The Big A

Atlanta has long been a favorite of meeting professionals for obvious reasons, starting with excellent lift from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL), the busiest airport in the world and a hub for Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines. Once in the City in a Forest, veterans know it is worth sticking around for the charming draw of the 242 distinct neighborhoods and the sophisticated international foodie scene.

Smart Meetings got a taste of the welcoming vibe while attending ASAE Annual Meeting and Exposition along with 5,000 association professionals and filed these notes from the road.

Meet Here

hotel lobby
W Atlanta Downtown

Expanded Georgia World Congress Center and Mercedes-Benz Stadium (site of the ASAE Welcome Reception featuring Atlanta’s own TLC representing the robust hip-hop and music scene in the city) pack a multitude of meeting options in 1.5 million sq. ft. of exhibit space steps from a world-class sports and entertainment facility. The event campus includes The Home Depot Backyard, an 11-acre greenspace that allows attendees to enjoy the fresh air before a game or during a conference. Georgia World Congress Center, itself, is now more functional with a new connecting exhibit hall for better flow and a new Andrew Young International Mall and Terminal for easy transportation access.

Read More: The True Nature of Georgia

While the destination already boasts 13,000 hotel rooms in walking distance of Centennial Olympic Park, next up is an adjoining Signia by Hilton Atlanta scheduled to open in January with 976 guest rooms, local chef-driven concept restaurants and 100,000 sq. ft. of its own meeting space. The new build on the former site of the Georgia Dome will be an homage to the city, according to Kenny Monteith, senior marketing manager for the property. Rooms are named after native son Martin Luther King, Jr. and Georgian Jimmy Carter among others and 70 suites are named after varieties of peaches in a nod to local street naming conventions. The fifth floor is dedicated to wellness and art is built into the structure, including a starry ceiling in the lobby bar. Meeting space includes a relaxation lounge and a club area with access to chef experiences.

Meanwhile, event spaces are buzzing with action at the “Big Six” hotels in the area, including Embassy Suites by Hilton Atlanta at Centennial Olympic Park (321 guest rooms and 16,585 sq. ft. of meeting space), W Atlanta Downtown (237 guest rooms and 11,553 sq. ft. of meeting space) and Atlanta Marriott Marquis (1,663 guest rooms and 162,526 sq. ft. of meeting space). That includes big-screen appearances. Marriott Marquis Atlanta was one of the backdrops for The Hunger Games and the new film “Ghosted” starring Ana de Armas and Chris Evans. The city has had more than its share of close-ups partly because of the state’s competitive tax rates for movie production.

Eat This

Steak at
Mrs. P’s Bar and Kitchen

The city’s diverse demographics (it is a majority-minority city) show up in its international culinary offerings. Your hunger will be sated whether you are looking for authentic Mexican (our choice is No Mas! Cantina), Southern-inspired specialties (We loved Mrs. P’s Bar and Kitchen, which in addition to being delicious and Millennial-cute, was the city’s first openly LGBTQ-friendly bar in the 1960s) or fine dining (Do try the wagyu beef carpaccio with confit truffle at Kevin Rathbun Steak in a converted warehouse on the Atlanta BeltLine).

But don’t take our word for it. In October, Michelin released its first guide for the city, a signal that the melting pot of flavors has arrived on the global map.

Travel Secret

Did you know Georgia Aquarium is more than a place to spot sharks and dolphins? Oceans Ballroom offers 23,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and an entire venue buyout can accommodate up to 5,000 guests with the option to dine under a ceiling of tens of thousands of fish.

This article appears in the December 2023 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.