Population: 404,794 (Genesee County)

Transportation: Located in mid-Michigan, Flint and surrounding Genesee County are 60 miles northwest of Detroit and 55 miles north of Ann Arbor, making it a convenient drive-to location. For destinations beyond Michigan, Flint is home to Bishop International Airport, which has nonstop flights to Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Nashville, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Boston, Fort Lauderdale, Jacksonville, and Tampa Bay.

Vibe: “We’re a place that has been built on a lot of history and tradition, and a legacy of makers,” says Alaina Wiens, executive director of Explore Flint & Genesee. “We are, to cite just one example, the birthplace of General Motors. People come here to create and celebrate and be whatever they want to be. That translates into a rich artistic and music scene with grassroots events that grow all over the county. [The] Flint and Genesee [area] is very diverse and character-rich, and the spirit of the people here is infectious. We’ve been through a lot, but we dig in, get things done, and problem solve.”

Hotels: The county has more than 20 hotels and 2,000 guest rooms. Hotels are typically boutique size, with about 60 to 100 guest rooms. One of the newer properties is the 101-room Hilton Garden Inn Flint Downtown, which is housed in a transformed 1920s bank.

Venues: The largest venue in Flint is the Riverfront Banquet Center on the University of Michigan-Flint campus. It can accommodate nearly 1,000 attendees for a banquet or reception and more than 2,000 theater-style. Grand Blanc, a Flint suburb, has several conference centers, including The Captain’s Club at Woodfield (capacity 300) and Genesys Conference & Banquet Center (capacity 2,000).

Wiens likes to direct meeting planners to some of the area’s one-of-a-kind venues, like Durant-Dork Factory One. Located on the riverfront in downtown Flint, it dates to 1880 and is where William Durant, co-founder of General Motors, first began manufacturing automobiles. Today, the restored factory is a soaring event space with vintage autos on display and a capacity of 300. Other distinctive venues include the historic Capitol Theatre (capacity 1,575), Longway Planetarium (capacity 175), Flint Institute of Arts (capacity 200), and Flint Institute of Music (capacity 100).

Restaurants: “Whatever you’re looking for in a dining experience, we have it,” Wiens says. “In downtown Flint, you’ll find everything from upscale wine bars to barbecue joints and community pubs that have really good burgers and beer.”

Standouts include the chic Cork on Saginaw in a renovated bank building, the Great Gatsby-inspired Café Rhema, Soggy Bottom Bar, Torch Burger, and 501 Bar & Grill, where you can enjoy small plates while sipping martinis or specialty cocktails like blackberry bourbon lemonade.

Must-Sees and Must-Dos: Take a self-guided tour of the more than 150 murals that turn the streets of Flint into an open-air art gallery. (Yes, there’s an app for that—
visit pixelstix.com.)

Stroll and nibble your way through the Flint Farmers’ Market. Open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, the market is held in a former printing facility and has 50 year-round vendors, plus 20 more outside in the summer. 

Immerse yourself in the Flint Cultural Center, which has eight institutions on its leafy campus, including the aforementioned Flint Institute of Arts and Flint Institute of Music, as well as the Longway Planetarium, The Whiting performing arts center, and Sloan Museum, a science and history museum that reopens in July after extensive renovations.

Get outdoors and explore Genesee County, which has the largest county park system in Michigan, including the 383-acre For-Mar Nature Preserve & Arboretum. Be sure to stop at the Barrier Free Treehouse, which is open to the public and was featured on an episode of Animal Planet’s “Treehouse Masters” series. Nearby is Stepping Stone Falls, one of the most scenic locations in mid-Michigan. The dam that creates these falls holds back the Flint River and creates 600-acre Mott Lake, where you can try your luck fishing for bluegill and bass. It’s an easy walk up the falls to a series of overlooks. At night, newly restored underwater lights illuminate the cascades. 

Shop downtown Flint’s singular stores, including Comma Bookstore & Social Hub, which specializes in Black, indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) books and art; SHIFT, a boutique with a curated collection of fashion, housewares, health and beauty products, and gifts for kids; Reclaimed by Whaley, a vintage shop that benefits local foster youth; and Shops on Saginaw, a collection of Flint-based pop-up shops on the ground floor of the century-old Dryden Building.

How the CVB Helps: “We can help in whatever way a meeting planner needs,” Wiens says, “but we’re especially eager to build a unique experience that’s memorable for your attendees. We like to find nontraditional meeting spaces like an art gallery, the Farmers’ Market, former factories, or a historic venue that’s listed on the National Register of Historic Places—spots you won’t find anywhere else. We also like to get people moving a bit every day with activities that take them outside the conference room. One thing we want meeting planners to know is that Flint and Genesee County [are] especially magical in the wintertime when everything’s lit up, sparkly, and beautiful. And, if you need transportation when the temperature dips, we can arrange that, too.”

SCS Global Services (SCS), a third-party environmental and sustainability certification, auditing, testing, and standards development, has launched its Zero Waste Standard, “Zero Waste for Events.”

 

The Events Industry Council’s Certified Meeting Professional (CMP) program, established in 1985, is recognized around the world as a badge of excellence in the events industry. JodieAnn Cady, an independent event project manager based in Mason, is among the professionals in the inaugural class of CMP Fellows, a program launched last year.

 

Located in Onekama and built in 1900 as the summer residence of lumber baron and Manistee Mayor Charles Canfield, Canfield House was purchased, completely renovated, and reopened as a year-round bed-and-breakfast in 2021. Featuring 200 feet of Portage Lake frontage, the property now offers a lakeside fire ring and new dock for kayaks and stand-up paddleboards. The six-room house can be rented for small retreats and groups up to 125 accommodated for meetings and receptions.