New York

Greater Gatherings

The great state of New York has long been recognized for welcoming visitors—and association meeting-goers are no exception. No matter the group’s size, industry or specific needs, there is sure to be a destination capable of providing a seamless, customized experience.

It’s that diverse—and not just in New York City. Throughout the state, hospitality professionals are eager to share the best of their destination and help planners create a great gathering.

New York City: A Million Ways to Welcome

The five boroughs of New York City may be individual in character, but all have one thing in common: they’re proud of being part of one of the greatest cities in the world. In typical fashion, New Yorkers are generous about sharing information with visitors, often before they arrive, and as a result, attendees come not only prepared but excited.

Last fall, NYC & Company, the city’s official marketing, tourism and partnership organization, launched the global campaign “Welcome To New York” with a catchy song written by Taylor Swift, and at JFK International Airport, 37 panels of illustrations have been installed to highlight the key attributes and experiences of all five boroughs.

“Visiting delegates expect an ‘only-in-NYC’ experience, and the five boroughs do not disappoint,” said Jerry Cito, senior vice-president of convention development at NYC & Company. “From museums to sports stadiums and everything in between, New York City caters to groups of all sizes, interests and needs with unique experiences.”

He said that as a result of all its variety, the city’s meetings and conventions industry is “thriving, with increases in MICE visitation year over year.” In 2014, New York City welcomed an estimated 6.1 million meeting and convention delegates, up from 5.9 million delegates in 2013. Last November, the Greater New York Dental Meeting—the largest dental congress in the United States—was held at the Jacob K. Javits Center in Manhattan and drew more than 54,000 attendees and 600 exhibitors for a week’s worth of events. In late 2013, the silver LEED–certified convention center completed a $465 million renovation, which introduced the 110,000-square-foot Javits North exhibit hall and enhanced the entire facility with many eco-friendly features including the largest green roof in the Northeast. And getting there is going to be simpler beginning in February with the anticipated opening of the extended No. 7 subway line, which will stop at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, directly opposite the center.

Three blocks away is Madison Square Garden, whose $1 billion, three-year, top-to-bottom improvement project was also completed in late 2013. In addition to its 19,500-seat arena, groups can utilize the 10,000-square-foot Delta Sky360 Club, a 5,500-seat theater and its 8,000-square-foot lobby, and an executive bar space for up to 35.

On Central Park West, the landmark Tavern on the Green restaurant reopened last spring following a two-year refurbishment and is now available to host group functions of up to 1,000. Many more of the city’s attractions prove to be sought-after event sites, including Radio City Music Hall, which can entertain groups of up to 6,000; the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA), with special-event space for up to 1,500; and Carnegie Hall, which has three dedicated spaces, the largest of which is its 2,804-seat Stern Auditorium. Lincoln Center, home to the city’s major artistic institutions, can host events as large as 4,500 in various 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 Station, private gatherings are often held within the 12,000-square-foot Vanderbilt Hall.

There are three notable event spaces at the Rockefeller Center: the Weather Room on the 67th floor, which can host up to 300 people; the 620 Loft & Garden, with indoor-outdoor space for up to 165; and the iconic Rainbow Room on the 65th floor, which recently reopened after a renovation and can host up to 300 people. The Rainbow Room’s famed crystal chandelier and revolving dance floor have been preserved while wider windows and a new season cocktail lounge are promising additions.

Off-site, a three-story, 4,200-square-foot event space just south of Bryant Park is a dedicated meeting site, as are four properties of the event-venue company Convene, the largest of which is its 25,000-square-foot venue in Midtown East, with space for up to 400 people.

Chelsea Piers, which was revamped after Superstorm Sandy, welcomes group events for up to 2,000 attendees. Down in the West Village, Industria Superstudio can host up to 400 people. Not far away is the High Line, a mile-long elevated public park on the West Side; its third and final section, the High Line at the Rail Yards opened in September. And over on the East River, an event venue called Apella within the Alexandria Center for Life Science features 10 high-tech, eco-friendly rooms that can accommodate up to 300 people. Groups can also hold events at the four-acre FDR Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island amid the East River.

