Planners are often tempted to host their group of attendees in warm, premium destinations under the sun, especially during colder weather months.
Palm trees and umbrella drinks anyone?
While the appeal of warmer temperatures is common, they aren’t necessarily more dynamic or cost efficient. There are a variety of benefits to visiting scenic winter destinations and even more when choosing a lesser-known location for your meeting or event.
Every event planner has essential criteria when searching for destinations. From the need for easy air travel and public transportation to convention center accommodations and after-hours attractions — we’ve considered them all.
We’re shining a spotlight on winter wonderlands for your group and breaking down everything you want to know.
Why you might want to choose a smaller city during the winter months
You may not have considered the following cities for your next meeting or event, or the winter season for that matter, but you should. Here’s three reasons:
Better price points are simply more attractive. While some of our selections aren’t really off season, many destinations during winter are. Whether your budget is tighter or not — midsize cities can often get you the most bang for your buck without sacrificing quality. In addition, they typically offer special incentive packages for after-hours activities.
Navigating densely populated airports and sidewalks while shoulder to shoulder does not lend itself to a relaxing travel experience. Plus, over-crowded public transit systems are stressful. Smaller cities, by nature, have more elbow room and are often easier to navigate.
The hospitality of midsize destination cities means planners can create high-value experiences for their event attendees that interpolate small-city charm. That might include vouchers to nearby businesses, hotel room welcome baskets with local products, or pre-arranged guided city tours.
These cities might not be on most organizers’ radars for wintertime events, but we encourage planners to think outside the box when sourcing host cities.
There are, of course, other not-so-commonly-used cities for meetings and events that may work well. If you’re lost in destinations but know everything else you require, our GroupSync Marketplace can recommend cities based on your group’s criteria.
5 winter destinations for meetings and events
Jackson Hole, WY
They say you won’t go a day in Jackson Hole without running into an elk, and honestly, that might be enough to draw you in. For nature lovers, adventurers, and wannabe outdoorsmen, this is a city that fully embraces its panoramic landscape — from camping and dog sledding to hot springs and Nordic skiing.
• Air travel: Jackson Hole Airport is serviced year-round by Alaska, American, Delta, and United Airlines.
• Convention center: The Conference Center at The Lodge at Jackson Hole is a flexible event space of 10,000 square feet. It has natural light, individual climate controls, and a modern mountain design, and is a short drive to Yellowstone.
• Off the clock: Travelers could do the typical souvenir shopping in the town square, but why do what’s been done? Instead, opt for a wildlife tour or experience a winter sleigh ride. (If you do opt to shop, know that single-use plastic grocery bags were outlawed in 2019.)
• Stay longer: Reserve shuttle service and fly in early to visit Grand Teton and Yellowstone national parks.
• Public transportation: Hiking, backpacking, skiing, whitewater rafting, and horseback riding are all ways people get around here. You can also manage with the public bus system, called START, or by renting a car, using a car share service, or calling a taxi.
• Cost efficiency: If skiing is a priority, the trip can become pricey. Yet there is still free activities to maximize your stay.
Park City, UT
“Winter’s Favorite Town” combines its silver mining history with its proud participation in the 2002 Winter Olympic Games. In fact, many athletes still use Park City as their training grounds.
• Air travel: The Salt Lake City International Airport’s sustainability focus is a plus, yet it’s really the convenient access travelers care about. The airport, which is also a Delta hub, is a 10- or 15-minute TRAX ride from downtown Salt Lake City and about the same drive time to the Salt Palace Convention Center.
• Convention center: Speaking of the convention center, take an online fly-through of its 700,000 square feet to see it for yourself. Park City’s meeting spaces vary in size.
• Off the clock: Depending on your cold weather bravery, you might pick a mountain biking route, as Park City is North America’s only IMBA Gold-level Ride Center. Celebrate your gumption post-ride at High West, the state’s first brewery and first legal distillery.
• Stay longer: Most of the state’s 15 resorts are less than an hour from the airport, so you’d be remiss not to take advantage of “The Greatest Snow on Earth” (it’s science). Then, save the date for the Sundance Film Festival.
• Public transportation: There’s a free bus and trolley system.
• Cost efficiency: Park City and neighboring Salt Lake City can’t help but be compared to one another, yet one aspect where Park City squeaks ahead is travel costs. Average costs for food, transportation, accommodation, and entertainment are higher here.
