Once a formidable industrial and manufacturing powerhouse, today the Lehigh Valley region is known for its considerable charm, and its downtowns are fi lled with excitement and family fun. One can learn about the American Revolution, attend a minor league baseball game (go IronPigs!) or visit the popular family-friendly Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom. It’s also a great place to plan your next meeting or event.

WHERE TO STAY

Glasbern Inn

The history of the Glasbern Inn dates back to 1787, and its rustic charm can be seen today in its 150-acre working organic farm, Historic Hotel of America and private meeting salons. Beth Vargas, senior innkeeper, says its 38 cottages make it a wonderful place to hold a company retreat for a few days and corporations can do a multitude of team-building activities. “We can do small boardroom-type meetings for as little as six, and have held meetings and events for up to 150 guests,” she says. “You feel like you are far away and not stuck in a typical meeting room. It’s a great place to put aside the pressures of the workplace environment.”

Hotel Bethlehem

With 14,000 square feet of flexible meeting space—most of which features wonderful views of Historic Main Street and original colonial buildings that are in the heart of Historic Moravian Bethlehem, a national historic landmark district—Hotel Bethlehem offers distinctive service in an upscale setting.

“While our hotel maintains its historic integrity, we offer all of the conveniences and amenities that today’s corporate planners and attendees require,” says Kelly Ronalds, director of sales and marketing. “We also partner with Historic Bethlehem Museums & Sites and can cater an event in the 1741 Smithy, which provides very unique and custom menus and opportunities that aren’t available in all cities.”

In addition to its third-floor meeting rooms, which can accommodate 50-120 in a theater setting, there’s also a grand ballroom available for special events (for up to 300) and the Mural Ballroom, which contains seven large murals depicting the history of Bethlehem, painted by artist George Gray.

Bear Creek Mountain Resort & Conference Center

Although the 330-acre mountainside resort is known for its skiing and full-service spa, Marketing Manager Marcy Ament says it’s also the ideal place to host a corporate meeting or conference. “Our resort is known for being a four-season resort. There are beautiful mountain views, a variety of outdoor activities, an on-site spa, two restaurants with bars and a slopeside hotel,” she says. “We offer 26,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, including two ballrooms, two executive conference rooms and a lodge.” Both its Woodland Ballroom and Mountain Ballroom accommodate 300 and each can be divided into three individual rooms for smaller groups or simultaneous meetings. Both have outdoor decks. There are also two executive boardrooms which seat up to 14 guests.

Sands Bethlehem

As the largest hotel in Lehigh Valley, Sands Bethlehem is a great spot for a meeting or event, as it’s centrally located for Philadelphia (60 miles), New York City (75 miles) and Baltimore (80 miles). The hotel offers six meeting rooms with 12,000 square feet of space, as well as a 14,000-square-foot event center, perfect for trade shows of up to 100 booths or events with 600 people. “It’s a great destination with 10 restaurants, free nightly entertainment and our outlet mall, which bodes well for our group meetings,” says Patrick Ryan, director of hotel sales.

Sands Bethlehem also attracts the environmentally friendly customer with green designated meeting space, which Ryan says has grown in popularity over the years. “We measure the carbon footprint and strive to do things differently, whether with sustainable menus, recyclable programs, water stations vs. bottle water, pens only if needed, etc.,” he says. “Once the meeting is over, the hotel will put together a report to show the companies what they saved.” For those companies looking for team-building exercises, the hotel has partnered with the Lehigh Valley Volunteer Center and can arrange events where meeting attendees work to help local food banks, soup kitchens and other worthwhile charities.

