It is impossible to escape the rich musical history that has made Memphis famous, but the “Home of Blues” and the “Birthplace of Rock ’n’ Roll” is embracing its riverfront heritage and undergoing transformations that will make it an even more appealing, well-rounded destination for meeting planners.

The long-awaited Beale Street Landing project, the centerpiece of the city’s Riverfront Master Plan, is slated for completion in spring 2012. The project will revitalize the waterfront area at the terminus of historic Beale Street and include a docking facility that will give pedestrians direct access to tour boats along the Mississippi River, a series of landscaped overlooks for walkers, joggers and cyclists, and an upper plaza area. In addition to enjoying easy access to downtown trolleys and the Memphis Cook Convention Center, groups will be able to take advantage of a variety of unique outdoor riverfront spaces and riverboat excursions from the docking facility.

Groups seeking a multiday riverboat experience will be pleased to know that the new Beale Street Landing will also serve as a home dock for the recently renovated American Queen.

Following her maiden voyage in April 2012, the American Queen will be the largest overnight steamboat in operation. The Great American Steamboat Company worked closely with Memphis city officials and is excited to be headquartered in this lively Southern city.

The American Queen will offer group ticket packages and onboard meeting facilities. Trip itineraries vary from three to 10 days in length, stopping in ports such as New Orleans, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Louisville.


Getting there: Memphis International Airport is approximately 10 miles from downtown. The airport is a Delta Airlines hub, and many nonstop flights are available. From Central Station in downtown Memphis, Amtrak lines run north to Chicago and south to New Orleans along the Mississippi River. Memphis is accessible by car via interstates 40 and 240.

With 200 Victorian-appointed staterooms and accommodations for 426, the American Queen is the distinctive venue planners have been looking for, according to Tim Rubacky, vice president of sales and marketing.

“You’re not dealing with a 1,000-room hotel; we pay personal, customized attention to groups,” he says. “The American Queen can provide the type of ‘wow’ that you can’t buy and you can’t plan. Where else does an entire town turn out to wave flags and greet you when your meeting arrives in town?”

Day tours and in-dock events will also be possible along the new Beale Street waterfront.

Groups can book private events and charter tours on the three paddlewheel steamboats operated by Memphis Riverboats, an iconic company that has been run by the family of Capt. Dale Lozier since 1960.

Attendees will experience an integral part of the city’s history and heritage onboard the steamboats.

“There are so many ways to enjoy the Mississippi on these boats,” Lozier says. “The river is a powerful, magnificent force.”

Groups of up to 350 can board the elegantly appointed Island Queen or the Memphis Queen III for a leisurely cruise or narrated tour and enjoy views of the Memphis skyline while sipping cocktails, dining on Southern-style barbecue or listening to regional music played by the in-house band.

The regal Memphis Showboat is available for in-dock events such as trade shows, where guests are welcome to come and go. It offers dinner seating for 350 on two levels, including a balcony overlooking a dance floor and stage.

“The beauty of holding events on these boats is that you can greet every person as they board and hand them a gift and hear what a marvelous time they had as they get off,” Lozier says. “Plus, you have a captive audience.”