Which Are the Top Meetings and Conventions Cities in the USA?

Orlando hotel

Las Vegas hotels at night

If you go to a lot of conferences for your job, you’ve probably noticed that you spend a lot of time walking the exhibition halls of specific cities. While every metropolitan area in the USA would love to have your meetings and conventions business, there are a few behemoths that win by pure capacity.

It costs a lot of money to build convention centers and they require an equal amount of infrastructure in hotel beds, flight capacity, parking, and transportation. All these factors have to work in tandem for a conference destination to make it to the top. Here’s who has won the arms race in modern times:

Las Vegas

Vegas knows how to shock and awe in every category and just by the numbers, they come out on top in both space capacity and room capacity. There’s a staggering 10.8 million square feet of conference space here, partly in 3 of the 10 largest convention centers in the country. You’ll have plenty of choices on where to bed down: about 157,000 rooms across nearly 200 hotels. And Las Vegas hotels are often not very small affairs either: MGM Grand alone has more than 6,800 rooms. When you combine The Pallazo and The Venetian, they have more than 7,100 rooms.

Search hotel prices and point redemptions at Bonwi.com, where your conference stay could earn you enough points for a weekend vacation somewhere else.

Orlando

Orlando’s hotels and resorts aren’t as massive as the biggest in Las Vegas, but the sprawling city has more places to stay overall, with 265 of them. There’s something here for all budgets and parents who want to extend a business trip clearly have lots of things to spend the family budget on with Disney, Universal Studios, Sea World, and other attractions.

Orlando hotel

Orlando has 4.64 million square feet of meeting space for conventions, but be advised some of that space is in self-contained resorts that can only be reached by car. Fortunately, rental cars are abundant and reasonably priced. You can earn Bonwi points for those and your Orlando hotel stay.

Chicago

One of the USA’s largest cities attracts plenty of convention business to fill up its 50,000 rooms across 177 hotels. This is a tough city to walk around in during the winter, but many conference goers don’t spend a lot of time outside. The largest exhibition space here is massive: 2.1 million square feet. The largest ballroom is nearly 104,000 square feet–nearly two full football fields in size.

Cvent says, “More people travel to Chicago for overnight business than any other U.S. destination. Its accessibility certainly plays a role in its popularity, as about 46 million people are within one day’s drive of Chicago.” See hotel rates and get the highest points payback at Bonwi.com.

Bonwi rewards points Chicago

Atlanta

Fast-growing Atlanta has the world’s busiest airport, so getting to the city is easy from nearly anywhere. The city has 43,000 rooms across 195 hotels in all price ranges, with most major chains represented. A quarter of those are in the convention district.

The easy access and mild year-round temperatures bring in 51 million visitors a year to a walkable convention district in a city with a metro from the airport. The largest exhibit space is 2.6 million square feet and there is a total 3.9 million square feet of meeting space. Get the best rate on an Atlanta hotel here.

San Diego

With some of the USA’s best year-round weather and easy access to the Pacific Ocean, San Diego is a popular sun-and-fun destination all year. The city boasts 70 miles of beaches and 92 golf courses. It has 2.6 million square feet of meeting space and 210 hotels to choose from.

See rates and point earnings on San Diego Hotels.

Washington DC

Washington D.C.

I once attended a convention lunch so large in D.C. that I couldn’t even see the person on stage speaking unless I looked at the big video monitor. The nation’s capital has a massive conference center in a convenient location not far from the government buildings and the Smithsonian. That ballroom I had lunch in is the size of 7 football fields and it’s part of 2.2 million square feet of meeting and exhibition space.

Be advised that D.C. hotel rates are the priciest of any city on this list, though they can drop when congress is in recess. Make sure you get something back from all that money spent by earning Bonwi points from your Washington DC hotel.

(Related post: Explore the Distilleries and Breweries of Washington, DC)

Cities Punching Above Their Weight Class

Downtown Nashville is just a few blocks from the city convention centerThese top six cities aren’t all that surprising: they’re all large metro areas that have plenty to see and do, with easy air access. Some of the other top convention cities are much smaller, however.

Nashville, Tennessee ranks just below D.C. as a convention destination thanks to a downtown conference center near the honky-tonks plus the long-established Gaylord Opryland complex closer to the airport.

New Orleans, LA is America’s favorite party town, with to-go cups of alcohol, a casino near the bars, and a street car system to get you around town. It is also a major conference city, with a massive ballroom and a wide variety of interesting hotels that are clustered close together.

