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.

The Hopper is the Best Way to See San Diego


Stress-free Transportation in San Diego–The Hopper!

Brand new transportation from Anaheim to San Diego has arrived.  The Hopper Shuttle is now available for travelers making their way through California by bus.

The Hopper is available for travelers going from Anaheim to San Diego on a trip, and it aims to target the travelers who would prefer to explore San Diego stress-free.

Deciding which trip package you want to purchase is the only difficult decision. You tailor your own trip to include the mix of tickets and transportation that’s right for you for your next trip to San Diego.

Stops that are featured by the Hopper Shuttle include Old Town, Embarcadero, Seaport Village, Gaslamp, Balboa Park, and Little Italy.

Ticket options include the Hopper All In package, which gives you one full day of exploring San Diego in comfort and style through this transportation-only experience. Stops with this package include Old Town, Embarcadero – North, Embarcadero – South, Seaport Village, Gaslamp, Balboa Park, and Little Italy.

The Hopper Plus package is exactly the same as the Hopper All In package; however, the length of the use of the transportation system is extended to two days.

Attractions Admissions Included

Attractions that are featured in the package include Petco Park Tours, the USS Midway Museum, the Hornblower 1-Hour Harbor Cruise, the Flagship Coronado Ferry, the Maritime Museum, and the Antique Carousel at Seaport Village.  Pay for the bus, get the attractions admissions included!

The Hopper Shuttle advertises as being a travel guide to San Diego for you. The transportation system has put together several of the best recommendations for exploring America’s Finest City, whether you’re into art, culture, history, or just fun activities.

According to the company’s CEO, Tom D’Amato, “the Hopper will make it easier than ever for people to see the best spots in America’s Finest City, whether you’re visiting for a family vacation or making the most of a business trip. Our goal is to help people make lasting fun memories in our city and get them to their Next Stop: Paradise!”

Tranluscent windows make seeing even the tops of the buildings easy aboard the Hopper bus. Hopper Bus photos.
Tranluscent windows make seeing even the tops of the buildings easy aboard the Hopper bus. Hopper Bus photos.

The Hopper Shuttle is equipped with comfortable seats and tables to sit with friends at. The bus also has a translucent bus-long window on the ceiling to let in natural light and the sweeping views.

Consider catching the big blue Hopper Shuttle for your next excursion into San Diego to get a real taste of the city, while also having your trip scheduled and routed for you.

If San Diego Hotels are what you’re seeking for your next trip, why not get points just for booking–enough points to book another trip!

San Diego: What’s New In California’s Southernmost City?

Fallen Star

San Diego is well-known for its beaches, great weather, and not-so-great football team, the lowly Chargers.  But, the So-cal city offers much more than an appealing climate. From a famous haunted house to a massive park, San Diego has quite a few attractions that don’t have to do with beaches.

Overlooking the University of California, San Diego is Do Ho Suh’s “Fallen Star” sculpture. The unusual work of art sits atop the seventh floor of UC San Diego’s Jacobs Hall in the shape of a home. There is even a rooftop garden that accompanies the Seoul National University graduate’s incredible sculpture!

The Whaley House in San Diego features the Whaley House Museum, the Verna House, the Whaley House Museum Shop, two false front store buildings, and the Derby-Pendleton House. The Whaley House Complex is famous for its historical architecture, as well as its haunted folklore. You can tour the complex and learn a thing or two about California history and folklore!

Balboa Park in San Diego, acres and acres to enjoy.
Balboa Park in San Diego: acres and acres to enjoy.

Massive Balboa Park in San Diego boasts about 1,200 acres of gardens, walking paths, museums, theaters, and the popular San Diego Zoo. You could spend an entire day at Balboa Park considering the fact that the venue covers multiple forms of entertainment and activities. And various shopping opportunities at the park will leave you with some great souvenirs!

