City Spotlight: Jacksonville, Florida

By Jennifer Glatt, January 6, 2015

Known as River City by the Sea for its location on the St. Johns River and proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, Jacksonville claims a number of accolades. With a median population age of 35, it’s the youngest city in Florida. It’s also the largest U.S. city by landmass, covering 840 square miles. All that space gives way to 85,000 acres of parkland—the country’s largest urban park system—with 400 city parks, seven state parks and two national parks.

The abundant opportunities outside don’t mean planners won’t find enticing spaces indoors. Prime F. Osborn III Convention Center, for example, is located in a former train depot and is full of historic characteristics from its railroad heyday, including neon lighting, high ceilings and stained-glass windows. It has 275,000 square feet of event space and 22 meeting rooms.

Hyatt Regency Jacksonville Riverfront is the city’s main convention hotel, with 966 guest rooms and 110,000 square feet of meeting space, including 21,000 square feet of outdoor space on the tri-level, river-facing terrace. Less than a mile from the Hyatt is Omni Jacksonville Hotel, a popular option for smaller groups. The restaurant and lobby were renovated this year, and a 2015 project will upgrade its 354 guest rooms. It also has a rooftop pool deck.

For off-site events, consider Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens. The riverfront museum has several indoor event spaces and manicured garden areas for receptions. Another option is the historic 1,900-seat Florida Theatre, which has space for receptions and alternative breakout sessions. The venue is best known for hosting one of Elvis’ first indoor headliner concerts in 1956. For large groups, EverBank Field, the home of the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars, has a number of spaces for events, such as the Bud Light Party Zone for 800 or the Terrace Suite, the only space available for rental on game days.

Walkable Columbus, Ohio, fresh off a convention center renovation, aims to be top of mind for planners coordinating events.

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