Streetcar in New Orleans

Austin, Texas is experiencing explosive growth and its long-running music scene (with 250+ live venues) has been joined by a thriving tech industry. Some 24 million people a year visit Austin and its highly ranked airport.

San Antonio, Texas may be the wildest wildcard on this list, but it outranks Los Angeles and Boston in attracting conferences. This city doesn’t attract the mega-conventions with its 742,000 square feet of meeting space, but that space is some of the most modern available after a $325 million expansion of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center in 2006.

Article and photos by travel writer Tim Leffel, editor of Hotel Scoop.

Georgia Hotels: Sweet Spots To Stay in the Peach State

Cooling off in style at the new Great Wolf Waterpark in Atlanta.
Cooling off in style at the new Great Wolf Lodge Resort Waterpark in Atlanta.

In recent years, the hotel industry in the state of Georgia has dramatically upped the ante, with developers continuously working on producing even more fantastic lodgings for visitors to enjoy.

The state is currently home to more than 1,845 hotels, comprised of an excess of 168,000 rooms across the board. As these new developments reach the end of their construction and open their doors for business, there are a few stand-out facilities that definitely deserve some special attention.

Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is getting a brand new face with the new 4-star Intercontinental Hotel set to be built on the airport’s campus. This Intercontinental will be the first hotel to be built within walking distance of the domestic terminal and will include 80,000 feet of conference/meeting space and 60,000 square feet of office space. A restaurant and skybar are planned to be built within sight of the runway, and this beautiful hotel is sure to provide out-of-state visitors with a glowing first look at Georgia.

If you fancy yourself a fan of massive water slides, relaxing tubing opportunities, and high-speed thrills, you should definitely check out Georgia’s new Great Wolf Lodge Resort. The resort offers a 93,000 square foot facility complete with an entire water park, mini golf, an adventure park, and a wide range of other great family-friendly activities that are sure to keep everyone entertained.

The resort offers a wide array of deluxe suite-style rooms that provide an option for all prospective visitors, no matter their group size. Kids and adults alike will love all that this magnificent resort has to offer, and it’s a great place to go to escape from reality for just a few nights!

The new Hard Rock Casino and hotel in Atlanta will feature live music venues, an outdoor pool and a skybar.
The new Hard Rock Hotel Atlanta will feature live music venues, outdoor pool, and a skybar.

For fans of Atlanta sports and exciting live music, Hard Rock International is developing a huge new hotel in Atlanta right next to Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Centennial Olympic Drive. The Hard Rock Hotel Atlanta will contain 220 rooms and over 10,000 square feet of meeting space.

In addition, the hotel will offer an outdoor swimming pool, a rooftop bar, several live music venues, and a great deal of retail space for visitors to explore throughout their stay. The hotel will be open soon and give guests a taste of the luxurious accommodations there brand is famous for.

Set to take up an entire block’s space on Savannah’s historic River Street, The new Alida Hotel will provide guests with a safer and more easily accessible way of visiting the beautiful neighboring riverfront through their grand entryway. The hotel will be a seven-story, 173-room accommodation with 4,000 square feet of meeting space, a signature restaurant, rooftop event space and bar, pool, bar, and a large fitness area.

Any of these brand new Georgia hotels are sure to give your stay a fantastic base of operations to relax the night away after a long day of exploration. Book your reservations on Bonwi and use points for a future trip!

Atlanta is Full of Festivals This Summer

Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival in Atlanta, GA.
Attack of the Killer Tomatoes festival is a summer highlight in Atlanta.
The Attack of the Killer Tomatoes festival is a summer highlight in Atlanta.

Festival season is in full-spring in Atlanta, Georgia this summer. Go down south to the Peach State to embrace some seasonal fun as the weather gets hot.

For foodies, there is plenty to eat. Check out Taste of Atlanta to try a bite from over 90 Atlanta restaurants all in one location. The whole family will love the 7th annual Atlanta Ice Cream Festival on July 28, 2018,

Enjoy the sumptous Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta this summer and get lots of Bonwi points to spend later!
Enjoy the sumptuous Ritz-Carlton in Atlanta this summer and get lots of Bonwi points to spend later!

at Piedmont Park. From an ice creaming contest to free health screenings, there something for both kids and adults.

Wine connoisseurs can’t miss out on the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, a weekend dedicated to good Southern delicacies and drinks. From May 31 to June 3, more than 250 restaurants, artisans, and chefs will be producing their best food and wine tastings for guests.

Movie buffs need to hit up the Atlanta Movie Tours to see the filming locations of various movies and television shows. For horror lovers, go into the basement where Samara was in “Rings” or visit the sites of “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire” and “Mockingjay Part 1 & 2.” Stop at Tyler Perry’s Madea house or walk through the fictional town of Woodbury from “The Walking Dead.”

