in Cambridge. Small groups can arrange to meet at the nearby Harvard Faculty Club.
Additions to Boston's restaurant scene include Towne Stove and Spirits, which opened last month and offers fine dining and three bars on Boylston Street. April welcomed Basho, a Japanese restaurant serving dishes that feature Western techniques and ingredients (fois gras sushi, anyone?), and the Russell House Tavern, a New American establishment with a private dining room that seats 40 people. The Liberty Wharf development on the city's new HarborWalk will open four restaurants later this year, among them Jerry Remy's Sports Bar & Grill.
An $11 million improvement project at CruisePort Boston is nearing completion, and the facility should be ready to welcome Boston-to-Bermuda tours on the 2,224-passenger Norwegian Dawn, beginning May 6, 2011.
Meeting Hotels: Boston's three largest properties are the 1,216-room Sheraton Boston Hotel, 1,147-room Boston Marriott Copley Place and 941-room Boston Park Plaza Hotel & Towers. For a more extensive list of the city's hotels, visit mcmag.com/meeting-facilities.
Convention Centers: Boston Convention & Exhibition Center; exhibit space, approximately 516,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 84; (617) 954-2000; massconvention.com
John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center; exhibit space, 174,980 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 35; (617) 954-2000; massconvention.com
Airport Transit: Logan International Airport, approximately three miles from downtown Boston and one mile from the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. Transfer cost by taxi, $20 to $35; by Silver Line rapid transit bus, $2
Taxes: Room tax, 14.45%; sales tax, 6.25%, total tax on hotel rooms, 14.45%
Group Venues: When your group needs -- or deserves -- a little getaway, set sail with Carol Kent Yacht Charters. One popular trip, the "Club Med Day," is perfect for 15 to 40 passengers. The outing starts with brunch onboard; after a short sail, guests get to spend time on a local beach playing bocce, volleyball or relaxing, then embark for another fun meal. Also offered are harbor tours, Boston Harbor island excursions and island scavenger hunts. The company charters a number of vessels, including an 80-foot motor yacht that accommodates up to 65 passengers and a 65-foot sailboat that holds up to 12. (781) 631-1800; carolkent.com
New event space has been added to the 148-room Hotel Commonwealth. The elegant Gallery offers views of Kenmore Square and approximately 1,700 square feet of space broken into four areas. Receptions for groups of up to 50 people are catered by Eastern Standard Kitchen & Drinks. (617) 933-5000; hotelcommonwealth.com
It's no hardship to steep a group in history when visiting Boston; go all-out by hosting an event at the Commonwealth Museum, a waterfront facility that celebrates myriad aspects of its home state. On permanent display is "Our Common Wealth: the Massachusetts Experiment in Democracy," featuring priceless original copies of the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights, the "John Adams" Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 and several royal charters. Also on exhibit is the copper plate that was used by Paul Revere to engrave his famous image of the Boston Massacre. The 2,400-square-foot Patriot room holds up to 300 for a reception and seats 160 for a dinner; for outdoor events, the museum grounds welcome 1,050 for a reception and 350 for a seated banquet. (617) 727-9268; www.sec.state.ma.us/mus/museum/index.htm
Sports Venues: Yes, you can host events at Fenway Park, one of the last great vintage baseball stadiums. For groups of 20 to 5,000, event spaces include the EMC Club, the Green Monster, the Budweiser Right Field Roof, the First Base Deck and more. (617) 226-6791; boston.redsox.mlb.com
The Boston Celtics play basketball and the Boston Bruins play hockey at the TD Garden, the city's 19,580-seat arena. In 2006, the Premium Club's AT&T SportsDeck and the Heineken Boardroom were added, as well as a bar on the level-four concourse called The Hub. Organizations can host from 50 to 50,000 people at the facility; groups can even hold a skating event on the arena ice. (617) 624-1638; tdbanknorthgarden.com
CVB Services: Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, (617) 867-8288 or (888) 733-2678; bostonusa.com