Top cities for event planning careers

Tips Tuesday: The 10 Best Cities for Event Planners and Planning Careers

What are the best cities to find an event planning job and grow your event planning career? Where do event planners make the most money? Which cities make your job easier with plentiful hotel rooms, event spaces, vendors, and extracurricular options for attendees? 

For new planners ready to launch an event planning career and experienced planners ready for a change, we’ve gathered a collection of cities with bustling event scenes across industries. Read on to learn what makes each city perfect for the work and personal lives of planners. 

Discover the 10 best cities for event planners

To find the best cities for event planners, we focused on the availability of event industry amenities and services, and quality of life attributes. Here are our top 10 picks and what they have to offer:

1. Atlanta, Georgia

Take all the liveliness of a major metropolis and add a dose of southern charm and warm weather. Shake it all up, and you’ve got Atlanta. It’s the most visited city in Georgia, drawing more than 50 million visitors each year.  

Why Atlanta is a top city for event planners

Home to the world’s busiest airport (Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International), convention and meeting attendees won’t have a problem getting to your city or finding a place to stay. The city boasts 95,000 hotel rooms split between several lively neighborhoods. 

The metro area has a plethora of state-of-the-art event spaces, along with the MARTA public transportation system carrying upwards of half a million people between the airport, hotels, and convention centers each weekday. Atlanta was recently named one of the top cities ranked by event professionals by the Professional Convention Management Association (PCMA)

Atlanta has a solid quality of life with outdoor activities, college and professional sports teams, a vibrant cultural scene, and a cost of living slightly below the national average

Event planner average salaries in Atlanta

The downside

Driving around Atlanta can be confusing (Peachtree is in the name of over 70 roads) and stressful as it is one of the top cities for traffic congestion in the world. The metro area and state overall ranks poorly in healthcare and education, unfortunately. 

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2. Austin, Texas

The PBS show Austin City Limits put this college town’s music scene on the map starting in the 1970s. Austin consistently ranks near the top of the best places to live in the US and, unsurprisingly, has one of the fastest growing populations in the country.

Why Austin is a top city for event planners

As the site of the famed annual SXSW Convention, the city has serious event credibility. Austin has unique meeting venues in large supply. Ten large-scale hotels provide close to 40,000 rooms, while 180 more hotels ensure there’s room for all. A state-of-the-art convention center showcases 247,052 square feet of contiguous, column-free exhibit space. 

Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is a short 15-minute drive from downtown and the convention center. Event guests (and you!) can find lots to enjoy around the city, with 250 live music venues and a unique arts and culture scene that help to ˜Keep Austin Weird.’ 

Texas has ranked high for event planning salaries as recently as 2017. Austin also boasts a high-quality education system and three hospitals ranked among the best in Texas

Event planner average salary in Austin

The downside

Housing is the big struggle in Austin, with a median home cost of $369,000”well over the national average of $231,200. The summers in Austin are long and hot, with temperatures around 100 degrees for several days in a row throughout July and August.

3. Boston, MA

One of the nation’s most historic cities, Boston has a booming economy thanks to strong and continually growing technology and biotech sectors. This technology focus, combined with the influence of major universities like Harvard, MIT, Boston College, Tufts, Boston University, and Northeastern contribute to a vibrant meetings and conventions scene.

Why Boston is a top city for event planners

Boston is rated highly by the PCMA, and the venue supplier network in Boston is impressive and improving as the city works on upgrading amenities to sustain its cachet. Beantown’s three convention centers draw nationally and internationally, thanks in part to the incredible reach of Logan International Airport. 

Boston is easy to get around on foot (it’s nicknamed The Walking City) or via the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, which runs the subway system, as well as buses, water taxis, and ferries. 

Boston has the best quality of life in the country, according to Deutsche Bank’s annual survey of global prices and living standards, and is one of the fittest cities in the US. Restaurant, entertainment, and sporting options are plentiful year-round.

Event planner salaries in Boston

The downside

Boston is the 10th most expensive US city to live, according to 2019 rankings by Kiplinger, and has some of the worst traffic in America. Finally, if you are not a fan of New England winters, keep in mind the average winter temp is just below freezing, with temperatures dropping close to zero degrees Fahrenheit during cold spells.

4. Chicago, Illinois

More people travel to Chicago for overnight business than any other US destination. Ten Fortune 500 companies have headquarters in the city, which also ranks third in the country for the number of fast-growing businesses. It has a thriving startup scene backed by a good number of local venture capital firms.

Why Chicago is a top city for event planners

Need a big venue for your tradeshow or conference? Look no further than McCormick Place, North America’s largest meeting facility, featuring more than 2.6 million square feet of exhibit space and an innovative busway connecting attendees to downtown in less than 10 minutes. 

The city’s central business district has plenty of room for overnight guests in 45,000 rooms spread throughout 140 hotels. Chicago welcomes visitors via two airports (Midway and O’Hare International) and operates the second-largest public transportation system in the country with 129 bus routes and eight “L” train lines. World-class museums, parks, restaurants, nightlife, sporting venues, and historical landmarks keep guests busy.

Illinois ranks near the top of states with the best salaries for event professionals. WalletHub has named Chicago one of the best big US cities to live in, thanks to its affordability, quality of life, education, and healthcare.

Event planner salaries in Chicago

The downside

Chicago has the second-highest property tax in the nation to go along with a 10.25-percent combined state and local sales tax, .25-percent restaurant tax, and 2.25-percent grocery sales tax. The Windy City gets pretty cold in winter, with freezing temperatures hitting anytime between November and April.

