First settled in 1833 with a tiny cabin on the banks of the Des Plaines River, Joliet is now the fourth largest city in Illinois, and it continues to be the fastest growing city in the state. Situated 40 miles southwest of Chicago's Loop on the leading edge of the metro area, the city is the county seat of Will County; Joliet event venues receive government business, among other sectors. Joliet is traversed by several waterways, including part of the historic 97-mile Illinois & Michigan Canal, the nation's first National Heritage Corridor.
Joliet is 40 miles from Midway International Airport and 48 miles from O'Hare International Airport.
While there are no stand-alone convention venues in Joliet, the city has several "unconventional" facilities that can host meetings. The Rialto Theater, built in 1926 as a vaudeville movie palace and meticulously restored to remain faithful to that era, can seat 1,900 in the theater and 350 people in the Rotunda. Haunted Trails Family Entertainment & Amusement Park, one of three such centers in the Chicago area, includes a function room that can host a meeting for up to 325 people as part of its 14-acre indoor/outdoor complex that also includes two 18-hole miniature golf courses, go-karts, Naskarts, a junior speedway track, more than 150 rides and games, batting cages, and a restaurant. Lewis University offers 25,000 square feet of meeting space in 40 rooms, can handle an exhibition for up to 1,000 booths, and sleep up to 1,200 people when class is not in session. During the academic semester, the facility can accommodate a meeting for up to 180 people in the largest of its three function rooms.
Hotel venues in Joliet include the 200-room Clarion Hotel Joliet and Convention Center, which can accommodate groups of up to 900 people in 14,153 square feet of meeting space. The other sizable hotel meeting facility is the 200-room Harrah's Casino Joliet, which can handle a group of up to 325 people in its 6,000 square feet of meeting space.
Planners looking for either a high-octane experience or genteel historic ambience will find several options for special events in Joliet. At Chicagoland Speedway, the largest sporting facility in Illinois, groups of various sizes can stage private events with the Richard Petty Driving Experience. Nearby, the Autobahn Country Club can host parties and team-building events for up to 150 participants. Historic settings include the Joliet Area Historical Museum, which is able to host a banquet of up to 150 either in its auditorium or on a rooftop terrace; the historic Jacob Henry Mansion, which can handle a gathering for up to 200 people indoors or 300 people in its Secret Garden; and the Patrick C. Haley Mansion, an 1891 home surrounded by fountains, ponds, and Victorian gardens, which can host a reception for up to 600 people and a banquet for up to 400 people.
Planners will find a good selection of Joliet restaurants to suggest to meeting attendees, including several excellent choices for private-meal events. Downtown eateries range from the Chicago Street Pub, known for its traditional Irish fare and wide selection of beer, liquor, and wine, to local favorite Chicken-N-Spice, famous for its fried chicken chunks, spicy rice, and buttermilk biscuits. Two elegant options with space for private dining are Barolo Ristorante, which offers a quaint European atmosphere, an interesting spin on authentic Italian cuisine, and a private dining room for 60 people, and Truth Restaurant, serving contemporary American cuisine emphasizing local organic produce and able to host a private dinner for up to 80 people.