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4 Unique Venues Help to Escape the Same 4 Walls

By Jennifer Babisak

While an upscale chain hotel or splashy new convention center can set the stage for a perfectly lovely event, sometimes clients desire a truly unique backdrop for their celebration. Standing out from the crowd involves more than just fabulous décor and a well-played theme—the setting anchors the entire event. And when an ordinary venue just won’t do, consider an out-of- the-box space to set the stage for a truly extraor- dinary event.

The growing movement of urban revitalization and historic preservation has launched a number of unique venues into prime party space. Now, properties ranging from industrial warehouses to repurposed air hangars dot the state, dangling the possibility of a one-of-a-kind event in front of those clients willing to forgo the norm.

Granted, these unique venues often evoke a specific feel. And this lack of generic appeal means they may not suit as wide a range of events as less nuanced properties. However, for event planners willing to look beyond standard venues, there’s a perfectly suited distinctive property for nearly every style. Consider these diverse out-of-the-box venues, located all across Texas, and let your imagination run free—the combination is sure to produce an event that people will talk about for years to come.

Seven for Parties

Housed in the up-and-coming Dallas Design District, Seven for Parties provides 11,000 square feet of flexible and funky event space. With an industrial-meets-elegant vibe, the space definitely makes an impression. Owner Wendy Krispin doesn’t mince words when describing the venue. “It’s not a space for wimps,” she says.

Custom-made furniture—like towering white armchairs and oversized color-splashed ottomans—can be rearranged into myriad configurations. Whimsical artwork brightens the walls and provides for excellent conversa- tion. Among the eclectic antique décor, ame- nities are included for each event, including a baby grand piano, audio-visual equipment and ambient lighting.

The venue often hosts traditional events like weddings and mitzvahs as well as edgier events like fashion shows and product launch- es. “We’ve had a lot of Victorian-themed par- ties and steampunk parties,” Krispin says. “It’s got a very specific vibe.”

Krispin, with more than 30 years experi- ence as a caterer, customizes menus from elegant to edgy. Her culinary offerings include clever options such as a mini donut station, a stuffed avocado bar and a wild game station featuring dishes like blackberry elk loin and apple duck sausage.

Seven for Parties accommodates 350 guests seated at round tables or 470 guests for a cocktail reception. The fanciful space is divided into three separate rooms outfitted with custom artwork. Renting a single room works for groups of up to 60. The venue is located in close proximity to a number of hotels. To ensure a low-stress event for guests, Seven for Parties provides valet parking and security guards.

1940 Air Terminal Museum

Located on the grounds of Houston’s Hobby Airport (convenient for the transportation needs of out-of-town guests), the 1940 Air Terminal Museum evokes classic beauty and elegance. The gorgeous white plaster build- ing is one of the few surviving art deco air terminals in the nation. Inside, the former air terminal boasts art deco architectural features like fluted trim, white columns, marble floors and a brass chandelier. “We have a very classy and elegant space,” says Associate Manager Molly Duncan. “What makes it unique is that we’re trying to restore the image of the ’40s and ’50s. We provide a room and a building with character, good taste and architectural touches from a different era altogether.”

The historic air terminal displays memora- bilia from 1910 to the present, with a special focus on artifacts from the “golden age of avia- tion,” which includes the years between World War I and World War II. During this time period, the airline industry sought a sophisti- cated experience for travelers, and the museum displays some of these elegant artifacts like finely wrought china and silver that were used for in-flight meals. Other displays include historic airline uniforms and other aviation memorabilia.

The two-story, light-filled atrium seats up to 200 guests. A theater outfitted with chairs, a TV and a DVD player seats 50. The hangar, which holds a variety of vintage aircraft including Korean War helicopters and a Lockheed Lodestar airplane, is popular for everything from wedding receptions to corporate parties. “The hangar is actually older than the termi- nal,” Duncan says. “From 1929, it provided air mail service to Houston.” The museum grounds, suitable for outdoor events under tents, provide close-up views of airplanes tak- ing off and landing from Hobby Airport.

The Ingenhuett on High

The Inguenhuett General Store, in the quaint Hill Country town of Comfort, was the oldest continually running general store in Texas until a fire severely damaged the structure in 2006. Designed in 1867 by well-known British architect Alfred Giles, the general store originally stocked supplies like ammunition and tools needed by frontier settlers. The store moved to its current High Street location in 1881. Over the years, the building evolved to house a bank, a post office and a John Deere dealership.

After its extensive fire damage, some locals feared the Inguenhuett’s storied history had come to a close. But Boerne residents Craig and Jeanine Leeder stepped in to purchase the property, meticulously restored its historic detail and opened it again to the community as special events venue The Ingenhuett on High. Natalie Hart, of San Antonio-based Country Sugar Events, serves as event coor- dinator for the property. “What I love about it is that it’s got the historical aspect. It’s so unique,” Hart says.

The interior features a gorgeous wood floor- ing and ceiling alongside limestone walls. A rustic bar anchors one end of the long main hall, which seats up to 170. Across from the bar, an antique white settee against the weathered backdrop of a stone wall provides striking jux- taposition for photos. A courtyard with a sleek Koi pond seats up to 100 attendees, providing a refined space for outdoor events. The venue can accommodate nonseated events for groups of up to 300.

Hart encourages clients to keep event décor minimal, letting the natural beauty of the space shine through.

“It’s naturally beautiful the way it is, so you don’t have to bring in a lot of stuff to dress it up,” she says. “Less is more here. And it has beautiful lighting.”

Cameron Park Zoo

For a truly wild event, consider staging it among the roars and howls of a zoo. Cameron Park Zoo, located along the banks of the Brazos River in Waco, impresses with natural- looking exhibits featuring waterfalls trickling along weathered wood and stone. The 52-acre zoo serves as home for nearly 2,000 animals representing 300 species. From elephants to komodo dragons, there are plenty of gorgeous animals to admire.

Amanda Schroeder, event planner at Waco’s Honey Bear Events, believes clients need not limit zoo events to casual affairs. “The zoo would easily lend itself to a more casual gathering, but I think you could also really dress it up,” she says. She notes that weather could play friend or foe when dealing with an outdoor location, and advises clients to consider the time of year and typical sea- sonal weather before deciding on an outdoor setting. “If the weather is right, this would be a really cool space,” she says.

The zoo’s 6,000-square-foot open-air pavil- ion seats up to 300 guests. Breakout ses- sions can be staged in four different areas of the pavilion. Amenities include a cater- ing kitchen, sound system, tables and two video screens. The rental fee includes zoo admission, and an add-on package procures a behind-the-scenes or enrichment tour.