Originally a popular Pennsylvania railroad town in Blair County, Altoona is known as the Mountain City, and has transformed over the years into a thriving commercial and cultural center.
Prominent landmarks include the Horseshoe Curve, the Railroaders Memorial Museum, the Juniata Shops of the Altoona Works, the Mishler Theatre, the Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament and the Jaffa Shrine Center. The city is also home to the world’s oldest wooden roller coaster, the Leap-The-Dips, located in Lakemont Park. That means there’s plenty to do for corporations that decide to hold meetings at one of the many venues.
Mark Ickes, executive director of Explore Altoona, says with 550 new hotel rooms added over the past two-year period, as well as the destination’s current award-winning hotel properties, Altoona’s capacity to accommodate overnight visitors is positioned at an all-time high.
“Coupled with its strategic geographic location along Interstate 99 in the center of the Keystone State, Altoona offers the opportunity for conference groups to draw attendees from a population in excess of 7 million people within a three-hour drive from throughout the Mid-Atlantic,” he says.
Wingate by Wyndham Altoona is the area’s only downtown hotel location, having opened in April 2017. “We offer a meeting room that accommodates up to 32 people,” says James Long, general manager. “Complimentary coffee service is included in the price of the meeting room. We can also do in-house catering through our Lobby Bistro.” The hotel also offers a complimentary meeting room if reserving a block of sleeping rooms.
Fairfield Inn & Suites Altoona and TownePlace Suites Altoona is a newly opened blended Marriott hotel with two hotels in one building. “We have one meeting room that is 1,000 square feet, 25 [feet] by 40 [feet], and can seat up to 40 people classroom, theater, U-shape and/or conference style,” says Nettie Dellapenna, general manager. “Our new Logan room is located directly off the lobby of our hotel and can complement inhouse groups that are in the area for training, corporate meetings, interviews, presentations, etc.” The hotel can arrange catering options and offers a full supply of essential technology supplies such as an easel and flip chart, LCD projector and screen, and basic office supplies.
Altoona Grand Hotel prides itself on being the only full-service hotel in Blair County. “We offer over 6,000 square feet of banquet and meeting space,” says Maura McClellan, sales manager. “We have three on-site restaurants and enough room to do any style seating along with A/V equipment in house.” This means that the hotel can offer a full-service catering menu for any event or any meeting. Its Allegheny Room is 704 square feet with 9-foot ceilings and can accommodate up to 80 people, ideal for small business meetings, small group meetings and luncheons. There’s also a grand ballroom/theater space that holds up to 550 attendees and can be divided into three smaller spaces.
Dan and Gloria Taddei founded the Allegro Restaurant 40 years ago and it’s known in the area for its delicious filet mignon as well as its award-winning veal, fresh seafood, chicken and homemade pastas. “We have private rooms available with seating up to 80, plus plenty of parking, free Wi-Fi and a projector screen,” says Dan Taddei. “If you want to impress your guests and give them something a little special, then this is the place to be.”
The Laurel Room, inside the Altoona Grand Hotel, features a French-inspired fine dining menu with modern influences and a comprehensive wine list. McClellan says that small groups fit in well for meetings or those in the larger hotel meeting rooms can go there for dinner.
The U.S. Hotel Tavern serves updated American fare in a historical setting, well known for its paranormal activity within the building. “Since my father and I took ownership of the building in early 2014 the focus has been on serving unique bar food and entrées, craft beer with an emphasis on Pennsylvania and regional selections, and good wine and cocktails,” says Dustin Delozier, general manager. “Our signature dish, as many people in the area would let you know, is our mac ‘n cheese.” Liberty Hall is its main meeting and/or event space with a capacity of around 200 people. “Constructed with authentic mid19th-century wood beams rescued from a barn in Smithton, Pennsylvania, it is one of the most unique event spaces in Blair County,” Delozier says. “We also have private dining rooms on the restaurant side that offer meeting spaces for groups up to 30 people.”
Pamela E. Apkarian-Russell “The Halloween Queen,” owner of the Castle Halloween Museum, wants museum patrons to leave the venue knowing more about Halloween and all the interconnecting holidays, and why and how the artifacts affect them and interconnect them. “I want people to see what Halloween really was and is a fantasy and multicultural festival, not the blood and gore and stuff you see in the movies,” she says.
The Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art (SAMA) offers exhibitions that are inspiring, educational, emotional, political or simply beautiful for beauty’s sake. “Our multifaceted exhibits touch upon a myriad of feelings for both young and old to enjoy,” says Barbara Hollander, SAMA-Altoona coordinator. “We feature works from our extensive permanent collection, nationally acclaimed artists and talented regional artists.” The museum is also available for small meetings and large gatherings, formal dinners and informal cocktail parties.
And there’s plenty more to do in the city. “The classic family-fun experience of Altoona and Blair County has been strengthened by a $12.5 million expansion of Laguna Splash Water Park at DelGrosso’s Park; additional steam locomotive excursions on the Everett Railroad; and a restored view shed at the World Famous Horseshoe Curve,” Ickes says.