The education and high-tech sectors attract a lot of conference business here, but the experiential side seals the deal, says Gina Mintzer, CMP, MHA, director of sales for the Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau. The vineyards, dairies and vegetable farms in the Albany countryside have inspired many farm-to-table dining experiences, as well as culinary tours starring local wine, cheese, and craft beer and cider. (Expect to see more than a few tulips, reflecting the region’s Dutch heritage.)
In Albany itself, Mintzer’s office recently set up a trolley tour of craft distilleries for a corporate group. Groups can relax on scenic cruises on the Hudson River, build team spirit with an outdoor-challenge course at Hudson Valley Community College or have fun at Fastrax Raceway, a go-cart track that runs corporate events. Planners can also book unique meeting spaces that connect with this historic destination.
Available rentals at the Albany Museum of History and Art include the Rice House, a four-room cottage on the National Register of Historic Places. The New York State Museum is renowned for its view of the historic district from its Fourth Floor Terrace. Downtown hotels include the Hilton Albany, which completed a $14 million renovation in 2013. A Renaissance property is due to open in fall 2015, replacing the historic (and long-vacant) DeWitt Clinton Hotel. The Renaissance will be followed by the $63 million Capital Center, an 82,000-sf venue set to open in mid-2016. It will connect to the Empire State Plaza Convention Center and the Times Union Center arena, creating a meeting space three times the size of any other convention center in upstate New York.-Kate McClare