Whether it’s time of year, messaging, materials or napkin colors, decision fatigue can become overwhelming when planning an event. Choosing the venue is certainly among the most important decisions and one that happens early in the process. Alabamians are blessed with event venues as diverse and unique as the state itself. Here we introduce some of these varied event spaces.
American Village, Montevallo
One of those venues is the American Village, located in Montevallo. Opened in November 1999, the American Village was the passion project of Tom Walker, who envisioned it as a place to share stories of liberty with young people to encourage them to become good citizens and leaders. It is comprised of 20 buildings — all historically inspired and styled.
Melanie Poole, American Village communications officer, says the campus books more wedding-related events than anything else. “We see a lot of rehearsal dinners or wedding receptions or bridal teas, things of that nature,” Poole says. “We can accommodate any size party from 20 to 500.”
Constructed on land that was once a cattle farm, the venue’s Rotunda will accommodate 150 people theater-style and 100 at tables. The Rotunda is equipped with audio-visual technology and is modeled after Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello.
The historically themed buildings make it one of the most distinctive venues in the state, something Poole says adds much value to the area.
“We are a 188-acre campus of some of the most historic replica buildings in America,” Poole says. “So, you’re surrounded by this magnificent campus. I also think our personal service stands apart from other event venues.”
Meeting and event planners looking to book at the American Village can plan for self-guided tours of the campus if booking during the week. Weekend events have the option to negotiate historical interpreters to guide guests through the campus as staffing allows.
“We like to say the American Village is a venue so unique it’s a national treasure,” Poole says.
To book an event at the American Village, contact Private Events Manager Jodie Wasyluka at 205-665-3535, ext. 1045.
The Lodge at Gulf State Park
The beach is always a draw for gatherings, and The Lodge at Gulf State Park takes full advantage. The Lodge opened in 1974, quickly becoming a community hub and tourism destination before being irreparably damaged by Hurricane Ivan in 2004. It was rebuilt in 2018 with environmentally friendly building practices and sustainability front and center.
Christy Baranovics, senior sales manager, says the heart of everything done at The Lodge is centered on environmental and economic sustainability.
“That’s kind of the heartbeat of the Gulf State Park — maintaining and preserving our natural environment here so we are around for many, many future generations,” Baranovics says.
Boasting the Gulf Coast’s largest Gulf-view ballroom, The Lodge has 40,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor event space to meet clients’ needs. The venue hosts many weddings and sporting event groups, but Baranovics says her top client market is state associations.
“When the original lodge existed back in 1974, that was the main convention hotel on the Gulf Coast for Alabama associations,” Baranovics says. “It’s a huge market here in the state. What I’ve learned over the years about associations is there is an association for everything, and all of these associations have meetings.”
The Lodge has the capacity for much larger events than many other venues in the area. The ballroom can host a reception of around 1,000 people, and the venue has hosted a Marine Corps ball with a sit-down dinner for 800.
For conferences, The Lodge provides the expected internet, projectors and microphones. Unexpected is the in-house media service.
“We work with a company called Scott Brown Media Group that has an office here on the property,” Baranovics says. “They provide all the state-of-the-art equipment you could ever imagine for all our events. They have audiovisual technicians that will stay in the room with the meeting planners and the speakers to make sure everything runs smoothly throughout the groups’ presentations. They’re very hands-on, and if there is something they don’t have onsite, they have other facilities across the country they can ship equipment from.”
To book an event at The Lodge at the Gulf State Park, visit lodgeatgulfstatepark.com/events.
Other unexpected venues to consider include:
Located at 1111 24th St. N., Topgolf is a sports entertainment space that boasts climate-controlled hitting bays to tee off and practice your drive. Topgolf offers food, a full-service bar, a rooftop terrace with fire pits and three floors of potential event space. From small groups to 1,000 of your company’s employees, Topgolf has the capacity for a wide variety of events. The venue has hosted everything from birthday parties, company events, tournaments, fundraisers and field trips to bachelor/ bachelorette parties. To book your event, call 205-847-2453 or submit a request online at topgolf.com/us/-birmingham/plan-an-event.
U.S. Space & Rocket Center (Huntsville)
One of Alabama’s landmarks since 1970, the Space & Rocket Center has been host to countless visitors and numerous types of events. The venue provides full-service event staff to aid clients through every stage of the planning process, from catering services, to its network of affiliated vendors, to its ability to host a party under the Saturn V rocket. Event planners have the ability to choose from several difference spaces — one with a capacity of up to 1,000 — as well as the use of the planetarium, training facility or the simulators. To book your event at the Space & Rocket Center, call 256-721-7173 or email [email protected].
Birmingham Museum of Art
The Birmingham Museum of Art is available to corporate and non-profit organizations as well as private individuals. The Museum’s professional staff assists in creating a flawless event in several different settings ranging from an auditorium to the gardens. Private events are available Tuesday through Sunday after 5 p.m., when the museum is closed to the public. To request information, call Special Events Manager Jestina Howard at 205-254-2681.
Famous for the annual NASCAR races it hosts, the Talladega Superspeedway is also a meeting space resource. The racetrack has multiple event spaces capable of fulfilling a wide variety of needs. There’s Big Bills, a space large enough to host 1,300 people for a reception, trade show, concert or the like.. The media room, filled with reporters on races days, offers a great space for seminars, workshops and classroom-type events. For more information, contact Scott Shinbaum at 256-315-4525 or [email protected].
Crystal Castle is a Mobile-based freelance contributor to Business Alabama.
This article appears in the February 2023 issue of Business Alabama.