San Antonio is a favorite Texas meeting destination—the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, ample accommodations, group-friendly activities and plenty offsite event venues take itineraries to the next level for any type of meeting group.
What some planners may not know, however, is that some of the city’s most iconic settings, like the Alamo and San Antonio Botanical Garden, can also double as offsite event space, accommodating everything from lunches and launches to dinners and galas. Here, we’ve rounded up six of the best.
The Alamo welcomes tourists from all over the world daily, and is San Antonio’s most popular attraction, if not the entire state of Texas. It’s a memorable setting that can host group gatherings year-round, too.
“We are not your average cookie-cutter venue; we are something special to millions of people,” said April Rosas, the Alamo’s private events coordinator. “Unlike a hotel, attending an event at the Shrine of Texas Liberty, which has stood for nearly 300 years, is not something many people get to do.”
Event spaces here, including the Alamo Hall and Patio, the Alamo Gardens and Cavalry Courtyard, accommodate receptions for up to 430 people.
“We offer after-hours tours and several living history demonstrations, including musket firing,” Rosas added. “Tours allow attendees solitude to retrace the footsteps of the Alamo Defenders after the Alamo has closed to the general public.”
Hemisfair has evolved from the site of the 1968 World’s Fair to today’s increasingly popular downtown urban park district.
Yanaguana Garden, in the first phase of its ongoing renovation project, is now open to the public. It features a 4.1-acre play environment designed for all ages, plus several eateries.
Hemisfair is situated in the backyard of the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center and steps from the San Antonio River Walk, so it’s easily accessible to visiting groups who are interested in hosting a lively offsite event.
“Central Games Plaza and the Lawn boast fun, energetic backdrops,” said Thea Setterbo, Hemisfair’s director of marketing. “And perfect for cocktail hour, the Promenade is a beautiful space framed by lush green vines.”
Small and large groups have these and other outdoor spaces to choose from, and there is an indoor venue onsite for up to 40 people.
Add-on tours of Hemisfair’s grounds and teambuilding activities such as yoga and chocolate truffle painting can be arranged.
San Antonio Botanical Garden has exciting changes on the horizon for visiting groups.
The attraction completed the first phase of an expansion project in early 2018, including the addition of the CHEF Teaching Kitchen & Goldsbury Foundation Pavilion. The facility accommodates cooking activities for groups, incorporating the bounty of the onsite garden.
More additions are on the horizon. In March 2020, the Botanical Garden will unveil the 3,500-square-foot Education and Event Center. The venue will feature floor-to-ceiling windows on three sides that open up to gardens, a new grand lawn, majestic oak trees and a fountain.
San Antonio Botanical Gardens
“To describe the Education and Event Center as beautiful is an understatement,” said Shimeyka Olivares, special events and rentals manager. “The uniqueness and attention to detail as well as the modern design of this building is what San Antonio has been waiting for.”
Among the other meeting and event spaces available to groups are classrooms, a courtyard and a historic amphitheater that’s been converted into a welcoming setting for gatherings. Everything from indoor lectures for up to 350 people to a sit-down dinner outside for up to 720 guests can be arranged here.
Interested groups can also plan on unique team-bonding activities, including a cocktail scavenger hunt during which attendees find plants and herbs in the 38-acre garden for use in a specialty cocktail creation.
Tejas Rodeo Company, located just 30 minutes from the heart of San Antonio in Bulverde, Texas, is a professional rodeo facility that also hosts authentic Western-heritage events.
“We’ve seen it all, including a private dinner with a few rodeo activities, teambuilding events, full rodeo productions, award ceremonies and more,” said Lindsay Holliday, Tejas Rodeo Company’s director of sales.
Tejas Rodeo Company
The rodeo grounds include several covered areas for gatherings, including a pavilion, and there are other outdoor event spaces with picnic table seating. Indoor options include Tejas Steakhouse and Saloon, which is available for buyouts, and Western Sky, a modern-rustic event venue that seats up to 300 people.
Groups wishing to add a teambuilding element to an event can participate in interactive cowboy experiences, from roping and line dancing lessons to rodeo Olympics and mechanical bull riding.
Located at the headwaters of the San Antonio River, The Witte Museum is filled with exhibits that tell the story of Texas. The permanent collection includes Texas art, historic artifacts and Texas dinosaur and wild animal galleries.
The museum also offers a unique setting for meetings and special events for up to 1,500 people.
Witte Museum entrance of Valero Great Hall. Credit: RKD Photography
Spaces include two auditoriums and the new Mays Family Center, a 10,000-square-foot venue that’s well suited for educational conferences, dinners and galas.
