It’s always difficult to please everyone, especially when it comes to incentive travel and events. The audience might have a range of different ages and preferences, and what might seem like a once in a life time experience for one delegate, could be a nightmare for another. When I did an American 'road trip' earlier this month to gain more insight on long haul destinations I really appreciated the variety three cities in particular offered.
Here’s my journal from my road trip, highlighting the 'wow' factor that each city offered. Have a read and then vote for which experience would be your favourite in our poll - history, a calmer New York or the completely outrageous.
Boston - More Cheer, Less Cheers!
So, I’m sat in Virgin’s upper-class lounge at Heathrow airport, and I have to say – this is the best lounge I’ve ever been in. They offer everything from a complimentary treatment in the spa, a full on deli counter with every type of bread, cheese and sea food you could imagine. They even have an outside area – something that is rare in airports these days. It was a wrench to board the flight to my first stop: Boston.
I had two days to see as much of Boston as I could and, if you're not that familiar with it, it is not your typical America at all, much more like Canada I think. This is where you would come for the history given the city's pivotal place in the formation of modern America, rather than a sight-seeing tour. For example, as part of my whistle-stop tour, we went round the city in an old WW2 amphibious vehicle. There is the library, a cathedral like building, which was the first large free municipal library in the United States, which can be hired out for events. There’s also the exterior of the bar featured in the original ‘Cheers’ and the ‘North End’ immigrant area, where much of the Italian community resides. This is a day trip in itself as you learn how the Italians eat, sample their foods and get a general insight into their unique and colourful way of life.
The other great thing about Boston is water. there is so much of it! You can see this more from the pictures I took, but it really is beautiful. As we flew in, it reminded me a lot of Sydney because there was just water everywhere! Because of this, boat trips and water sports are plentiful and a must for any visiting incentive travel group. There’s certainly plenty to do in a city that is really quite, for America, quaint. It would make a great incentive destination for a long weekend and certainly for a more mature audience wanting to spend time immersing themselves in culture and history.
Chicago - Blowing away any Blues
Before you arrive in Chicago, you already have an impression of it in your head. It features in so many television programmes and films; it would be hard not to have one. And it won’t let you down; Chicago is exactly as you would imagine it - as exciting as New York without having to deal with the hustle and bustle and claustrophobia.
So here we have a New York alternative, which is much more spacious, and maybe, some may feel, less oppressive. It also has a LOT of water, being right on one of the Great Lakes. Lake Michigan is bigger than you could ever fathom, I struggled to believe it was a lake (incidentally the recent hurricane Sandy aftermath powered waves up to 7m high!). Again, similar to Boston, this means there are a lot of water based activities to be enjoyed. It’s a fascinatingly vibrant city, with its own ‘activity quarter’ where you’ll find an open air theatre, a baseball pitch, and an entertainment pier where you can even rent Segway’s to get around. It is also a city that 'rocks', given it's unique musical heritage, and knows how to put on a show - the city even turns the river green to celebrate St, Patrick’s day! I really was ‘blown away by the windy city.’ So if you like the idea of New York but don’t want to face a claustrophobic, cramped city – then Chicago is definitely the one for you. It has all the big city features and the space and picturesque landscape to go with it!
Las Vegas - More Outside In?
And this is where my road trip took a massive leap from the serene, calm and manageable to the absolutely insane. Everything in Vegas is supersize – the food, the 7,000 room hotels, the casinos. Even the strip is huge, after walking for an hour and a half down it to get to the ‘Welcome to Las Vegas’ sign, we found out that we still had another three miles to go, so I gave up. This is when the enormity of it all finally hit me.
The thing that stood out for me about Vegas, apart from its size, was the way that it’s designed to keep people inside and for them to lose all concept of time. For example, they pump oxygen into the casinos to help keep people awake, you’re allowed to smoke at your gambling table and the hotels all have an ‘outdoors, indoors’. These are huge rooms where the ceiling is painted like a sky and rivers run through. It has to be seen to be believed.
As you can imagine, Vegas is very much a night time destination – it looks a bit dull during the day. But as is the nature of the beast, everything happens at night and really, people just want to sleep all day, so it works out well. For an incentive event, a four day programme but would have to include visits to nearby tourist attractions like the Grand Canyon and the Hoover Dam. The hotels put on theatre shows every night, and there is a big range of hotels to choose from! So you’ll never be bored after dark. However, it could get to be too much for some I suspect.
Three Not of a Kind
So there you have it: America, experienced through three destinations and each with a different personality and appeal. That’s the beauty of the States – you could run an incentive travel event to different cities each year and have a completely different experience each time. So which would be your preference? Head to the poll and let us know.
Make sure you head over to our Pinterest Board to get a contrast between these cities. On Twitter? Make sure you follow David Battley, our Head of Events, to keep up to date with everything our Events team gets up to.