A New Era for Wilmington Venues and Events
The presidential election of 2020 was certainly one for the history books and put an obscure little mid-Atlantic city on the map. My hometown and the hometown of President Joe Biden made it to the national spotlight as we played host to many of the events surrounding the DNC, campaign, and transition of our new president. While we’re not necessarily known as a powerhouse of tourism and conventions, we proved, in a distinctly Wilmington way that we could pull together and host events that made us the center of the nation.
Whether you are hosting a corporate function, a private party, or a concert, there are many great venues in our city that offer some great strategic opportunities for event planners from our surrounding communities. I’d like to tell you about a few of my favorites and how we’ve used these spaces to host dozens of unique events.
Arden Gild Hall
Starting from the smallest in size, but arguably one of our longest-running clients, the Arden Gild Hall is the perfect location to host an event for up to 200 people. This (100) year old barn nestled in an artisan’s community instantly feels warm and welcoming. What I find most charming about Arden is that it is raw and genuine in its aesthetic. The rustic venue theme is hot these days, yet so many facilities are simply modern buildings attempting to emulate this.
The Arden Gild Hall is unapologetic with its creaky floor, community bulletin board, and an occasional visit from one of the local pups, but to me, that’s what makes it feel so much like home. But beneath its unassuming hamlet appearance, Arden hosts all of the facilities necessary for a successful event. It has a recently remodeled catering kitchen, a stage with a surprisingly impressive light show, and installed capabilities for video streaming and video projection. For nearly 15 years, we have brought in a wide variety of PA systems for anything from spoken word events to full-on rock shows, and the Gild Hall is a great room to amplify the energy that comes off of its stories stage. Being the closest of all of my venue picks to Philly, it’s well worth the quick 30-minute drive to escape the city and enjoy a one-of-a-kind venue.
The Grand Opera House
For my mid-sized venue of choice, it is a close tie between 2 theaters in downtown Wilmington. The Grand Opera House and Queen Theater are two theaters each with histories dating to the early days of our city. The Grand Opera house is an impressive and beautiful traditional concert hall with 2 auditoriums. Copeland Hall offers seating for 1100, with the smaller Baby Grand theater offering seating for 300. I will say hands down that acoustically, Copeland Hall is probably one of the best sounding theaters I’ve ever mixed a show in and is guaranteed to provide an elegant setting for your event.
The Baby Grand is a great facility for a smaller church or school rental, a business meeting, or an informational session. Moving a few blocks down the street, the Queen Theater is most recently noted as being home base for the Biden campaign and transition. If you happened to see our neighbor Joe on TV between October and January of this past year, there was a good chance he was speaking from the stage of the Queen. This was a project that we had the privilege of being a technology partner for, transforming the theater into a cutting-edge virtual meeting and press space.
So which is the better of the two facilities? It will ultimately come down to the layout needs and technical requirements of the event. Both facilities have easy load-ins for equipment, ample parking for attendees, and a wide variety of tasty dining options. The Grand has a slight edge in my opinion because of its extensive theatrical rigging and infrastructure, however, the Queen has a smaller, but more configurable event space with an open floorplan. Ultimately these two venues will give you tremendous value and flexibility for your event.
The 76’ers Fieldhouse
My large Wilmington venue pick is one that was built in the current century! The new 76’ers fieldhouse located just on the southern end of Wilmington is primarily a sporting facility hosting the Delaware Blue Coats and a variety of sports training facilities. If square footage is what you are after however, the 76’ers fieldhouse is a top choice. Since its opening, we have produced a wide variety of concerts, graduations, and parties in this expansive facility. We have found the staff of the fieldhouse to be very flexible and accommodating in allowing time for event setup and use of the facility.
The venue is very bright and open, which to many planners may raise an eyebrow over acoustics and video screen capabilities, however, we have taken this into account and designed some great systems with great clarity in the space, and enough visual punch to get through the mid-day sun. The facility has an expansive parking lot, and the roads department has recently added a bridge allowing for quick and easy access to many local hotels and restaurants.
The Smyrna Opera House
Although Wilmington held the national spotlight for 2020, our towns “south of the canal” offer unique and high-quality venue spaces. The Smyrna Opera House is a beautifully restored opera house offering ample stage and auditorium space for a theater performance or corporate presentation. If you are looking for a larger ballroom-type space, consider the Rollins Center at the Dover Downs Casino. This facility regularly hosts concerts and meetings in its 1500 capacity ballroom. It has a variety of adjunct meeting spaces for breakout sessions and receptions. Dover is home to the Dover Air Force base, and is our state’s capital, with ample hotels and restaurants in the immediate area.
Dewy Beach’s Hyatt Place
Finally, if you sit at your desk dreaming of warm sandy beaches look no further than the recently constructed Hyatt Place in Dewey Beach. Dewey Beach is arguably the biggest party town of our state’s beach resorts, so Hyatt Place is a natural choice if you look forward to a cold beer or orange crush after a day of business. The 4,000 square foot ballroom overlooks Rehoboth bay with both indoor and unique outdoor boardwalk pre-function spaces. I had the opportunity to both work and stay in this facility, and was impressed with the clean, spacious, and modern design of the 140 guest rooms.
With one of our most famous residents now in the White House, Delaware is a little more familiar and should certainly be a strong contender for hosting your next event. It is a nice quick getaway for residents of New York, Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington D.C. The cost of hosting events is very reasonable, and the city’s venues are easy and accommodating to work in. With images of the election fresh in your mind, we’d love to see what we can dream up with you to put in any of these unique and capable venues.
But wait, there’s more! If this guide hasn’t helped you find the perfect venue, have a look at some of our other local picks:
Delaware Art Museum – A beautiful and modern museum nestled in the quiet Rockford Park area of Wilmington. A great choice for hosting a cocktail reception or performance in a chic and open setting.
Chase Center – One of Wilmington’s largest convention spaces with multiple ballrooms, hotels, and restaurants.
Christina Cultural Arts Center – A performing arts facility with a theater space with a capacity for approximately 100 attendees.
The Waterfall – A recently renovated wedding-style venue offering ample event space and on-site catering.
Deerfield Country Club – Set right on the edge of an expansive state park, Deerfield offers an on-site restaurant, golf course, and a light and airy ballroom with wrap-around views of the parklands.
Executive Banquet and Conference Center – Convenient access to I-95 makes this spacious facility a great choice for events with attendees coming from points south of Delaware.
Bob Carpenter Center at the University of Delaware – “The Bob” as we call it, is one of Delaware’s largest facilities for sports, concerts, and conventions. A 5500 capacity arena makes this ideal for large-scale events.