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5 Unique Event Venues in New York State

The Otesaga Resort and Otsego Lake aerial view

The latest total solar eclipse, taking place April 8, will be one of the most dramatic in recent memory, briefly turning afternoon into night across larger-than-usual swaths of the U.S., Canada and Mexico as the moon passes between the Sun and Earth. Occurring in the same place once every 400 years, the extraordinary cosmic event will cut a 124-mile path across New York state.  

New York City, turning 400 this year, and Long Island will see about 89% coverage, while Upstate regions including the Adirondacks, Finger Lakes, Greater Niagara and Thousand Islands-Seaway regions will offer the best views.

From Cooperstown’s historic Otesaga (the Iroquois word for “a place of meeting”) Resort Hotel to the Olympic Center in Lake Placid, site of a prime solar eclipse viewing party, surprising events take place year-round at these select venues from the Empire State’s extensive galaxy of group venues.

Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Ithaca

Designed by late star architect I.M. Pei and opened in 1973, Cornell University’s free-admission Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art celebrated its 50th anniversary last year as one of the nation’s preeminent university museums. With a permanent collection of 40,000 works encompassing art from across time and world cultures, the Johnson is a hot ticket for groups. The sixth-floor Lynch Conference Room offers views of Cayuga Lake, also the scenic backdrop for seasonal outdoor gatherings in the Mallin Sculpture Court. The glass-walled Appel Lobby accommodates larger events while the Hirsch Lecture Lobby overlooks the Morgan Japanese Garden.

Culinary Institute of America, Hudson Valley

Founded in Connecticut in 1946 as the New Haven Restaurant Institute, the Culinary Institute of America is among the world’s premier culinary colleges. Renamed The Culinary Institute of America in 1951, the alma mater of Anthony Bourdain and familiar group market chefs including Michael Mina, Roy Choi, Cat Cora and Johnny Hernandez, the venue relocated its flagship to a former Jesuit Seminary on the banks of the Hudson River in 1970. Groups can get an authentic taste of the action with a full menu of options, including catered corporate events, hands-on cooking classes, culinary boot camps, wine explorations, and dining at the CIA’s acclaimed student-staffed onsite restaurants.

[Related: 6 New York City Museums for Special and Experiential Events]

Lake Placid Legacy Sites

Lake Placid Legacy Site Olympic Center 1980 Herb Brooks Arena
Lake Placid Legacy Site Olympic Center 1980 Herb Brooks Arena. Credit: NYS ORDA

Host venues for the 1932 and 1980 Winter Olympic Games, the Lake Placid Legacy Sites constitute a model of sustainable post-Olympics economic development. Located in the breathtaking Adirondack High Peaks, the Olympic Center, Olympic Jumping Complex, Mount Van Hoevenberg and Whiteface Mountain remain active year-round venues for sports recreation, training and competition. The venues are also gold medal choices for meetings, events and Olympic-themed teambuilding activities. Versatile rentals include the 1,200-capacity LEED Gold-Certified Conference Center in the heart of Lake Placid village, reception venues atop the Olympic Ski Jumps, and the Lake Placid Olympic Museum.  

George Eastman Museum, Rochester

Eastman Museum Technology Vault original Kodak film
Eastman Museum Technology Vault original Kodak film. Credit: Jeff Heilman

With the slogan "you press the button, we do the rest," George Eastman, founder of the Rochester-based Eastman Kodak Company, introduced the first simple camera in 1888. Along with Rochester originals Xerox and Bausch & Lomb, his pioneering vision changed the way we saw the world. Founded in 1947, the George Eastman Museum vividly showcases his legacy. Housing one of the largest film archives in the U.S., this National Historic Landmark incorporating Eastman’s mansion and gardens is a haven for cinephiles and researchers. For groups including corporate members, charitable nonprofit organizations, photography- and cinema-related organizations, and colleges and universities, versatile rentals include the 500-seat Dryden Theatre, Multipurpose Hall and Council Room. The Schuyler C. Townson Terrace Garden offers a lush outdoor setting for summertime receptions.

