Looking for a meeting venue that doubles as a waterfront escape? Head to the Blue Water Convention Center. The 34,000-square-foot venue, which opened in the spring, sits on the bank of the St. Clair River in Port Huron, a stone’s throw from the Blue Water Bridge, which connects the United States and Canada.

“I can go out the door and look right at it,” Kim Appel, the facility’s general manager, says of the bridge. “There’s no way to describe the beautiful view.”

Blue Water’s flexible room configurations make it suitable for banquets, meetings, conventions and trade shows. The venue is adjacent to a 147-room DoubleTree by Hilton that also has meeting rooms, and to the Freighters Eatery and Taproom restaurant, the center’s exclusive caterer.

The convention center and DoubleTree Hilton combined have up to 15 separate meeting spaces, including the 340-square-foot boardroom that accommodates 12 and the 20,374-square-foot Lake Huron convention hall. The Lake Huron Hall can be divided into two rooms, but undivided it accommodates up to 1,024 guests sitting at eight-seat banquet tables or 2,400 attendees seated theater-style.

A 1,600-square-foot outdoor observation deck, which can also be booked separately for receptions of up to 600 people, takes full advantage of the river’s international panorama, as does the center’s interior, via the liberal use of glass walls and doors. The deck also can be divided in two, with each section accommodating up to 300 guests for receptions.

Nearby are an additional 750 hotel rooms, with construction underway for a Holiday Inn Express and a boutique hotel, says Marci Fogal, president of the Blue Water Area Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The bureau is working on complimentary transportation from the center to Port Huron’s downtown 3 miles away.

Blue Water is managed by SMG, the venue management, marketing and development company that also oversees the nearby McMorran Place Sports and Entertainment Center, which has a 4,500-seat auditorium and two arenas. For larger events, planners can book Blue Water in conjunction with McMorran, with transportation arrangements up to the event planner. Planners are matched with an SMG employee at Blue Water for one-stop service.

It began as the first Cadillac dealership outside of Detroit, then became a roller rink in the 1950s. Now, the High Five GR is reopened as a premier event space in downtown Grand Rapids. The original roller rink hardwood floors remain, as do the vaulted ceilings and oversized arched windows that showcase the city lights. What’s new is a state-of-the-art a/v system and an event team that can create custom floorplans and organize set up/teardown and load in/out logistics.

 

The Townsend Hotel has been stacking up kudos in 2021. Maintaining AAA Four-Diamond status throughout its 34-year history and earning a Forbes Four Star rating for the last eight consecutive years, the 150-room luxury property in the walkable neighborhood of Birmingham and just 20 miles from downtown Detroit, was awarded the Travelers’ Choice Award by Tripadvisor in May, recognition that its positive review and ratings over the past 12 months placed it in top 10 percent worldwide of all hotels.

 

The Winery at Black Star Farms is widely admired for the award-winning wines produced from its 160-acre vineyards on both the Old Mission and Leelanau Peninsulas. Now, the Black Star Farms is gaining kudos for its fruit-based brandies, too. At the 15th Annual Great Lakes International Cider and Perry Competition, held in Grand Rapids on July 28-30, Black Farm’s Spirit of Pear earned first place in the “spirits” division of the competition while its Spirit of Apple took third place.