Downtown offerings include the National September 11 Memorial & Museum and the three-story Pier A Harbor House, which opened late last year in a landmark building with dining and bar space, a public promenade and a third floor called The Loft dedicated to events for groups of up to 100. Meanwhile, the One World Observatory is scheduled to open this spring within One World Trade Center. Plans include private-event space for up to 450.

Several Manhattan properties with small meeting spaces opened last year: the 122-room Hyatt/Herald Square in Midtown, the 33-room William Hotel near Bryant Park, the 230-room citizenM near Times Square and the 401-room Hilton Garden Inn/Central Park South–Midtown West.

Still other established meeting hotels have been updated. The rebranded Wyndham New Yorker has kicked off a multimillion-dollar renovation. The New York Hilton Midtown has renovated its 24,700-square-foot ballroom and is now turning its efforts to the guest rooms, a project that is expected to continue through the year. The Warwick New York Hotel has completed guest-room renovations and has added five new Signature Suites, the Gramercy Park Hotel has unveiled two new event spaces and the Ritz-Carlton/New York–Battery Park has a new seasonal outdoor event plaza for up to 300 people.

In Brooklyn, the main arena of Barclays Center can accommodate up to 19,000 people, and its Cushman & Wakefield Theater can be configured to seat up to 7,700. The Brooklyn Museum can host events of up to 880 people, and the adjacent, 52-acre Brooklyn Botanic Garden has more than a half-dozen spaces that can be used for meetings, three of which can accommodate up to 1,000 guests. Brooklyn Bridge Park, famous for its views of Manhattan, is home to Jane’s Carousel, a restored, historic merry-go-round set within a spectacular pavilion that welcomes private events.

Queens has taken off with a number of new and improved event venues. Its best-known attraction is the U.S. Tennis Association Billie Jean King National Tennis Center in Flushing, site of the annual U.S. Open. Last fall, the center began a $550 million, three-phase transformation project. Nearby, 41,800-seat Citi Field, home to Major League Baseball’s Mets, can also be used for private functions. Neither of these venues is far from the new, 96-room Parc Hotel. In September, a dual-hotel development featuring the 178-room Four Points by Sheraton/Flushing and the 118-room Element/Flushing is expected to open near LaGuardia Airport. Closer to JFK International Airport is the new, 330-room Crowne Plaza/JFK Airport in Jamaica, which offers 10 meeting rooms.

In Long Island City, the newly expanded SculptureCenter now features 8,200 square feet of event space including an enclosed, 1,500-square-foot courtyard. Also in this area are the LaGuardia Performing Arts Center, with two theaters, and the new, 123-room Paper Factory Hotel, which offers more than 17,000 square feet of meeting space. Other notable local spaces include the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria, with space for up to 323 attendees, and the Queens County Farm Museum in Glen Oaks, with space for up to 1,000.

In the Bronx, 50,000-seat Yankee Stadium offers 18 special group venues and a 31,000-square-foot Great Hall. Other popular borough attractions are the 250-acre New York Botanical Garden, a National Historic Landmark that has year-round indoor space for up to 500 and tented outdoor space for up to 1,000, and Wave Hill, a public garden and café along the Hudson River whose historic house is available for events of up to 175. And, on Staten Island, the Hilton Garden Inn recently added a new tower, adding both guest rooms and meeting space.

hudson valley: Smart Moves

Offering historic and scenic attractions, Westchester County has many advantages. Planners will also appreciate the easy commute between its destinations and New York City. College environments can be quite inspirational, and several area campuses welcome groups with a variety of lecture halls, classrooms and other meeting areas. These include Sarah Lawrence College in Bronxville; Pace University and Berkeley College, each with Westchester campuses in White Plains; and Manhattanville College and Purchase College, located in the town of Purchase

One of the closest stops outside New York City is Yonkers, where the Empire City Casino at Yonkers Raceway can host up to 1,000. In Rye Brook, the Doral Arrowwood Hotel Conference Center is set on 114 wooded acres and offers 38,000 square feet of meeting space.