WHERE TO EAT

Fegley’s Allentown Brew Works

Fegley’s Allentown Brew Works offers five floors and multiple private rooms that can be suited for any meeting or event. The Fegley family owns the six-story building, which houses a popular restaurant on the first floor and four floors of private space that can be used for parties or corporate meetings. “We can accommodate anywhere from 10 to 250 people in our largest room,” says Jacqueline Svrcek, sales and catering manager. “There’s a business renaissance going on downtown and we have a lot of corporations (such as PPL and National Penn Bank) utilizing our great space.” Its luxurious Hamilton room is perfect for a corporate dinner, while its Five room offers breathtaking panoramic views of the city. “Everything is catered through our banqueting,” Svrcek says, “and we brew our own beer.”

blue

When blue opened in 2002, it instantly became one of Lehigh Valley’s premier fine dining establishments thanks to its stylish ambiance and extensive wine list. Formerly the Candlelight Inn, blue is also home to an event center with over 30 years of experience delivering business meetings and social events. Caroline Buker, director of sales and events, says inside you’ll find stunning décor, two high-energy indoor and outdoor bars and seven unique private dining spaces. “The event center offers modern, stylish spaces fit for any meeting or event,” she says. “We invite our guests to mix business with pleasure in our boardroom or banquet rooms complete with audio-visual capabilities and excellent acoustics for presentation needs.”

Melt

At Melt in Center Valley, traditional Italian cuisine is prepared to a new level of excellence with fresh, modern flavors. Craig Farley, events manager, says a beautifully furnished, upscale atmosphere provides the perfect setting for a relaxing meal or a productive business dinner. “Private dining spaces accommodate anywhere from six to 126 guests for social and business functions,” he says. “Audio-visual equipment is available for presentations, and our spaces are customizable for your perfect style of meeting or event.” Above two floors of dinner and event seating is its rooftop environment, Level 3. This enclosed rooftop bar includes a cozy fireplace and spacious central bar for year-round events and happy hours, plus an outdoor patio with heated cabanas and fire pit that offers an atmosphere unrivaled in Lehigh Valley.

WHAT TO DO

Lehigh Valley Grand Prix

Not only can you hold a great company meeting in the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix’s conference room, but you can also add some excitement outside the boardroom in its 48,000-square-foot racing facility. Kristine McCreary, president of Lehigh Valley Grand Prix, says the one-quarter-mile track allows karts to reach speeds up to 45 mph—the fastest in the state. “We provide a unique and innovative way to bring your team together working on camaraderie, communication and cooperation in our go-karts,” she says. “We emphasize these key elements and how they can transfer back into the workplace in prevailing with productivity and making the workplace a better environment. Our team-building events also allow those to come out of their comfort zone and try something new.”

Miller Symphony Hall

The historic, 1,150-seat Miller Symphony Hall is considered the premier performing arts facility in the Valley, and it is regularly rented for corporate events, seminars and large presentations. Its space accommodates up to 200 guests, or 160 with dining. Lisa Yeager, event manager, says the venue has welcomed a who’s who of performers to its stage, including Bob Hope and the Marx Brothers, and also saw Presidents Teddy Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson deliver speeches. “The stage itself provides an intimate, behind-the-scenes setting for private entertaining, seminars and meetings, to name a few,” she says. “Together or separately, the stage and theater provide not only an exciting backdrop for your special event, but a unique opportunity for your guests to see areas not generally open to the public.”

The hall offers three different rooms for meeting spaces and events: The entire hall, accommodates a minimum of 1,066 people and can be rented for large-scale performances; the second-floor recital room is perfect for a small meeting; and its third-floor beautifully remodeled Rodale Room, which can be used for corporate meetings, speaking events and networking events for up to 200 people or a seated dinner for up to 160 people.

Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites

“Imagine Colonial Williamsburg in the middle of a city,” says Charlene Donchez Mowers, president of Historic Bethlehem Museum & Sites. This nonprofit organization has 20 historic buildings under its watchful eye. Planners can simply call with group size and needs and they’ll match a building to your group. There’s everything from a 1750s blacksmith shop to a barn at the Burnside Plantation to historic museums to choose from, depending on the size and needs of your group. “We even offer specialized tours for groups,” says Mowers.

With so many people searching for niche, unique vacations, it can be difficult to find the perfect spot. However, if it’s rich history, a variety of event spaces, and a plethora of outdoor recreation activities you’re looking for, look no further than Altoona, Pennsylvania.

 

Rochester, New York, is an under-the-radar destination in the Northeast. The city is affordable, accessible and offers meeting attendees the best of both worlds—with a bustling metropolitan surrounded by the picturesque views of the Finger Lakes region.