While this isn’t our first readers’ choice awards, this year marks the first year we are covering the Northeast region. We’ve expanded beyond New Jersey and so have our awards! Some of the most popular and noteworthy companies in the Northeast have been selected as winners this year. While some past New Jerseybased champions return, there are numerous newcomers joining the ranks.
We are thrilled to present the winners to you—the ones who made the top choices—so go ahead and see who made the prestigious list.
The Asbury Hotel takes home the award for Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (Less than 200 Guest Rooms). As the first hotel to open in Asbury Park in over 50 years, The Asbury is a reimagining of a classic beach hotel, with rooms, facilities and amenities reflecting the town’s eclectic spirit and rich music culture. “Our Asbury Hall & Terrace is a 4,800-square-foot, flexible indoor/outdoor space that accommodates corporate meetings, concerts and other gatherings with three rollup garage doors that lead to an enclosed deck patio, allowing for open-air events in nice weather,” says David Bowd, part owner-in and operator of the hotel. “Alongside our catering company and other vendors, we work with our guests to customize every detail and create a one-of-a-kind event.” Guests can continue the fun before and after events, with access to eight original public spaces spanning 35,000- plus square-feet—from a rooftop movie theater to a sunlit lobby.
Conversely, the choice for Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (More than 200 Guest Rooms) is awarded to W Hoboken. With its iconic views of the Manhattan skyline, the Hoboken, New Jersey hotel also sits right on the Hudson River. When it comes to meetings and events, the 223-room hotel aims to elevate gatherings from ordinary to extraordinary. It offers a 4,140-square-foot Great Room, large enough for up to 400 guests. It boasts dramatic high ceilings, vibrant natural light and private prefunction areas. The hotel also has five breakout spaces that total 1,985 square feet.
The Mystic Seaport Museum is selected as Best Meeting/Event Venue (No Hotel). Situated on the Mystic River in Connecticut, the venue’s grounds cover 19 acres—much of that is on the waterfront with access to boats and views of the river. “It’s all with the backdrop of our historic village, which represents the quintessential New England seaport,” says Daniel McFadden, director of communications. “We leverage the skills and knowledge of our historic interpretation staff to use our setting—the historic village and our ships and boats—to provide unique and compelling programming to complement whatever the client wants.” For meetings and events, the museum offers everything from indoor spaces for up to 250 to outdoor tents for 500 and a covered pavilion next to a lighthouse on the river that can seat 200. “We also have a variety of watercrafts on which we can host events and cruises including the Sabino, the oldest coal-fired steamboat in regular operation in the country, which can hold up to 70 people for a catered outing,” McFadden says. “To make an event truly memorable, we also offer everything from blacksmithing to rope making to sea chantey singing to rowing a 19th-century whaleboat as team-building activities or simply entertainment.”
Readers enjoy the exciting gaming action at Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City, New Jersey, which is the choice for Best Casino. “Offering something for everyone with everything under one roof, Borgata’s all-encompassing resort provides guests with the opportunity to create a unique visit with each getaway,” says Liza Costandino, director of communications. “Atlantic City’s market-leading casino-resort, Borgata offers an unparalleled destination for guests traveling for business or pleasure.” Borgata is home to two AAA Four Diamond hotels, five celebrity-chef restaurants, two award-winning spas, four signature nightlife experiences and thrilling gaming action, among other amenities. “We offer 106,000 square feet of flexible meeting space featuring a 30,000-square-foot Event Center with state-of-the-art lighting and audio-visual capabilities,” Costandino says. “This venue can accommodate 2,400 guests theater-style, 2,000 guests for seated banquets, and 3,700 guests for a stand-up cocktail reception.” The versatility of the Event Center contains a 12,000-square-foot meeting venue and three 4,500-square-foot meeting rooms. In addition to Borgata, The Water Club (Borgata’s signature boutique-lifestyle hotel) offers 18,000 square feet of meeting space—including nine meeting rooms and four boardrooms to accommodate 20-200 people.
Another casino resort, Mohegan Sun, takes home the award for Best Golf Resort with Meeting/Event Space. Designed by legendary golf course architect Geoffrey Cornish, its championship par 72 golf course boasts a dream design of emerald green fairways, native fescues and the ever-changing colors of the four seasons that accommodates all levels of play. Corporate golf outings are tailored to a group’s needs, and everything is handled by the golf event team.
Ellis Island is the winner of Best Historic or Cultural Venue. The Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration tells the story of the 12 million immigrants who entered America through the golden door of Ellis Island and the American Family Immigration History Center allows visitors to search the collection of immigrant arrival records. Guests can also take a ferry to the Statue of the Liberty, located on nearby Liberty Island.
