Meetings are returning to casino hotels and destinations around the U.S., including Mississippi, Tucson, Fort Lauderdale, Detroit and the California coast. We explored some of the best meeting hotels in each of those regions.
MISSISSIPPI GULF COAST
The lush habitats and warm Gulf waters of Mississippi make a truly relaxed meeting setting with a variety of affordable venues and group experiences. The region boasts several upscale 4-star casino hotels, including the 1,088-room IP Casino Resort & Spa with 65,800 sf of meeting space located on the Back Bay of Biloxi. Its theater features major acts from Drew Carey to ZZ Top. Just down the road on the gulf side of Biloxi, the 1,740-room Beau Rivage Resort & Casino features 32,000 sf of meeting space and the 18-hole Fallen Oak golf club, one of the premier courses in the region. All told, there are 13,000 rooms and 530,000 sf of meeting space.
“We have over 62 miles of coastline with casinos, golfing, fishing, shopping and fabulous cuisine,” says Crystal Johnson, director of sales at the Mississippi Gulf Coast Convention & Visitors Bureau. “And we have so much history on the Mississippi Gulf Coast, with lots of cultural attractions for groups to take advantage of.”
For unique group activities, Johnson recommends several maritime options, such as deep-sea or sport-fishing charters, and sunset sailing aboard a replica Biloxi oyster schooner from the 1800s. The Institute for Marine Mammal Studies in Gulfport offers conservation and education programs, dolphin encounters and museum space for meetings and events.
CASINO DEL SOL, TUCSON
Rising out of the Sonoran desert like a cupola-topped Tuscan manse, the 215-room Casino del Sol opened in November 2011 is Tucson’s newest casino resort, offering a luxury group experience at affordable price points.
“We offer a variety of packages depending on what your group is interested in,” says CEO Alex Amador. “Whether its concerts or spa, we have options throughout the year.”
The Tuscan theme continues inside with vaulted ceilings in the lobby bar, highlighted by exposed wood beams, wrought iron fixtures, red velvet curtains and leather furniture where guests sip the resort’s own Buffalo Trace Bourbon.
“Our public spaces reflect a rustic Mediterranean feel,” says Amador. “And the oversized furniture pieces in natural tones create a dramatic, old world effect.”
Guest rooms at the 4-star resort ooze contemporary comfort with neutral tones and Tuscan reds. The warm design theme also extends to the 161,000 sf of indoor/outdoor meeting space.
The property offers a range of activity options for groups. The palm tree-laden pool and lawn area have VIP cabanas and high-tech light and water shows, an ideal setting for small events. For large groups, the 4,600-seat, open-air AVA Amphitheater has hosted artists such as Santana, Rihanna and Tim McGraw.
And for golf planners, the new 18-hole Sewailo Golf Course is scheduled to open in the fall.
SEMINOLE HARD ROCK, FLORIDA
The rock star-themed Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino is located in Hollywood, Florida between the international glitz of Miami and the kick-back town of Fort Lauderdale. Both city airports are also within 30 minutes to this stylish and sprawling hotel and casino.
The 500-room hotel completed a $7.8 million renovation last year, amping up the cool factor and upgrading the guest rooms. The contemporary aesthetic complements the rock n’ roll theme with leather chairs, chrome accents and framed prints of legendary musicians. New bedding, lighting, floors and hardwood furniture were also added.
The list of venues provides a ton of variety for planners with its 5,500-seat arena, 40,000 sf of indoor meeting space and an outdoor F&B marketplace for pre/post entertainment. Seminole Paradise is made up of 20 shops, 11 restaurants and 10 bars/lounges. Dinearounds are easy when given the variety of smooth piano bars, dance clubs, steak houses and comedy lounges right outside the casino doors.
Be sure to check out the hotel’s Rock Spa where treatments are named after classic tunes like the “Foot Loose spa reflexology” and the “Solid as a Rock massage.”
Between meetings, the hotel can arrange a private outing through the Big Cypress Seminole Indian Reservation in the Florida Everglades. Groups ride in a private “swamp buggy” and cruise through the grassy waters of the Florida everglades in a buzzing airboat. It doesn’t get more Florida than that.
After the tour, head back to Hard Rock Live to view one of the talented headliners. Sample acts this summer include Peter Frampton and Journey.
MGM GRAND DETROIT
The 400-room MGM Grand Detroit in the Motor City’s downtown entertainment district has a range of affordable options, from free parking to free in-room WiFi. The hotel design is a mix of modern art deco and industrial glass and steel. We like the guest living room with a wall-length flat fireplace and cascading fountains.
“People are pleasantly surprised at the mix of serenity and luxury when they first arrive,” says Lisa Williams, director of sales. “The property and rooms have a warm ambience, with colors of dark chocolate, raspberry and lime, and zebra wood headboards.”
Beside 17,900 sf of meeting space, V Nightclub is available for private events. Tap is Detroit’s “newest old sports club” with 40 plasma TVs and memorabilia from some of Detroit’s bygone sports pubs. And there’s the new Wolfgang Puck Steak designed like the classic steak houses of Detroit.
Located in the heart of the beautiful Santa Ynez Valley along California’s central coast, the 106-room Chumash Casino Resort is the rare combination of gaming, meetings and a wine country setting.
“From the modern décor and warm tones at our Chumash Casino Resort, to the rustic wine country feel at Hotel Corque, attendees feel right at home upon entering any of our hotels,” says Brandi Baker, director of sales. “Our casino resort just completed a full renovation in February 2013, so guests can enjoy new room amenities, furniture and decor throughout the property.”
Baker adds that with sister property Hotel Corque and its 122 guest rooms so close, the hotels can offer plenty of affordable luxury for groups, as well as 24,500 sf of shared meeting space.
“We can cater to any level of budget or need a client may have,” she says.
Of course, the biggest draw for groups is one of the hottest wine terroirs in California, featuring such stellar wineries as Zaca Mesa, Rancho Sisquoc and Kenneth Volk. Wine tasting and winery tours are high on the agenda. Many of the more than 100 area wineries offer wine and culinary programs, as well as venues for meetings and events. Another option unique to the area is Cachuma Lake, which offers boating, kayaking and fishing derbies, as well as a naturalist-led wildlife nature cruise aboard the 45-passenger boat Osprey.