November 23, 2011

More Coverage

Perhaps the most iconic image of Nevada, and one that comes to mind when most people think about the state, is Las Vegas at night. “Sin City” and other meetings-friendly destinations in the Silver State indeed provide unparalleled nightlife, from gaming excitement and eclectic cuisine to big-name entertainment and shows.

But Nevada also boasts spectacular natural attractions and adventures that make it just as lively during the day. In short, this is the place for groups looking to mingle business with pleasures that are available 24/7.

Las Vegas Area
Las Vegas was, quite simply, developed to host events, according to Amy Riley, senior director of convention sales at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA).

“Our resorts continuously reinvent the destination with new dining, entertainment, meeting space and service opportunities to make sure every group has the best possible experience,” she says, adding that most people are familiar with its exciting nightlife experiences—from fine dining to shows—but Las Vegas is also a great city for daytime group activities.

“Las Vegas is the gateway to some of America’s most stunning natural settings, such as the Grand Canyon, Death Valley and Zion National Park,” she says, adding that zip lining in Boulder City, hiking in Red Rock Canyon, golf, Pink Jeep tours in the desert and rafting trips on the Colorado River are all popular group options. “Some other group activities with a more relaxed focus include cooking demonstrations and lessons with some of the top chefs in town and helicopter or bus tours of local sites.” 

Las Vegas continues to be among the best values of any meeting destination in the world, and with more than 10.5 million square feet of function space, the city can host any size group on any budget, Riley adds.

The Las Vegas Convention Center and the Sands Expo and Convention Center are two top group facilities, while properties such as Bellagio, Caesars Palace, Cosmopolitan, Hilton, Mandalay Bay, MGM Grand, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Palazzo, Stratosphere and Venetian are meetings favorites, along with two properties at the sprawling CityCenter: Aria and Vdara.

Meanwhile, MEET Las Vegas is a 30,000-square-foot venue with an outdoor pavilion that opened in 2010 and hosts up to 2,000 people. The venue’s innovative interior and exterior technologies and built-in rigging infrastructure allow for virtually unlimited event design flexibility.

Loews Lake Las Vegas and Ravella, A Dolce Hotel & Resort (formerly The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Las Vegas) provide tranquil off-strip meetings options outside of town.

Henderson sports more than 250,000 square feet of meeting space citywide, including properties like Green Valley Ranch Resort, Casino & Spa and M Resort Spa Casino, which is scheduled to debut the 25,000-square-foot M Pavilion in December.

“Our facilities are affordable and functional for any size group,” says Edward Kirby, national sales manager for the City of Henderson Department of Cultural Arts & Tourism. “Meeting planners choose Henderson because of its tranquil appeal, without the distraction, allowing convention delegates to focus on meeting and business objectives.”

The area is within close proximity to natural attractions such as Lake Mead Recreational Area, Bootleg Canyon, the River Mountains Loop Trail and the Colorado River, so daytime team-building activities are endless, Kirby says, citing scenic bike rides and hikes, boating, Jet Skiing and golf.

“Henderson is just minutes from one of the most popular tourist attractions in the country, the Hoover Dam,” he adds. “Meeting planners can schedule a tour for attendees, who will be amazed at its enormity when they see it in person.”

Laughlin, Mesquite and Primm
In this economy, budget considerations are at the top of every planner’s list, says Meg McDaniel, senior manager regional sales for Extended Destinations, a regional office of the LVCVA.

“Laughlin, Mesquite and Primm are consistently good values,” she says. “For instance, valet and garage parking are complimentary, and there are no resort fees.”

Groups enjoy all three locations for their intimate surroundings, great year-round weather and friendly customer service, McDaniel adds, explaining that their strategic locations in Southern Nevada make them popular with regional meetings.

Group-friendly properties include Primm’s Primm Valley Resort and Buffalo Bill’s Hotel Casino, both of which recently underwent guest room upgrades; Laughlin’s Edgewater Resort Casino, which earlier this year opened a 27,000-square-foot pavilion; and Mesquite’s CasaBlanca Resort Casino and Eureka Casino Resort.

Daytime outings in these three areas are appreciated by visiting groups.

Mesquite is known as the gateway to Zion National Park, Cathedral Gorge, Cedar Breaks National Monument, Dixie National Forest, Grand Canyon National Park North Rim, Great Basin National Park and Bryce Canyon, according to McDaniel.

Not far from the comforts of Laughlin resorts is Oatman, Ariz., a gold mining town with a colorful history.

“Step back in time to see historic buildings, staged gunfights and burros, and experience the Old West on this stretch of Route 66,” McDaniel says. “A lively jet boat ride down the Colorado River takes passengers to visit the London Bridge in Lake Havasu City, and the Classic Car Collection at the Riverside Resort [in Laughlin] is like taking a walk down memory lane.”

Other off-session options for group fun include outings to the Conestoga Golf Club, the newest of Mesquite’s eight championship golf courses.

“Designed by famed course designer Gary Pranks and managed by Troon Golf, the course bends through the natural high mesa landscape with incredible views of the Virgin River Valley,” McDaniel says.

Laughlin’s location on the Colorado River is ideal for exploration and team-building events, she adds, explaining that fishing, kayaking, canoeing, hiking and rafting adventures help promote networking and team spirit among group attendees.

Additionally, Primm is home to a world-class shopping experience at the Fashion Outlets of Las Vegas, which houses stores from Williams-Sonoma to Coach that often offer discounts of up to 75 percent off the retail price, according to McDaniel.

