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, especially if budgets are a concern. The city, an attractive destination for sports events, has many facilities and is known as Winnersville because of the perennially victorious Valdosta High School football team. National Geographic Adventure named the city one of its best adventure towns. 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 10 to 15 minutes from the city’s arts and culture offerings, historic districts, attractions and off-site venues. For planning assistance, please contact Visit Valdosta.

The 411

  • 11,000-sq. ft. exhibit hall in the James H. Rainwater Conference Center
  • 3,490 hotel rooms
  • Best values: August-April

Where to meet

The James H. Rainwater Conference Center has 28,000 square feet of 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 complimentary. 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, which has a circular veranda with 13 columns representing the original American Colonies, and the neoclassical Converse-Dalton-Ferrell House. Reach for the stars with a reception held at the Valdosta State University Planetarium.

Where to stay

The 184-room Hampton Inn & Suites Valdosta/Conference Center adjoins the Rainwater Conference Center. Another half-dozen hotels are within blocks or a few miles.

Where to work and play

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 that planners can use for team-building. First Fridays bring art lovers, 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.

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 citywide) and visiting Wild Adventures or it adjacent Splash Island amusement park.

Where to eat

306 North can put together wine-and-cheese tastings for groups of up to 60 people. 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).