Coeur d’Alene, ID
Although the most revered is Lake Coeur d’Alene itself, the ice age left more than 55 lakes in and around this off-the-beaten-path destination. Boat cruises and private charters are available year-round if you’re looking for memorable and experiential ideas for your attendees.
• Air travel: The Spokane International Airport, Washington’s second largest, is 40 minutes west of Coeur d’Alene.
• Convention center: There’s 100,000 square feet of exhibit and meeting space to choose from in Coeur d’Alene, all near the lake and downtown. The 13,000-square-foot Best Western Plus Coeur d’Alene Inn, for one, can supply meals for up to 625 guests.
• Off the clock: So maybe the snowy conditions are for everyone. Here, you have the option for some faux summer fun at one of Coeur d’Alene’s indoor water parks.
• Stay longer: By now, you’ve gotten the sense that these winter-centric cities offer skiing. But here’s where you take true advantage of these destinations: Invite the family for a shoulder stay specifically aimed at celebrating Christmas. Coeur d’Alene really does Christmas.
• Public transportation: You can book a Greyhound seat, travel by Amtrak, or follow the Citylink bus routes. Omnibus provides ground transportation back to the airport when your visit concludes.
• Cost efficiency: A late January visit will likely be the most affordable.
For more details:
• Coeur d’Alene Convention & Visitor Bureau
Palisades Tahoe, CA
Palisades Tahoe, previously Squaw Valley, hosted the 1960’s Winter Olympics and remains a winter paradise. It fully embraces the skiing lifestyle, so much so, that some restaurants let diners come straight in from the slopes.
• Air travel: Twelve airlines serve the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, which is currently undergoing its largest-ever construction program. More than 130 daily arrivals and departures connect to 20+ nonstop flight destinations.
• Convention center: There’s a reason floor-to-ceiling windows are common throughout Palisades Tahoe’s event space overlooking Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Mountain range. They provide the scenery, while you customize the 40,000 square feet to fit your needs.
• Off the clock: Even the pups here are athletic, so now’s your chance to go dog sledding. Then, organize your group (of humans) to bundle ski lift tickets and snag the group rate.
• Stay longer: The milder winter temps might encourage you to extend your stay. Plan a scenic drive through glacial lakes to arrive at Emerald Bay, the country’s second-most photographed location.
• Public transportation: It’s easiest to navigate the city with your own car, but transportation options are plentiful—local and national bus systems, water taxi, rail travel, and more.
• Cost efficiency: While there might be group deals and packages, if you plan to ski, you’ll want to prepare to pay.
Québec City, Canada
With its charming European feel, Québec City is brimming with landmark, boutique, and chain hotels. (Le Concorde, for one, has a revolving restaurant atop the hotel.) Don’t be concerned about a potential language barrier, though—while it helps to learn a few useful French phrases, many locals in the tourist areas speak English.
• Air travel: It’s only 20 minutes between the Jean Lesage International Airport—where there are direct flights to many North American hubs—and the Québec City Convention Centre.
• Convention center: The convention center is a top event venue, yet depending on budget and size needs, there are hundreds of thousands of square feet in other meeting spaces to choose among.
• Off the clock: There’s history everywhere in this city, which was founded in 1608. Take it in with a walk along Place Royale and Rue du Petit-Champlain, two of North America’s oldest streets.
• Stay longer: No matter what time of year you visit, there will be a festival, carnival, or cultural event to warrant a handful of shoulder nights.
• Public transportation: An indoor passageway connects it to the Hilton Québec and Delta Québec hotels if you plan to stay warm and toasty, or venture outside, as the convention center is also only 10 minutes from the Gare du Palais bus and train station. The city’s public transit system makes it easy to get around during a business stay—pick up a pass for unlimited travel for five consecutive days.
• Cost efficiency: If you want to feel like you’re in Europe—without heading across the Atlantic—then Québec City, it is.
Winter destinations have just as much to love
And, smaller cities check all the same organizer boxes as their larger counterparts:
• Flexible meeting spaces
• Hotel accommodations
• Post-event activities
The main attraction, though, as we’ve found (besides skiing), is a celebration of heritage embedded within some of the best scenic views. If a wintertime group event is up for consideration, you can’t miss.