“After a day of shopping heaven, take a break at the Spa at Primm or play on one of Primm’s two award-winning Tom Fazio-designed golf courses,” she adds.

Reno is a unique destination with a multitude of affordable options for meeting planners, according to John Leinen, vice president of convention and tourism sales at Reno-Sparks Convention and Visitors Authority.

“We have some of the finest rooms and hotel facilities, most of which have abundant meeting space, and the casino industry not only provides fantastic leisure opportunities but creates a competitive environment where restaurant and lodging facilities are constantly upgrading their product,” he says, adding that the locale is logistically convenient, as it takes about 10 minutes to get from one side of Reno to the other. “And all of our major hotels are within 10 minutes of Reno-Tahoe International Airport.”

Among Reno’s group-friendly properties are the Reno-Sparks Convention Center, the Reno Events Center, the Reno-Sparks Livestock Events Center, Atlantis Casino Resort Spa, Circus Circus Reno, Eldorado Hotel Casino, Harrah’s Reno and Grand Sierra Resort and Casino.

“Downtown Reno is also experiencing growth and redevelopment thanks to the Reno Aces, the hometown AAA baseball team,” Leinen says. “Additionally, the Freight House District, adjacent to Aces Stadium, has become a popular tourist destination and local favorite, with year-round dining and entertainment.”  

While gaming and performances by nationally known artists fill the evenings in Reno, daytime options abound as well.

Reno’s many fun off-session options include skiing; team-building excursions at CommRow, which features a 160-foot rock-climbing wall and 11 bars and eateries; outings to the Riverwalk District, where delegates will find restaurants, shops and galleries along the banks of the Truckee River; browsing the Nevada Museum of Art; and golf tournaments.

“The area is home to more than 50 golf courses, which certainly draw more attention during the summer months, but hitting the links on a sunny winter day is not unheard of,” Leinen says.

Lake Tahoe
Planners who book Lake Tahoe’s South Shore know their participants will leave having experienced an incredibly memorable event that lifts their spirits and renews their vigor, according to Mike Frye, sales and events manager at Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority.

“Tahoe South is a destination that not only offers over 100,000 square feet of flexible meeting space with terrific rates, but also features gorgeous views of Lake Tahoe from a number of easily accessible locations, including guest rooms in Harrah’s, Harveys and MontBleu,” he says, adding that the accessible Heavenly gondola offers breathtaking panoramas of Lake Tahoe, the Sierra and the Kit Carson Range, and 19, a bar and restaurant in Harveys, features similar views.

Outdoor pursuits, meetings-equipped properties and nightlife options are plentiful in Lake Tahoe.

“There is no destination in North America that offers our combination of every recreational activity one can list, headliner entertainment, gaming, easy access to skiing and boarding in winter, myriad choices for bars, restaurants and shopping, plus incredible value,” Frye says.

Winter is a great time for groups made up of skiers and snowboarders to visit South Lake Tahoe and North Lake Tahoe, and golfers enjoy convening in the destination during summer.

“With more ski resorts to choose from than any mountain destination in the country, everyone is familiar with North Lake Tahoe’s winter offerings,” says Jason Neary, director of sales at the North Lake Tahoe CVB, citing everything from cross-country skiing to dog sledding and horse-drawn carriage rides. “What some people don’t realize is how spectacular the summers can be.”

Paddle boarding, kayaking, scuba diving, fishing charters and canoeing are options to get groups out on the lake. Or they might like to enjoy endless mountain bike trails and simply lounging around on fabulous beaches.

“The unparalleled natural beauty,  wide range of lodging options and  limitless outdoor recreation opportunities have always made North Lake Tahoe one of the most appealing meetings destinations in the country,” Neary says. “While Lake Tahoe does offer incredible nightlife, the daytime activities are even more impressive. There is a reason Rand McNally named us the No. 1 outdoor recreation destination in the U.S.”

The North Shore’s group-friendly portfolio includes Cal Neva Resort, Spa & Casino in Crystal Bay, and Diamond Peak Ski Resort and Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Casino & Spa in Incline Village.

Carson City
Nevada’s capital, Carson City, mixes blasts from the past with modern conveniences.

Shopping, dining, nightlife and visits to the original 1870 capitol building are fun choices, while outdoorsy types can enjoy 18 nearby ski resorts and nine golf courses.

Meetings-equipped options include Courtyard Marriott, Hampton Inn and Holiday Inn Express properties, as well as the Plaza Hotel and Conference Center, the Gold Dust West Casino Resort and the Brewery Arts Center.

Elko is a place delegates will find is alive with the spirit of the Wild West. Every January, it hosts the National Cowboy Poetry Gathering, and a visit to J.M. Capriola Co., a major international saddle maker, is a popular group outing.

Elko’s main group venue is the Elko Convention Center, and it has many meetings properties, including Stockmen’s Hotel & Casino and Red Lion Hotel & Casino, which recently completed a guest room renovation.

According to Tom Lester, convention and tourism manager at the Elko Convention and Visitors Authority, the TownePlace Suites Elko, a Marriott property, increased the destination’s room count to more than 2,400 when it opened in June.

Situated at the base of the Ruby Mountains, Elko offers plenty of outdoor pursuits, including excursions along the Lamoille Canyon Scenic Byway, hiking, biking, rock climbing, heli-skiing and ATV trips.


Carolyn Blackburn is a frequent contributor to Meetings Focus West.


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Carolyn Blackburn