In 2019, Martha J. Sheridan stepped into the role of president and CEO of the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau. Like any CVB head, she’s bullish on her destination. “In my mind, it’s an unparalleled city for meetings,” she says. “We have great access. We have diverse products offering first-class meeting facilities. And Boston is a world leader in many important sectors, including the medical and higher-ed communities. [It’s all] at your doorstep when you book a meeting in Boston.”
What’s more, says Nate Little, director of communications and external affairs for the Boston Convention Marketing Center, the ease of getting to this harbor city can boost attendance. “Boston offers the largest and most valuable attendee base,” he says. “And it’s an ideal gateway for both national and international access with nonstop airport service to or from more than 100 worldwide destinations.”
Planners will find little need to arrange transportation for attendees who are eager to explore Boston on their own; the city is a cinch to navigate. “Boston combines centuries of culture and history with today’s innovation economy, and the city is accessible on foot or public transportation once a guest arrives,” says Little.
Let’s start the tour.
A Choice of Convention Centers
Boston offers two world-class convention venues—the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center (BCEC), in South Boston’s Seaport District, and the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center in Boston’s historic Back Bay neighborhood.
Located just eight minutes from Boston Logan International Airport, the BCEC has the fastest airport-to-convention center time in the country and, according to its claims, the fastest and most reliable Wi-Fi connections in the convention industry, with bandwidth for more than 35,000 devices to be connected simultaneously. The 2.1-million-square-foot BCEC—it’s as long as the Empire State Building is tall—offers 516,000 square feet of contiguous exhibition space, 84 configurable meeting rooms with a total 160,000 square feet of space, and a 40,020-square-foot ballroom that overlooks Boston Harbor.
The John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center, known as the Hynes to Bostonians, offers a compact convention experience in the heart of a charming neighborhood that’s less than 5 miles from the airport. With 176,480 square feet of exhibit space, the convention center has four exhibit halls that can be used in any combination; 38 meeting rooms that are within a two-minute walk; a multipurpose auditorium that seats 4,000; and a 24,544-square-foot column-free ballroom with vaulted ceilings and lots of natural light. The Hynes is connected to three hotels—Sheraton Boston Hotel, The Westin Copley Place Boston, and Boston Marriott Copley Place—with a total of over 3,100 guest rooms and nearly 200,000 square feet of meeting space.
Amy Goldberg, director of sales and senior event manager for Boston-based AI Events, produces some 80 events a year. In fact, she hosts events at both convention centers and believes each has its advantages. “The Hynes is close to the great stores and restaurants on Newbury Street with several connected hotels,” she says. “That means attendees don’t ever need to leave [the convention center area], which a lot of groups like. BCEC has obstruction-free space with very high ceilings and natural light—and it’s on the waterfront. With the growth that has occurred in the Seaport, it makes this an in-demand Boston destination.”
Endless Hotel Options
Greater Boston is home to more than 35,000 hotel rooms. The major hotel flags—Marriott, Hilton, and Hyatt—are well-represented with multiple properties. There are also boutique brands—Kimpton, Fairmont, and Langham, among them—and luxury accommodations for C-suite attendees at the Mandarin Oriental, Four Seasons, and The Ritz-Carlton.
One of Goldberg’s favorite hotels is the Royal Sonesta Boston, which offers 28,000 square feet of indoor meeting and event space, including a Grand Ballroom with floor-to-ceiling windows that provide a stunning view of the Charles River. Blake Herring, the property’s director of sales and marketing, suggests the Riverside Terrace for an outdoor event. “It offers 3,800 square feet of space where planners can host a casual cocktail reception or traditional New England clambake,” he says.
Planners who want to hold their event at a hotel might consider Omni Boston Hotel at the Seaport. Home to the largest hotel ballroom in the Seaport neighborhood, it offers 32 flexible indoor/outdoor event spaces—boasting a total of 100,000 square feet. Another option is The Newbury Boston, with 16,000 square feet of meeting and event space. The Assembly Room, the hotel’s largest space, spans 3,835 square feet with the capacity to accommodate up to 400 guests. Lush green curtains and an ornate carpet design mimic the flora of Boston’s Public Garden, while the silverleaf ceilings are an opulent homage to the building’s extravagant galas of the past. “Following a dramatic renovation and restoration, the hotel has been completely transformed into the premier luxury destination in the city, which we’re very proud of,” says Carolyn Tiley, The Newbury’s director of sales and marketing. “From our dramatic event space to our rooftop restaurant, Contessa, the hotel offers tremendous excitement and interest to travelers and locals alike.”
Rich in History
As the birthplace of the American Revolution, Greater Boston has over 350 historical and cultural sites, many offering outstanding facilities for off-site events. From presidential libraries and art museums to world-renowned performing arts venues and America’s oldest ballpark, Fenway Park, Boston offers many sports and entertainment destinations in an area replete with a living history lesson at every turn.
“Those meeting in Boston cannot help but become immersed in our history,” Herring says. “They can walk a cobblestone street, pass a historic landmark, and find themselves surrounded by new restaurants and modern art galleries.”
With the nickname “America’s Walking City,” Boston is easy to traverse by foot. The iconic 2.5-mile Freedom Trail leads to 16 nationally significant historic sites, including the Bunker Hill Monument, the Paul Revere House, and the USS Constitution.
But visitors don’t have to hoof it to experience Boston’s notable attractions. “Heading out on a land-and-water Boston Duck Tour or Boston Trolley Tour is always a popular option to see as [many] of the sights [in] Boston and Cambridge as possible during a brief visit,” Herring says. “Meeting planners can book private tours for their groups, which will pick up right at hotels.”
Other popular venues include the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Museum of Fine Arts Boston, the Central Library in Copley Square, and Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. It’s also worth making time for a walk through Boston Common, America’s oldest public park, which was established in 1634.
Between meetings, or before and after, attendees will find plenty to do in Boston. The hardest part? Deciding which attractions to check out.
Dubbed the “Cradle of Liberty,” Faneuil Hall is just as alive today as it was in 1742 when it hosted America’s first town meeting. It’s home to dozens of retailers and restaurants, plus Quincy Market Food Colonnade, where visitors can feast on Boston baked beans, Indian pudding, clam chowder, lobster rolls, and other New England favorites. Faneuil Hall is famous for its street performers, including celebrated magicians, acrobats, and jugglers.
A 3-mile trail along the Charles River offers a scenic route for walking, running, and biking. (Bluebikes, a bike-sharing system, provides more than 1,500 bikes to rent at 155 stations throughout Greater Boston.) Want to get on the water? Canoe, kayak, and paddleboard rentals are available.
If schedules permit, attending a show at Symphony Hall, Citizens Bank Opera House, or Orpheum Theatre is a highly rewarding way to spend a free evening or a leisurely afternoon.
“Boston combines the most appealing qualities of our competitor destinations into one place,” Little says. “That’s a major advantage for an event planner and one that can lead to record-breaking attendance.”