When meeting in the coastal communities of North Carolina and South Carolina, groups will appreciate an outdoor event that allows them time to enjoy the mild weather, sunshine and scenic views.
An aquarium, garden settings, an old battleship and waterfront restaurants are a few of the possibilities for memorable receptions and meal functions complete with inspiring views, Instagram-worthy photo ops and even fun add-on activities.
Outdoor Venues in North Carolina
The NC Aquarium has been a popular attraction and special event host on the Outer Banks for four decades. Because it’s open to the public from 9a.m. to 5p.m. daily, it’s the perfect post-conference destination because the evening hours can host group events.
“Dining with the sharks and partying with the otters is a prospect that attracts after-hours events,” said Brian Postelle, the aquarium’s public relations coordinator.
Interior spaces accommodate sit-down dinners or food stations with time built in to explore the aquarium, and outside function areas include a grassy open field next to the sound and the Soundside Pier.
“We have the added charm of our Soundside Pier, which allows guests to gather and experience waterfront living for themselves both while it is light and then after it has gotten dark,” Postelle said. “It is an amazing location to watch the sunset, which happens just across the sound.”
The Riverwalk Landing is located on the Cape Fear River beside two of downtown Wilmington’s popular restaurants, Elijah’s and the Pilot House, which are often called on to cater events.
According to Lindsey Miller, the venue’s event coordinator, the riverfront deck accommodates more than 200 seated guests and allows drinking.
“One of the best things about our venue is the amazing views,” Miller said. “We have the most perfect view of the Cape Fear Memorial Bridge and on the other side you can see the Battleship. These make for amazing group pictures as well.”
The Battleship NORTH CAROLINA, a restored World War II vessel, is a National Historic Landmark that serves as a museum, memorial and outdoor event venue for up to 300 people.
Caption: Event at Battleship NORTH CAROLINA. Credit: Battleship NORTH CAROLINA
Stacie Greene Hidek, marketing director for the Battleship, explained the outdoor fantail and the adjacent riverfront park are available for rental.
“The Battleship and its grounds offer a unique and stunning view of downtown Wilmington, across the Cape Fear River,” she said. “The ship itself is a one-of-a-kind venue, where groups can enjoy being surrounded by an authentically restored piece of World War II history with fantastic photo opportunities.”
Groups that hold events on the Battleship may also arrange guided tours or educational activities, including in-depth lessons about the ship’s history or operation.
“We also host organizations that provide their own training using the Battleship’s facilities such as search and rescue groups, and others that offer their own take on the Battleship’s history, such as ghost tours,” Greene Hidek added.
Moonrakers, located in North Carolina’s Crystal Coast, is a seafood restaurant that was designed with group events in mind, according to John Stephens, managing partner.
There are four separate areas that accommodate small and large group gatherings, including a covered deck on the main floor, the Concorde Gallery veranda and the Sky Deck, which overlooks Taylor’s Creek and accommodates more than 100 seated guests.
“The Sky Deck is a finished space for rooftop dining and everyone’s favorite,” Stephens said. “It has its own large full bar, 360-degree views, shade sails overhead, string lighting, live entertainment and arguably one of the best views while dining on the east coast.”
The team at Moonrakers will also work with planners to create custom menus using locally sourced ingredients and to arrange fun add-on activities, including scavenger hunts.
Outdoor Venues in South Carolina
Brookgreen Gardens, located 15 minutes from Myrtle Beach, is a National Historic Site that features the country’s largest collection of American figurative sculpture, an award-winning botanical garden, an accredited zoo, and a wildlife, history and nature preserve.
Brookgreen has both indoor meeting spaces and outdoor spaces, including the newly constructed Leonard Pavilion, which overlooks Brookgreen’s arboretum. The sculpture Heron, Grouse and Loon by Elliot Offner is adjacent to the pavilion, which is suitable as a dining venue or set up as a classroom space.
“The Holiday Cottage is a stunning venue for an evening cocktail event, a luncheon or a small meeting,” added Lauren Joseph, director of marketing at Brookgreen Gardens. “The courtyard can be tented to provide a large private covered event space.”
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Other outdoor spaces include the White Garden, with a central pool featuring Anna Hyatt Huntington’s sculpture, Diana of the Chase; and the walled garden with The Fountain of the Muses by Carl Milles as the central feature.
“There are many other outdoor gathering spaces available over our 300-plus acres of public area,” Joseph said. “Our event coordinator will work with your group to find the perfect spot.”
Add-on group activities can be arranged, including a historical tour of the rice fields and creek on a 48-passenger pontoon boat, and a sculpture garden tour.
Coast, Hilton Head Island
Outdoor events are considered “a strong suit for Hilton Head Island,” according to Charlie Clark, vice president, communications, for the Hilton Head Island VCB.
Caption: Coast, Hilton Head Island. Credit: Coast
“A place that’s still relatively new that’s been fantastic for offsite group events is Coast,” he said.
The restaurant is located within the Sea Pines Resort, a 5,000-acre enclave with private homes, The Inn & Club Harbour hotel (rated one of Travel + Leisure’s Top 10 Best Resorts in the American South in 2018) shops and restaurants.