The Whiteface Lodge in Lake Placid, New York, wins for Best Ski Resort with Meeting/ Event Space. It is the only Forbes Four-Star resort in the area, and one that is consistently recognized for being the best of its kind in the country. “A perfect retreat for travelers seeking a pampered experience in an intimate and relaxing setting, the Lodge evokes the splendor of the Adirondack Great Camps,” says Elissa Fornasiero, director of sales and marketing. “The all-suite property offers luxuriously appointed guest rooms complete with living spaces, cast-iron fireplaces and private balconies. Whiteface Lodge always provides guests with access to a wide range of inclusive amenities, services and activities.” With flexible spaces from boardrooms to a private lakefront, Whiteface Lodge can accommodate groups from 20 to 150 people and all spaces offer a unique, authentic Adirondack experience. “The village of Lake Placid is a fourseason destination, but many groups come in winter for a skiing retreat,” Fornasiero says. “The slopes are a great place for hosting a meeting because everyone can enjoy activities geared to their individual skill level, while also coming together and bonding as a team.”
The Sagamore Resort in Bolton Landing, New York wins for Best Resort with Meeting/ Event Space. “Our event space is very unique and not just cookie-cutter like many others, and we have a lot of different options,” says Lori Rehm, director of sales. “People can rent a cruise boat and we can cater the dinner as they cruise a few hours on the lake; we have some beautiful lawn areas and some that overlook the lake; and we have some great Adirondack campfire areas.” It also boasts a state-of-the-art conference center for meetings with a dedicated team of conference services managers that will oversee all aspects of a gathering from delectable catering options to audio-visual enhancement.
Jacob Javits Center is the victor for Best Convention Center. With its newly completed top-to-bottom renovation, the Mecca for NYC trade shows and conventions now looks, feels and operates better than ever before. It boasts more than 840,000 square feet of total exhibit space and plays host to some of the largest and most popular conventions in the country.
The Brooklyn Brewery is the readers’ choice for Best Winery/Brewery/Distillery with Event Space. The popular Williamsburg locale not only sells great beer, but prides itself on enriching the communities it serves. Founded by James Beard Award-winning brewmaster Garrett Oliver and beer industry commentator Steve Hindy, the brewery serves a collection of top craft beers.
Inside, a 4,000-square-foot space is available for event rentals and corporate meetings for up to 40. Tasting Room buyouts are also available and can accommodate up to 200 guests on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Rails Steakhouse in Towaco, New Jersey, is the top pick for Best Restaurant with Private Dining Space. Its private dining rooms and semiprivate rooms can accommodate a wide range of events from business presentations to cocktail parties, to private meetings, receptions and luncheons. “Rails is a stunning restaurant with meticulous attention to detail in every square inch of the 18,000-square-foot space,” says Pat Leone, director of private dining and special events. “The luxe Colorado lodge design is nothing short of exquisite, thanks to sprawling timber, natural stone walls, glass accents, fire and water features, and private outdoor terraces.” Executive chef Francis X. Falivene is a native of New Jersey with more than 30 years of restaurant experience. Rails has six rooms available, including The Library, which accommodates up to 50 in a candlelit staked stone room with a marble floor, cozy tables, leather chairs and a book-lined wall to help to create the warm, authentic ambiance. “The Rails Wine Cave seats up to 40 and accommodates up to 50 for a cocktail party,” Leone says. “Warm and inviting, the setting in Rails Wine Cave is rustic and casually elegant. The underground wine cave features an intimate lounge, private bar, and custom designed pendant lamps and candles complementing the scene with a warm amber glow throughout.”
In an industry that’s always innovating, the Best New Venue is The Bank at Manhattan Center. “The Bank Space offers an intimate atmosphere with floor-to-ceiling windows and original marble details,” says Jessica Rothstein Berman, vice president of sales and marketing. The completely self-contained space features a private entrance, two levels of usable space (25,000-square-foot main floor and 2,000 square feet of flexible ancillary space), audio-visual and production specialists and an in-house team of event professionals. The Manhattan Center team partners with organizations for each event and success comes from its ability to come up with creative solutions to any challenge. “We thrive on the excitement of each event,” Berman says. “The Manhattan Center is as versatile as it is unique, bringing everything together to support your vision of the perfect event.”
NYC & Company is your pick for Best CVB or Destination Marketing Organization. The authority for New York City’s five-borough tourism and meetings industry, the company is supported by 1,700 private members that represent hotels, restaurants, attractions, museums, tours and more. “Our team is privileged to sell and promote the continuous evolution and reinvention of one of the world’s premier, global meetings destinations,” says Jerry Cito, SVP convention development. “The City’s unprecedented and diverse product gives planners plenty of reasons to #MakeItNYC.” NYC & Company is successful thanks to its passionate and service-minded team of knowledgeable staff, including its Convention Development and Destination Services divisions. “Our award-winning organization keeps the industry informed about the ‘New’ New York City’s developments and product updates, and its global sales team give planners access to tailored insights and assistance, when and where they need it,” Cito says.
