The Keystone State has an abundance of natural beauty to offer groups, from the Delaware River in the gorgeous Poconos region (pictured) to the hiking, skiing and golfing found throughout the state. The thriving cultural and culinary delights of the cities likewise are not to be missed.
• Regional carrier Southern Airways Express began daily nonstop Harrisburg -- Pittsburgh service at the end of October. Service from Pittsburgh to Johnstown and DuBois was introduced shortly thereafter.
• The Hershey Harrisburg Regional Visitors Bureau launched a Sports & Events Authority for the region last summer, intensifying its focus on the sports tourism and special-events markets.
Skytop Lodge in the Pocono Mountains recently turned a former on-site library into the Library Lounge. The new spot can accommodate up to 60 people, with room for 15 at the classic oak bar.
Western Pennsylvania's Laurel Mountain Ski Resort, which has the longest vertical drop in the state, has reopened after years of closure. The owner of two nearby resorts is leasing it from the state and operating the slopes all season.
• The $30 million Drury Plaza Hotel Pittsburgh Downtown recently opened in the historic Federal Reserve Bank building, an art deco-style structure the lodging company has adapted and renovated. The 207-room property offers more than 4,500 square feet of meeting and event space, including two large former vaults. A rooftop deck provides views of the city skyline and PNC Park. A pool and hot tub are on-site, too, constructed in the former firing range used by the bank's guards. The hotel is Drury's first in the Pittsburgh area.
• The 111-room Hotel Indigo at Pittsburgh Technology Center is set to open in May 2017. The $14.7 million development in South Oakland promises 2,400 square feet of meeting space and a full-service restaurant.
• Pittsburgh native and former New York Times style editor Holly Brubach is converting the historic Granite Building into the 104-room Forbes Hotel. The downtown boutique property will have three bars and a brasserie-style restaurant, and is scheduled to debut in the fall of 2017.
• The 126-room Home2Suites Pittsburgh SouthSide, a six-story property at the site of a former car wash in the South Side neighborhood, is slated to open in August.
• The hip boutique Distrikt Hotel brand is coming to Pittsburgh, due to open in September in the former Salvation Army headquarters downtown. The 186-room property will feature a living plant wall, a zen rooftop garden and a full-service restaurant. Stay tuned for details about meeting space.
• The new Marriott Residence Inn Pittsburgh will be open for business in April. The 144-room hotel is near both the University of Pittsburgh and Carnegie Mellon University in Oakland, alongside the new SkyVue Apartments. The property promises a two-story "Great Room," as well as a fitness room and a pool. An as yet unspecified amount of meeting and conference space will be available in the adjoining apartment complex.
• A new TRYP by Wyndham hotel is scheduled to open in Lawrenceville next November. The boutique property, one of only a handful of TRYP hotels in the United States, will have 107 guest rooms, meeting space and a rooftop restaurant. The project is a conversion of the former Washington Education Center, a vocational school.
• The 133-room AC Hotel Pittsburgh is expected to debut in the Strip District in January 2018, next to the David L. Lawrence Convention Center. The boutique hotel will offer an urban, design-driven atmosphere.
• The Even Hotel Pittsburgh is being developed for the fifth and sixth floors of the former Macy's building downtown, which dates back to the late 1800s. The building is being converted into a $100 million mixed-use development, including 312 luxury apartments and a variety of retail shops, restaurants and entertainment venues. The 155-room Even is planning a grand opening for January 2018.
• A luxury independent property, the 120-room Andrew Hotel currently is in the works for the Strip District, along the Allegheny River. Plans call for fine-dining and casual restaurants on-site, as well as a rooftop lounge and a spa. The hotel is scheduled to open in March 2018.
• Rivers Casino is planning to build a $50 million, 200-room hotel on its eastern flank, adjacent to the Carnegie Science Center. The project has stalled numerous times, but groundbreaking could occur early this year. Officials hope to open the hotel in January 2019.
