Lyrical Meetings in Massachusetts
Perhaps it’s Massachusetts’ galvanizing roots as a founding U.S. commonwealth. Perhaps it’s because for centuries, the state has served as the nation’s intellectual hub, where the greatest thinkers have been cultivated and continue to come to learn. Or perhaps it’s the beauty of the landscapes, from the beaches along the Atlantic coast to the rolling hills of the Berkshires.
For myriad reasons, you’d be hard-pressed to find any other state depicted so frequently and fervently in the form of poetic prose. Some of the nation’s most revered poets were born or studied in Massachusetts, including Edgar Allan Poe, Emily Dickinson and Sylvia Plath, and some of the finest poets have used Massachusetts as a muse.
The state’s poetic credits demonstrate one of its greatest strengths: an ability to inspire deep thinking and passion, not only in poets, but also in meeting-goers hoping to elevate their business or form stronger bonds.
Lisa Simmons, director of communications for the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, also notes that the state provides an ample array of attractive meeting venues: “From Cape Cod to the Berkshires, there are hundreds of hotels and meeting venues from which to choose. Each has its own unique flair, from castles overlooking the ocean to small B&Bs to a meeting on a cranberry bog.” The state can easily accommodate large groups in its city centers, while its outlying regions are well-suited to small meetings and retreats.
Ultimately, though, it’s the state’s inspired history and setting that remain its greatest strengths. How could one not be won over by Massachusetts when reading through the following lines from the official state poem, penned by Katherine E. Mullen in 1981?
Lovely Bay State by the sea,
Chosen by the Pilgrim Fathers
In their search for liberty.
What a splendid history!
Like our great and glorious Nation,
In its strength for Liberty!
Boston Convention & Exhibition Center
Boston, once known as the Athens of America due to its abundant intellectual activity, has appropriately produced some of the nation’s most acclaimed poets. Edgar Poe, whose foster family later added Allan to his name, was born in Boston in 1809. More than a century later, Sylvia Plath was also born in the city, and she remained in Massachusetts for her studies at Smith College in Northampton. Yet another famous native is Ralph Waldo Emerson, the son of the minister for the First Church of Boston, who vividly captured the city’s spirit in his famous poem “Boston,” which reads in part:
The sea returning day by day
Restores the world-wide mart;
So let each dweller on the Bay
Fold Boston in his heart,
Till these echoes be choked with snows,
Or over the town blue ocean flows.
Literary attendees can get inspired at venues around the city devoted to the lives of homebred luminaries. These include Poe Square near Edgar’s childhood home at the corner of Boylston and Charles streets, and the former house of Emerson in nearby Concord, just 25 miles outside Boston, where he spent much of his later life and penned his famous essays “Self-Reliance” and “The American Scholar.”
Major Meeting Venues
Boston’s history as a primary player in America’s freedom-forging days has done more than inspire moving prose—it has also helped shape one of the nation’s most distinctive hotel scenes.
Several properties honor the city’s past, including The Langham Boston, which was converted from the city’s former Federal Reserve Bank Building, built in 1922. It features several preserved artifacts, including two murals originally commissioned by the bank and a Federal Reserve seal in the Bond Restaurant and Lounge, where the Member’s Court of the bank was located. With 318 rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. of elegantly appointed meeting space, it is an ideal spot to bring groups.
The Liberty Hotel is another property immersed in history. Located inside a former jail house that dates back to 1851, the hotel includes preserved lockup bars from its prison days, and features 298 guest rooms and 6,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including catwalks ringing the lobby.
A sense of the past is also evident at the Omni Parker House, which touts an impressive distinction: America’s oldest continuously operating luxury hotel. The circa-1855 property is located along the Freedom Trail, a 2.5-mile stretch that celebrates Boston’s role in early America, with outposts including Paul Revere’s former home and the USS Constitution, deployed in the War of 1812. The hotel features 551 rooms and 23,000 sq. ft. of space.
