February 2015

Northern Virginia specializes in authentic experiences

by Eric Andersen

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    Bluemont Vineyard, Bluemont

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    Honor Guard Sculpture at the U.S. Air Force Memorial, Arlington

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    Society Fair Demo Kitchen, Alexandria

Northern Virginia has a bit of a split personality. While it may technically be considered part of the Southern U.S., with much of that traditional charm and history on full display, it also represents a major hub for national business, lying within close proximity to Washington, D.C., and the rest of the East Coast.

“From a meeting planner’s perspective it’s ideal in that you have the incredible access to downtown Washington and the entire area, without having to pay the prices to be at a hotel downtown or to park there or the additional taxes,” says Dean Miller, national sales manager at Visit Fairfax. “And we have gorgeous three- and four-diamond hotels that can offer some real attractive pricing, depending on the dates, so our value proposition for all different sorts of groups is incredible.”

While Miller was directing his comments toward Fairfax County, much of his words ring true throughout Northern Virginia. But today’s attendees are looking for more than just a deal, they also want to connect. Thankfully for planners, Northern Virginia delivers on authentic, culturally rich group experiences.

Fairfax County

Fairfax County is the most populated county in Virginia and also one of the wealthiest (nationally, as well as regionally). Much of this prosperity is due to the economic powerhouse that is Tysons Corner—Fairfax County’s central business district—home to a number of Fortune 500 companies.

And now planners can add accessibility to the list of perks for holding a meeting in Fairfax County with the completion of the first phase of the Silver Line Metro transportation project in July 2014, expanding Washington’s Metrorail system through Tysons and into Reston. A second phase of the Silver Line—projected to open in 2018—will take the route beyond Reston to the Washington Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County.

“The Silver Line has really made it easier for groups to meet here,” Miller says. “Then they can hop on the Metro and go downtown, go to a ballgame, go to a show—whatever they want to do.”

Miller adds that corporate, government and military reunion groups are all big for meetings in Fairfax County, but that the Silver Line has started attracting more midsize national associations. And all of them can take advantage of Fairfax County’s signature experiences.

George Washington’s Mount Vernon is one of the nation’s most popular historic sites, with over 1 million visitors each year. Not only can groups tour the rooms that George and Martha Washington once called home, but they can also meet in the Robert H. & Clarice Smith Auditorium, featuring theater-style seating for 200. In addition, several other indoor venues, including George Washington’s Distillery and Gristmill, are available for private events, along with additional outdoor space along the waterfront.

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