For something more out of the ordinary, attend the 10th Annual Attack of the Killer Tomato Festival at the Westside Provisions District on July 15th. Inspired by the 1978 film, Chef Ford Fry takes elements from local produce and southern culture to create this unique experience. Mixologists and chefs alike craft tomato-based dishes and cocktails.

Stay at the five-star Ritz-Carlton Atlanta during your festival-hopping days. Only minutes away from Centennial Olympic Park and by the Museum of Design Atlanta, you will have plenty to do during your getaway. Take a break from the summer heat in your air-conditioned room and watch a movie on your flat-screen television before heading back out to explore Atlanta.

The Ritz-Carlton Atlanta will cost $449/night and will earn you 18,458 points to spend how you please when booking it through Bonwi. Check out Atlanta hotels and see how much you can earn and save!

Atlanta’s Heart is in Buckhead

The amphitheater at Chastain Park in Buckhead, Atlanta Georgia.
The amphitheater at Chastain Park in Buckhead, Atlanta Georgia.
The amphitheater at Chastain Park in Buckhead, Atlanta Georgia.

I asked my cousin, Pam Alexander, who has lived in Atlanta for many years, to share her favorite places in Buckhead, the tony heart of the capital of the south, Atlanta. Here is her list of favorite places. 

  • Chastain Park

    An oasis within the city, Chastain Park is Buckhead’s largest publicly accessible green space. Comprising a golf course, walking trails, tennis center, sports fields, gymnasium, horse stables, picnic areas, a fantastic new “state of the art” playground, and an open-air amphitheater venue for concerts and other events. Residents are so lucky to have all these amenities within walking distance.  website

  • Atlanta History Center
    I won’t expound upon what this place is–the website does a great job there; my favorite parts about it are the variety of exhibits in the main complex, plus it has a number of satellite buildings (Wood Family Cabin, Tullie Smith Farm, Swan Coach House) that have been preserved from various periods of Atlanta’s history and they tell a fascinating historical narrative of place. Additionally, there are extensive adjacent walking trails through the woods nearby. Truly a gem. website

Pam’s Favorite restaurants:

  • Anis Cafe & Bistro 

    My favorite French restaurant in Atlanta without question. It’s been around since 1994, occupying the same spot, spilling out of a converted house in Buckhead’s “old” business district–the part that housed businesses before there were skyscrapers. You can never go wrong here, but my personal faves are the escargot and the duck. Servers are friendly, the atmosphere is cozy; everything about this place is intimate and gracious at the same time. website

    • Fado Irish Pub 

    I tried not to include anything on this list that was available outside of Buckhead/Atlanta, but 1) given that I’m married to a true Irish man and we spend a lot of time here, and 2) because this is the “OG” Fado location, I thought it qualified a mention.

    The food is surprisingly scrummy (a term I picked up in Ireland–short for scrumptious), but that’s not the main reason to go, of course. There is Guinness on tap and they know how to properly dispense it. And even if you are not a Guinness drinker, this pub is authentically and cleverly appointed, the atmosphere is fantastic, and on a temperate evening in Atlanta, there is no other place I’d rather enjoy a cocktail but sitting on the rooftop patio.  website

    This pub originally opened in conjunction with the 1996 Summer Olympic Games in a location about three blocks down the street, and though it had to relocate to make way for the turning wheels of progress, it’s remained the one bar in this Buckhead neighborhood with the most solid staying power. Also, the best place in Atlanta to take in an EPL soccer game or a Four Nations Rugby match (especially if you are willing to get up early on a Saturday morning!)

    Superica, in Buckhead, has the city's best guacamole and other Mexican specialties, according to a local.
    Superica, in Buckhead, has the city’s best guacamole and other Mexican specialties, according to Pam.
    • Superica 

    The newest addition to my list opened in 2016 (2nd Atlanta location).  A Ford Fry-ism, so be prepared to wait (reservations not accepted). Best guacamole I’ve found anywhere (and I’m truly an avocado aficionado). Cocktails are delish–order the Texas Star.

    And the short rib is indescribable–every trite cliche that comes into my head will sell it short. This place takes Tex-Mex to a heavenly new plane. The decor is glam-campy and dead-on. As I mentioned, it takes a little planning ahead and patience to get in the door, but if you can get past that, you are in for a real treat. website

  • If you’re thinking about an Atlanta getaway, and want to book a hotel that gives you points to use later, visit Bonwi and find Atlanta hotels.