From Massachusetts to Maine, the New England coastline has always been a popular vacation destination—but with more and more boutique hotels and lavish retreats fit with modern-day amenities, the corporate world is taking notice, too. When booking events along the Atlantic, planners find an escape from the city and customized personalization not often seen in the big markets. Plus, appealing day trips encourage attendees to extend their stay.
The Amber Room Colonnade/Danbury, Connecticut
“We are very down to earth and very flexible,” says general manager Todd Howe, CHA, of the Amber Room’s close focus on event personalization. “We don’t try to fit into a box, so we ask a lot of questions and operate on an event-by-event basis.” It’s just one of the benefits that comes from being situated in a smaller market, he says. “We hear quite a bit from our clients that they are glad they’re not in a convention city or staying in a massive hotel of 1,000 or more rooms. There’s so much red tape at those types of properties.”
As such, The Amber Room has gained quite a reputation for creating that wow factor planners are looking to achieve. What once was a rustic, informal property in the 1960s has become a prestigious, award-winning location set on 26 acres popular for hosting black tie affairs, corporate galas and weddings from nearby New York City and Long Island. “When you get out of those markets you’re almost getting meals for free when you analyze the differences in price per person,” says Howe.
Although Howe cautions that not every amenity is an “automatic” like larger markets (accessibility to public transportation, oversized ballroom capacities and large blocks of rooms may not always be available), there’s something that small communities offer exclusively. “There’s unparalleled privacy, serenity and relaxation. Guests often build a visit around their event to experience all that’s available to them in the region.”
Medomak Retreat Center/Washington, Maine
What started as a summer camp in 1903 has now become a popular summer destination for groups looking for a comfortable retreat. “Who wants to be in Orlando in August?” questions Medomak director David Brunner. “New England is a wonderful place to enjoy the outdoors while the rest of the country is in air conditioning dealing with the heat.”
Of course since the turn of the century, Medomak has added to the demand by refurbishing old cabins and building new ones to meet the higher comfort needs of its adult groups. Waterfront facilities set on 125 acres offer three meeting rooms and various breakout spaces as well as a dining lodge, which uses vegetables and dairy products cultivated onsite.
The retreat has played home to various music and arts festivals like the University of Michigan’s graduate music conductor program. For 15 years, the department has hosted an annual 17-day summit of intense music score study that culminates in a concert for the public. “It beautifully highlights our spaces’ acoustic capabilities,” says Brunner. Another recent group was a young startup from Silicon Valley. “There were people walking around with laptops while playing basketball or canoeing,” recalls Brunner. “It’s interesting to see how people react when they don’t have the lights and noise of the city. It’s dark here and you can see stars at night, but that’s appealing to certain groups who are urban most other days of the year.”
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