Guide to the 7 Biggest U.S. Cities for Medical Conferences

by Tera Tuten on September 18, 2012

We’ve taken lots of looks at medical conferences, in different categories, timeframes, and locations…But have you ever wondered: What are the biggest cities in America for holding such conferences?

To try and answer that question, we took a look at the cities that stood out for having large numbers of medical conferences held in 2011 and 2012 as well as considering reports on statistics for the top cities serving as meeting venues, plus size of conferences, in a number of industry rankings.

As a result, here below are our picks for the seven cities in America you’re most likely to find yourself in for your next medical conference:

#7. Orlando

Known for: NASA launches, Disney World, Universal Orlando/the new Harry Potter theme park (and the #1 theme park ride in the world)

Reasons to go: Attend a conference at a hotel where a monorail to a half dozen theme parks stops in the middle of the foyer, watch a rocket blast off into deep space, knock back a Butterbeer in the Three Broomsticks after the day’s sessions.

Conferences of note this year:

Why it’s on the list: The latest METROPOLL Report on annual meetings in America flagged Florida overall as a high-value region that 90% of meeting planners would return to again. Balmy winters and sizzling summers mixed with some of the world’s premier tourist attractions (some of which themselves contain world-class meeting facilities) allow the Greater Orlando Area to serve as a time-and-time-again conference factory.

#6. San Francisco

Known for: Hills, culture, streetcars, Golden Gate Bridge

Reasons to go: Walking through the historic Fisherman’s Wharf, Golden Gate Park, and dozens of other destinations in America’s second-densest urban core (after NYC): all part of the 35th most-visited city in the world.

Conferences of note this year:

Why it’s on the list: Like Seattle, Vancouver, and other North American cities on the North West Cost, Frisco’s breath-of-fresh-air attractiveness and reputation as the “Paris of the West” is well-deserved. Over the last decade, San Fran has also developed a reputation as one of the premiere green cities in which to host a conference.

#5. New Orleans

Known for: Jazz, Mardi Gras, Creole cuisine, originality

Reasons to go: The birthplace of jazz is the place to be once again for after-meeting social and/or networking events. You couldn’t have a boring time on a night out in The Big Easy even if you tried. The food and culture are some of the most unique in North America. When a conference in this city calls, you best accept the charges.

Conferences of note this year:

Why it’s on the list:
A rising star for conference venues in the south, New Orleans has gained a reputation as a city that meeting attendees want to come back to again and again: A factor that 80% or more of attendees in several recent surveys noted was most important in their decision to attend a future conference.

#4. Washington, D.C.

Known for: Congress, the White House, Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial

Reasons to go: Tourist destinations in the Capitol aside, what you might not know about DC is its rising prominence as a foodie’s paradise. Check out some of Washington’s tastiest eats here.

Conferences of note this year:

Why it’s on the list: Rich history and close access to a large number of decision-making entities – among other things – have made DC a staple of annual meetings for practically the last century. Cementing the town’s position, less than 9 years after it first opened, the state-of-the-art Walter E. Washington Convention Center has quickly become one of the premier meeting spaces in America.

#3. San Diego

Known for: The Zoo, the Navy, Sea World, mild year-round temperatures

Reasons to go: Despite being farther south than sometimes-sweltering L.A., “America’s Finest City” boasts predictably-balmy temps year-round (only varying between about 65 and 70 F), cited by the Farmer’s Almanac as one of the Top 10 climates and by the Weather Channel as having one of the two best summer climates in America.

Conferences of note this year:

Why it’s on the list:  Fast becoming a premier destination for many small and medium-sized medical conferences, San Diego and its stunning waterfront is an intimate conference planner’s (and attendee’s) dream.

#2. Chicago

Known for: Deep-dish pizza, Oprah, the Cubs, O’Hare Airport, being “your ‘kinda town”

Reasons to go: There’s no shortage of tourist destinations to check out between sessions at a conference in the Windy City. Perhaps the most interesting one you might not have heard about is the world-class redevelopment of Chicago’s waterfront, which Toronto, Canada is eying as a blueprint for turning its neglected Portlands into an urban planning Utopia.

Conferences of note this year:

Why it’s on the list: Boasting one of the world’s highest volume airports (at dusk, landing there reminds one of the “planet-city” from the Star Wars prequel films) and an exceptional rail system connecting O’Hare to downtown allows Chicago to offer value-priced transportation in and out of its conference hub. There are more than 30,000 committable rooms and hundreds of grand gala spaces for conferences as well as some of the best-rated restaurants in the world.

#1. Las Vegas

Known for: “The Strip”, casinos, CSI, never sleeping, conventions, and more conventions

Reasons to go: If you haven’t been, you’re in for the time of your life. If you’ve already been, you’ve probably skipped this section.

Conferences of note this year:

Why it’s on the list: The reigning king of conference venues (ranked as the top convention destination in North America for the past 17 years) is such for good reason: More than 23,000 meetings a year are held here in 140,000 hotel rooms for conference attendees and three of the nation’s largest convention centers, all usually within steps of conference sessions. Add to that the lights, the shows, world-class food, the constant sounds of slots and action at the tables, and you’ve got the hands-down undisputed winner for conferences – medical or otherwise.

Runners-up:

Boston: With 14 conference centers and a slew of unique venues for galas and networking events, plus more than 30 free attractions, Bean Town starts to look pretty good for medical meetings of any sort.

Jacksonville: While this North Florida town (the largest in the state) may not be the first place you think of (even in Florida) when you dream of places where you’d like to attend a medical meeting, Jacksonville consistently ranks of one of the most affordable conference cities in America.
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Do you have a favorite town that you jump at the chance to attend conferences in? Got any horror stories or special memories?

Tell us if we missed any stand-outs, in the discussion area below…

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