A key benefit of off-site meetings is getting attendees away from their desks and into a different setting. A change in one’s surroundings encourages changes in perspective and openness to new ideas. Newport has new settings in spades.
There are few destinations where you can experience such a strong (and varied, from Gilded Age to clambake) sense of place throughout your agenda. Book a historic property like the Hotel Viking and that sense of place even extends into your meeting room.
The property, built in 1926, has 208 guest rooms and two ballrooms, and is ideal for groups of 200 attendees, says Director of Sales and Marketing Marlen Scalzi. The 4,000-square-foot Bellevue Ballroom, with its blue-and-gold color scheme, gold-edged mirrors, and crystal chandeliers, recalls the Gilded Age mansions your attendees will likely spend time touring. Throughout the property, framed portraits and paintings of dancers in ballgowns share wall space with photographs of elegant events held at the hotel over the decades.
In meeting rooms, you may find historical carryovers that become unique features, such as two small alcoves in the Colonnade Room, each fitted with a small sofa. With a built-in bar, this room can be used for receptions, and its windows overlook the interior courtyard, in full bloom in early spring. The Touro Room also has beautifully draped windows that let in natural light. And the elegant 6,000-square-foot Viking Ballroom is divisible into five rooms and can be used together with the courtyard.
The hotel’s signature restaurant, ONE Bellevue, offers a Garden Room with wide windows, iron chandeliers, and wood beams, more nods to the building’s history. Even in the spa, the treatment rooms feature wainscoting, antique floor lamps, and tapestry-like blankets. You won’t find anything bland or beige here!
For corporate groups, Newport is in “an enviable location,” Scalzi says, a central point for companies in Boston, New York, and Hartford. The Viking hosts meetings for smaller national associations as well, she says, and Newport’s array of activities is ideal for meetings where spouses and children attend.
New England Treasures
In fact, Newport works well as a repeat destination, because it’s tough to experience all it has to offer in a single itinerary, notes Cheryl Twiss, director of sales with destination management company Newport Hospitality. When it comes to activities, there are the three biggies, she says:
• The clambake, including quintessential menu items like lobster, chowder, and corn on the cob
• The mansions, summer “cottages” for Vanderbilts, Astors, and other turn-of-the-century millionaires, whether for a tour or an event, depending on your budget. (It’s only fitting for corporate groups, says Twiss, since Newport “was the place to network and to do business in the Gilded Age.”) With the success of the PBS series "Downton Abbey," your attendees will be especially keen to take the new Servant Life Tour at The Elms—a fascinating hour with an expert guide viewing the hidden fourth floor and the downstairs workings of kitchen, coal delivery, and more.
• The sea, enjoyed on a pleasure cruise or as a competitiveadventure, on the 12-meter sailboats used in the America’s Cup race
And even after you’ve experienced those activities, there’s still boundless history to explore, such as the country’s first synagogue, the oldest lending library, the oldest continuously operating tavern, and an array of boutiques and charming historic homes to highlight any downtown or harborside stroll. The International Tennis Hall of Fame is in Newport, too, and available as an event venue. And a truly special way to view the mansions is along the 3.5-mile Cliff Walk.
Twiss also points to community service as a meeting trend. Newport Hospitality has organized bike-builds and teddy-bear-making to benefit the local Boys & Girls Clubs, as well as more involved events that bring a sense of place into the mix. For example, a group can enjoy apple-picking at a local farm, then create gift baskets with the apples and other items that are then donated to local nonprofits.