Welcome to Cvent's Meeting and Event Planning Guide to Peoria, a city guide for meeting professionals. A true Americana destination with Midwestern hospitality and metropolitan – yet affordable – amenities, Peoria is within a three-hour drive of Chicago, St. Louis, Indianapolis and Madison. The largest city set along the Illinois River and the cultural hub of central Illinois, Peoria features a riverside downtown with lodging, restaurants, shops, nightlife and culture all within steps of one another. In addition to its walk-friendly riverfront setting, this vibrant Midwestern city offers an abundance of first-class, affordable Peoria event venues and attractions, as well as a state-of-the-art convention center.
Peoria's convenience is due to its location near I-74 and I-39, as well as the fact that U.S. 24, one of the country's 126 National Scenic Byways, runs right through the area. Visitors traveling to Peoria by air fly into General Wayne A. Downing International Airport, which is located eight minutes from downtown. The airport offers daily nonstop service to 10 major U.S. markets such as Atlanta, Chicago, Dallas/Ft. Worth and Detroit, and features such amenities as free parking. At the airport, visitors can catch a taxi, a hotel shuttle or hop on the Greater Peoria Mass Transit District's CityLink bus system, which runs along 23 routes from Monday through Saturday, and serves major attractions, schools, shopping centers, golf courses and more. CityLink also features park and ride services to select Peoria Civic Center events.
Spanning more than 110,000 square feet of exhibit space after a $55-million expansion, the Peoria Civic Center is the largest convention facility in downstate Illinois and the cornerstone of conventions and entertainment in Peoria. The downtown center sits within steps of dining, nightlife, 800 hotel rooms and the riverfront district, and houses a 12,000-seat arena, a 2,200-seat theater, a 27,000-square-foot ballroom and 17,000 square feet of meeting rooms, among other spaces. In addition to conventions and meetings, the Peoria Civic Center hosts a number of family shows, concerts and sports, and serves as the home court for the Peoria Rivermen professional ice hockey team and Bradley University Braves basketball team.
For smaller group functions and events, meeting planners can look to Peoria's variety of unique venues, ranging from a turn-of-the-century paddlewheeler to a 2,000-acre zoological park. One of the only authentic paddlewheel-driven boats offering overnight trips, the 487-person Spirit of Peoria also offers sightseeing, themed cruises and private charter trips along the Illinois River and Mississippi River. The newly opened Peoria Riverfront Museum features art and science exhibitions, the children's Discovery Center, Dome Planetarium and Giant Screen Theater, as well as offering a variety of indoor and outdoor event spaces.
Peoria's Wildlife Prairie State Park houses more than 150 species and 50 species native to Illinois, as well as such attractions as Adventure Trek, a bus with open-air windows that drives through the bison and elk pasture, and such indoor and outdoor event spaces as the 275-person Prairie Hall, overlooking the bison and elk range, and the 75-person Log Room, overlooking the wolf habitat. Par-A-Dice Hotel and Casino features table games, slots and meeting space for up to 1,000 delegates, while the Peoria Zoo is home to more than 100 species of animals and indoor and outdoor event space, including a Tree Top Classroom overlooking the Africa exhibit.