Centrally located in Michigan about 90 miles north of Detroit on Saginaw Bay, the Great Lakes Bay region encompasses the towns of Bay City, Birch Run, Chesaning, Frankenmuth, Midland, and Saginaw. Collectively the communities are known for their small-town charm and affordable yet upscale Great Lakes Bay event venues, as well as a regional passion for sports. Visitors are drawn to experiences such as plying the bay on a paddlewheel boat or tall ship; the area also boasts the Midwest's largest outlet mall, the world's largest Christmas store, and the quaint town of Frankenmuth, known as Michigan's Little Bavaria.
Most of the meeting venues in Great Lakes Bay Region are within a 30-minute drive of one of two international airports. In the heart of the area is MBS International Airport, located in the town of Freeland on the edge of Saginaw. That facility, which opened a new $55-million terminal in October 2012, is served by Delta Connection to Detroit and Minneapolis/St. Paul and by United Express to Chicago O'Hare. On the southern edge of the region is Flint's Bishop International Airport. Served by American Airlines, Delta, Southwest, and United, the airport offers nonstop flights to Atlanta, Baltimore/Washington, Chicago, Cleveland, Detroit, Las Vegas, Minneapolis, and Tampa Bay.
The region's largest exhibition facility is found at Birch Run Expo Center, located across from Birch Run Outlet Mall. The facility has two halls totaling just over 60,000 square feet of exhibit space and also has the ability to host up to 400 people for a meeting session or banquet. The Dow Event Center in Saginaw offers both a 7,500-seat arena and a seating 2,276 theater, along with several smaller meeting rooms. Also in Saginaw, Horizons Conference Center can handle a meeting of up to 300 people in its 40,000 square feet of meeting space.
There are several hotel venues in Great Lakes Bay region that focus specifically on meetings. Groups of up to 1,200 people can hold a meeting session at 250-room Best Western Valley Plaza Resort; the 150-room DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Bay City can handle up to 550 for a meeting session; and three hotels can host between 400 and 600 for a conference: the 360-room Bavarian Inn Lodge & Conference Center, the 235-room Midland Resort & Convention Center, and 148-room Bay Valley Resort, a golf resort. The 130-room, five-star H Hotel in Midland is another popular meeting venue, with a meeting capacity of up to 300.
When it comes to arranging off-site functions at a meeting, the Great Lakes Bay region has some excellent options. Along with the abundance of sport venues, there are two former vaudeville theaters—the 560-seat circa 1908 State Theater of Bay City and the 1,750-seat circa 1927 Temple Theater in Saginaw—and the Midland Center for the Arts, which offers a 1,479-seat auditorium and a 399-seat little theater. Dining in the Great Lakes Bay area is a popular pastime for visitors, so there are a number of good alternatives for meeting delegates. For great pizza, choose UNO Chicago Grill in Birch Run or Brooklyn Boyz in Bay City. Also in Bay City, Latitude 43 is an upscale, casual, family-owned restaurant and Heather's is a popular destination for good local flavors. A local favorite in Saginaw, Spencer's Route 46 is famous for its sandwiches, and the Creek Grill in Midland is a classic steakhouse with a festive ambience. Popular choices in Frankenmuth are the Bavarian-themed Oma's and Le Crepe du Jour, where French food is served in a romantic atmosphere.
Whether it is as a spectator or participating in sports, the Great Lakes Bay region offers a broad range of possible ways to include sports in a meeting and prime locations for sporting events. Clubs and facilities that welcome group events are devoted to everything from rowing, hockey, bowling, archery, soccer, and lacrosse, to tennis, fishing, swimming, softball, and even curling. Groups can also watch the Great Lakes Loons (Class A Affiliate of the L.A. Dodgers) play baseball at Midland's Dow Diamond or can play golf on dozens of courses, including four championship facilities. Zehnder's Splash Village (with a nearly 30,000-square-foot expansion set for summer 2014) can provide seasonal water play.