1 With so many of the world's newsmakers in the Washington, D.C. area, it's the perfect location for Rosslyn, Virginia's brand-new Newseum, an interactive museum dedicated to the history and presentation of the news. Here, visitors learn how--and why--the news has been gathered and presented through the years. Offering multimedia exhibits, artifacts, a block-long video news wall, and a 220-seat domed theater, the Newseum is good news for companies looking for a fresh venue in the Capitol city.
2 In San Jose's Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium, your group can dine surrounded by the West Coast's largest collection of ancient Egyptian artifacts (including a walk-in burial vault). You can use extras such as costumed characters and murder mystery performers to liven up the evening.
3 Another San Jose "shrine" is the beautiful, but bizarre, Winchester Mystery House. The 160-room Victorian mansion was the home of Sarah Winchester, the slightly gullible heir to the Winchester rifle fortune. In 1884, a psychic advised Mrs. Winchester that the spirits of all those killed by Winchester rifles would haunt her, unless she continued to build onto her house. This she did, employing laborers around the clock for the next 38 years to build, demolish, rebuild, and remodel her amazing home. Each night until her death in 1922, she selected a different bedroom to sleep in from the 40 she had built.
4 At the Barbie Museum and Hall of Fame in Palo Alto, Calif., curator Evelyn Burkhalter has assembled the world's largest collection of Barbies. With more than 20,000 of the iconoclastic plastic icons, she has unquestionably turned her corner of Silicon Valley into the valley of the doll.
5 Attendees don't have to sneak out of your meetings or events to go shopping--they can shop right at your cocktail party, if you hold it at the Viacom Entertainment Store in Chicago. Whether their pleasure is "Rugrats" or "Frasier," party-goers will find the store packed with memorabilia, as well as an extensive CD collection. You just arrange to supply fun money for guests, and set your people free to shop till they drop.
6 A Cambridge, Mass. landmark is the New England Confectionery Company, perhaps better known by its acronym, Necco. The famous Necco wafers are made right here, but how many in your group will know that this company is also the sole manufacturer of those little candy hearts with the sayings on them? (The most recent batch includes the phrases "E-mail Me" and "Go, Girl.")
7 A few miles from San Francisco International Airport is the Museum of Pez Memorabilia in Burlingame. In a surprisingly high-tech presentation, Gary and Nancy Doss share their Pez collection with visitors who come to pay homage to the spring-necked candy dispensers. Just eight or so elusive pieces are needed to complete a collection of every Pez dispenser ever made.
8 The motto at Boston'sMuseum of Bad Art is "Art Too Bad to Be Ignored." The museum displays the work of "talented artists that have gone awry" and "executions by artists barely in control of the brush." Who could resist? Recent exhibitions have included "Gallery in the Woods--Art Goes Out the Window" and the world's first drive-through art gallery and car wash, "Awash With Bad Art."
9 In Santa Cruz, Calif., at the Mystery Spot, Mother Nature tries to fool us, as gravity works backwards and buildings lose their perspective. Guided tours of the exhibits leave visitors with both a renewed appreciation for the laws of nature and a Mystery Spot bumper sticker, signifying their completion of a Northern California rite of passage. A reception at the Mystery Spot would be unique indeed, assuming your caterer can get the wine to flow in the right direction.
10 In Florida, visitors are accustomed to all manner of thematic reality, but nothing quite like Splendid China in Kissimmee, a $100 million miniature replica of China's geographical landmarks. The park, which sprawls over 76 acres, features a 35-foot high Buddha, a miniature Imperial Palace, live entertainment in the Golden Peacock Theater, and, of course, a replica of the Great Wall.
11 When you're ready to put Boston on your map, you may want to consider The Mapparium, located in the headquarters lobby of the Christian Science Monitor building. This dazzling globe is constructed of 600 concave glass panels on a bronze framework, all illuminated from the outside. While the world's borders may have shifted considerably since the Mapparium was built in 1935, the structure still lends itself to gatherings with an international or global theme.
