It’s an unwritten rule that all meals taste better with a view. Luckily for meeting planners organizing gatherings in Tennessee, there are no shortage of lively sights, thanks to the Great Smoky Mountains, a vibrant live music scene and the mighty Mississippi River lending itself to some scenic sunsets.
Whether you’re planning a meeting in buzzy, rapidly expanding Nashville, organizing a cozy retreat in the mountain town of Gatlinburg or bringing your convention to revitalized Memphis, there are many venues that can give your banquets and receptions that extra wow factor with their unique vantage points.
Following are four of our favorites.
Grand Ole Opry House Stage, Nashville
The view from the legendary Grand Ole Opry stage is a coveted one for country music performers, but lucky groups can also experience this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity during their next meeting in Nashville.
Conveniently located adjacent to the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center, popping over to the famed Grand Ole Opry for backstage and studio tours and dinner on the stage is easy to arrange with the staff onsite, who host groups regularly. Planners can also work with the Opry to secure tickets for meetings groups to one of its more than 200 sought-after shows each year.
The Opry has five distinct event spaces that can be used for meetings, general sessions and receptions, but dinner on the Opry House stage is easily one of the most magical ways to experience the venue with meetings groups.
Dinner on stage can host up to 170 guests, and with the thrust that expands the stage, it can fit 220. With the Opry House rental, planners can also utilize the state-of-the-art video, lighting and audio systems for presentations.
Guests will be seated steps away from the stage’s “circle,” which is a wood circle that sits center stage. The circle was taken from the original Opry stage at the Ryman Auditorium in downtown Nashville, dating back to 1943. Stepping inside the circle is considered an emotional moment for many performers, signaling they’ve “made it” in the country music business.
Photo: Banquet setup on the Grand Ole Opry Stage, Nashville; Credit: Grand Ole Opry
For country musicians, being invited to be a member of the Opry is a dream shared by many.
“It’s like hallowed ground to get to even be here, play here…Garth Brooks says it’s the pinnacle of his career,” said Tour Operations Manager Laura Leigh Jones Robertson, pointing out that this special feeling extends to groups visiting the venue, who consider the Opry a bucket list attraction in Nashville.
“It’s not like you come and, ‘Oh, well, I’m just here for a dinner, it’s not going to feel as magical as the Opry show,’ but it does,” she said. “Your table may be close to that circle and you can stand up and walk around on it, you’re probably going to see artists and songwriters, and you’re really going to get the experience.
“What people remember is how they felt. You’ll take with you a new feeling you didn’t have before. You’ll remember that for life.”
To further wow your attendees, pre- or post-networking receptions can be held in the Opry’s Studio A space.
[Related: Nashville Hotels Upping Meetings Game]
Seasons of Ober Restaurant, Gatlinburg
Gatlinburg is a mountain town in Tennessee considered to be a gateway to Great Smoky Mountains National Park—America’s most-visited National park—so stellar views of the natural landscape are easy to come by.
Groups holding their meetings at the 148,000-square-foot Gatlinburg Convention Center will enjoy a change in elevation when they take a 10-minute aerial cable car from downtown to the popular amusement park and ski resort Ober Gatlinburg.
Photo: The chondola in downtown Gatlinburg can take guests up to the restaurant Ober Gatlinburg; Courtesy of Gatlinburg CVB
Planners can organize an offsite group dinner event at the resort’s signature restaurant, Seasons of Ober, which has panoramic views of the mountains from its 250-person dining room.
Private dining space can be reserved for smaller groups, or total buyouts of the restaurant are available, according to Nick Scully, the restaurant’s group sales manager. Some blackout dates for buyouts include Fridays through Sundays during ski season, and holidays.
Scully says that he can work with planners to customize events in the restaurant.
(Photo: Dining view at Ober Gatlinburg; Courtesy of Gatlinburg CVB)
“Special accommodations that we have done for groups is bringing in lighting decor, ambient lighting and intricate designs,” he said. “Also, we have brought in additional audio amplification in analog or digital, from a two-speaker production to a medium scale
performance stage. We also have accommodated projection.”
