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St. Paul Is a Gem on the Mississippi

Historic and cozy St. Paul—Minnesota’s capital city—is known for its elegance, lakes, and global fare

By Danielle Letenyei

1.2.24 Event at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park, St. Paul
Outdoor event at the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory at Como Park, St. Paul || Courtesy of Como Park Zoo & Conservatory

Situated along the banks of the mighty Mississippi River lies St. Paul, one of Minnesota’s oldest cities and the state’s capital. It is the smaller, cozier twin to neighboring Minneapolis and, together, the two make up the Twin Cities. 

From its vibrant downtown to its acres of parkland, St. Paul offers something for every planner and attendee—including some distinctive places to meet you won’t find anywhere else. 

Unique Venues

One of St. Paul’s main attractions is the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory, and a “zoo” has stood on the site since 1897 (the original fenced-in pasture erected by the city on the site had three deer as inhabitants). Located within 384-acre Como Park, the zoo and the conservatory attract more than 2 million visitors annually. It also offers unique spaces for corporate events and meetings. Como Park’s meeting spaces are located within its Como Visitor Center, which boasts 65,000 square feet of space. 

“We offer fabulous food in an amazing, unique setting that is known and loved by the community,” says Robin Fortney, catering sales manager with Lancer Catering, the exclusive on-site caterer for Como Park Zoo & Conservatory. 

What’s more, planners can treat attendees to a panoramic view of the neighboring bird exhibit. The Como Visitor Center’s auditorium can accommodate up to 200 seated attendees or 300 standing. Space on the second floor includes an outdoor terrace overlooking the Marjorie McNeely Conservatory and its gardens. 

The covered porch in the Como Visitor Center also offers spectacular views of the conservatory, especially at night. It can hold up to 400 standing or 240 seated. For more intimate gatherings, the Ordway Gardens offer both indoor and outdoor space for up to 75 standing or 42 seated. Attendees can walk the corridor leading to the conservatory’s nationally acclaimed Bonsai Pavilion, which is accessible year-round. 

If you want your event to be in the middle of the action in downtown St. Paul, Union Depot might just be the venue you’re looking for. The depot is in the historic Lowertown district, which is known for its vibrant art scene. It is within walking distance of several hotels, as well as museums, restaurants, breweries, the Saint Paul Farmers Market, and CHS Field, home of the St. Paul Saints, the AAA baseball affiliate of MLB’s Minnesota Twins. 

On the National Register of Historic Places, Union Depot underwent a $243 million renovation in 2012 to restore it to its former grandeur. The renovations included cleaning 10,000 square feet of Tennessee pink marble, restoring 38,000 square feet of decorative ceiling plaster, and replacing with historical accuracy 63 arched windows. Today, the depot serves as a multimodal transportation hub as well as a unique venue for meetings and events. 

Union Depot has five indoor spaces and two outdoor spaces that can accommodate anything from small networking events to larger conferences. Many of its indoor meeting spaces feature natural light and beautiful views of the Mississippi River. Of its available 27,419 square feet of event space, the Waiting Room is the largest. It can hold up to 1,000 people for a banquet or 2,500 for a standing event. The four other on-site spaces are perfect for breakout sessions or classes. 

Union Depot contracts with preferred caterers—including Afro Deli & Grill, D’Amico Catering, and Lake Elmo Inn Restaurant Event Center & Catering, among others—that offer a range of menu options. For audiovisual services, the four smaller meeting rooms are equipped with the necessary technology, and the venue works with five professional audiovisual companies for services in the Waiting Room. 

A Taste of St. Paul History

Also downtown you will find the Landmark Center, a former federal and state courthouse, U.S. post office, and customs house that was turned into a cultural center for the arts. This historic building was the site of two infamous trials of the 1930s, where Evelyn Frechette and Bessie Skinner were convicted of harboring legendary gangster John Dillinger. In 1935, Arthur “Doc” Barker was tried and convicted at the Landmark Center for the kidnapping of a prominent St. Paul banker, Edward Bremer.

Today, the Richardsonian Romanesque Landmark Center is on the National Register of Historic Places. The center hosts numerous theater, dance, music, art, and other special events throughout the year. 

“The Landmark Center offers a combination of historical charm, a central location, and unique ambience that makes it a standout choice for corporate meetings,” says Hilari Baatz, events director for Minnesota Landmarks, which manages the center. “Its ability to provide a distinctive and memorable backdrop for your event sets it apart from other venues in the area.”