[Related: 8 Refreshed Meeting Venues in New York State That Inspire]

The Otesaga Resort Hotel, Cooperstown  

Debuting in 1909 on the southern shore of Otsego Lake in historic Cooperstown, New York, The Otesaga Resort Hotel has been a splendid escape for 115 years. LaToya Wakefield, director of sales and catering, shares what makes this haven of hospitality an enduring home run for groups.

What are the essential elements of The Otesaga’s appeal?

Veranda at The Otesaga Resort
Veranda, The Otesaga Resort, in springtime. Credit: The Otesaga Resort Hotel

Key attributes include distinctive architecture, from the Federal-style facade to the grand front portico supported by 30-foot columns. The elegant decor evokes a sense of bygone-era nostalgia for guests. Otsego Lake, which famed local resident James Fenimore Cooper nicknamed “Glimmerglass” in his novels, provides a breathtaking backdrop for meetings and adds to the overall experience. Offering a range of versatile spaces, our resort is the perfect setting to inspire creativity and collaboration.    

Why do your group clients choose The Otesaga over contemporary options?

The distinctive character of historic hotels often makes guests feel like they are stepping back in time. Listed on the National Register for Historic Places and a member of the Historic Hotels of America, our unique charm and personality creates an atmosphere for meetings that sets us apart from modern accommodations, with warm hospitality that matches the cozy nostalgic vibes.  

How do you balance the past with modern needs?

The Otesaga constantly invests in upgrades to keep the history of our resort alive for future generations to enjoy. Over the last decade alone, numerous renovations include refreshing the guest rooms and lobby and adding popular F&B concepts including Fire Bar, 1909 steakhouse and Mohican Market gourmet coffee bar. We also just updated the carpeting in our event-capable Glimmerglass dining venue, which offers stunning lake views.

What types of groups do you typically attract?  

Hosting groups from 10 people to 300 people throughout our 30,000 square feet of space, our comprehensive group mix is concentrated on corporate business from the Northeast. We are fortunate to have legacy clients that have been with us for over 25 years.

How are you positioning for post-pandemic success for 2024?

As the industry eagerly returns to business, this is an exciting time to showcase The Otesaga’s many offerings as a meetings destination. Our multi-faceted approach to getting in front of planners and decision-makers incorporates key channels such as social media, e-mail and advertising, and as expected in today’s ever-changing marketing landscape, innovative strategies like AI. 2024 bookings are off to a great start as we always strive to do better year over year.  

The village of Cooperstown is a landmark visitor destination in other ways. I imagine there’s no end to off-agenda options for groups?

That’s right. Our campus alone offers multiple opportunities for recreation, relaxation and teambuilding. Voted one of the “Top 50 U.S. Golf Resorts” by Condé Nast Traveler, our 18-hole Leatherstocking Golf Course is perfect for group outings. Accessing our private dock, guests can kayak, paddleboard or canoe on Otsego Lake. Other options include tennis and pickleball, swimming in our outdoor heated pool and decompressing at our Hawkeye Spa.

We are a short walk from the village’s charming Main Street and popular attractions. We can arrange exclusive offsite events and private tours at the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, The Farmers’ Museum and Fenimore Art Museum, as well as award-winning craft beverage producers Brewery Ommegang and the Cooperstown Distillery. The nearby Clark Sports Center offers great teambuilding activities, featuring bowling, indoor rock climbing, golf simulator, group fitness classes and an outdoor ropes course. Depending on their schedule, we usually encourage guests to stay an extra day with us and explore Cooperstown! 

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About the author
Jeff Heilman | Senior Contributor

Brooklyn, N.Y.-based independent journalist Jeff Heilman has been a Meetings Today contributor since 2004, including writing our annual Texas and Las Vegas supplements since inception. Jeff is also an accomplished ghostwriter specializing in legal, business and Diversity & Inclusion content.