What you should know
Valdosta is halfway between Atlanta and Orlando on I-75, which makes it a convenient drive-in destination for groups from Alabama, Georgia and Florida. The city is known as Winnersville because of its perennially victorious high school football team. A few years ago National Geographic Adventure named Valdosta one of the best adventure towns in America. Groups meeting here are close to quail hunting plantations and rivers for kayaking or fishing as well as state parks and the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. The 47,000-sq. ft. James H. Rainwater Conference Center puts attendees about 15 minutes from arts and culture offerings, historic districts, attractions and off-site venues. Three daily inbound flights and three outbound flights on Delta connect Valdosta Regional Airport (VLD) with Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International (ATL). For planning assistance, contact Visit Valdosta.
- 11,000-sq. ft. exhibit hall in the James H. Rainwater Conference Center
- 4,008 hotel rooms citywide
- 5 golf courses
- Best values: August-April
Where to meet
The James H. Rainwater Conference Center has 32,784 square feet dedicated to exhibit, meeting, banquet and reception space, including two boardrooms and a covered outdoor patio that overlooks a cypress pond. Its 11,000-sq. ft. exhibit hall seats up to 650 people for banquets, and holds up to 62 booths; pre-function and hallway areas can hold another 58 booths. Parking and Wi-Fi are free. Wild Adventures, one of the Top 50 family-owned theme parks in the United States, offers several all-you-can-eat catering packages for group events with up to 10,000 attendees. Add-ons give planners the option of having attendees feed giraffes or lorikeets. Downtown has more than 50 historic sites, including The Crescent-The Garden Center and the neoclassical Converse-Dalton-Ferrell House. Reach for the stars with a reception at the Valdosta State University Planetarium.
Where to stay
The 184-room Hampton Inn & Suites Valdosta/Conference Center is closest to the Rainwater Conference Center. Other nearby hotels with meeting space include the Holiday Inn Valdosta Conference Center, with an 1, 827-sq. ft. ballroom (capacity: 180 theater; 152 banquet), a boardroom (capacity: 45 reception) and a reception patio; and the Fairfield Inn and Suites, with one 1,500-sq. ft. meeting room (capacity: 100) and two breakout rooms.
Where to work, play and team-build
The 17,000-sq. ft. Annette Howell Turner Center for the Arts has five galleries for seminars or receptions, a sculpture garden, a commercial kitchen, and art, yoga and cooking classes for team-building. First Fridays bring art fans, vendors, guest artists and musical acts to historic downtown and provide an interesting backdrop for progressive events or dinners. Every third Friday is Art After Dark, when galleries stay open late and food vendors line the streets. Wiregrass Georgia Technical College can lead your group through low-ropes and high-ropes team-building at your site or on its campus Challenge Course. Valdosta’s downtown also has a rich vein of geocaching locations (sign up free to view) to discover.
Where to have fun
Golf outings at Kinderlou Forest or Stone Creek Golf Course can include meal functions. Groups can explore the wetlands of the Grand Bay Wildlife Management Area by boat or canoe; the area also is open to fishing and hunting expeditions. Hunting and related recreational activities are available at Olympia Bend Plantation. Other activities include walking the azalea trail (March through May) and visiting Wild Adventures or it adjacent Splash Island amusement park. Moody Air Force Base offers weekday base tours. Contact the base to arrange a flyover with its aircraft.
Where to dine
306 North can put together wine-and-cheese tastings for groups of up to 60. It serves upscale Southern food and sushi in its main dining room and is part of a full-service event production company that has a catering division (Covington’s Dining & Catering) and an event rentals company (Covington’s Party Rentals). A private dining room seats 16 for an off-site or VIP meeting. Steel Magnolias and Friends Grille & Bar source many of their ingredients from local growers and producers. Steel Magnolias can arrange banquets or receptions in its private dining room and rooftop bar (capacity: 50 each) or rent out the whole building (capacity: 150). Seafood reigns at the Salty Snapper, while Big Nick’s BBQ Soulfood and Wings covers the rest of the Southern-inspired dining spectrum.