1.2.24 Elegant courtroom meeting space at the Landmark Center, St. Paul, Minnesota
Elegant courtroom meeting space at the Landmark Center || Courtesy of Landmark Center

The center provides meeting space that can accommodate anywhere from 20 to 1,000 attendees. Four of the building’s old courtrooms are available, the largest being The Ramsey County Room, which can hold up to 125 standing. For larger events, the center’s auditorium can accommodate up to 230 guests. The first-floor atrium holds up to 750 standing, and you can rent out the entire building if desired. Planners can bring in their own caterers, but food and beverages aren’t allowed in the auditorium. 

Kitty-corner across Rice Park from the Landmark Center, The Saint Paul Hotel is a historic Renaissance-style hotel built in 1910. It has hosted famous people from the past, such as Gene Autry, Lawrence Welk, and Charles Lindbergh, as well as U.S. presidents from William Taft to George W. Bush. The hotel is managed by Morrissey Hospitality. 

The Saint Paul Hotel has several green initiatives in place to save energy and be more sustainable. The hotel’s Promenade Ballroom is the largest meeting space at 3,900 square feet, and it can accommodate classroom-style seating for up to 200 people. There are also six smaller rooms perfect for breakout sessions or board meetings. “The Saint Paul Hotel offers elegant, well-equipped meeting spaces for corporate conferences and events,” says Jess Morris, marketing account manager for Morrissey Hospitality. 

1.2.24 The Promenade Ballroom of The Saint Paul Hotel in St. Paul, Minnesota
The Promenade Ballroom of The Saint Paul Hotel || Courtesy of Meagan Elizabeth Photography

Modern Elegance

The Saint Paul RiverCentre is two blocks from the Landmark Center and The Saint Paul Hotel. Opened in 1998, the Saint Paul RiverCentre has sustainability bona fides for meetings and events in the city. 

The convention center was the first in the country to obtain LEED, Green Globes, and Event Industry Council certifications for its sustainable practices. Its Green Team works to ensure leftover food from events is either composted, recycled, or donated to local community organizations. The building is also entirely powered by Windsource renewable electricity, a program through Xcel Energy that offers locally produced wind energy. 

1.2.24 Trade show at the Saint Paul RiverCentre in St. Paul, Minnesota
Trade show at the Saint Paul RiverCentre || Courtesy of Saint Paul RiverCentre

“Our team has a plethora of resources for event planners to be as green as possible,” says Sam Johnson, communications and digital media specialist for the Saint Paul RiverCentre. 

The Saint Paul RiverCentre offers 239,052 square feet of meeting and event space, including the 44,800-square-foot Roy Wilkins Auditorium, which can hold 5,800 people. The center’s two exhibition halls can accommodate up to 6,000 people, making them ideal for trade shows, conventions, and consumer shows. 

The Saint Paul RiverCentre’s 27,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom can be divided into eight individual rooms, and there are 15 smaller meeting rooms that can be used individually or combined. Several of the meeting rooms provide floor-to-ceiling windows with amazing views of the Mississippi River. Other event spaces include the Roy Wilkins Auditorium  (31,683 square feet), Kellogg Lobby (28,434 square feet), and RiverCentre Board Room
(270 square feet). 

Morrissey Hospitality is the exclusive caterer for the RiverCentre, and the venue also provides audiovisual and technical support for events held there. 

“We have everything that any prospective meeting and event planner might need to hold their event here,” Johnson says. “Event organizers consistently return due to the exceptional service and premium experience offered at our venue.”

Three Sixty St. Peter Street, located across the street from The Saint Paul Hotel, is also managed by Morrissey Hospitality and catered by the hotel. Three Sixty St. Peter Street offers meeting space for smaller meetings and events of 120 people or less. It is perfect for corporate retreats, award ceremonies, company parties, leadership luncheons, networking events, and cocktail receptions. 

Towering along the Mississippi River downtown, the InterContinental Saint Paul Riverfront has 40,000 square feet of meeting space, with most spaces featuring views of the river. Two ballrooms anchor the hotel’s event space with numerous smaller spaces, allowing flexibility to handle many group sizes. The InterContinental caters events at the hotel. In addition to the riverfront, the hotel is within walking distance of Union Depot, Landmark Center, Saint Paul RiverCentre, and The Ordway Center for the Performing Arts.