There are outsiders who think New Jersey is simply shopping malls, smokestacks and highways, but those of us who live here know better. We smile at the “Joysey” jokes because the joke’s on them. After all, they’re the ones missing out on the many charms of the state’s small towns. Lambertville, perched above the Delaware River, is one of those very gems. This river town is at once historic and current. It’s a destination that’s free of tourist traps, making it a visitor’s paradise. And, it’s just the place to plan your next meeting or event.

WHERE TO STAY
The Lambertville House Hotel
The Lambertville House Hotel blends the charms of a country inn with the white-glove service of a larger hotel. This historic property is 200 years old and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, a member of the Select Registry and a AAA Four Diamond hotel. Like its home city, “the hotel retains the beauty of a bygone era but with modern conveniences,” says Kristen George, director of sales and marketing. The 26 guest rooms and suites are individually decorated with a traditional flair and boast niceties such as gas fireplaces and jetted bathtubs. Snuggled right on Bridge Street and flanked by antiques shops and boutiques, “what sets us apart is location, location, location!” George says. Lunch and dinner are available at the Left Bank Lounge. Despite its small size, meetings are a big deal here, where a conference/event center with four state-of the-art rooms and a dedicated staff await just behind the hotel. “Groups respond to the privacy and personal attention they receive while meeting in our conference center,” George says. “Meeting experiences can often feel cookie cutter from hotel to hotel, but we excel at building relationships that go beyond notepads, pens and water.”

Lambertville Station Restaurant & Inn
Set right on the banks of the Delaware, the Inn at Lambertville Station is a full-service conference center, inn and restaurant (the latter is housed in a restored 19th-century railroad station). “You don’t have to ever leave the property, yet you get all of these different experiences,” says Sharon DeFelices, conference director. There are 46 guest rooms and suites, many with river views. The rooms have a classic look with plush amenities (fine linens, gas fireplaces), but this property really shines when it comes to event spaces. The boardroom and Delaware Room are well-suited to smaller groups and the Creekside Room is a scenic setting for up to 40, but the pièce de résistance is the newly opened Riverside Ballroom, with a vaulted ceiling and three walls of glass looking out over the Delaware and across to New Hope. “It’s a million dollar view,” says DeFelices.

Chimney Hill Estate
Seeking a place where total privacy will have your group both focused and relaxed? Look no further than the lovely Chimney Hill Estate. “We are truly an estate property set on 8.5 acres,” says owner Rich Anderson. Chimney Hill is just minutes away from Lambertville’s boutiques and restaurants, but this hideaway with just 13 rooms is ideal for retreats. “As a BYOB, we invite guests to celebrate with their own cocktail party in the estate house,” Anderson says. “I hear the words ‘I feel like I’m home’ often.” Meetings and events are arranged in the 900-square-foot Carriage House, with room for up to 60, while those looking for an intimate space will be charmed by the post and beam barn dating to 1940. Speaking of charmed, you’ll find yourself delighted by Chimney Hill’s own deliciously fuzzy alpacas that make their home on the property.

WHERE TO EAT
Hamilton’s Grill Room
Jim Hamilton is a bit of a Lambertville celebrity, though this no-fuss chef/owner of Hamilton’s Grill Room would likely scoff at that word. He’s been a fixture on the local dining scene for 28 years. “We are as close to a European bistro as you can get,” says Hamilton. Walk into the main dining room and you’ll be confronted with an 8-foot counter topped with a wood-fired grill and a raw bar. “You see the chops and lobsters, it’s kind of a turn-on when you come in,” Hamilton says. As the name suggests, the menu focuses on grilled items with influences from around the world. There are five rooms to choose from: the Grill Room (with room for 14), Bishops Room (22), Garden Room (30), Delaware Room—best known for its folk art The Peaceable Kingdom-inspired mural (35)—and the Gallery, with plush banquettes and winsome canal views (45). From Jersey Shore-style seafood dinners or Grill Room paella menus to traditional two- to fourcourse meals, “the sky is the limit and we love getting creative with groups,” says Kevin Gaertner, marketing and catering director.

DeAnna’s
Yes, there really is a DeAnna, and she has been working magic behind the stove at this eponymous restaurant for 25 years. Here, pasta definitely reigns, and “everything is homemade—from the salad dressings and pastas to the gelato,” says Lisa Nichols, private events director. “Whether you want to order straight from the menu, create custom menus, enjoy the food family-style or plated, we pride ourselves on being flexible with groups,” she says. There is a private dining room for 20, or blend in with the crowd in the main restaurant (with seating for 50). The garden accommodates 40-50 in warmer weather. In addition to delicious food, Nichols says, “We’re known for our seasonal decorations and for having a really beautiful atmosphere.”

WHAT TO DO
Acme Screening Room
Where can you pay a parking ticket by day and then buy a ticket for a film by night? The Acme Screening Room! Manhattan transplant and Executive Director Sara Scully founded the Acme screening room in 2008. The building (an old Acme supermarket, hence the name) functions as a municipal court during the week, but come Friday, the space transforms into a theater for independent films and documentaries. The space holds up to 49. “We organize Q&A sessions with artists and directors and hold post-film supper clubs with local restaurants,” says Scully.

Bucks County Academy of Fencing
One of the longest running fencing programs in the United States and one of the largest privately owned clubs on the East Coast, the Bucks County Academy of Fencing began in 1981 in Pennsylvania. The 7,000-square-foot space in Lambertville is a full service fencing academy that just so happens to invite groups to partake in its unusual team-building, problem-solving sessions. “If you’re looking for an overview of fencing and a fun group activity, we offer a two-hour session,” says Lisa Martini, director. For groups looking to dig deeper, “we offer a four-hour problem-solving session,” she says. The four hour session divides groups into two teams and encourages them to figure out competitive tactics. Or as Martini puts it: “You stick them before they stick you.”

Philadelphia was one of just two U.S. locations on National Geographic’s list of best trips for 2020. The magazine describes the city as “a scrappy underdog with a heart of gold” and uses words like “vibrant” and “creative” to describe this formerly industrial city. That’s good news for meeting planners and should certainly boost attendance at meetings. And adding to the excitement are shopping, entertainment and restaurants cropping up around the Pennsylvania Convention Center (PCC), glitzy new hotels and renovated attractions with event space.

 

Retreats and off-site meetings present wonderful opportunities for groups to collaborate, strategize and build relationships away from their normal office environments. With proper planning, these sessions can be highly effective and even pivotal in setting a new direction. However, off-sites may present some unforeseen challenges that can quickly deflate the energy in the room if not anticipated and addressed in advance.

 

The Reputation of “America’a First Resort Destination” often precedes itself, with images of the wealthy vacationing in The Palm Beaches, which consists of 39 cities in southeast Florida. But dig deeper and you’ll discover humble roots. Considered the vegetable heartland of the country, agriculture is the area’s No. 1 economic driver and responsible for connecting the southeast of the state to the west.