Tarrytown, just 40 minutes by train from Manhattan’s Grand Central Station, is home to several historic buildings that can be used for meetings. The 67-acre Lyndhurst Estate, a National Trust Historic Site, has 2,800 square feet of event space, and its mansion hosts private receptions and dinners. The Tappan Hill Mansion, Mark Twain’s former estate, has event space for up to 500 people. The Tarrytown House Estate & Conference Center has 30,000 square feet of meeting space certified by the International Association of Conference Centers as well as a sports center and a tavern. Or smaller groups might opt for the recently renovated Castle Hotel & Spa, home to a renowned restaurant and 3,300 square feet of meeting and banquet space. 

To the east, in West Harrison, the historic Renaissance Westchester Hotel has benefited from a $12 million reinvention that has introduced new eateries and social spaces. It offers groups more than 20,000 square feet of meeting space.

Grand Prix New York Racing & Bowling in Mount Kisco has 120,000 square feet of meeting space, and in nearby Katonah, the Caramoor Center for Music & the Arts has space for up to 1,000. Twenty miles west, in Bear Mountain, the historic Bear Mountain Inn can host events as large as 300. 

Farther north, in the heart of Ulster County, New Paltz is a popular base for rock climbers. The Victorian-style Mohonk Mountain House, situated atop the Shawangunk Ridge, features 10,000 square feet of meeting space. About 23 miles west, in Ellenville, Honor’s Haven Resort & Spa offers 48,000 square feet of meeting space. 

In the foothills of the Catskill Mountains, Cooperstown is home to the famous National Baseball Hall of Fame, the Ommegang Brewery and the world-class Fenimore Art Museum, which has a 121-seat auditorium and an event lawn that can accommodate up to 350 people. Up to 350 can also meet at the historic Otesaga Resort Hotel, situated on the shores of Lake Otsego and next to the Leatherstocking Golf Course.

Long Island: Solid Meeting Ground

Long Island never fails to impress when it comes to offering unique options for gatherings, including the Long Island Aquarium, the Pole Position Indoor Race Track, the Long Island Adventure Park and Port Jefferson Village Center. Groups with an interest in viticulture can hold events at Martha Clara Vineyards or tour local wineries on bikes via Long Island Bicycle Tours.

The region also offers 29 full-service hotels and several meeting venues that can accommodate up to 1,000 people. One of the largest—the Long Island Marriott—is located next to the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Uniondale. On the western side of the island, in Nassau County, the historic Garden City Hotel in Garden City completed a multimillion-dollar restoration of its public spaces last year. 

In Suffolk County, venues include the Suffolk County Community College’s Sports & Exhibition Complex in Brentwood, which has a 58,000-square-foot field house that can be used for up to 200 booths or up to 4,500 people.

In Huntington, the historic Oheka Castle Hotel & Estate can seat up to 200 people for a banquet, up to 300 theater-style and up to 700 if the entire castle is used. 

Greater Albany: Votes of Confidence

On the banks of the Hudson River in upstate New York, the capital city of Albany draws groups interested in making their efforts known to state government officials. Downtown, the 98-acre Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller Empire State Plaza (also called the South Mall) is home to state administration offices, a performing arts center, the Empire State Plaza Convention Center, which can host up to 10,000 people, and the New York State Museum, which has a dozen spaces that can be used for events.

Also downtown is the 2,800-seat Palace Theatre; the State Room, with space for up to 400 people; the 44-story Erastus Corning Tower, with an observation deck on its 42nd floor that can be used for events of up to 200; and the Times Union Center, which can be configured to seat up to 17,500. A new space above the steakhouse 677 Prime, called Events at 677, opened recently with three spaces, the largest of which is a 1,500-square-foot banquet room. Planners of large events continue to turn to the Washington Avenue Armory, which can accommodate trade shows and conventions of up to 4,300, but all eyes are on the Albany Capital Center, under construction and expected to open in mid-2016 with 82,000 square feet of event space. It will be connected to the convention and Times Union centers, creating a meeting venue triple the size of any other convention center in Upstate New York.