When you’re in San Diego, also check out some of these cool restaurants:

On Washington Street in San Diego is Lucha Libres Tacos. The wrestling-themed taco stop features Mexican wrestling paraphernalia, great tacos, and Mexican wrestling films on the TV; a truly unique eatery!

Speaking of unique restaurants, have you heard of Pop Pie Co. in San Diego? The neighborhood hangout offers a variety of savory and sweet pies in a casual setting. Pop Pie Co. also serves coffee and various craft beers!

When you’re planning your trip to San Diego, consider staying in one of these San Diego hotels:

After a $12 million renovation, The Inn at Rancho Santa Fe in San Diego is ready to give guests a luxurious stay. Each room comes with flat screen TVs, laptop-compatible safes, work stations with wireless internet, plush robes, and more. And the Rancho Santa Fe Golf Club, the Rancho Santa Fe Tennis Club, and a heated saltwater pool within a private garden will keep you active!

The Pendry San Diego, located on J Street in close proximity to Petco Park, the San Diego Convention Center, bars, beaches, and tons more. The hotel itself has six restaurants and bars offering cuisine from talented chefs and unique concepts, and rooms come with Bluetooth-enabled speakers, fully-stocked mini bar, complimentary wifi, and more!

Use Bonwi points on your next trip to San Diego and come home with points to use later for airfare or another hotel.

Reward Points Battle: IHG Rewards Club vs. Bonwi

IHG Hotel Willard Intercontinental in DC

IHG Hotel Willard Intercontinental in DC

We say that Bonwi gives you a better loyalty points payback than any hotel booking site out there, but what about individual hotel chains? Could you earn a free night faster by booking direct?

From our research, we haven’t found any program that allows you to get to a free stay faster. Let’s look at one of them in detail: the IHG Rewards program that includes 12 brands across 5,000 hotels and resorts.

How the IHG Rewards Program Works

In some ways the IHG Rewards Club is the best of the direct booking ones. They have the most properties to choose from in a whole lot of markets, the point earning levels are transparent, and most of the redemption levels are in the range of 10,000 to 35,000 points. (With Marriott, Hyatt, or Hilton you can easily be looking at twice that much.) Their brands range from good-value suite hotels to Holiday Inn Express to Intercontinental. When they finally consolidate their program with the Kimpton chain they bought, that will be another option for redemption.

To earn points, you stay at any of their properties. You earn 10 points per dollar at most of them for your stay, but 5 points per dollar at Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites. If you have their credit card you earn many more by paying with that and IHG frequently runs promotions that give you bonus miles. (It takes a while to hit elite status normally, but the credit card ups you to Platinum automatically.)

With 10 or 5 points per stay, that means you would earn 1,500 points for spending $150 for most of their properties, but 750 points at Staybridge or Candlewood. The lowest possible redemption is 5,000 in their “Points Breaks” promotions, but those are usually hotels that nobody is booking, in obscure locations. Think Gadsden, AL; Anderson, SC; or Silao in Mexico. The more common minimum is 10,000, for a Holiday Inn Express. So it would normally require at least $1,000 in spending at their properties before earning an award, or $2,000 if staying at the bottom category ones. At $100 a night that’s 10 or 20 nights. At $150 a night it’s 7 or 14 nights.

How the Bonwi Rewards Program Works

With Bonwi.com, it’s less simple on the earnings side, but that’s because the points you earn are variable. You will often earn far more than 1,500 points for a $150 room charge. You could earn enough for a free stay after just two or three nights.

There’s also upside on the redemption part since the payout is not an average of the price paid. Your points may be worth more in some markets than others, so you can cash in faster just by choosing a hotel requiring fewer points.

Comparison of Earnings in Two Markets

Let’s say you’ve got two business trips coming up in California. One is in San Francisco and one is in San Diego. How would your earnings differ between IHG and Bonwi?

Bonwi points back San Francisco

If you booked your San Francisco stay at the Holiday Inn Civic Center for two nights, you would pay $449 with tax either way. If you booked direct through the IHG site, that would translate to 4,490 points. If you booked it at Bonwi, you would earn 12,220 points.