“Coast overlooks the Atlantic and is perfect for large groups,” Clark said. The restaurant serves fresh fare like seafood towers, lobster and shrimp pasta and more.
Middleton Place, a National Historic Landmark that includes 65 acres of gardens, an inn, a restaurant and an organic farm, has welcomed visitors since it was established in 1741.
One special guest was First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who visited in early 1941 and marveled at what she thought was “one of the most beautifully laid out places I have ever seen.”
According to Samantha Wrigglesworth, director of special group services, any type of event can be arranged at Middleton Place.
“From an intimate cocktail party in the gardens to a large-scale reception or banquet in the pavilion, from scavenger hunts in the stable yards to oyster roasts under the live oaks, Middleton Place’s magnificent landscape, created in the 18th century to impress its visitors, continues to do so today,” she said.
An entertaining add-on group activity can coincide with an event at Middleton Place. Examples include a horse-drawn carriage ride and a wine-tasting stroll through the gardens.
A Planner’s Perspective on Meetings in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina
Janice M. Wilkins (pictured)
Liberty Fellowship of South Carolina
Briefly state what your job entails.
I plan Liberty Fellowship’s signature seminar experience and custom seminars for Liberty Fellows and other designated participants.
What type of meeting did you hold in Myrtle Beach?
A five-day seminar.
Was anyone particularly helpful in executing your event?
Charlene Sitas of Brookgreen Gardens and Michelle Beard of Inlet Affairs Catering.
What did your attendees seem to enjoy the most about Myrtle Beach?
Our host hotel was Inlet Sports Lodge, which was great, as was Costa Coastal Kitchen & Bar next door, where we hosted our evening nightcap. The group also enjoyed Brookgreen Gardens for the daily moderated sessions. Brookgreen Gardens is a spectacular location for meetings with an opportunity to walk the gardens or enjoy a creek excursion—our group did both.
Did your group enjoy an offsite reception or meal at a local outdoor venue?
Atalaya Castle, part of the state’s park system, is a magical location to host a cocktail reception and private dinner. My participants took a short walk on the beach before enjoying a Caribbean luau-themed dinner. It was a huge hit. Another gem in the area is Hobcaw Barony, which offers picturesque views off the dock at the historic Hobcaw House. In addition to the guided historical tour of the property from the main highway out to Winyah Bay, having dinner in the historic home with the sunset on the water created a memorable evening for my guests.
How does Myrtle Beach compare to other cities where you have hosted meetings?
It’s challenging to compare the area to other locations because of the natural beauty the coastline adds to any event. With temperate weather, typically warmer compared to just about any other region of the state, it’s a great location offering opportunities to explore the outdoors and local cuisine. I would add the people who work in the service industries are eager to make your experience a great one.
Would you recommend Myrtle Beach to other meeting planners?
I highly recommend considering the Myrtle Beach area for your next meeting. With opportunities to provide fantastic food, a beautiful setting and outdoor activities, you’ll meet the needs of everyone on your guest list. Great people working in the service industries will help execute any event, large or small.
The Latest and Greatest Openings and Renovations in Coastal North Carolina and South Carolina
Beaufort Hotel opened in spring 2019 with 133 guest rooms and 10,000 square feet of event space, including a grand ballroom that accommodates 375 people for a seated event.
Sanderling Resort recently opened the new two-story Event House featuring two 1,800-square-foot ballrooms. There is also a breakout room and boardroom with views of Currituck Sound.
Haven on the Banks is a new oceanside event space in Nags Head that accommodates small corporate meetings.
The 125-room Aloft Coastline Hotel is slated to open in late 2020 with a full-service restaurant, rooftop bar, and meeting and banquet rooms.
Emeline is scheduled to open in the heart of downtown Charleston in spring 2020. The hotel will 212 all-king-bed guest rooms and 128 luxury suites, over 10,000 square feet of social and event space, and a special partnership with neighbor Hank’s Social Hall for an elevated gathering space delivering the classic Hank’s seafood experience.
Hotel Bennett, also located in downtown Charleston, opened last year with 179 guest rooms and suites, an onsite restaurant, a spa, and over 12,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event/meeting space, including a 6,600-square-foot ballroom.
A new Southern-inspired pub, 44 & King, combines traditional Southern dishes and Lowcountry cuisine with modern flair and an impressive beer menu. Groups will find an inviting atmosphere inside and out, including a set of cornhole boards, seating on the covered porch and live music.
Twelve 33 Distillery, the Myrtle Beach area’s first craft distillery, opened last year. The facility features several group-friendly spaces that accommodate private meetings and events, including a 3,000-square-foot tasting room for up to 200 guests.
Crystal Coast Tourism Authority | 252.726.8148
New Bern-Craven County CVB | 252.637.9400
Outer Banks Visitors Bureau | 252.473.2138
Wilmington and Beaches CVB | 910.341.4030
Charleston Area CVB | 843.853.8000
Hilton Head Island VCB | 843.785.3673
Myrtle Beach Area CVB | 843.626.7444
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