Why the DC Suburbs May Be a Capital Idea for Planners

July 19, 2021

One of the many effects of the pandemic was the movement of many city residents to nearby suburbs. The same reasons for the mini-exodus, namely cost and convenience, could also lead more events to make similar leaps.

If any region is capable of a shift in event locations, it’s the surrounding areas outside the nation’s capital. Beyond being home to the federal government, Washington, D.C., and its neighboring counties are the hub of many national associations. Marriott International makes its home in nearby Bethesda, Maryland (where its new headquarters will also be located) and Hilton’s headquarters is across the river in Tysons Corner, Virginia.

Given their prime locations, there are at least three destinations in Northern Virginia that could win business that previously might have landed in D.C. proper. See why Alexandria, Fairfax County and Loudoun County are primed to welcome groups to town.

Visit Alexandria

Any movement to Alexandria would follow in the footsteps of George Washington, whose fabled Mount Vernon still resides there. A natural tourist attraction, the grounds are also a prime example of having a “Washington” experience outside the capital.

Private dinners coupled with evening tours make for a memorable offsite activity for VIPs or large groups. The George Washington Leadership Institute is part of The Leadership Collection at Alexandria, a collection of three nationally recognized executive leadership and teambuilding opportunities. Create your own situation room and/or map out a crisis contingency plan as a teambuilding activity. The George Washington Library is also available for private rentals.

Potomac

Even those familiar with Alexandria will likely not have experienced time aboard the tall ship Providence. Take a cruise or better yet, schedule a private event or charters. Options include the exclusive dinners for eight in the Captain’s Cabin. A brand-new pier and visitor center is scheduled to open at Waterfront Park in Fall 2021.

The Water Taxi, sailing, kayaking or paddleboarding are other maritime adventures. Ada’s on the River and BARCA Pier and Wine Bar are new waterfront dining options.

Updated lodging options include the Sheraton Suites Old Town Alexandria, which underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation that includes revamped meeting spaces with tech-enabled studios. Restoration of the historic George Mason Hotel to its roots is underway in 2021. When open next year, there will be 141 guest rooms and two on-site restaurants. The Hilton Alexandria Mark Center will begin a $10 million renovation in late November with a target opening of January 2022.

Visit Fairfax

The sprawling Fairfax County is a natural extension of D.C., and accordingly welcomes many government meetings, association gatherings and corporate events. There are more than 100 hotels with 18,000 guest rooms that range from luxurious to budget-friendly. Tysons Corner alone provides great shopping, dining and lodging, but there is much more.

Located in the heart of Northern Virginia’s high-tech corridor, the 130,000-sq.-ft. Dulles Expo Center is situated just six miles south of Dulles International Airport and 26 miles from Washington, D.C. Specializing in consumer, trade, corporate and private events, it features an on-site hotel, the Holiday Inn Chantilly-Dulles Expo, and free parking.

The National Museum of the U.S. Army, on the ground of Fort Belvoir, debuted in time for Veterans Day 2020 but then was forced to close due to the pandemic. Now the dynamic new venue is open for good. Virtual Reality simulators and motion platforms are part of the immersive experience available for groups during a private event.

Capital One Hall, a performing arts center and event venue in Tysons, comes to life this fall at Capital One Center. It will offer space ideal for boardroom meetings up to gatherings for more than 1,500 attendees.

Wolf Trap and National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center are popular sites for excursions outside of the meeting. The extension of Metro’s Silver Line will only aid in reaching the venues or getting to hotels for either Ronald Reagan National Airport or Dulles International Airport.

Visit Loudoun 

Loudoun County’s mix of history, upscale venues and beautiful wineries offer the combination of natural beauty and big-city amenities.

Loudoun County

Lansdowne Resort & Spa used its downtime in 2020 to renovate its ballroom and all meeting spaces to a contemporary, upscale design. It now offers more than 55,000 square feet of newly upgraded meeting space, including a state-of-the-art Thinking Center and immersive outdoor pavilion.

The National Conference Center has been accommodating smaller meetings as well as hybrid and virtual events during the pandemic, primarily from local and repeat customers that have used the National for many years. Its 265,000 square feet of flexible function space provide many options, whether you are planning a corporate retreat, training seminar or organizational meeting. Capital improvements include improved AV options and an upgraded golf course.

Created by BET Co-founder Sheila Johnson, the luxurious Salamander Resort & Spa is not what one would expect so near a major city. The Five-Star resort features 168 guestrooms and suites all with scenic views of the countryside. A 23,000-square-foot spa presents 14 treatment rooms and a private outdoor courtyard with a heated pool. In addition, Salamander has built one of the finest equestrian facilities and programs in the country with 25 on-site acres dedicated to riding and a 14,000 sq.-ft. stable.

A new Tru by Hilton and Aloft Dulles Airport North that is undergoing renovations are among the other hotel highlights.

The CVB in which Dulles Airport is located wants planners to know it pays to meet there. It is offering a $3-$5 per room night rebate on actualized room nights for any meeting or conference occurring before the end of the year.

Be sure to take advantage of the more than 40 wineries and tasting rooms that rival any in the country. Follow this wine trail guide to build an itinerary for your group.

 

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Partner Voices

Imagine if sponsors and exhibitors kept returning to participate at your events. Isn't that every event planner's dream? This is possible! All you need is to identify the outcomes a sponsor or exhibitor wants and help them reach their goals through a consistent approach. Getting visibility and generating sales/leads are two common event goals sponsors and exhibitors have. Below are five ways to help them achieve these goals.