MICHIGAN’S QUAINT COASTAL CITIES BOAST SEVERAL UNFORGETTABLE VENUES. So after one of the worst winters in history, why not remind your guests of the state’s charm and natural beauty by hosting your next event in Holland or Saugatuck?

Located near the shores of Lake Michigan, both Holland and Saugatuck are conveniently situated within a three-hour drive of Detroit and a two and- a-half-hour drive of Chicago. Nearby beaches offer a wonderful complement to meetings, especially if planners are encouraging families to come along.

Many special events are hosted in each city throughout the year, including Holland’s annual Tulip Time Festival, which celebrated its 85th anniversary in May, and the Saugatuck Venetian Festival, which will celebrate its centennial in July.

Despite the cities’ proximity to one another, each boasts an atmosphere all its own.

"Holland has that Dutch touch, proven to be of special interest to meeting participants and their families," says Wendy Link, sales director for the Holland Area Convention & Visitors Bureau. "Holland’s Dutch attractions offer a pleasant diversion for meeting attendees, and our nationally renowned klompen dancers and Dutch-costumed greeters are available to groups any time of the year."

Saugatuck, meanwhile, offers guests a beautiful, relaxed small-town environment to enjoy, according to Felicia Fairchild, executive director of the Saugatuck-Douglas Convention and Visitors Bureau. "It’s very charming," she says. "There are lots of wonderful little restaurants and shops, all located on a beautiful harbor. It’s very walkable."

A Lasting Impression

For planners looking to make a lasting impression on guests, Windmill Island Gardens in Holland is one of the area’s most remarkable spots to host a meeting or event.

"We offer an entire island," says Alisa Crawford, event coordinator and miller for the seasonal, 36-acre venue. "There are beautiful flowers, canals and waterways and an 18th-century Dutch windmill. It’s hard to convey the feeling of relaxation that comes over people when they are here."

The Felt Estate is another unforgettable spot. Listed on the National Register of Historical Places, the estate "provides an architectural glimpse into the wealth and lifestyle of the Roaring ‘20s," says Staci Veldt, the estate’s event coordinator.

"An event at the Felt Estate is truly historical," she says. "We’ve hosted everything from murder mystery dramas to themed weddings and business events."

If the weather’s nice, planners can make the most of the estate’s location near the 1,000-acre Saugatuck Dunes State Park and take attendees on its breathtaking 0.6-mile hike through woodlands to a freshwater coastal dune beach.

Art Smart

The Holland Area Arts Council offers several event spaces with art exhibits that provide an atmosphere of engagement and creativity, says event planner Lori Gramer. Available amenities include rectangular tables, chairs, a video projector, coat racks and a baby grand piano.

Saugatuck Center for the Arts, meanwhile, can host anywhere from 30 to 400 people, depending on the rental space. Its Exhibition Gallery, corridor art and Rain Garden sculptures make for beautiful photo opportunities, and guests can take advantage of one of the venue’s live theater productions or concerts following their meeting or event.

Getting Down To Business

Holland and Saugatuck are also home to several meetings-focused venues. The Haworth Inn & Conference Center in Holland offers 10,000 square feet of meeting space that can accommodate up to 400 people (350 for a banquet). The center’s event planners are known for making the impossible possible.

"One time we had a client that wanted an animal theme, so we incorporated a petting zoo into the event with the help of a local animal farm," says Beth McBride, Haworth’s sales manager.

The Laketown Golf & Conference Center in Saugatuck is ideal for teambuilding activities, as it has its own fully automated driving range. In addition to the main building’s three rooms, the center offers two unique venues for hosting an event: the multifunctional Rotunda, which can accommodate more than 600 guests, and the Courtyard, a 40-foot-by-120-foot tented venue that can host 75-250 people.

Holland’s Hope College is another popular venue with planners, thanks to its range of facilities. Groups will find more than 100 meeting spaces available, from a 12-person conference room to a 3,000-seat arena. And, since Hope College is a residential community, housing for up to 1,500 is available in the summer, according to Derek Emerson, its director of events and conferences.

Drinking, Dining and Making Decisions

Planners looking for a more relaxed experience will definitely want to tap into what New Holland Brewing Co. offers groups. Able to accommodate both small and large parties, thanks to its variety of rental spaces-including a back patio that hosts up to 100 guests- planners can book beer dinners, tastings and pairing events. Private space starts at just $300, or if you don’t mind guests being seated around you, pub manager Shawna Cantu says the pub can host your event for free.

Saugatuck Brewing Company also goes that extra mile for groups, according to its vice president, Kerry O’Donohue. Its Singapore Room can accommodate up to 100 people comfortably, and the brewery has a very popular brew-on-premises program that’s often used for corporate team-building and group outings.

For planners who would rather host their event at a fine dining establishment, Holland’s AlpenRose Restaurant and Café features five different rooms for groups that accommodate from eight to 200 guests. General Manager Jerry Hill says that if a group dines at the historic Holland restaurant, there’s no room charge for up to four hours. Its managers offer detailed attention to groups to make sure everything runs smoothly.

While choosing between Holland and Saugatuck, and their many unique venues, may be difficult, it’s a good problem to have.

MACVB Annual Educational Conference finally reaches the shores of Mackinac Island.

As I rode in the carriage from the Shepler’s Ferry terminal to the Grand Hotel on Mackinac Island, my mind wandered to a scene from “Monty Python and the Holy Grail.” In said scene, King Arthur and his sidekick, Patsy, approach a castle while galloping and banging coconuts together. After a few moments passed and my mind wandered back to the tree-lined streets of the island, I realized it was the clippety-clop of the draft horses pulling our carriage that brought on my thoughts of Python.

 

The day’s agenda is done—all the to-do items have been checked off, and it’s time to come together as friends and colleagues. So, what is there to do? Well, if you’re meeting in Ann Arbor, Michigan, plenty. Located just 20 minutes to the Detroit Metro Airport, which offers 1,100 daily flights from four continents, the city is home to the University of Michigan and is a hub of creativity and culture. Ann Arbor offers a walkable downtown and the quirky and innovative attractions you’d expect to find in a college town. 

 

First came COVID. Then came the tornado.

The northern Michigan community of Gaylord was just starting to rebound from the pandemic with its groups and events business as a new season was getting underway when a rare EF3 tornado with estimated wind speeds between 136 and 165 miles per hour struck May 20.

Two people were killed and at least 44 were injured, according to official reports at the time. West Michigan meteorologist Bill Steffen said it was the strongest tornado to strike in the U.S. that month.