The list of great off-site venues for group events in Nebraska is as sprawling as its prairies and as high as its tallgrass.
There are many interesting options to choose from throughout the state, including popular tourist attractions that have impressive meeting spaces, and equally impactful stand-alone venues.
A world-class museum, a lakeside meeting hall and a furniture factory turned event venue are a few ideas in the following lineup of possibilities for planners to consider.
Joslyn Art Museum, Omaha
Joslyn Art Museum, Nebraska’s largest art museum with a collection of works spanning from ancient times to the present, is located near the Old Market Arts and Entertainment District.
According to James Laurent, the museum’s events manager, the museum is a premier place for corporate functions and social gatherings, including everything from general sessions to cocktail receptions.
“There is simply no other place like Joslyn,” he said. “It’s architecturally stunning, historic and features nearly 20 galleries filled with art.”
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Standout event spaces here include lecture and concert halls; a conference room; a contemporary atrium with a 45-foot-high glass ceiling, pink marble and two colorful Dale Chihuly sculptures; and a sculpture garden/plaza featuring a reflecting pool, water wall and sculptures by internationally renowned artists.
“Gallery viewing can be arranged as part of almost any event,” Laurent added. “Docent-guided tours are available as well, with advance notice and gallery space permitting.”
Lauritzen Gardens, Omaha
At Lauritzen Gardens, groups could explore over 100 acres of gardens and host memorable group gatherings year-round.
“From the smallest cookie-and-lemonade snack event to a five-course meal, Lauritzen Gardens is ready to handle your group,” said Daneisha Hall, the attraction’s rental coordinator. “Whether you’re planning a small intimate meeting or a large training event, our venue has a space to fit your needs.”
Among them is the visitor and education center, which showcases indoor floral shows, including a fall chrysanthemum display featuring a Japanese-themed garden and a holiday poinsettia show that twinkles with decorative lighting in the evening.
There is also a horticulture library, which is well suited for small events, and a great hall with a private loggia and views of the Missouri River Valley that is the perfect size for a corporate luncheon.
“All rooms have been beautifully furnished and are just steps away from a magnificent indoor or outdoor garden setting,” Hall said.
Guided tours, including seasonal narrated tram tours, can be arranged during the group’s visit.
Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center, Denton
For 20 years, Spring Creek Prairie Audubon Center has been providing nature education programs for all ages.
“Meetings are done ‘prairie style’ at our 850-acre tallgrass prairie preserve only 20 minutes from downtown Lincoln,” said Kevin Poague, the center’s operations manager. “If you want to have a meeting away from the city in a quiet, natural setting with a fantastic view of the prairie, our site is for you.”
There is an on-site meeting room that accommodates up to 90 people, and after 5 p.m., the 100-person Grand Prairie Hall is available for groups.
“The Grand Prairie Hall is our public visitor area with interactive exhibits about the tallgrass prairie,” Poague said. “The room’s windows showcase the vast tallgrass prairie landscape.”
He added groups are encouraged to arrange guided outdoor walking tours focusing on birds, wildflowers, prairie ecology and the history of Spring Creek Prairie.
The Archway, Kearney
The Archway, a monument spanning 300 feet over Interstate 80, pays tribute to the pioneers and innovators who traveled the Great Platte River Road through Nebraska and helped to build the country.
The Archway has two meeting rooms, one for up to 30 people and the other accommodates up to 150, and both are closed off from the rest of the facility to ensure a meeting’s privacy.
After hours, groups can use the lobby, which is a soaring three-story atrium-style space constructed in log cabin-style with spruce timbers from Montana and Canada and slate flooring from Colorado.
“Since we are situated in the geographic center of the state, The Archway is a popular gathering place for meetings of statewide businesspeople and organizations,” said Mark Foradori, The Archway’s marketing coordinator. “We accommodate receptions and meal functions. We can provide box lunches that include subs or barbecue sandwiches, hot buffets or elegant sit-down dinners.”
Group tours are available here, as everyone receives an audio guide that relays the stories of adventurers from the Oregon Trail era through today.
