6 Central Texas and West Texas Off-Sites That Break Groups Out of the Hotel Setting

May 1, 2019

The city centers in Central Texas and West Texas are home to some seriously cool off-site spots for meetings and events.

From a rooftop bar in downtown El Paso to art galleries in Midland and Abilene, bring a little extra Texas flair to your next meeting or event with these six distinct Lone Star venues.

Alcantar Sky Garden, El Paso

Alcantar Sky Garden is a versatile event space that’s perched above downtown El Paso’s popular Philanthropy and Plaza theaters.

Here, attendees will enjoy impressive views of downtown overlooking the Arts Festival Plaza and Southwest University Park baseball stadium.     

Alcantar Sky Garden
Alcantar Sky Garden

According to Brooke Underwood, assistant general manager for Visit El Paso, the theaters enhance the luxury and flexibility of the rooftop venue, which accommodates various setups and seating arrangements.

“In keeping with the style of the Plaza Theatre, the Sky Garden maintains that Spanish garden feel,” she said. “Not only does this open terrace look great, it’s also functional.”

The venue hosts up to 200 people for standing receptions or 100 people seated, and it’s often booked in conjunction with theater performances.

“We invite groups to utilize the space during shows or concerts at the Plaza Theatre for pre/post meetings, receptions or VIP lounges,” Underwood said.

Kelly D. Kennedy Fine Art, Midland   

The Kelly D. Kennedy Fine Art made its debut in November 2018 in the heart of downtown Midland, conveniently within walking distance from the Barbara & George H.W. Bush Convention Center, eateries and hotels.

“We chose the very heart of the newly revitalized downtown Midland as our site as it has an energetic vibe,” said co-owner Juliet Kennedy.

The gallery showcases over 100 original artworks from across the globe, ranging from historic to contemporary pieces.

Kelly D. Kennedy Contemporary Art
Kelly D. Kennedy Contemporary Art

“Corporate groups can enjoy libations and light bites while browsing through the gallery’s fabulous array of original works of art,” Kennedy said.

The 1,000-square-foot gallery accommodates up to 150 guests for standing soirees.

Kennedy added that an event at the gallery can easily coincide with an art tour of Midland.

McPherson Cellars, Lubbock  

Yes, there are wineries in Texas.

And at McPherson Cellars in downtown Lubbock, groups can swap standard hotel ballrooms and meeting spaces for McPherson Cellars’ trendy tasting room or event center.

“We’re foremost a winery and tasting room—which speaks for itself—and our event center serves as a unique and versatile backdrop for a number of events,” said Kassandra McPherson, spokesperson for the winery.

The winery and event center can accommodate up to 200 guests for receptions and meetings.  

McPherson Cellars
McPherson Cellars

For corporate functions, the on-site event center has a fully integrated sound system and a drop-down projector and screen. Event setup, breakdown and cleaning is handled by staff and included in the facility rental.  

In addition to the event center, gathering spaces include an outdoor courtyard and a tasting room that are well-suited for smaller groups.

And, of course, wine can be incorporated into the event agenda.

“As a winery, we can provide clients with a tour and/or wine tasting, and wines by the glass during or following their event,” McPherson said.

Amarillo Botanical Gardens, Amarillo

Amarillo Botanical Gardens is celebrating its 50th anniversary this year and is just as scenic venue as ever for hosting small and large events.

Four acres of gardens surround the multiple indoor and outdoor spaces available for rental, including the terrace, amphitheater and two meeting rooms that have colorful views of the gardens and Medi Lake.

“The rooms have beautiful high ceilings that give them more of an open feeling,” said Kaitlin Brown, development associate for Amarillo Botanical Gardens. “Our event attendees are welcome and encouraged to tour our gardens to see for themselves how beautiful they are.”

She added that all types of events, from receptions to corporate trainings, are accommodated. A sound system, projector and screen are available for meetings, and staff will manage setup, teardown and clean-up.

Additionally, events can coincide with a docent-led or self-guided tour.

River Bend Nature Center, Wichita Falls

As a private nonprofit, Wichita Falls-based River Bend Nature Center is a perfect locale for groups interested in giving back to the host community.

