You’ve spent countless hours on your new trade show proposal. Numbers are crunched, statistics are polished, and that nightmare about your boss turning into a fire-breathing Meryl Streep from “The Devil Wears Prada” is vanquished. Now you just need to pick amongst all of the top trade show venues in the US to find the one that will optimize your company’s brand and solidify your place as the rising star. No pressure, right?
There’s a lot to consider: the pluses and minuses of different cities for you and for your clients, the labyrinth of labor regulations that varies by city, and — once you’ve picked your destination — there are multiple venues that might fit the bill. Not to worry: we’ve been there (literally). Here’s our take on the top trade show venues in the US, focusing on the major trade show cities (and don’t miss our guide to trade show labor for the same towns):
Nevada is the top state in the nation for trade show exhibitions, and this 100% has to do with Las Vegas. “They have venues of every type and size, with over 11.5 million square feet and growing, due to an expansion of the Las Vegas Convention Center through 2021,” says Julie Gustafson, Group Delphi’s VP of Customer Experience, who has over 20 years of experience producing trade shows and corporate events. By the time you read this, Vegas’ numbers will likely be even higher: new venues are constantly under construction.
It’s hard to find a large building in Vegas that doesn’t contain a trade show floor (or three). The Las Vegas Convention Center itself is centrally-located, just next to the Las Vegas Strip, and over 3.2 million square feet. It has an exhibit space of 2 million square feet and a meeting space of almost 250,000 square feet. There are over 100,000 guest accommodations within three miles. Simply put, Vegas was built for travelers and trade shows, and you’ll love the ease of exhibiting there.
Los Angeles and Southern California
SoCal is rife with excellent venues, owing to its proximity to oceanic views, temperate climate, multiple convenient airport choices. “The Los Angeles Convention Center, Anaheim Convention Center, and San Diego Convention Center are the largest,” says Gustafson. “In addition, we’ve done many shows at the Long Beach Convention Center, Ontario Convention Center, and the Palm Springs Convention Center. All are good facilities, and there are many other quality hotels and event venues.” While California costs trend higher than Las Vegas, you can expect a high level of service for the bump in price.
“We have done many shows in Dallas,” says Gustafson. “The Hilton Anatole, The Kay Bailey Hutchison Convention Center, and a myriad of other hotels and venues.” The added bonus? Polite natives. “You will never be called ‘ma’am’ so much as when you are running a show in Dallas,” Gustafson says.
“The main venue is the Morial Convention Center,” says Gustafson. Keep in mind that this center occasionally requires a private badge for a $10 fee.“I have seen one show require it, and others not. It’s kind of hit or miss.” Offering 1.1 million square feet of exhibit space, the Morial is one of the largest trade show facilities in the nation with a continuous flow of exhibitions.
“This city does a sizable number of events and trade shows, mostly in the Orange County Convention Centers,” says Gustafson. “The OCCC is giant, and nothing is within walking distance if you are carrying a package. Bring a fold-up dolly.” On a trip to Orlando, you also may choose to exhibit at the Rosen Centre and other hotels.
“The great majority of our shows are held either in the McCormick Place or in hotels throughout the city,” says Gustafson. Hosting up to three million visitors per year, Chicago lists 2.6 million square feet of exhibit halls, 1.3 of which is on one level, and two of the largest ballrooms in the country.
“New York is a helluva town,” sings a Leonard Bernstein character. “Because he’s going to trade shows,” says many people in our field, definitely not singing. New York is an expensive city for a show, and this includes venues. Nonetheless, there are countless reasons for companies to want to exhibit in New York, and we haven’t let cost deter us from a great experience. “We have successfully completed shows at the Piers and private venues, as well as hotels like the Midtown Hilton and the Javits Center,” says Gustafson.
Selected a venue? Here’s what you need to know about regional differences in trade show labor laws and regulations.