A month later you need to spend two nights in San Diego. You pull up the IHG site and see the Crowne Plaza Hanalei is a pretty good deal at $166 per night before taxes. The total tab for two nights is $366. If you go ahead and book it through the IHG site, you will earn $366 X 10, or 3,666 points. If you book it through Bonwi instead, you will earn 10,289 points. Another big difference.

Bonwi vs. IHG points in San DIego

Cashing in Your Loyalty Points

Now that you’ve earned some points, what can you get if you take your kid to Orlando for a weekend getaway in March?

If you wanted to redeem what you’ve earned from these two stays, you wouldn’t have enough points with IHG Rewards. From those four nights, you only earned 8,156 points. Only a Points Break promotion would be available. Let’s assume you already had a couple thousand in the account though or you got past 10K with credit card spending.

From Bonwi you have a total of 22,509 points.

For weekends in March, with 10K IHG points from IHG, you’re going to come up empty. There is nothing available on a Friday or Saturday night in March for under 20,000 points, the amount that three of the four hotels below would require. The Holiday Inn Orlando Suites Waterpark hotel would require 35,000. So you would have to use their “points and cash” option and pay at least $70 on top of the 10,000 points.

IHG Rewards points in Orlando

For the same weekends in March with the 22,509 Bonwi points earned from four nights paid, you have lots of choices for a free night’s stay at IHG properties. These are just a few of them, including taxes:
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando – Lake Buena Vista – 17,663
– Holiday Inn Resort Orlando Suites Waterpark – 20,273
– Holiday Inn Orlando SW – Celebration Area – 15,139
– Holiday Inn Express & Suites Orlando at Seaworld -20,412

If you want to use your points for something else, you’re much better off with Bonwi. With us you can use your points for any flight of $225 or less with those 22,509 points, or you can get two $100 gift cards from major retailers and still have some left over. The points are valued at a penny a mile. If you want to cash in for a reward card with IHG, you usually pay 20,000 points for just a $50 gift card. That’s one-fourth the value, on points that required more spending to start with.

So which program offers you a faster payoff? This one is a no-brainer.

San Diego: Summer Happenings in America’s Finest City

San Diego's famed Gaslamp Quarter is full of nightlife and great restaurants.
San Diego’s famed Gaslamp Quarter is full of nightlife and great restaurants.

The beautiful city of San Diego, California is playing host to a whole smorgasbord of events ranging from international soccer to an expansive county fair. There’s something to do for everyone in the Plymouth of the West this summer!

The San Diego County Fair alone has enough going on to satisfy everyone in the family. A Wild Wild West theme is the backdrop for the fair that includes live musical entertainment, the International Beer Festival, deep-fried foods, woodworking, livestock exhibits, an award-winning flower show, and much more.

In early July, the CONCACAF Gold Cup, an international soccer competition, will take a couple of its opening round games to Qualcomm Stadium in the city. The Mexican national team will be one of the teams competing in these open round games in California’s southern city.

Watch dogs compete and surf in San Diego this summer!
Watch dogs compete and surf in San Diego this summer!

You can even watch dogs surf!  In late July, Imperial Beach will host the annual Surf Dog Competition. More than 70 dogs will be competing in various surfing challenges that will surely be a treat to see in person!

The city is accustomed to many glorious hotels with beach themes and plenty of amenities. When in Rome, well, San Diego, try these hotels on for size:

The Hotel Indigo San Diego Gaslamp Quarter is a boutique hotel located Downtown. This pet-friendly lodge is eco-friendly and even has a rooftop bar!

Believe it or not, but the Best Western Plus Island Palms Hotel and Marina is a very stylish hotel that truly draws itself apart from its other U.S. locations. Tons of suite options, a long list of amenities, and some fantastic views make this hotel a must stay venue!   

Book a San Diego hotel with Bonwi and earn points to come back another time!