How to choose the ideal city for your destination event.

The world is your oyster! Destination events add a sprinkle of adventure, bleisure (business + leisure) and sight-seeing wonder to your gathering. They also present unique event marketing opportunities, as a notable city adds extra incentive to attend. The trick is knowing how to choose a city that suits your event and attendees. 

If Netflix has taught us anything, it’s that more choices don’t mean easier decision-making. Studies have shown that the more options you have, the harder it is to decide. The world is bursting with exciting places, big and small, to host your destination event. It can be easy to fall into decision paralysis—unless you’ve got a strategy. 

We’ve broken down the key areas of consideration when choosing a city. By organizing the pros and cons in each area, you’ll refine your list until the perfect city is obvious! Learn how to select an unforgettable city for your next event experience.

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Choose a goal-aligned city.

Just like an outfit, the city you choose will largely dictate the character of your event experience. An event in Paris will look, feel, and be very different from an event in the Colorado mountains. Before you start looking up cities, consider your event’s goal. 

For example, a city with many parks and eco-friendly initiatives would ideally suit a sustainability-focused event. The surrounding city would emphasize the value of integrating sustainable technology and practices. On the other hand, if you’re hosting a tech conference, a place like Silicon Valley would put attendees in the center of the action. 

Another consideration is attendees’ interests. If most of your guests are introverts, they may not enjoy a bustling city packed with socializing activities. Instead, consider a smaller city that offers opportunities to relax and quietly get to know each other. Are you attendees big foodies? Choose a city known for its cuisine, like New Orleans or Philadelphia. Event catering doesn’t always have to be the last word in memorable food experiences. 

Your chosen city will set the tone for your event. If you want to create an inspiring event experience, a city like New York has the perfect can-do spirit. Attendees will move from uplifting sessions to the hustle-and-bustle of the Big Apple. If you’re strategic about your selection, you can piggyback off the city’s natural energy to boost or complement your event’s themes. 

Planner action: Create three columns: one for goals, one for attendee personalities, and the third for all the cities that align with both.

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City marketability.

An event experience offers many incentives to attendees, but choosing a notable city can convince otherwise undecided guests to register. Cities with strong aesthetics, unique traits, or famous landmarks can make your event a can’t-miss experience. 

These features can also dictate your marketing content. Infuse your social media, emails, and event page with the personality of your chosen city. Chicago and Bar Harbor have two very different styles that you can infuse into your content to give it more personality and make it stand out from other events. 

Consider whether cities have pre-existing marketing strategies that highlight their unique values. Examples include Pure Michigan or Sacramento: City of Trees. If a city is already putting effort into marketing itself, there’s a good chance they’ll include your event on their website or in other marketing materials, increasing your marketing reach

Using iconic landmarks in your marketing materials (If your chosen city has them) can make them stand out and create an instant desire to attend. Landmarks like the Eiffel Tower or even the world’s largest ball of rubber bands can give your marketing some pizzazz! 

Planner action: List the marketing benefits for each prospective city, such as landmarks, marketing efforts, national/global reputation, visual style, and desirability.

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Sightseeing and activities.

People attend destination events for more than just the event activities. They come for the city! It’s essential to choose a destination that offers ample restaurants, museums, parks, and other sightseeing opportunities. Over the multi-day course of your destination event, attendees will want to break out of the exhibit hall and explore the town. 

Consider the proximity of restaurants and other local amenities. Tired attendees won’t want to travel far to get a bite to eat after a long day of keynotes. Walkable cities offer a uniquely charming experience for attendees who want to feel a part of the city community. If not walkable, does your preferred city have good public transportation? 

Many cities offer unique tours or local attractions you can’t find anywhere else. These make your event unforgettable! You can partner with the local community to infuse the city’s culture with your event. Fun ideas include hiring local artists to do live paintings or having a local speaker give a talk. Take the attendees out of the venue with a museum or thrilling ghost tour! 

The local attractions you choose will depend on your attendees’ interests. While history buffs will appreciate a tour of historical landmarks, networking-savvy attendees may prefer a pub crawl where they can talk over a cold pint. Bonus points if you can strike a deal to give your attendees an experience that isn’t open to the general public! 

Planner action: Identify the type of local attractions you’d like (cuisine, landmarks, art, etc.), then list the cities that feature them. 

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Essential logistics.

It’s all fun and games—until you run out of hotel rooms. Destination event planning has all the usual logistics of traditional planning and then some. Often, the city that meets your logistic needs is the one you choose. These requirements can make a hard decision easier. 


How will your attendees get there? And, once there, how will they get around? If you value sustainable event planning, cities with accessible public transportation are going to be best. If your city requires a flight or visa, consider how you will help attendees manage the extra stress. 


How close are the hotels? While your event venue may have available rooms, they may not have enough for all your attendees. Ideal cities will have ample hotels (reasonably priced) located near the venue. Of course, you can choose a city with few hotels, but this will place the burden of finding accommodations on you. 


While looking for cities, consider the time of year for your event. A February event in Chicago isn’t going to be too comfortable. Likewise, with an Arizona event at the height of summer, While hosting in these “off seasons” can lower the cost, it comes with additional contingency planning requirements.


Obviously, this is a MAJOR factor. A destination event brings additional expenses to you as event planners and to your attendees. The city you choose will impact travel, accommodations, equipment, and staff. Remove any cities that exceed your budget to immediately simplify your decision-making. 

Planner action: Identify your logistical restraints (or desires, such as local staff or vendors) and compare these to those of your prospective cities. Remove the ones that don’t fit or don’t meet your needs.

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Find your dream city.

Once you’ve run through each of the above categories, you should have a clear idea of which cities are suitable. Of course, you may have to compromise on your dream cities for a more practical option. But keep them in your back pocket. You never know when you’ll be in a position to finally take your event planning talents there! 

To help you find the perfect event destination, we’re premiering a new series on our YouTube and website. It’s the Expo Pass City Spotlight! In it, we interview event professionals from various cities, learning firsthand what makes their locales so spectacular. We explore food, venues, logistics, and local gems to give you an in-depth look at unforgettable event destinations. It gives you everything you need to know to make your choice! 

Once you’ve chosen your event destination, the real fun begins. Be sure to document your adventures abroad for social media and your personal scrapbook. There’s nothing quite like reminiscing about a great trip, especially when it features your planning talents! 

And don’t forget to pack your charger!

Craving a change of scenery for your next event? Check out our webinar replay for Smart Planning for Destination Events. Learn how to pick the perfect city for an unforgettable experience. Watch Now!

June 24, 2024

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June 24, 2024

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