The Living Room, Omaha
The Living Room is housed in a former furniture factory called The Mastercraft. Its public hallways are filled with furnishings made right in the building.
“Another surprising thing is that the building still has the original vaulted wood ceilings and brick walls, along with an amazing amount of natural light,” said Jacobi Goodell, The Living Room’s venue manager.
Receptions, seminars, workshops, fundraisers, cocktail competitions, corporate parties and more have been held here.
“The Living Room is always up for hosting creative or outside-the-box events and trying things we have never done before,” Goodell said.
The venue’s main space is called The Living Room, too, and seats up to 200 guests at tables. It’s fully equipped with speakers, microphones and two high-definition projectors.
The adjoining space, the Higgins, has a beautifully stained blue concrete floor and an antique arch.
“This room is great for a cocktail hour or team-bonding activities that require people to be moving around,” Goodell said.
Harbor Lights, North Platte
Harbor Lights, a lakeside meeting hall, is ideal for groups seeking a laidback setting during the spring and summer months.
“We sit next to Lake Maloney and State Park, so our decor and theme is a bit on the nautical side,” said Abbie Pack, co-owner and event manager. “Our on-site bar features a backdrop made from shiplap, metal scuba helmets and boat portholes.”
Harbor Lights has a bar and kitchen as well as an outdoor patio, stage and garden space. The venue seats up to 300 people and hosts everything from business meetings to fundraisers.
Boiler Grand Hall, Lincoln
Boiler Grand Hall, the former federal courtroom located on the third floor of the Grand Manse building, was built in 1904 and maintains its original, stately and ornate aesthetic, according to Heather Coniglio, event coordinator for the Boiler Brewing Co.
“It features original decor, including 24-foot-tall oak walls, incredibly detailed, hand-carved woodwork and polished maple floors,” she said. “It’s the perfect space for dinners, business meetings, receptions, company tailgate parties—you name it!”
For an additional 500 square feet of event space, the room’s original leather doors open into a foyer with a marble floor.
Boiler Grand Hall accommodates up to 100 people seated, and events can feature up to 12 Boiler Brewing Co. beers on tap, among other options.
NEBRASKA CVB CONTACT INFORMATION
Columbus/Platte County CVB
Grand Island CVB
Kearney Visitors Bureau
Norfolk Area Visitors Bureau
North Platte/Lincoln County Visitors Bureau
Click over to Page 2 for new and renovated venue updates in Nebraska.
NEW AND RENOVATED HOTELS AND VENUES IN NEBRASKA
Omaha plans to invest $290 million in its downtown convention district along the city’s riverfront. The new development will connect the convention district, downtown Omaha and the riverfront. Features of the project include a green space with a performance pavilion, botanical gardens, cafes and a sculpture garden. Construction is expected to begin in 2019 and is scheduled for completion in 2022.
The 333-room Omaha Marriott Downtown Capitol District, located directly across from the convention center, opened in August 2017 with 17,500 square feet of meeting/event space.
Plans are underway for a new six-story 105-room Marriott Moxy hotel, located blocks away from the convention district in Omaha’s popular Old Market Arts and Entertainment District. The lobby will have billiards and ping pong tables and the hotel will also have an on-site restaurant and bar.
The 120-room Aloft Omaha West will also have billiards and ping pong tables in the lobby when it opens, as well as 1,500 square feet of meeting space.
The University of Nebraska-Lincoln, as part of its most recent expansion of student housing, added rentable meeting space in the Willa Cather Dining Complex. Included in the space are a 6,000-square-foot ballroom and numerous breakout meeting spaces.
The recently renovated historic Scottish Rite Masonic Center (www.scottishritelincoln.org) is open for private rentals. The venue could accommodate over 200 people for general sessions, meetings, dinners and more.
Cunningham’s Journal Tap & Kitchen will open a second location this summer next to the Younes Conference Center. It will accommodate groups of up to 150 people, and more if the outdoor patio space is used.
In June, the Norfolk Lodge and Suites, part of Divots Conference Center, unveiled an expansion including 38 new guest rooms, a 3,000-square-foot great room, a spa and a rooftop terrace with outdoor patio and fire features.