The museum also facilitates several team-bonding activities, according to Marise McDermott, president and CEO of the Witte. “Teambuilding options include testing your knowledge and strength at the H-E-B Body Adventure, and a scavenger hunt for items around the Witte Museum campus,” she said.
Ivy Hall is a brand-new entrant to San Antonio’s impressive portfolio of event venues. It offers both interior and exterior spaces and welcomes groups of up to 400 people for receptions and meal functions.
Ivy Hall’s interior space is a vine-covered converted warehouse with a staging area, said its owner, exclusive caterer and James Beard Fellow Tim McDiarmid. She said it’s ideal for lectures, banquets, fundraisers and more.
[Related: Groups Meeting in Texas: Your Roadmap to the State’s Best Barbecue]
She added the onsite gardens act as a lush green oasis for lunches and dinners, dancing, company award ceremonies and a variety of other daytime events or evening soirees under the stars. The garden area features a hip container building that acts as an outdoor bar, VIP area or staging area.
There is also a screened-in patio surrounded by bamboo and fairy lights. The patio often serves as a reception area before groups proceed through to the gardens.
3 Hill Country Ranches for Special Events
The Texas Hill Country is a favorite getaway for surrounding communities in the Lone Star State, including San Antonio. The idyllic hilly expanse is filled with vineyards, farms, boutique shops and hiking trails.
Guest ranches in the area welcome groups for offsite events, giving them a taste of the true Hill Country. Here are our three favorites.
Visiting groups have access to everything from an 18-hole championship golf course and a three-acre water park to horseback riding and campfires complete with cowboy tales and s’mores at Flying L Ranch Resort.
Flying L hosts groups year-round in spaces that include meeting and dining rooms, and a creekside area featuring a waterfall, according to General Manager Kristen Tomscha.
Receptions and meal functions are often complemented by a team-bonding session. Line-dancing competitions and hat-branding parties using the group’s company logo are two favorites.
“Our most popular teambuilding option is cowboy Olympics, which includes relay-type Western activities,” Tomscha added.
Groups of 10 to 2,500 people can expect an interactive experience filled with Texas history at Enchanted Springs Ranch.
“The venue spaces are nestled in an authentic Old West town with a variety of Western artifacts such as chuckwagons, whiskey barrels and antiques,” said Marketing Director Lindsey Adams.
The ranch has two rustic indoor venues, including Silver Spur Saloon, as well as several outdoor spaces to host everything from product launches to award galas.
“The ‘town’ includes over 30 Western storefronts that are ideal for photo opportunities, a rodeo arena and fire pits,” Adams said. “One of the most popular experiences at the ranch is the covered wagon ride to view a number of exotic animals, including longhorns, bison, antelopes and llamas.”
Add-on teambuilding possibilities include fast-draw shooting, archery and roping competitions, and a scavenger hunt in the Old Town.
This working horse ranch is surrounded by abundant wildlife, from white-tailed deer and big-eared jackrabbits to armadillos and foxes.
“All the views on the ranch are beautiful,” said owner Kerri April. “We are isolated and situated on a mountain that overlooks the valleys. The starry nighttime sky is amazing here.”
She added the ranch is a perfect setting for small corporate groups interested in holding a retreat, leadership training or a party. Overnight accommodations include vintage cabins, and event spaces include a barn and a log cabin chapel.
Interested groups can hire a local country western dance instructor to teach two-stepping, waltzes and line dances.
“If square dancing is your thing, we also can arrange a square dance caller and instructor to come out here for your party,” April said.
Latest & Greatest
San Antonio Marriott Rivercenter, which offers more than 60,000 square feet of meeting space, is expected to complete a multimillion-dollar remodel by February 2020. The project includes redesigning the lobby and all 1,001 guest rooms and suites.
A 195-room Canopy by Hilton property with more than 3,000 square feet of meeting space is set to open on the River Walk by year’s end.
The 203-suite Embassy Suites by Hilton San Antonio Landmark opened in August 2018 with 11,000 square feet of meeting space.
Grand Hyatt San Antonio completed a multimillion-dollar renovation last year, including updates to its 1,003 guest rooms and 115,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space.
Hyatt Regency San Antonio Riverwalk recently completed a renovation to its Hyatt Regency Conference Center. Updates include the addition of flat-screen monitors in meeting rooms and new decor, signage, lighting and artwork.
In February 2019, JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa unveiled a major refresh of its 1,002 guest rooms and suites. The resort, which boasts more than 265,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space, also renovated its restaurants and lobby spaces last year.
Hyatt Regency Hill Country Resort and Spa, which offers more than 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space, recently renovated its Rogers-Wiseman Pavilion, a permanent 8,800-square-foot outdoor tent with floor-to-ceiling windows that showcase the surrounding natural scenery.
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