How to Spot a “Hidden Gem” Destination (and Save Money)

Consider Venturing Off the Beaten Path. You Just Might Find the Perfect Spot.

The pandemic may be in the rearview mirror, but attendees are still looking to squeeze in their “revenge travel” and turning to business trips to make it happen. At the same time, event budgets have only risen slightly, and in many cases, not enough to keep pace with inflation. Buzzy host destinations solve the first issue but may be more challenging for those on a budget. So what’s a bleisure (business plus leisure) traveler to do?

Exploring less expected destinations not only stretches your budget but also uncovers hidden gems, which can offer inspiring experiences and world-class amenities with a more budget-conscious price tag. Many of these less predictable destinations have become increasingly sophisticated, providing the best of both worlds—amenities and affordability. Here are some standout locations that will wow your attendees while keeping your budget in check.

Marriott St. Louis Grand
St. Louis' Iconic Gateway Arch

St. Louis, Missouri

Stay at Marriott St. Louis Grand

St. Louis combines the charm of the Midwest with a lively cultural scene. The iconic Gateway Arch, the tallest monument in the United States, is required viewing, offering stunning vistas of the city and the Mississippi River. The city is also home to Forest Park, which houses the St. Louis Zoo, Art Museum, and Science Center—all of which are free to the public.

For food enthusiasts, St. Louis offers a range of culinary options, from St. Louis-style barbecue to fine dining. The city’s craft beer scene is also worth exploring, with many local breweries offering tours and tastings. The Marriott St. Louis Grand provides the perfect blend of refinement and convenience, with its location near major attractions.

The Farnam, Autograph Collection
Omaha's Old Market

Omaha, Nebraska

Stay at The Farnam, Autograph Collection

Omaha might not be the first city that comes to mind for a destination event, but it has plenty to offer. The Old Market district is a bustling area filled with shops, restaurants, and art galleries. The Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium is one of the best spots in the country to observe land and sea animals, featuring sea lions, elephants, a butterfly pavilion, and an expansive aquarium.

The city’s burgeoning food scene is another highlight, with farm-to-table restaurants and local breweries providing a taste of the Midwest. The Farnam, Autograph Collection offers a boutique hotel experience with unique amenities and stylish meeting spaces, making it a great choice for events.

Sheraton New Orleans Hotel & New Orleans Marriott
The French Quarter in New Orleans

New Orleans, Louisiana

Stay at Sheraton New Orleans Hotel  or New Orleans Marriott

New Orleans is a city rich in culture, history, and excellent eats. Known for its vibrant music scene and eclectic mix of French, Spanish, and Creole architecture, New Orleans offers a unique backdrop to any event. The famed French Quarter is an absolute must, with its distinctive blend of French and Spanish colonial styles, characterized by colorful facades, wrought-iron balconies, and lush courtyard gardens. Take a steamboat cruise on the Mississippi River, visit the historic St. Louis Cathedral (the oldest Catholic cathedral in continual use in the United States), or explore the city’s many museums, including The National WWII Museum.

Attendees can also indulge in the city’s culinary scene, particularly its Creole cuisine (think: gumbo, jambalaya, and étouffée). From beignets at Café Du Monde to gourmet dining at Commander’s Palace, in the middle of the tree-lined Garden District, there’s something for every palate. Staying at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel or New Orleans Marriott puts attendees in the heart of the city, providing easy access to all these attractions while offering ideal accommodations and event spaces. Big events can benefit from The French Quarter Connection – an unparalleled venue partnership between New Orleans Marriott and Sheraton New Orleans Hotel that creates an all-encompassing event destination in the Big Easy. These iconic hotels come together to offer the services and space necessary for groups ranging from 1,000 to 3,000 attendees.

Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa
Water Sports on Pompano Beach

Fort Lauderdale/Pompano Beach, Florida

Stay at Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa 

For those seeking a beachside destination, Fort Lauderdale and Pompano Beach present the perfect mix of sun, sand, and sophistication. Known for its boating canals and stunning beaches, Fort Lauderdale is a paradise for water sports enthusiasts—think jet skiing, parasailing, and paddleboarding. Las Olas Boulevard is a hot spot for shopping, dining, and nightlife.

Pompano Beach, just a short drive away, offers a more laid-back vibe with pristine beaches and excellent fishing opportunities. The Fort Lauderdale Marriott Harbor Beach Resort & Spa is set on a gorgeous beachfront with exceptional amenities, making it a top choice for bleisure travelers.

The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa
Hilton Head's World-Class Golf Courses

Hilton Head, South Carolina

Stay at The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa

Hilton Head Island is renowned for its beautiful beaches, world-class golf courses, and lush natural landscapes. It’s also a desirable destination for attendees looking to relax and unwind. The island offers numerous outdoor activities, including biking, kayaking, dolphin watching, and, of course, golf.

For those interested in history, the Coastal Discovery Museum provides deep insight into the island’s heritage. The Westin Hilton Head Island Resort & Spa offers a serene and luxurious retreat with excellent facilities for meetings and events.

Montreal Marriott Chateau Champlain
Historic Old Montreal

Montreal, Québec

Stay at Montreal Marriott Chateau Champlain

Montreal is a city that effortlessly blends old-world appeal with modern sophistication. The historic Old Montreal district features cobblestone streets and historic buildings with French and British colonial influences, grand stone facades, and beautiful ironwork. The city is also known for its dynamic arts scene, with numerous festivals, galleries, and theaters.

Foodies will delight in Montreal’s culinary offerings, from its famous slightly sweet bagels and “poutine” (French fries and gravy) to high-end dining experiences. The Montreal Marriott Chateau Champlain gives bleisure travelers a luxurious base in the heart of the city, offering easy access to all major attractions as well as excellent event facilities.

The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler
Year-Round Alpine Experiences in Whistler

Whistler, British Columbia

Stay at The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler

Whistler is a favorite among outdoor enthusiasts, offering year-round activities, from hitting the slopes at Whistler Blackcomb, one of the largest ski resorts in North America, in the winter, to hiking, mountain biking, and fly fishing in the summer. The village itself is pedestrian-friendly and filled with shops and restaurants, as well as happening nightlife.

For a truly unique experience, attendees can take the Peak 2 Peak Gondola, which offers jaw-dropping views of the surrounding mountains. The Westin Resort & Spa, Whistler gives guests a relaxing stay with exceptional amenities, making it ideal for events and retreats.