12 You've done the Alcatraz theme party and the Streets of San Francisco reception, but have you experienced The Exploratorium? This hands-on science museum is housed in the magnificent Palace of Fine Arts, in San Francisco's Marina District. In the Tactile Dome, visitors climb, crawl, slither, squeeze, and grope their way--in total darkness--through a maze-like geodesic dome. Inside the dome, the walls, ceilings, and floors offer an ever-changing assortment of tactile surfaces to stroke, brush, poke, and prod. Talk about being hands-on...
13 In Cambridge, Mass., the MIT Museum is an interesting, often-overlooked venue tracing the history, accomplishments, and, yes, even the humorous hijinks of the venerable Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Here, it really does take a rocket scientist to figure out the homework.
The Museum's motto is "Where Art and Science Come Together," and this is an ideal place to come together for an education-themed reception, or one that recognizes your company's many innovations.
14 In Miami, party-goers can join more than 1,200 macaws, cockatoos, and parrots at Parrot Jungle & Gardens. In this lush setting, they'll also find alligators and monkeys, and a botanical garden. Don't forget to include the obligatory photo-op.
15 Due south as the parrot flies is Coral Castle in Homestead, Fla., built by a despondent suitor as a memorial to his fiancee. Working secretly over a period of 20 years, Edward Leedskalnin of Latvia single-handedly managed to carve, position, and arrange over 1,100 tons of coral rock to build his castle, one of the only objects in Homestead left unscathed by Hurricane Andrew. Sadly, his lost love was reportedly unimpressed, never even visiting the site to view her suitor's handiwork.
1. The Newseum Contact: (703) 284-3544; (703) 888-NEWSEUM Accommodates: 800 inside Newseum; 200 on rooftop center, plus 100 on outdoor terrace (weather permitting); or 200 in dining room. Hours: Wednesday-Sunday, 10 a.m.5 p.m.
2. Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum and Planetarium Contact: (408) 947-3633 Accommodates: 450 for reception; 150 for seated dinner in one room; 225 for seated dinner, entire facility. Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
3. Winchester Mystery House Contact: (408) 247-2000 Accommodates: 200 for indoor reception (winter); 1,000 for outdoor reception (summer) Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m.-4 p.m.
4. Barbie Museum and Hall of Fame Contact: (650) 326-5841
5. Viacom Entertainment Store Contact: Virgil Williams, (312) 867-3500 Accommodates: 700 for reception Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.
6. New England Confectionery Company (Necco) Contact: (617) 876-4700
7. Museum of Pez Memorabilia Contact: (650) 347-2301 Accommodates: 15-20 Hours: Tuesday-Saturday 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
8. The Museum of Bad Art Contact: Contact: Louise Sacco, (781) 444-6757 Accommodates: 75-100 for reception; 50 for seated dinner Hours: Weekdays, 6:30 p.m.10 p.m.; Weekends, 1:30p.m.10 p.m.
9. The Mystery Spot Contact: (408) 423-8897 Accommodates: 120-200 for reception in the courtyard; 28-30 per tour group Hours: Summer, 9 a.m.-8:30 p.m. daily; Winter, 9 a.m.-4:30 p.m. daily
10. Splendid China Contact: (407) 396-7111 Accommodates: 750 in theatre; 1000 in amphitheater; 2000 for reception Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m.7 p.m.
11. The Mapparium Contact: (617) 450-2000 Hours: Call for information.
12. The Exploratorium Contact: Group Reservations (415) 561-0308; Corporate Events (415) 561-0311 Accommodates: 3000-5000 for reception and 450+ for seated dinner Hours: Summer, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. daily; Wednesdays, 10 a.m.-9 p.m.
13. MIT Museum Contact: (617) 253-4444 Hours: Tuesday-Friday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday, 12 p.m.-5 p.m.
14. Parrot Jungle & Gardens Contact: July Goldman, (305) 669-7007 Accommodates: Any size group Hours: Daily, 9:30 a.m-6 p.m.
15. Coral Castle Contact: (305) 248-6344 Hours: Daily, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.