Alabama’s Mobile Bay is one of the oldest regions in the United States. Its coastal location affords outdoor teambuilding activities and water exploration, and historic details appear around every corner.
Off-Site Coastal Appeal
Five Rivers Delta Resource Center is 12 miles from downtown Mobile, situated where five rivers flow into Mobile Bay. It has a number of event spaces, including the 4,000-sq.-ft. Delta Hall, 4,000-sq.-ft. Apalachee Exhibit Hall, 90-seat Tensaw Theater and Blakely Hall Conference Center. After taking care of business, take your group out on the water for some teambuilding options that can only be found in the Gulf, such as pontoon and kayak tours, sunset cruises, and educational boat charters with Delta Safaris.
For an experience that really rocks the boat, consider hosting a meeting aboard the USS Alabama (shown). The retired battleship has called Battleship Memorial Park home since 1964. In September 2014, it got an even more authentic look when its rotating radar was reinstalled and began operating for the first time in 20 years after extensive repairs. The surrounding park has a number of event spaces both on and off the ship, including the back deck, park lawn and the 36,000-sq.-ft. Aircraft Pavilion.
Mobile’s highly anticipated GulfQuest museum is scheduled to open in March 2015 as the country’s only museum focused on the Gulf of Mexico. The facility sits on the waterfront and is shaped like a ship. It will have 36,000 square feet of interactive exhibits that focus on the maritime history of the region, such as recreated shipwrecks, a gallery of artifacts found in the Gulf and shipbuilding demonstrations. The facility can hold up to 5,000 for events, and a private room with a balcony on the top floor can seat 250 for meals.
Historic District Hotels
The site of the 238-room Battle House Renaissance Mobile (shown) has a lot of history. Andrew Jackson set up shop there in 1812, and since then, a number of hotels have been built and rebuilt on the site after fires swept through the area. The Battle House was fully restored in 2002 and became a member of Historic Hotels of America in 2010. The AAA Four Diamond property has 27,000 square feet of event space in 21 rooms. Its Crystal Ballroom, which still exists today, was the site of the city’s first Mardi Gras Ball in 1852.
Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza is Mobile’s main convention hotel. It has 373 guest rooms and the 10,000-sq.-ft. Bon Secour Ballroom, shared between the hotel and the Battle House. The hotel has 44,000 square feet of meeting space in 23 rooms and is within walking distance of many downtown restaurants. It is also across the street from Gulf Coast Exploreum Science Center and History Museum of Mobile.
Across from the Renaissance is Hampton Inn & Suites Mobile – Downtown Historic District. The hotel has 149 guest rooms and is located on the city’s Mardi Gras parade route. A room with a balcony provides a prime view of the festivities. It has free hot breakfasts or On the Run breakfast bags for all guests. Bienville Square, a public park that hosts city functions and festivals, is nearby, and the convention center is a short walk away.
Large Groups Welcome
In a city that prides itself on its waterfront location, it’s only natural that the top event spaces sit next to the water as well. Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center (shown) is within walking distance of downtown hotels and connects to Renaissance Mobile Riverview Plaza. It has 26,500 square feet of meeting space, a 100,000-sq.-ft. exhibit hall and a 20,000-sq.-ft. river-facing terrace. The center hosted the World Leisure Congress in September 2014.
For a country twist, consider taking your event to The Grounds, the location of Mobile’s annual Greater Gulf State Fair, 15 miles west of downtown and four miles from Mobile Regional Airport. The 90-acre site enhanced its event facilities and amenities in 2013. When it’s not taken over by livestock and cotton candy during the annual Greater Gulf State Fair, it hosts events in its indoor and outdoor venues, including the 43,200-sq.-ft. Hocklander Hall, the 21,240-sq.-ft. Grand Ballroom, the 2,500-seat Rodeo Arena, barns and an entertainment complex with a stage.
Mobile Civic Center has 108,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 28,000-sq.-ft. expo hall. Fifteen meeting rooms circle the main floor of the 10,000-seat arena—which hosted Elvis Presley six times during his career—and are connected to a 1,940-seat theater. The facility is also within walking distance of a number of downtown hotels.
No trip to the Gulf Coast would be complete without fresh seafood. A number of restaurants overlook the Mobile Delta on Battleship Parkway near downtown Mobile, including these classic spots loved by locals and visitors:
Felix’s Fish Camp Grill is known for its signature crab soup. The restaurant has six private dining rooms that can hold up to 65, plus the outdoor Swamp Room, which accommodates 1,000. Take in views of the Mobile Delta and catch a glimpse of an alligator from the dining rooms.
Owned by the same group that operates Felix’s, Bluegill Restaurant serves its famous gumbo and flaming oysters in a casual setting on the water (you can even arrange for attendees to arrive by boat). It has large tables to accommodate groups, and live music is scheduled nightly.
With its variety of raw, baked and stuffed oysters, Original Oyster House shucked its way onto Travel & Leisure’s September 2014 list of the best oyster bars in the United States. But the rest of the menu attracts crowds, too. For group meals, the restaurant creates custom seafood buffets with Gulf Coast favorites like crab claws, shrimp and flounder.
After all that savory seafood, end things on a sweet note. For dessert, don’t miss the 40 flavors of ice cream at Cammie’s Old Dutch Ice Cream Shoppe, or the stuffed beignets at Panini Pete’s Cafe & Bakeshoppe.
Don Turrentine, chairman of the board at Southeastern Leadership Training for Christ, shares his favorite places in Mobile Bay:
Photo credit: Ted Denson