Everyone knows that cities like New York, Chicago, and San Francisco boast fabulous museum attractions, but they haven't cornered the market. Here's a look at seven meeting destinations that will surprise you with the richness of their museum offerings—always a great draw for attendees with some downtime or as spectacular special event venues.
1. Baltimore. Famous for its Inner Harbor, the city offers a slew of museums as well. Three big ones are the Baltimore Museum of Art (Maryland's largest); the American Visionary Art Museum, with original works created by self-taught artists; and The Walters Art Museum, with 55 centuries of art from around the world. Then there's Port Discovery Children's Museum, The National Great Blacks in Wax Museum, as well as the offbeat National Museum of Dentistry and The Fire Museum of Maryland. For railroad buffs, the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad Museum is a must-see, complete with roundhouse.
2. Dallas. The Dallas Arts District is undergoing explosive growth. The opening of the AT&T Performing Arts Center is the latest addition to this 19-block downtown area anchored by the Dallas Museum of Art, with its collection of 23,000 works spanning 5,000 years. The Trammell Crow Center and the Crow Collection of Asian Art, a small jewel of a museum, offers a lush sculpture garden and one of the most important collections of Asian art in the country. The Nasher Sculpture Center opened in 2003 as the first Institution in the world dedicated exclusively to the exhibition of modern and contemporary sculpture.
3. Fort Lauderdale, Fla. It may be a resort destination, but Fort Lauderdale has a surprising collection of noteworthy museums. Major venues, such as the Museum of Art and the interactive Museum of Discovery and Science, are perfectly complemented by smaller museums, such as Bonnet House Museum and Gardens, a 35-acre beachfront estate and National Historic Landmark that pays tribute to the history of old South Florida. Old Fort Lauderdale Village and Museum showcases the largest collection of turn-of-the-century buildings in Broward County.
4. Kansas City, Mo. History buffs can learn about the city's pioneer roots at the Arabia Steamboat Museum, while sports fans can visit the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum, a tribute to the athletes forced to play in segregated leagues. The American Jazz Museum pays homage to the likes of Count Basie and Charlie Parker, who got their start in Kansas City, as well as other groundbreaking jazz musicians. A recent multimillion-dollar facelift to the downtown area makes this package of museums an even better draw for meeting groups.
5. Las Vegas. While Steve Wynn's art collection is no longer on display at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort, and the branch of the Guggenheim once housed in The Venetian is closed, the city still offers a wide variety of art and museum options for meeting attendees who prefer gawking to gaming, including a few “only in Vegas” sites. The Clark County Museum is a unique collection of historic homes, offering a glimpse into Southern Nevada's past. Children will enjoy the Lied Discovery Children's Museum and the http://www.lvnhm.org/ Las Vegas Natural History Museum, while kids of all ages can learn loads at The Las Vegas Atomic Testing Museum and the nearby Hoover Dam Museum. Art lovers will appreciate the Bellagio Fine Art Museum. For a real kick, the Liberace Museum houses a rare piano collection, antiques, jewelry, customized automobiles, and elaborate costumes from the entertainer's million-dollar wardrobe. Finally, don't miss The Neon Museum Las Vegas, celebrating neon signs—the classic Las Vegas art form. The museum is open only by appointment.
6. Minneapolis. The city's beloved Walker Art Center has completed a fantastic expansion created by top architectural firm Herzog & de Meuron. The museum now has several exciting spaces for group functions, not to mention a world-class art collection. Minneapolis Institute of Arts has added a wing by renowned architect Michael Graves. Together with the newly redeveloped Mill District entertainment area, these developments continue to keep Minneapolis front and center as a trendy Midwest meetings destination.
7. Salt Lake City. An inspiring new home for the Utah Museum of Natural History will open in 2011, a LEED-certified building with 42,000 square feet of copper mined in the state adorning the exterior. The city is also home to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts and Discovery Gateway Children's Museum, as well as numerous Morman venues, such as the Joseph Smith Memorial Building and the Beehive House. While not a museum, the Family History Library Building contains records on microfilm of over a billion names, gathered from all over the world. Anyone interested in genealogy can search for family ancestors.