Prevue May/June 2016 - (Page 78)

Branson Wilderness and wonder characterize Ozark meetings [ON LOCATION] JOHNALEE JOHNSTON I n the heart of the Ozarks amid quietly rolling hills, hidden caves and rumors of Jesse James' gold, there's a neon zip line that leads straight to Jesus. Stretching edge-to-edge across Lake Taneycomo in downtown Branson, Mo., Parakeet Pete's Waterfront Zipline took us lightening-speed to Mt. Branson and the Adoration Nativity this past December. It's a postcard-worthy view even without the twinkling of Christmas lights along historic US 65. Branson's first theatre and show debuted here nearly 50 years ago. Remnants of this bygone era linger throughout the Historic District-from Victorian lampposts and an old-fashioned trolley to the old-time goods in Dick's 5 & 10. Street-side signs beckoning, "Warm Blackberry Cobbler Served Here," certainly lured us in. Of course, there's much more than picturesque views and whiffs of nostalgia in these hills. "Along with being stunned by the beauty of the Ozark Mountains, first-time planners are always surprised to find out about the quality of hotels and venues that are available here," says Deborah Cohen, CMP, director of meeting and convention sales for the Branson CVB. Two Hiltons top off the city's 4-star downtown hotel inventory, but when it comes to leaving a lasting impression, it's the hundreds of attractions-from behind-the-scenes tours of live shows to eco-thrills on the Tri-lakes-that most write home about. It's a small city with big character, or as Cohen and her team attest, "we're #Notyourgrandmasbranson." 72 | A THRILLING LANDING Tammy Wynette echoes through the Branson Convention Center, connecting modern, light-filled corridors to the city's country music traditions. The center is the crown jewel of Branson Landing, a $490 million dining, entertainment and retail hub spanning 95 acres along Lake Taneycomo. Ushering the area's outdoor ambiance in are warm woods, sunset hues and natural light with views of Parakeet Pete's Steampunk Balloon and Bellagio-inspired fountains in tow. These little details, along with being connected to the 12-story Hilton Branson Convention Center hotel and the 220,000 sf of combined meeting space this affords, have helped make Branson a popular choice for mid-sized national association meetings. Outside the downtown core, meeting options are also abundant-ranging from a 40-mile heritage train ride aboard the Branson Scenic Railway, to tucked away lakeside resorts. Along Table Rock Lake, the AAA Four Diamond Chateau on the Lake Resort Spa & Convention Center offers groups VIP experiences in a relaxing setting, along with a 43,500-sf conference center. During our visit, Executive Chef Doug Knopp's masterful (and massive) gingerbread villages were on display. Groups can participate in culinary teambuilding that is equally dazzling. Also along Table Rock, Big Cedar Lodge is a nature-aficionado's dream. Bass Pro Shops founder Johnny Morris' wilderness resort spans 800 carefully preserved acres with accommodations in

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Prevue May/June 2016

Planner’s Pick: Milwaukee
Fresh Meets: Marriott’s Big Plans for 2016
Bureau Buzz: Quebec City Business Destination
Good Business: Carbon Conscience
Sea Shores: New Luxury Cruise Options Debut
The New VIP
On Location: Miami Beach Visionary Summit
On Location: South Africa
On Location: Branson
On Location: Alberta
On Location: Atlantis Paradise Island
Checkout: Hilton West Palm Beach

Prevue May/June 2016