With powerhouse venues like the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center, the Shreveport Convention Center and the massive Cajundome and Convention Center, you’d think Louisiana would have meeting facilities covered.
But alongside the main course of major meeting real estate is the “special sauce” of smaller off-site venues representing the many flavors of Louisiana, from Cajun style to the Antebellum South and artistic outlets that also double as creative event space.
“Hosting your event at an off-site historical or scenic location creates the perfect backdrop for attendees to connect with their colleagues outside of the boardroom,” said David Bradley, vice president of sales and services for the Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau.
“We often see meeting planners booking unique venues to break up the meeting day and give attendees a taste of local culture as well as bonding time,” added Anne Taber Klenke, tourism director for the Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB. “We encourage them to explore the area as much as possible while here to really get a feel for the diverse offerings and multiple cultures we have to offer.”
The Cultural and Historical Nexus of Louisiana
The state’s undisputed cultural and historical nexus is New Orleans, the Crescent City, defined and shaped by waterways and a history that melds African-American, French and Spanish influences that are seen, heard, tasted and danced to all over town. And groups can experience it without missing a beat of the business at hand.
“We prefer it when planners choose to leave the hotel spaces and venture out to use some of our amazing off-site venues,” said Kristian Sonnier, vice present of communications and public relations for New Orleans & Company.
“We have so many options it’s almost impossible to count them all.”
Pointing to places like the Southern Food & Beverage Museum, the New Orleans Museum of Art, the Sculpture Garden in City Park and the fabled music spot Preservation Hall, Sonnier stressed the cultural value of many off-site locations in the Big Easy.
“So many venues reflect the city’s culture and history,” he said. “If you can imagine it, we can host it somewhere in New Orleans.”
Louisiana State Exhibit Museum
Not just local, but international, history takes the spotlight at New Orleans’ National WWII Museum, set blocks from the French Quarter and decades into the past, with gallery after gallery illustrating the war’s theaters of war, naval activity and key events via immersive exhibits, multimedia experiences and an enormous collection of artifacts.
[Related Content: Baton Rouge and Shreveport -Bossier Engage Groups]
Meetings and special events hosted at the museum often reflect its momentous theme, noted Ingrid Troxler, director of event sales.
“The museum hosts many groups that celebrate the trends of the 1940s,” she said, including such touches as period centerpieces and decor or booking the museum’s USO-style singing trio, the Victory Belles. “Their repertoire includes all the treasured songs of the World War II era, plus patriotic classics and a musical salute to each branch of the U.S. armed forces,” Troxler said, adding that the museum hosts between 250 and 300 special events each year, including corporate meetings, convention breakout sessions and SMERF events.
Meetings and conventions at the museum are set to grow even more this fall when the Higgins Hotel & Conference Center opens on the museum campus. The new property was named in honor of entrepreneur Andrew Higgins, who built over 20,000 boats in New Orleans that were used in every major amphibious assault of World War II.
West of New Orleans, you’ll cross into the boundaries of Cajun Country, known in popular culture as a bayou of swamps, alligators, remote islands and groves of cypress trees dripping with Spanish moss. That’s all here, but so is plenty of dry land and a wealth of places for groups to gather, starting in Lafayette, known as the capital of Acadiana. The Acadians were a group expelled from Canada by the British in the mid-1700s who migrated to what was then Spanish Louisiana and whose name gradually morphed to “Cajun.”
“Cajun roots are what’s so unique about our area,” said Irene Hodge, convention sales manager for Lafayette Travel. “The scenery, the culture, the food and the language. We encourage planners to explore the area.”
Groups can immerse themselves in all things Acadian at Vermilionville, a living history district of restored original homes dating to the 18th century along with art exhibits, gardens and artisans at work. Meeting and event options include its 350-person performance center or a 20-person conference room, while the restaurant La Cuisine de Maman hosts up to 75.
Of course, anyone who’s sampled Cajun cuisine knows that hot sauce is often in the mix, and what better place to turn up the heat than at the home of Tabasco sauce, the original Tabasco factory on Avery Island, south of Lafayette? You’ll learn how this world-famous pepper sauce is created on a factory tour and then gather for spicy Cajun dishes and Southern comfort food at the on-site restaurant.
Then there’s Cajun music, a distinctive rhythm featuring the accordion and fiddle, the latter spotlighted at Sola Violins in Lafayette, offering private group tours.
“There’s live music any given night of the week here, not just weekends,” Hodge said. “But if groups don’t have a lot of time, we can arrange a three-piece Cajun group for their sessions. It helps to break things up.”
