The Hampton Roads Convention Center, Hampton, Va., opened in May, just 20 minutes from Norfolk (Va.) International Airport. With its sail-like canopy over the entrance, the 344,000-square-foot convention center strikes me as both efficiently and creatively designed. Its 102,600-square-foot exhibit hall is divisible into three self-contained areas, each with its own loading docks, skybox, and registration and reception areas. A 13,000-square-foot conference center with a private entrance offers the “perimeter security” so essential to many meetings. There are 35 meeting rooms, including a ballroom with banquet seating for 2,000. An outdoor terrace accommodates up to 500 people for al fresco receptions.

The interior design combines lots of natural lighting with polished stainless steel accents, light-colored wood, and 1950s-era olive and lemon tones and patterns. A 295-suite Embassy Suites hotel, connected to the convention center by a covered walkway, is scheduled to open this summer, making a total of 2,500 hotel rooms within walking distance.

Across the street is the Hampton Coliseum, perfect for assembly-type meetings. Also within walking distance is Power Plant Entertainment District, with a vibrant mix of restaurants, nightclubs, and stores.

For special events, you can't beat the Virginia Air and Space Center, where guests dine beside the battered Apollo 12 Command Module and beneath aircraft suspended from the ceiling. The facility, which includes an IMAX theater, accommodates up to 2,000 people for special events.