Dating back to 1927, the Taj Boston boasts an exclusive address near historic Boston Common. Aubrey McGovern, spokesperson for the property, singles out a variety of standout amenities, including “the best people-watching and a wood-burning fireplace, plus afternoon tea served every weekend, in The French Room overlooking fashionable Newbury Street.” Meeting spaces include an intimate wine cellar and a rooftop space overlooking the park. In June, the property unveiled the refreshed 1,540-square-foot Tata Suite, which features a parlor with windows overlooking Boston’s Public Garden and Commonwealth Avenue, as well as 24-hour butler service.
These hotel options come coupled with two sprawling convention venues: the John B. Hynes Veterans Memorial Convention Center and Boston Convention & Exhibition Center. The Hynes is located in the heart of downtown near the upscale boutiques of Newbury Street and provides 193,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 71,644 sq. ft. of meeting space and 60,000 sq. ft. of registration and function space.
The newer BCEC, which debuted in 2004, is located by the Boston waterfront and two miles from Boston Logan International Airport. It features 516,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space and more than 300,000 sq. ft. of function area.
Less than four miles from Boston, across the Charles River, lies Cambridge. The intellectual city is home to Harvard University, where many of the nation’s greatest poets honed their craft, including T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings and John Updike, who produced prolific poetry as well as impressive novels.
Amid this mecca for great thought lies an assortment of meeting properties. A premier choice is The Charles Hotel. It features 294 rooms and 18,000 sq. ft. of space, as well as Henrietta’s Table, a popular spot for local laureates to feast on fare culled from the nearby farmers market.
Rooftop Ballroom at Omni Parker House, Boston
North of Boston & Greater Merrimack Valley
The area north of Boston, stretching up to the New Hampshire border and including 34 cities, boasts 20 miles of coastline, 3,500 hotel rooms and close proximity to Boston Logan International Airport.
The area’s most famous (or infamous) locale is Salem, where the witch trials took place in the mid-1600s. That significant time in American history has been commemorated in countless poetic tales. Many of the most acclaimed were penned by noted Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier, including “The Witch’s Daughter,” which immortalized the story of a woman wrongly accused of witchcraft in the following verse:
Her memory makes our common landscape seem
Fairer than any of which painters dream;
Lights the brown hills and sings in every stream;
For she whose speech was always truth’s pure gold
Heard, not unpleased, its simple legends told,
And loved with us the beautiful and old
The history of the legendary witch trials remains a draw for visitors and groups. A popular spot for group tours is the Salem Witch Museum, which uses life-size figures, lighting and narration to bring the trials to life. For poetry buffs, each May Salem is host to the Massachusetts Poetry Festival and its 30 programs, workshops, readings and concerts.
Major Meeting Venues
In between exploring Salem’s witchcraft past, groups can meet and stay over at a variety of hotels. Salem Waterfront Hotel & Marina is located along historic Pickering Wharf and plays up its seaside setting with nautical décor. It offers 86 guest rooms and 4,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Another option is Hawthorne Hotel, named for writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who was born in Salem. Housed inside an iconic brick building built in 1925 and situated along the city’s Heritage Trail, it features 93 rooms and 7,000 sq. ft. of space.
Just three miles outside Salem, Beverly is a historic town fronting the state’s north shore beaches that’s home to a series of firsts, including the first American cotton mill and one of the country’s first Sunday schools, built in 1810. The scenic town includes the Wylie Inn and Conference Center at Endicott College. Located on 10 lush acres, it features 92 rooms and 17,500 sq. ft. of IACC-certified function space.
Debbi Nissman Young, a Boston-area meeting consultant with Esprit Consulting, Inc., brought 50 international employees from Polartec Global Sales to the Wylie Inn a couple of years ago and says that “even in November, we had a beautiful view of the water from the dining room. Since this was a four-day meeting, we took one afternoon off and visited Salem to see an exhibit at the Peabody Essex Museum and had a short tour of [the city].” Young was so pleased with the experience, she brought more than 60 people from Polartec back last month, this time integrating a dockside lobster bake, harbor cruise and trip to nearby Gloucester for a walking tour.
Young also recommends Stonehedge Inn & Spa in Tyngsboro, a town 43 miles northeast of Beverly that is bisected by the Merrimack River and lies at the gateway to New Hampshire’s White Mountains. The property features 30 rooms and 4,000 sq. ft. of meeting space situated on 36 acres of woodlands, as well as what Young calls “one of the best wine cellars in New England.”
