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Gather on the Gulf Coast

With year-round good weather, the Texas coast beckons attendees

By Amy Durham

historic pleasure pier in galveston
Galveston Island Historic Pleasure Pier in Galveston || Courtesy of Visit Galveston

Cactuses and tumbleweeds might be typical of Texas, but in one region, attendees can trade boots for flip-flops. The stunning Gulf Coast is a 367-mile stretch of beach along the Gulf of Mexico.

There are 14 counties along the coast, home to several cities that allow attendees to enjoy the sea breeze year-round. Barrier islands stretch for 113 miles, creating a line of land that looks like a peninsula along the coast. Bays and lakes dot the landscape inland from the beach.

Sunny and fair, the weather on the Gulf Coast is warm and clear most of the time. Even in the summer heat, the wind over the ocean keeps the shoreline more temperate than many other parts of the state.

Planning a meeting in the Gulf Coast region might increase turnout, as attendees see the opportunity to relax on the beach and enjoy some downtime island-style. From early Texas history to modern meeting amenities, the coastal cities have something for everyone to enjoy.

Historic Island

In 1839, Galveston Island was founded as a port city in the Republic of Texas, and it has seen its share of tragedy since then. In 1865, a fire destroyed entire city blocks of the Strand Historic District, or “the Strand,” requiring extensive rebuilding. Then, in 1900, The Great Galveston Hurricane, considered the deadliest natural disaster in U.S. history, left the island in ruins. It took decades to rebuild the city—but rebuild it they did.

A get-together on McGee Beach in Corpus Christi
A get-together on McGee Beach in Corpus Christi || Courtesy of Visit Corpus Christi

Today, in the Strand, ornate 1800s-era buildings that survived the disasters, museums, art galleries, and shops line the streets of Galveston. With more than 8 million visitors a year to a city with 53,000 residents, the city is all about tourism. “We are a prominent meetings destination in Texas, welcoming over 175 events and over 120,000 attendees annually for meetings, conventions, and sports groups representing a variety of markets,” says Bryan Kunz, director of sales and services at Visit Galveston. The city is about an hour from George Bush Intercontinental Airport and serves as a port for international cruises.

A variety of venues gives planners choices, from small historical sites to the city’s large convention center. “Galveston Island Convention Center at the San Luis Resort’s dramatic beachfront setting offers breathtaking views of the Gulf of Mexico,” Kunz says. The venue offers 43,000 square feet of column-free exhibit space and a 15,000-square-foot ballroom. The pre-function space is lined with floor-to-ceiling windows that allow sunlight to stream in and attendees to look out toward the Gulf of Mexico over the Seawall.

The San Luis features 700 rooms, but Kunz says there are 1,400 rooms within a 2-mile radius of the convention center. Two new hotels, Home2 Suites by Hilton Galveston and Tru by Hilton Galveston, opened last year. The pair shares a building to create a combined 196 rooms in a laid-back atmosphere.

Island relaxation is elevated at The Tremont House, which was built in 1839, the same year that Galveston was founded. As the oldest hotel in the city, it’s on the National Register of Historic Places. “It was built to be the grandest hotel in the South, and it continues to this day to be the host of prestigious events and iconic guests,” says Jacque Stilwell, certified meeting professional and director of sales and marketing for the hotel.

The lobby at Margaritaville Beach Resort South Padre Island
The lobby at Margaritaville Beach Resort South Padre Island || Courtesy of Margaritaville Hotels & Resorts

With room for up to 500 attendees, the 17,000 square feet of flexible meeting space at The Tremont House offers an elegant neutral palette that can be customized to match any event’s needs. “All meeting rooms have natural light and high ceilings with lots of character, which is perfect for a unique event or meeting experience,” says Stilwell. Spaces from the rooftop lounge to the nearly 8,000-square-foot ballroom give planners a range of choices.

For historic opulence, book space at the 220-room Grand Galvez Resort, Autograph Collection, a AAA Four Diamond property. The newly renovated hotel will transport attendees back to a bygone era, complete with black-and-white tiled floors and decadent decor reminiscent of the building’s beginnings in 1911. The terrace and veranda are separated by French doors and combine to create a 5,000-square-foot ballroom with views of the Gulf; the Music Hall offers another 5,000 square feet in a sky-blue room with crystal chandeliers. For outdoor events in the ocean breeze, 11,000 square feet of space is available and spread across two gardens.

Omni Corpus Christi Hotel
Omni Corpus Christi Hotel || Courtesy of Visit Corpus Christi

All-Season Playground

Temperatures at the southern tip of Texas remain in the 60s and 70s throughout the winter, so cities along the coast are viable warm-weather destinations. Snowbirds escaping the cold flock to Corpus Christi, the eighth-largest city in Texas with a population of 317,000 and 300 days of sunshine a year.

