Asheville, N.C., one of the fastest- growing cities for meetings in the Southeast, tempts groups with its free-spirited vibe, scrumptious dining opportunities, impressive arts scene and outdoor pursuits complete with breathtaking views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
“With a recent construction boom adding numerous hotels and a wide selection of flexible meeting spaces, this mountain oasis has even more choices for incentive programs, meetings and citywide conventions—and is catching the eye of more and more savvy meeting and event planners,” said Carli Adams, group communications and services manager for Explore Asheville.
Recent and current construction is adding approximately 2,000 hotel rooms, and this year Asheville will boast more than 8,000 sleeping rooms, new meeting spaces and trendy rooftop venues all within a lively, walkable city center.
“Add to all of this the cultural sophistication permeating the city and you have a recipe for inspired meetings everyone will want to attend,” Adams said.
Mountain Meetings Magnet
According to Explore Asheville’s Dianna Pierce, vice president of sales, city representatives anticipate this year will be a very successful one, as the first-round tie of the 2018 Fed Cup, known as the World Cup of women’s tennis, and the 2018 Haute Route, a prestigious cycling event for amateur riders from all over the world, will bring even more awareness of the city to potential clients “who will, like those before them, fall in love with our area and bring their meetings here.”
Once a planner decides on Asheville as the host destination, the award-winning staff at Explore Asheville will assist with important pieces of the planning process, including finding the right hotel and creating memorable destination experiences for attendees.
“Working with our team makes planners eligible to our full menu of exclusive services, which includes the Have More Fun on Us incentive program, attraction value cards for attendees and more,” Adams said.
The lineup of group-friendly properties in Asheville includes the Omni Grove Park Inn, Crowne Plaza Resort Asheville, Renaissance Asheville Hotel, DoubleTree by Hilton Asheville-Biltmore, Inn on Biltmore Estate and Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville.
Additional event space can be found at the Asheville Event Centre and the U.S. Cellular Center, which sports a recently renovated banquet hall that accommodates up to 420 people.
“Alongside more traditional spaces, Asheville also offers a number of out-of-the-box venues, including open-air rooftops with views of surrounding mountains and outdoor locations with expansive mountain views,” Adams added. “Most planners state that Asheville’s mountain setting is a top reason for choosing Asheville as their meeting’s destination.”
At Biltmore Estate, Asheville’s iconic must-visit attraction, group experiences include outdoor adventures like the Land Rover Driving Experience and fly-fishing, as well as team cook-offs. Plus, there are amazing event spaces that can accommodate 1,000-plus people.
“The estate, site of America’s largest home and the country’s most visited winery, offers a variety of venues for meetings and meals in beautifully restored historic buildings and magnificent outdoor settings,” Adams said.
There is also Claxton Farm, a 500-acre working farm that resides on a land conservancy and provides an idyllic mountain backdrop for special events, and Highland Brewing Company, Asheville’s oldest craft brewery, which hosts private events for up to 400 people and features a rooftop venue with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Asheville receives consistent national attention for its standout culinary scene, which features more breweries per capita than any other city in the U.S., 14 farmers markets and six James Beard Award-nominated chefs, including Chef John Fleer at Rhubarb.
Rhubarb, with private dining space for up to 90 people, is among the superb group-friendly dining options in Asheville. Posana, which offers private dining for up to 50 people, is another option, as is Buxton Hall BBQ, where groups can book a private loft area for 35 people.
“Our chefs incorporate exquisite local farm-to-table fare into catering menus and elevate the everyday break and banquet to something outstanding,” Adams said. “There are also a number of food adventures and culinary experiences for groups, including wild food foraging and farm tours.”
With all the beer flowing in Asheville, meeting planners are encouraged to include a brewery tour or an off-site event at a local brewery in the itinerary.
As the city is surrounded by over a million acres of national forest and the East’s largest peaks, attendees can first work up an appetite by engaging in a fun outdoor activity.
“Asheville offers opportunities for outdoor adventure and unconventional teambuilding like guided hiking, white-water rafting, stand-up paddleboarding and ziplining,” Adams said.
The Asheville arts scene is also abuzz, as the city is home to fine artists, performing arts venues, mountain crafters, music venues, art galleries and annual festivals that celebrate creativity.
“Street performers entertain crowds on nearly every corner of downtown,” Adams said. “Great group options include Asheville Art Studio Tours that lead participants on a behind-the-scenes walking tour of the River Arts District and Lexington Glassworks, a downtown glassblowing studio and gallery that welcomes groups and private events. This beautiful space also offers a bar with local brews on tap.”
Adams suggested groups also explore RAMP (River Arts Makers Place) Studios, a hot new area just north of the River Arts District. It’s home to Ginger’s Revenge, a brewery specializing in ginger beer, and moving in soon are French Broad Chocolates as well as a spice factory run by the owners of popular Indian street food restaurant Chai Pani.