Rialto restaurant at The Charles Hotel, Cambridge
South of Boston
Venturing South of Boston, you’ll find a collection of beachside towns and another of the state’s most-famous icons: Plymouth Rock, the enduring symbol of the nation’s birth.
That site has often been extolled in verse, perhaps most famously in John Pierpont’s poem named after the rock, which includes these stirring lines:
Thy freemen, Lord! and not of man the slaves.
Here will we toil and serve thee, till our graves
On these bleak hills shall open
Meeting groups can not only explore the rock but also tour Pilgrim Hall Museum. The nation’s oldest continuously operating public museum, it opened in 1824 and features such preserved artifacts as William Bradford’s Bible, Myles Standish’s sword and the only portrait of a Pilgrim painted from life.
Major Meeting Venues
One of the top venues for groups in the heart of historic Plymouth is John Carver Inn & Spa, with 80 guest rooms and 4,500 sq. ft. of meeting facilities. The hotel includes the Pilgrim Cove Indoor Theme Pool, which features a replica of Plymouth Rock and the Mayflower, whose governor the property was named after.
Of course, there is more to this region than a historically significant rock. About 25 miles from Plymouth, Nantasket Beach is one of the state’s most popular beaches. A choice group spot here is Nantasket Beach Resort. Located along three picturesque miles of beach in the town of Hull, it features 105 guest rooms and 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including two ballrooms with windows overlooking the Atlantic outside. Fresh, local seafood, including grilled harpoon swordfish, fried clams and mussels marinara, can be savored at the property’s on-site Paragon Grill.
Guest room at White Elephant, Nantucket Island
Cape Cod, Nantucket Island & Martha’s Vineyard
The state’s history is not its only poetic muse; Massachusetts’ natural vistas and preserved beauty have also inspired memorable lyricism. Nowhere is this more evident than in the state’s coastal resort communities of Cape Cod, Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard.
The area’s picturesque qualities have been captured in poems including William Carlos Williams’ “Nantucket,” an ode to the island’s flowers and sunshine, and George Santayana’s short poem “Cape Cod,” which intones:
The low sandy beach and the thin scrub pine,
The wide reach of bay and the long sky line,
O, I am sick for home!
Santayana’s poem captures what makes these three coastal towns ideal for events—a singular beauty and away-from-it-all atmosphere that immediately makes its visitors feel at home.
Major Meeting Venues
Cape Cod, situated along the state’s easternmost edge, is an all-American staple, with bobbing boats, rows of cottages and seaside vistas straight out of a Norman Rockwell painting.
One of the largest properties on the Cape is the Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club, where accommodations come in two equally appealing forms: 90 luxury guest rooms inside a Victorian-style mansion built in 1912, and 245 villas on 380 acres fronting the ocean. In between convening inside 20,815 sq. ft. of meeting space, attendees can bond over a round of golf at Cape Cod’s only Nicklaus-designed course.
In the charming seaside town of Hyannis, famously the site where John F. Kennedy brought his family for summer getaways, planners can book the Resort & Conference Center at Hyannis. The 232-room property caters to groups with 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Also available is Wequassett Resort and Golf Club, a Four-Star, Four-Diamond property with 113 guest rooms and meeting space for up to 250. Each July and August, the resort features live jazz performances under the stars, and its Twenty-Eight Atlantic Restaurant is located inside an 18th century sea captain’s home.
Nantucket Island, 30 miles south of the Cape, is a seaside paradise with the added distinction of featuring one of New England’s most robust arts communities—it is home to several galleries and a prolific art colony that began in the 1920s.
The Nantucket Island Resorts collection includes three meeting properties with one sales contact, making planning easy. Among these is the Jared Coffin House, located in the island’s historic district, with 55 rooms and function space for up to 64. A brick mansion with a front door framed by white pillars, it is one of the island’s most striking properties.