Conference attendees at the American Bank Center are steps away from the beach, where flip-flops and sunnies rule in this laid-back city. “Attendees will enjoy the beach-town feel, while planners will appreciate amenities that are comparable to those in larger cities,” says America Segura, director of communications at Visit Corpus Christi. The American Bank Center boasts a 138,000-square-foot convention center that is split into two ballrooms and eight breakout rooms, a 10,500-seat arena, and the 2,600-seat Selena Auditorium.

Nearby, the Omni Corpus Christi Hotel gives attendees sky-high views of Corpus Christi Bay from 475 guest room balconies and the Republic of Texas Bar and Grill, the only AAA Four Diamond restaurant in South Texas, with a spectacular 20th-floor overlook. The hotel boasts 24,000 square feet of meeting space and a wine room with 160 wines from around the world.

For meetings closer to the harbor, the 345-room Holiday Inn Corpus Christi Downtown Marina can host 500 attendees across nine meeting rooms. On the other side of the bay, the DoubleTree Corpus Christi Beachfront, with 4,250 square feet of meeting space, has 139 guest rooms and direct access to the sand and surf behind the hotel.

Ocean Fun

Outside the meeting rooms, there are water-related activities for everyone. “Having nine beaches in Corpus Christi makes it easy to explore the outdoors with activities like horses on the beach, paddleboarding, beach yoga, glow-in-the-dark kayaking, and cook-and-catch fishing experiences,” says Segura. Popular beaches include North Beach, adjacent to the boardwalk, and McGee Beach, with umbrella and beach chair rentals.

Attendees in Corpus Christi can also visit the Texas State Aquarium, the fourth-largest aquarium in the nation, and the USS Lexington Museum on the Bay to learn more about World War II-era vessels. Meeting space is available at both attractions.

Immerse your attendees in the ocean or the rainforest when you meet at Moody Gardens Hotel, Spa & Convention Center in Galveston. The Expo Hall at the convention center spans 60,000 square feet and seats 7,000 attendees. AAA Four Diamond accommodations provide relaxation in between sessions and on-site entertainment in the exhibit pyramids, indoor and outdoor pools, and boat marina. All along the coast, deep-sea fishing charters depart regularly to bring anglers closer to mahi-mahi, king mackerel, and blacktip shark.

Fishing at Padre Island National Seashore gives attendees a small, yet gorgeous glimpse of the 66 miles of protected wild coastline. South Padre Island Birding, Nature Center, and Alligator Sanctuary includes a bayfront boardwalk and bird blinds along with a gator pond, all on 50 acres of wetland. Sea Turtle Inc. in South Padre Island aids in the protection and care of sea turtles through conservation and research. Every year, volunteers, researchers, and students gather on the beach to save hatchlings on their perilous walk to the water.

Margaritaville Beach Resort South Padre Island offers laid-back luxury throughout its nearly 3,500 square feet of meeting space with natural light. Island-inspired guest rooms, suites, and condos are close to the action with available Jet Skis, snorkeling equipment, and sandcastle buckets. An additional Margaritaville location in Galveston is in development.

The Cove Pool at San Luis Resort, Spa & Conference Center in Galveston
The Cove Pool at San Luis Resort, Spa & Conference Center in Galveston || Courtesy of Visit Galveston

Treasures in the Sand

The coast is dotted with scenic towns waiting to host attendees with a warm Texas welcome. In what locals call Brazosport, the area where the Brazos River empties into the Gulf of Mexico, attendees can shop local crafts in Surfside and enjoy saltwater fishing in Freeport. The RiverPlace Event Center provides sunlit space for 400 attendees on the banks of the Brazos River. Freeport is also the departure point for Flower Gardens National Marine Sanctuary, a popular scuba-diving destination 100 miles off the coast.

Near Galveston, Texas City’s Charles T. Doyle Convention Center offers 14,000 square feet of meeting space, and the Springhill Suites Texas City has room for 50 in a 1,000-square-foot meeting room. On an 18-mile stretch of beach called Mustang Island, the Port Aransas Civic Center has space for 1,100 attendees. Nearby Portland provides 13,000 square feet of meeting space in the recently renovated Portland Community Center. Attendees can stay at the Hampton Inn & Suites with its 91 guest rooms.

DoubleTree by Hilton Corpus Christi Beachfront
DoubleTree by Hilton Corpus Christi Beachfront || Courtesy of Visit Corpus Christi

Famous as a spring break destination, South Padre Island is much more than just a fun place to party. The South Padre Island Convention Center boasts 45,000 square feet of meeting space and 1,200 nearby hotel rooms.

Between Houston and Galveston lies the Bay Area, a region that surrounds the Galveston Bay Estuary. Cities include Baytown, where a recently opened Hyatt Regency Baytown-Houston provides a new convention center and 18,000 square feet of modern meeting space; and League City, where the 230-room South Shore Harbour Resort and Conference Center sits on the edge of Clear Lake and offers 25,000 square feet of meeting space. The nearby town of Webster is soon to be home to a 27-acre Great Wolf Lodge, a family-friendly option for meetings expected to open this fall.

No matter the season, the Gulf Coast region of Texas offers attendees a meeting and a getaway in one.