Crying Eagle Brewery, Lake Charles
Also on the to-do list in Cajun Country are brewery tours and tastings, popular both in Lafayette and Lake Charles to the west, where Crying Eagle Brewery is a multilevel indoor/outdoor facility set up for live music, exclusive beers on tap, a gourmet pizza bistro and a beer garden complete with games.
“Our loft and beer garden are both available for private events,” said Krickett Racca, the brewery’s director of marketing and special events coordinator. “You can really get a piece of Southwest Louisiana culture when you visit Crying Eagle. We have local beer made with local ingredients as well as local fare such as boudin and locally sourced seafood.”
More local flavor is on display in Lake Charles’ range of off-site venues, from the newly reopened Panorama Music House featuring live music, food and free-flowing drinks, to the 1911 Historic City Hall, where attendees can mingle while enjoying exhibits as well as catered drinks and food.
Historical Attractions of Louisiana
North of New Orleans in a region known as Plantation Country, where stately mansions and manors preserve a glimpse of antebellum Louisiana while adding a sense of history and style to a variety of gatherings. Among the many options available for private events is Madewood Plantation Mansion, a National Historic Landmark dating back to 1846. Once part of a sugar plantation, the Greek-Revival structure—called a “miniature Parthenon”—operates today as a limited B&B and frequent host of meetings and weddings.
Madewood Plantation House, Napoleanville
“Madewood offers Southern hospitality at its best,” said Angie Johnson, home and events coordinator. “Our max seating for meetings would be 50.”
More Southern splendor awaits less than an hour away in the capital city of Baton Rouge, home to its own magnificent homes and architecturally significant buildings, including the Old Governor’s Mansion, which is available for private rentals.
Throw in the great outdoors and you’ve got the Baton Rouge Garden Center, offering 2,500 square feet of indoor meeting space with lush botanical gardens right outside the door.
“We see meeting and corporate groups every day,” noted Manager Glenn Adams. “We’re owned by the Baton Rouge Garden Club and were completely remodeled a couple of months ago.”
Outdoors is the preferred destination for many visitors to the Shreveport-Bossier City area of Northwest Louisiana, where scenic state parks and great nature-viewing areas thread through the lakes and bayous, including parts of Kisatchie National Forest, the state’s only national forest.
Cypress Black Bayou
Historical attractions abound as well, from a self-guided African American Heritage Tour to the iconic venue where Elvis Presley performed his first live radio broadcast, the Shreveport Municipal Auditorium, a venue that happily welcomes meetings. Built in the 1920s and noted for its intricate brickwork and lavish interior, the auditorium is considered the finest example of Art Deco architecture in the entire state.
“Meeting planners love to book Shreveport-Bossier’s historical venues for their events,” said Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau’s Bradley. “Not only does learning something new at a historical venue or getting some fresh air in an outdoor setting help spark creativity, it allows for meeting delegates to participate in a new shared experience together.”
Fresh air, and a fresh take on how to meet, is readily available at Louisiana state parks offering meeting and event facilities, including Palmetto Island State Park in Abbeville and North Toledo Bend State Park in Zwolle.
Check out this bonus content on what's new in Louisiana for meetings and events.
4 New & Renovated Properties for Meetings
Coming this fall to the celebrated National WWII Museum in New Orleans, the Higgins Hotel & Conference Center will operate as part of the Curio Collection by Hilton and will feature 230 rooms, an 18,000-square-foot convention center and various other meeting rooms, all reflecting a 1940s design scheme.
Set in Gonzales, between New Orleans and Baton Rouge, the newly built, dual-branded Best Western Plus Executive Residency Ascension Hotel features 44 Executive Residency by Best Western guest rooms and 38 Best Western Plus guest rooms, each designed for extended stays and boasting upscale sleeping and bath amenities. Hotel features include a 24-hour fitness center and an outdoor pool and patio.
The Loews New Orleans Hotel welcomed a new dining venue, Poydras & Peters, an American Brasserie, helmed by New Orleans native Executive Chef Thomas Hines. The new eatery features American fare with Italian and Vietnamese influences. Additionally, Bar Peters, the new bar located adjacent to Poydras & Peters, features sharable options, local craft beers, over 45 whiskeys and a local rum flight.
Recently opened in the Big Easy, Homewood Suites by Hilton New Orleans Westbank Gretna offers a combination of studio and one- and two-bedroom accommodations featuring fully equipped kitchens and separate living and sleeping areas. The property also includes 650 square feet of flexible meeting and social space.
Louisiana CVB Contact Information
Cajun Coast VCB
Lake Charles/Southwest Louisiana CVB
New Orleans & Company
Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau
Visit Baton Rouge