As for the food? While there are many options ranging from basic American fare to Southern staples, guests familiar with Seasons of Ober look forward to the fall menu most.
“My personal favorite menu items [that are] also a crowd-favorite is our Oktoberfest cuisine. We cover everything from Wienerschnitzel to bratwurst,” Scully explained.
Anakeesta Cliff Top Bar & Grill, Gatlinburg
Mountain views with a bite to eat are in good supply in Gatlinburg, and one of its newest additions will easily impress attendees.
Anakeesta Mountain is less than a mile from the lift to Ober Gatlinburg and is a 70-plus-acre, treehouse-style adventure park that opened in 2018. Visitors can choose between chairlifts or closed chair/gondola hybrid “chondola” rides to get up to the mountain from downtown.
Its main eatery, Cliff Top Bar & Grill in Firefly Village, offers sweeping views of the tree-topped mountains and downtown Gatlinburg from its restaurant and bar area, serving pub food and burgers.
The restaurant can accommodate private dining for groups up 110 people in the main dining room area, and full buyouts that utilize the patio for up to 300 people if the restaurant has availability.
The restaurant’s sales manager, Trey Barton, says that the restaurant hosts private groups often, including for corporate events, tour and travel events, sports teams, church groups and family reunions.
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“We have a 270-degree unobstructed view of the Great Smoky Mountains (Mt. LeConte and Sugarland Range) as well as Downtown Gatlinburg,” he said. “The dining experience paired with the views of the Smoky Mountains ranks Anakeesta high on the list of things to do while in Gatlinburg.”
Buffet options for groups are doable, too. Cliff Top can organize an Angus Beef burger buffet, as well as a nacho and taco bar for lunch.
There are three price levels depending on the entrees for dinner. “Some of our favorite menu items include a grilled tenderloin of beef that is served with a red wine bordelaise sauce, slow-roasted angus prime rib of beef that is chef carved served with rosemary au jus, and baked stuffed jumbo shrimp that is stuffed with succulent lump crab meat,” Barton said.
Specialty desserts, salads and pastas are available, too.
If your group has time to explore the other offerings at Anakeesta, attendees can walk the Treetop Skywalk, which consists of 16 hanging bridges more than 50 feet in the air, or take a spin on fast dual-racing ziplines.
The Lookout at The Pyramid, Memphis
Tennessee’s bluesy Southwestern corner city boasts soulful music and some of the best barbecue around, which is already a draw for groups.
Major updates to Memphis like the $200 million renovation of its Renasant Convention Center this upcoming fall, the airport’s $245 million upgrade and the addition of 2,000 new hotel rooms are transforming the meetings landscape in the city, all but guaranteeing it as a renewed meetings and events hotspot.
Your attendees can see all of the manmade and natural beauties of Memphis while dining together perched at The Lookout at The Pyramid. The Pyramid—a glass, pyramid-shaped building that was once a large arena—is now home to wilderness outfitters Bass Pro Shops, the Big Cypress Lodge, a showcase of Tennessee’s wildlife including alligators and dining options like The Lookout.
Photo: The Lookout at Bass Pro Shops at the Pyramid; Credit: Larry Kuzniewski
Attendees can reach The Lookout via America’s tallest freestanding elevator to the 28th floor. The restaurant offers 360-degree views of downtown Memphis and the Mississippi River, including an outdoor glass observation deck 300 feet above the river.
Private dinners can be arranged at The Lookout for up to 200 people, and the restaurant will waive the $10 elevator ride fee for event attendees.
Take in the View
Often, meeting and event attendees have busy days, and it can be hard to take a break to observe the scenery of the city you’re in or enjoy some of its best attractions. But every group of people has to eat, and these venues promise on sustenance and sights of some of Tennessee’s most notable must-see spots, so even the busiest attendee can get a sense of place while getting business done.
Gatlinburg CVB | 865.436.4178
Memphis Tourism | 901.543.5333
Visit Music City | 1.800.657.6910
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