Devon Boathouse in the Boathouse District
Oklahoma City is a highly accessible, affordable destination with new restaurants, hotels and a surprising array of special event venues. There are 22 direct inbound flights from 19 cities, which is perfect for national groups seeking a central location.
“Once groups get here they will discover how affordable it is, and they’re often surprised at how many things there are to do here,” says Robin O’Conner, director of sales/services for Oklahoma City CVB. “There are so many aspects to the city and everything is all very close and convenient.”
With over one million sf of function space, the downtown Cox Convention Center is located across the street from 1,400 of the city’s 15,000 hotel rooms, as well as a wide variety of entertainment, dining and recreational venues.
For a unique special event option, check out the modern Boathouse District. A multitude of “Boathouses” line the river where planners can organize meetings and events. For example, The Devon Boathouse has a ballroom for 250 pax and the Chesapeake has a meeting room for 150. The new 50-seat Finish Line Tower overlooks the finish line, the entire district and the downtown skyline.
Groups can also train with professional rowers in a submerged propulsion tank and use rowing machines called ergometers to practice rowing in sync with each other. That typically is for group members who are in top shape. The most popular team activity is Dragon Boat racing. The boats fit up to 21 people, including a driver and a drummer who maintains a steady beat to synchronize the rowers. So the event is only successful if the group works in unison.
In the heart of the city, Bricktown is a busy dining and entertainment district rimming the Bricktown Canal. Groups can charter a water taxi for scenic tours through the entire waterway. The 320-seat Bricktown Brewery is a casual brewhouse that serves local dishes and pale ale brewed in-house. Other Bricktown hotspots are Mickey Mantle’s and Toby Keith’s I Love This Bar & Grill.
O’Conner says another must-see venue for groups is the nearby Oklahoma City National Memorial Museum. The 3-acre facility chronicles the events surrounding the Oklahoma Bombing, which we weren’t sure was an attractive meeting place for out-of-town groups. We were wrong.
“The museum really shows what the people of Oklahoma City are made of,” says O’Conner. “It teaches visiting groups about strength, peace, hope and serenity.” The museum hosts 200-pax buyouts, with private meeting space for 130.
Also look at the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum, which celebrates the Old West with breathtaking art and sculptures. Only 15 minutes from the convention center, it has a ballroom for 1,000 pax and a boardroom for 110.
“There’s a great event space called Prosperity Junction,” says O’Conner. “It puts attendees right inside an Old West town with a 1-room school house, cool church and ballroom. It’s great for galas.”