A Small Place with Big Ambitions: Planning Your Next Meeting in Providence, R.I.

November 8, 2016

Planning an event is more than just the number of hotel rooms and square footage of event space available.  These days, your attendee is interested in the destination itself and how activities can be planned to incorporate exploration of the city.  A city that is not yet over exposed, and has a great deal to offer is Providence, R.I.

“We are a perfect destination, with the charm and history of New England, the bustle of a metropolitan city, and the intellectual capital of a university town, with both Brown University and Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) nearby. And this is all within a package of a smaller town vibe,” said Kristen Adamo, vice president of Marketing and Communications, Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau. 

She added, “We also have the draw of historic architecture, American history, and a wide variety of culinary choices from our very diverse ethnic population.  The city really sells itself, and has become an up-and-coming events destination.”

The city does offer standard event space and also provides areas in and around this walkable city that can make a meeting or event memorable. 

The Dorrance is a repurposed city bank-turned-restaurant, where the marble floor and ornate ceilings bring a high-end charm to the location.  And the vault is not only open to the public, but you also can book an intimate dinner for two within it. Garde de la Mer provides interesting meeting space, including a recently renovated rooftop bar, complete with city views and fire pits.

If you are looking for something with classic details, the Vets Rhode Island Auditorium is a viable choice. Construction started in 1928, but was delayed because of the Great Depression and was not completed and opened until 1950. 

The 1,933-seat theatre is one of the oldest art venues in Rhode Island, and is an easy walk from the convention center or a sponsored shuttle bus ride.

Some of the hotels in the downtown area also have an interesting history, including the Renaissance Hotel.  This building was slated to be Masonic Temple, but with the Great Depression, left as a shell for nearly 80 years. 

Many of the architectural features of the temple were kept, however, and the view of the State Capitol building from the specialty and king suites is breathtaking. 

Because of the surge in interest in the city as a meeting destination, four new hotels are slated for construction, adding an approximate 500 rooms, bringing the total of hotel rooms for Providence to around 3,000.

Construction within the heart of downtown was well thought-out, with the Dunkin Donuts Center, the Rhode Island Convention Center, the Omni Hotel and the new Providence Place Mall all connected, so attendees do not have to wander outside in inclement weather. 

And because the city is so accessible, even staying at a hotel not in this connected corridor is only a few minutes’ walk, removing the need for a car to attend special events, after-show gatherings, a sporting event, or any of the restaurants within close proximity to the city center.

“With 35 percent of our event space being used by the sports industry, 20 percent for corporate events, and the rest booked by various associations, our space provides a great combination of both smaller and larger meetings,” said Thomas Riel, vice president of Sales and Services, Providence Warwick Convention and Visitors Bureau.

He added, “And with Boston being only a 45-minute drive, we offer an affordable option for hotel and meeting budgets to rival larger cities.  We also are constantly assessing new and unique ways for meeting planners to offset costs through promotions and interesting sponsorship opportunities.”

Your attendee also will be thrilled to find various activities during down time, including the RISD Art Museum, vintage shops, and the Providence River that hosts a free community-gathering event several times during the year:  the WaterFire Providence. 

During the festival, attendees can also view local art, and there are several sponsorships for those companies looking for a corporate event that is outside the usual choices.

If you are looking to break out of the same meeting space and explore something new, put Providence, R.I., on your list.

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