Also in the works downtown is a 202-room Renaissance Hotel, scheduled to open in September within the landmark DeWitt Clinton Hotel building. Near Albany Airport, the Staybridge Suites/Albany-Wolf Road-Colonie Center is slated to open in March with 112 guest rooms and meeting space.

Groups that have held meetings in town recently include the New York State Reading Association, which held its 2013 conference at the Hilton/Albany; the Self-Advocacy Association of New York State, which reported record numbers for its 2014 conference that was held at the Albany Marriott; and the Cerebral Palsy Associations of New York State.

Lake George & Lake Placid: Great Escapes

In the lake towns of the Adirondack Mountains, a number of retreats have groups’ well-being in mind. The Fort William Henry Hotel & Conference Center in the village of Lake George is one of the few area resorts open year-round. Located on the lake’s southern shores, the 18-acre estate supports groups with 16,500 square feet of meeting space. A few miles up the shore is the Inn at Erlowest, with 10 guest rooms and meeting space for up to 200. 

One of the area’s most famous properties is the Sagamore Resort, set on a private island near Bolton Landing. It has its own golf course, a spa, a recreation center and an 85-foot-long yacht. In Silver Bay, the Silver Bay YMCA is a historic conference and retreat center. 

In the town of Lake Placid, the gold LEED–certified Conference Center at Lake Placid welcomes groups with 90,000 square feet of event space. In 2017, it is scheduled to host the New York State School Boards Association with an expected 1,100 attendees. At the Olympic Center, which pays homage to both the 1932 and 1980 Olympic Winter Games played in town, groups can host events within the Winter Olympic Museum and the 7,700-seat Herb Brooks Arena (also referred to as the 1980 Rink).

Syracuse to Binghamton: Strong Connections

Popular venues in Syracuse include the 375-acre New York State Fairgrounds, boasting 300,000 square feet of available space; NBT Bank Stadium, which serves a Minor League Baseball team and has 11,117 seats; and the three-block Oncenter Complex, with 200,000 square feet of event space, including the 7,000-seat War Memorial Arena and a convention center with 99,000 square feet of flexible space. And on the shores of Onondaga Lake, the 2.4 million-square-foot Destiny USA is an entertainment and retail hub with all kinds of group options.

The Finger Lakes southwest of Syracuse are full of resort towns with picturesque venues. In Skaneateles, the Sherwood Inn has renovated conference space for up to 310. Farther west, in Geneva, Belhurst Castle offers guest rooms, a winery and meeting space for up to 250 people. In Cortland, 30 miles south of Syracuse, the Hope Lake Lodge & Conference Center offers more than 19,000 square feet of event space, including the 4,500-square-foot Acropolis, which can accommodate up to 400.

From Cortland, groups can head east to Plymouth, where the new Mirbeau Inn & Spa at The Pinehills opened in June with 34 guest rooms and 5,000 square feet of function space. Or head west to Ithaca, home to both Ithaca College and Cornell University, both of which welcome groups with not only classroom and auditorium spaces but also expert speakers. At Cornell, unique spaces include the Johnson Museum of Art, which can host up to 1,000 people; the ILR Conference Center, which has nine meeting rooms and can accommodate up to 200 attendees; Cornell Plantations, with space for up to 200; and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, with three meeting spaces.

