There’s no single phrase to describe Mobile, Alabama. It’s a city with strong military heritage and Antebellum charm. Its location offers easy proximity to the natural beauty of the Gulf Coast. There’s even a strong connection to Mardi Gras: The first parade was held there 15 years before New Orleans even existed. “Then, in 1858, the folks in New Orleans came to us and we helped them organize their first parade,” says Ross Peterson, president of Bay City Conventions, Mobile’s sole destination management company. For planners meeting in Mobile, there are venues in every flavor. A popular choice for smaller groups of around 70 people is a lunch in the officer’s mess of the USS Alabama battleship, which served in World War II. Battleship Memorial Park’s 36,000-sf Aircraft Museum is the choice for larger groups of 600 to 800. In this hangar-style building, the aircraft on display can be wheeled out to make way for seating and entertainment—perhaps a USO show or Andrews Sisters–style performers. The Mardi Gras theme is a popular choice for groups. Or planners can host a Southern-style reception at one of the city’s grand homes, such as the Bragg-Mitchell Mansion, with its stately 45-foot columns, massive double parlors and dramatic entry staircase. Peterson has planned outdoor tented events at the mansion for 400 guests. For tea and treats for more intimate groups, Richards-DAR House is famous for its cast-iron façade and is considered to be one of the city’s finest examples of the Italiante style of architecture. The many sides of Mobile can also be explored through organized tours and activities. It’s always smart to start with a half-day city tour “to get the lay of the land,” says Peterson. Other popular excursions for groups include a delta safari, which embarks from the Environmental Studies Center. Groups of 40 people at a time can take guided pontoon boats to view the alligators and ospreys that inhabit the delta. The center can also be used for group functions for up to several hundred guests, who can enjoy cocktails on the outdoor deck and visits with some of the wounded animals recuperating there. For groups meeting in Mobile, the Arthur R. Outlaw Convention Center has 317,000 sf of meeting space, including a 100,000-sf exhibit hall, 15,000-sf grand ballroom and 16 meeting rooms. Connected by walkway to the center is the newly renovated 375-room Renaissance Riverview Plaza Hotel, and there are a total of 1,000 hotel rooms within walking distance of the center.