Completing the scenic beachfront trifecta is Martha’s Vineyard, tucked away just south of the Cape. A preferred vacation spot for celebs and high-power politicians, it features some of the nation’s most luxurious properties; high-end shopping, golf and spas; and unparalleled seaside panoramas. A standout hotel is Winnetu Oceanside Resort, 250 yards away from South Beach in Edgartown, with 80 town houses, 52 suites and 3,400 sq. ft. of space. The resort also offers a roster of team-building activities, including a life-size outdoor chess tournament and a scavenger hunt that takes attendees to local farms to source ingredients for a meal.
Wylie Inn and Conference Center at Endicott College, Beverly
The central region of the state contains a rural setting distinguished by orchards, farms and small-town living. Amid this bucolic atmosphere lies New England’s second-largest city, Worcester. It was here that Poet Laureate Stanley Kunitz grew up before he went off to study at Harvard. Groups can visit Kunitz’s restored childhood home, designated a literary landmark by the American Library Association.
Major Meeting Venues
In Worcester, the 73-room Beechwood Hotel is housed in a round five-story tower, and features 4,200 sq. ft. of space and an extensive art collection.
The outskirts of Central Massachusetts’ big city are also rife with meetings hotels. About 21 miles north of Worcester in Bolton, The International is New England’s only Five-Star golf resort and features the brand-new Rick Smith Golf Academy, one of only three in the U.S. Groups can gather in more than 24,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and dine on dishes prepped by Joseph Brenner, the former right-hand man to celebrity chef Todd English.
Just over 20 miles south of Worcester, Sturbridge Host Hotel & Conference Center fronts the tranquil waters of Cedar Lake and offers 35,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 12,000-square-foot exhibit hall and outdoor tent that can accommodate up to 250. Most of its 234 guest rooms feature a balcony or patio. The property is also conveniently within blocks of Old Sturbridge Village, one of the country’s largest living history museums, which recreates a rural New England town from the 1830s with the help of costumed historians.
The western stretch of the state is home to the striking Berkshire mountains, Massachusetts’ largest waterfall—Bash Bish Falls—and an assortment of galleries, destination spas and upscale resorts.
The region’s natural splendor was given poetic expression in Richard Watson Gilder’s elegy “A Rhyme of Tyringham,” about one of the Berkshires’ particularly striking valleys:
The river winds through the trees and the brake
And the meadow-grass like a shining snake;
And low in the summer and loud in the spring
The rapids and reaches murmur and sing
In Tyringham, Tyringham Valley.
The Berskhires are coupled with the urban offerings of Springfield, which has its own poetic connection: It was the birthplace of Theodor Seuss Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss. The city is home to the Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden, a collection of bronzes depicting the author’s iconic characters.
Major Meeting Venues
Springfield offers big-brand hotels suitable for down-to-business meetings. Chief among these is the 262-room Springfield Marriott, which has 11,000 sq. ft. of event space.
Tucked into the Berkshires, the town of Lenox is home to a handful of swank resorts. One of the most expansive is the 96-room Cranwell Resort, Spa and Golf Club, with a Tudor-style mansion, manor and cottages spread among 380 acres. The property boasts a captivating past: It traces back to 1853 and has hosted the likes of the Vanderbilts and President William McKinley, and its grounds were once owned by Uncle Tom’s Cabin author Harriet Beecher Stowe. Meeting-goers can gather in 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
No matter where you hold your meeting in Massachusetts, it’s sure to inspire, just as it did Mullen to write her stirring final lines:
Keep the faith true pride instills!
May our trust in you be steadfast,
As the everlasting hills!
- Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) is located about 3.5 miles from downtown Boston. All major airlines fly there and it is a focus airport for JetBlue Airways.
- Cape Cod is served by the Barnstable Municipal Airport (HYA), which provides easy access to Hyannis, and Provincetown Municipal Airport (PVC) at the northern end of the Cape. Both offer regional service exclusively.
- Martha’s Vineyard Airport (MVY) is served by JetBlue, US Airways, Delta Air Lines and Cape Air. Nantucket Memorial Airport (ACK) offers flights via Cape Air, Delta Connection, JetBlue, US Airways Express and Nantucket Airlines.
- Worcester Regional Airport is 3 miles west of downtown Worcester and is served by Direct Air. It primarily offers access to and from Florida markets.
Mayflower photo courtesy of the Plymouth CVB