Nemacolin Woodlands Resort,
in Farmington, will unveil its second Pete Dye-designed golf course in July. The highly anticipated Shepherd's Rock course sits in the Allegheny Mountains, with a tree-lined front 9 and a back 9 with spectacular views of the Laurel Highlands.
WHET THE WHISTLE
Western Pennsylvania was a center of whiskey production in the 18th and 19th centuries. Wigle Whiskey brings that tradition back with an award-winning brew -- and tours and event space -- at its distillery.
Meeting Hotels: Properties in downtown Pittsburgh include the 712-room Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown; 616-room Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh; 597-room Omni William Penn Hotel; 402-room Marriott Pittsburgh City Center; 399-room Sheraton Pittsburgh Hotel at Station Square; 337-room DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel & Suites Pittsburgh Downtown; 300-room Renaissance Pittsburgh Hotel; 248-room Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh; 225-room Embassy Suites by Hilton Pittsburgh Downtown; 207-room Drury Plaza Hotel Pittsburgh Downtown; 185-room Fairmont Pittsburgh; 182-room Courtyard by Marriott Downtown; 150-room Homewood Suites by Hilton Pittsburgh Downtown; 143-room Hampton Inn and Suites Pittsburgh-Downtown, and 142-room Cambria Hotel and Suites Downtown.
To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com.
Convention Center: David L. Lawrence Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 313,400 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 53; (412) 565-6000
Airport Transit: Pittsburgh International Airport, about 14 miles northwest of downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $42 to downtown; by Super Shuttle, $24
Taxes: Room tax, 7%; sales tax, 7%; total tax on hotel rooms, 14%
Group Venues: The boutique 63-room Ace Hotel Pittsburgh, which opened about a year ago, is a conversion of a historic YMCA building in the burgeoning East Liberty neighborhood. The hotel's signature restaurant, The Whitfield, has become a happy-hour hangout for young local tech workers and a destination restaurant for the greater Pittsburgh area. Including its former gymnasium, the property offers 4,550 square feet of casual but retro-hip space for events of up to 400 people. The 2,400-square-foot second-floor ballroom, which features large windows, 1920s detailing and original light fixtures, can accommodate up to 200 guests. (412) 361-3300
The 616-room Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh, complements the adjacent David L. Lawrence Convention Center with 42,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space of its own, including the 11,067-square-foot Allegheny Grand Ballroom. All of the property's 23 meeting and breakout spaces are located on two consecutive floors, designed for an ideal meeting size of about 200. (412) 281-3700
The cutting-edge, LEED Platinum-certified Frick Environmental Center opened in September 2016. The building, which is free and open to the public, serves as a gateway to Frick Park and uses 40 percent less energy than a typical building its size. The top floor of the three-story center has 15,500 square feet of meeting space. Two classrooms, which can be combined to accommodate as many as 115 people, open to a covered outdoor deck that can serve either as an additional classroom or an event space. (412) 586-4576
Contact: VisitPittsburgh, (412) 281-7711 or (800) 359-0758
VALLEY FORGE NEWS
Hotels in Valley Forge and across Montgomery County invested $25 million last year in improvements to infrastructure and amenities, according to the Valley Forge Tourism Board. The area is surging in popularity, with demand up 10 percent year-over-year in terms of room nights. In the works:
Fairfield Inn Valley Forge
The 80-room Fairfield Inn Philadelphia Valley Forge/King of Prussia is adding a new breakfast area and a fitness center, part of an extensive, ongoing renovation.
Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center
The historic Normandy Farm is sprucing up its 113-room hotel and 30,000-square-foot conference center in Blue Bell, including an addition of new high-tech ovens in its banquet kitchen.
Residence Inn Collegeville
A 111-room Residence Inn broke ground last summer in Collegeville, designed to serve the local corporate market and traveling sports teams. The hotel is slated to offer an indoor pool and spa, a fitness room, outdoor sports courts and meeting space.
iFLY King of Prussia
A new indoor skydiving facility offers a conference room, party space, catering and adrenaline-fueled team building.