“All rental income goes to furthering our mission of connecting people to nature,” said Jennica Howes, the nature center’s exhibits curator.

Situated on top of a hill overlooking 17 acres of bottomland forest, River Bend Nature Center accommodates outdoor events ranging from receptions and teambuilding activities to company picnics and fundraisers.

The 7,000-square-foot Elizabeth Prothro Pavilion, with cathedral-like ceilings and a scenic forest view, seats about 500 people. The J.S. Bridwell Terrace seats about 200 people.

“The terrace is a spacious uncovered area that’s planted with native vegetation and illuminated with party lights,” Howes said.

She added that educational programming and group tours could be arranged during an event.

“Tours go through our nature conservatory, which is set up as different eco-regions of Texas,” Howes said. “Attendees learn about native vegetation, and it contains a live butterfly room, prairie dogs, quail and turtles.”

Center for Contemporary Arts, Abilene

The Center for Contemporary Arts, located in the heart of downtown Abilene within reach of other popular amenities, is a prime spot for corporate meetings seeking a setting that features cutting-edge art.

“The center offers three venues to accommodate a wide variety of needs, from the formal to the informal,” said Gallery Manager Trudy Six.

 Groups of up to 225 people utilize the open floor plans of the galleries for meetings, receptions, lunches and other gatherings.

“The upstairs gallery space has a large window overlooking Minter Park, and downstairs spaces have large floor-to-ceiling windows with views of Cypress Street,” Six said.

She also recommended that interested groups arrange an Abilene T&P District Historic Walking Tour before or after the event. 

5 New Hotel Openings in Central & West Texas

El Paso

Hotel Paso Del Norte, a Marriott Autograph Collection property, is on track to open in March 2020 with 303 guest rooms, 48 luxury suites and more than 32,000 square feet of meeting space. On-site amenities will include a full-service spa and three restaurants. 

The Plaza Hotel Pioneer Park  is scheduled to open this fall with 131 guest rooms.


The Barbara & George H.W. Bush Convention Center  is scheduled to open this September with a 20,000-square-foot exhibit hall, a 6,000-square-foot ballroom and a 3,000-square-foot meeting room.


Adventure Park opened in March with various group-friendly activities, including miniature golf, a rock wall, ziplining and a ropes course.


Expo Center of Taylor County is undergoing a $56 million expansion and renovation project including the addition of a new 5,300-seat multipurpose arena by April 2020.

Texas Welcome Gift Ideas for Meeting Attendees

Small welcome gifts for attendees leave a big impression when convening for events.

Share some local Texas charm with your group on the next trip to Central Texas and West Texas with some of these easy gift ideas.

When meeting in El Paso, planners can gift groups a bottle of wine from nearby Zin Valle Vineyards, which specializes in zinfandels.

The Canutillo, Texas-based winery also accommodates private group functions in its barrel room, tasting room, outdoor patio and picnic area.

For El Paso treats with a kick, try jalapeno pecan brittle from So El Paso and sauces from Claude’s Sauces, including hot and spicy sauce, Western-style barbecue sauce and fajita marinade.

In Midland, attendees with a sweet tooth will love treats from Susie’s South Forty Confections. A favorite from Susie’s is Texas Trash, a custom blend of cereals, pretzels and fancy pecans covered in white chocolate flavor featured on Food Network’s Unwrapped. Susie’s will also work with planners to create custom treats to match an event’s theme.

Non-edible take-home gifts are also available in the region, including in Amarillo where locally crafted candles from Amarillo Candle Company are a hit with groups.

Popular scents include amber vanilla and cranberry chutney.

If your group is meeting in Abilene around the holidays, planners can gift attendees with a keepsake Storybook Capital of America ornament. Abilene is home to the largest concentration of storybook sculptures in the country, which groups can explore when in town. Call the Abilene CVB ahead to order ornaments in bulk in lined gift boxes.

Central Texas and West Texas CVB Contact Information

Abilene CVB

Amarillo Convention & Visitors Council

Midland Texas CVB

Visit El Paso

Visit Lubbock

Wichita Falls CVB

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About the author
Carolyn Blackburn