The Charles Group, Inc. was chosen as Best Meeting/Event Planning Company. Carol Davis-Grossman, managing partner of the Fairfield, New Jersey-based company, says one of its hallmarks is whenever it works on an event, no matter what the city, the team makes it very indigenous to the landscape. “We bring in the local culture, but then put our own twist on it,” she says. “For example, we recently did an event in San Antonio, Texas, and rather than do the traditional tumbleweeds and things like that, we did a whole party in neon, with large neon cacti and cowboys. This gave a unique experience for our guests.” Another thing that makes The Charles Group successful is that it’s a company that has an equal balance of creativity and business sense. “We have assembled a team of people who can think on both sides of the brain,” Davis-Grossman says. “We know how to negotiate a contract and get the best deal for our clients. On top of that, we pride ourselves on advising our clients on how best to spend their event dollars.”
Absolute Events by Corrine takes home the award for Best Individual Meeting/Event Planner. “The key to success is being very interested and vested in your client’s success,” says Corrine (Statia) Thomas, president/ meeting and event specialist for the Jersey City, New Jersey-based company. “That means really listening carefully to what they are asking for, understanding their goals and objectives and delivering on that so they end up satisfied for the work you do for them.” In 2017, the company planned about two dozen events and each was designed to meet each customer’s wants and desires. “I didn’t realize until a few years ago that listening is a skill and not everyone listens in the same way, and that is something I recognize as a skill I have,” she says. “A client recently told me they were impressed with how invested I am in the success of their program and that makes them feel good about working with me. They’re not just a paycheck to me.”
Flowerful Events, based in Eatontown, New Jersey, is your winner for Best Floral & Event Décor Provider. “The difference between event companies is what they are able to offer and we do not only a full production of flowers here, but we also do custom furniture, custom props and we can fill any special need,” says Michael Heifez, CEO of the 20-year-old company. “Companies like ourselves stand out because customers don’t have to shop around; they can find everything in one place.” With 10,000 square feet of space for its décor, Flowerful Events can display many of its products so people can get a better idea of how things will look at their event. But the event décor provider is more than just a one-stop shop; it also provides exceptional customer service and that’s what keeps customers coming back to fill their event needs. “We make sure to always be there for clients,” Heifez says. “We take their concerns and needs very seriously and I think that adds to our value.”
NYC Signature Limo is the top choice for Best Transportation. Dedicating itself to ensuring all transportation needs are met for any special event, the company has over 10 years of experience to back up that promise. Its fleet of vehicles includes sedans, stretch limousines, vans, party buses and coaches.
Cirque Central was voted as Best Entertainment/Performer. The New York City-based company is a leading boutique provider of specialty performers and living event enhancements with a talent roster that includes some of the highest caliber of elite, visually stunning performers around. “We provide live event enhancements that create the ‘wow’ factor that people are looking for,” says Elaina Royter-Luparello, founder and creative director. “Everyone always has the venue, the food, drinks and music, but we provide something that makes people remember.” Cirque Central’s talent can either enhance the ambience/theme/ aesthetic of the event or can curate a “stop and watch” featured performance/act/show “One of our most popular services is our aerial beverage service [#BubblyFromAbove] where people are greeted at a cocktail hour with aerial acrobats above, pouring drinks while hanging upside down,” Royter-Luparello says. However, for larger galas and some parties, a full spectacle stage show is often preferred. A former acrobat herself, Royter-Luparello has been in the specialty event world for about a decade.
Manhattan Yacht Charters is the winner of Best Charter Boat Service. Offering luxury motor yachts, cruising dinner boats and lavish sailing yachts, the charter service sails up and down the East River and Hudson River, providing the beautiful landscape of New York City. Trips can accommodate anywhere from two to 1,200 guests. A trip through the New York Harbor can be arranged for corporate casino nights, parties, murder mystery nights and other creative team-building adventures.
PLS Staging in Cedar Grove, New Jersey, was selected for Best A/V Provider. Jim Koziol, consulting director, says the company provides full-service audio, video, lighting and stage systems designed and tailored to fit within any given event space. “We have all the necessary rental equipment needed to effectively communicate your message to your audience,” he says. For example, its sound reinforcing rental division boasts powerful speaker cabinets and amps, self-powered speakers and subs, stage monitors, line array systems, analog and digital consoles, playback and replay devices, wired and wireless microphone rentals, push-to-talk-mic-system rentals, and more. And the company is flush with just as many options for video, lighting and the stage.