Just north of the Pennsylvania border, in the town of Elmira, groups can meet at the Clemens Center, which houses 200- and 1,618-seat theaters. West, in Corning, the historic downtown Gaffer District is home to the well-regarded Corning Museum of Glass, which currently offers indoor space for up to 800, outdoor space for up to 400 and glass-blowing activities. However, scheduled to open in March is the museum’s $64 million North Wing, a 100,000-square-foot addition that will serve as the facility’s new live glass-blowing area for up to 500 people. In addition, adjacent to the wing is a new, one-acre campus green that can be used for events. Not far from the museum, just across the Chemung River, the Radisson/Corning has 8,000 square feet of meeting space.

Binghamton can easily accommodate mid-sized groups. The Broome County Veterans Memorial Arena has 30,000 square feet of exhibition space and seating for up to 6,600, or planners can book the 1,525-seat Forum Theatre. A wide array of meeting space is also available at Binghamton University.

Rochester, Niagara Falls & Buffalo: success is Second Nature

In Rochester, the Rochester Riverside Convention Center has 100,000 square feet of space and is attached via skywalk to a renovated Hyatt Regency Hotel with its own 20,000 square feet of event space. Just across the Genesee River, the Blue Cross Arena at the War Memorial can seat upwards of 11,000 people, and a few miles north of downtown, the Seneca Park Zoo has event space for up to 225. During their free time, attendees can bike or hike the original Erie Canal Trail. 

Straddling the Canadian border is Niagara Falls, a town that knows how to cater to groups. The Conference & Event Center Niagara Falls features 116,000 square feet of indoor meeting space and is ideally located on Old Falls Street USA, the three-block entertainment district that leads to the entrance of Niagara Falls State Park. Conference center staff can also arrange outdoor events just steps from the famous waterfalls.  

Just 20 miles from Niagara Falls is Buffalo, New York’s second-largest city. Key meeting venues include the 110,000-square-foot Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, with its recently renovated, 64,000-square-foot exhibit hall; the Hyatt Regency Buffalo, which has made $18 million worth of improvements over the last three years; and, on the revitalized waterfront, the First Niagara Center, which regularly hosts concerts, sports events and trade shows and can seat up to 19,200.

In August, Buffalo welcomed the American Society of Mechanical Engineers’ Advanced Design & Manufacturing Impact Forum, which drew some 900 members. For Mary Jakubowski, the group’s program manager, the city’s hospitality was evident the minute she arrived at the airport. “The warm greetings started as soon as we stepped into the terminal,” said Jakubowski. “Even the monitors acknowledged our presence. No other city has even done that for us and, as an experienced planner, I have never felt as appreciated.”

Most of the forum events took place at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, but functions were also held at the Hyatt Regency, the University at Buffalo and Top of the Falls, a seasonal restaurant located within Niagara Falls State Park. Attendees also went out on a Maid of the Mist boat tour at the base of the falls before heading to a tented reception. “All went like clockwork and will long be remembered,” Jakubowski said.

One of the newest attractions is the $170 million HarborCenter, a multiuse complex that opened downtown in October. It features two hockey rinks and a two-story sports bar with 365 seats and a 38-foot television screen. A 205-room Marriott Hotel is expected to open on-site this spring with event space for up to 240 people. Adjacent to HarborCenter is an entertainment district called Canalside where groups can enjoy various restaurants, bars and comedy clubs as well as scheduled yoga classes, concerts and artisan markets. Groups who want to stay in the area can do so at the Courtyard/Downtown-Canalside, which offers 1,036 square feet of meeting space, or the Hilton Garden Inn/Buffalo Downtown, with 3,800 square feet of event space. Both opened last year.

In the suburb of Orchard Park, southeast of downtown, the 73,079-seat Ralph Wilson Stadium is the home field of the NFL’s Bills but can also be booked for association functions. It recently completed a $130 million renovation, which added a new fan lounge, three new scoreboards and an 80-foot-long sports bar, among other improved amenities. Northeast of Buffalo, in Clarence, the Western New York Event Centre offers 60,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space. 

An Open Invitation

As happens regularly, the Empire State has a way of surpassing expectations. Be it the exciting big-city vibe or the homey small-town hospitality, there are hundreds of venues and accompanying attractions designed to impress.