5. New York City, New York

Hotels are one of the main reasons The Big Apple is a mainstay in the events space. Of its some 675 hotels, New York has over 50 that qualify as large, helping to handle the record 65.2 million visitors passing through in 2018.

Why New York City is a top city for event planners

New York is an international city, welcoming travelers through three major airports (JFK, LaGuardia, and Newark) and shuttling them to destinations via the famous NYC subway system. ˜The city that never sleeps’ is also a world-renowned cultural center with no shortage of activities for visitors, from museums to historic parks to window shopping. 

Large-scale meeting spaces abound, including the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center (840,000 square feet of exhibit space); New York Hilton Midtown (151,084 square feet of exhibit space); New York Marriot Marquis (101,450 square feet exhibit space), and the Sheraton Times Square, Grand Hyatt, and Waldorf Astoria (60,000 square feet of exhibit space each).

New York is one of the best-paying cities for event planners, with a competitive environment providing plentiful career opportunities. Event planning services abound in New York City to help you plan events large and small.

Event planner salaries in New York

The downside

Housing is expensive and difficult to find in NYC and the wider metropolitan area. Apartment rents are in the thousands of dollars per month, forcing many people to live with roommates. Because of the high cost of living, New York City ranked 90 out of 125 cities in US News & World Report’s 2019 list of best places to live in America.

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6. Orlando, Florida

Warm weather, access to beaches and golf, and world-famous theme parks”Orlando is a prime location for mixing business with leisure. 

Why Orlando is a top city for event planners

The Orlando area is the most-visited destination in the US with over 68 million annual visitors. Scouting hotels and venues in Orlando is never a problem, and there are abundant choices across price points. 

The economy in Orlando is strong, thanks in part to a burgeoning simulation training and entrepreneurial scene as well as a vibrant healthcare industry”40 percent of the 50 largest healthcare meetings in the country take place in Orlando.

Orlando’s cost of living is slightly above the US average, but Florida has no state income tax. It has a sought-after climate with average temperatures ranging between 82 and 62 degrees Fahrenheit, and incredibly diverse dining, entertainment, recreation, and sporting event options year-round.

Event planner salaries in Orlando

The downside

The public transportation options are limited, which results in busy roads and traffic issues.  

7. San Antonio, Texas

This Texas city continues to rank at or near the top as the best place to host a conference. Its unique combination of history, charm, and amenities makes it attractive to major associations and businesses wanting to tap into the state’s strong economy. These same factors make it a great place to live, too.

Why San Antonio is a top city for event planners

San Antonio is a dream for event planners, boasting approximately 45,000 hotel rooms (with more on the way), and outstanding large- and small-scale venue options. Just 15 minutes from downtown, the San Antonio International Airport offers many direct nonstop flights to places like Atlanta, New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and Washington, DC. 

Entertainment is plentiful, including tourist destinations like The Alamo,the San Antonio River Walk, a botanical garden, museums, SeaWorld, and the San Antonio Zoo. 

San Antonio is one of the nation’s fastest-growing US cities, with an innovation economy featuring aerospace, financial services, and cybersecurity and a lively arts and food scene. A military-friendly city, San Antonio is home to the massive Joint Base San Antonio. If you like long, hot summers and mild winters, you’ll love San Antonio’s weather. The cost of living is 14 percent less than the national average, and there’s no state income tax.

Event planner salaries in San Antonio

The downside

The public transportation system is sparse, and San Antonio ranks near the bottom of a recent safest cities in Texas ranking.  

8. San Francisco, California

An eco-friendly meeting destination, San Francisco saw a record 26.1 million visitors in 2018, many for meetings and conventions. This historic, quirky city continues to be a draw for business people looking for a good mix of scenic beauty, cuisine, ambiance, and atmosphere. 

Why San Francisco is a top city for event planners

The city has nearly two million square feet of events space in the Moscone Center, which is undergoing a $551-million expansion. There are over 33,000 hotel rooms in San Francisco, along with abundant event support services. The high-speed (and affordable) BART public transit system makes the city easy to navigate. 

San Francisco is famous for its food and unique neighborhoods that give the city its charm and small-town atmosphere; its relatively small size is more manageable than New York, Los Angeles, or Chicago. Residents enjoy warm, dry summers and mild, wet winters, and a thriving nightlife.

Event planner salaries in San Francisco

The downside

San Francisco has one of the highest costs of living in the United States and notoriously terrible traffic. 

9. San Jose, California

The largest city in Silicon Valley, San Jose is home to its biggest meeting space: the 550,000-square-foot San Jose McEnery Convention Center, host to conferences, conventions, and events for big-name tech companies like Facebook and Apple.

Why San Jose is a top city for event planners

Despite tech’s up-and-down ride, the economy in and around San Jose is strong, with predictions of job growth above the US average for the next ten years. 

The city showcases an urban-suburban mix full of parks, restaurants, and coffee shops, along with a vibrant downtown area featuring museums, craft beer, and professional NHL hockey. San Jose enjoys warm weather year-round and cleaner air than most big cities due to its close proximity to the beach”about 45 minutes away. The city is a short drive from Santa Cruz, Palo Alto, and San Francisco.

San Jose boasts one of the best and most diverse school districts in the state, and is one of the best cities for event planner salaries. 

Event planner salaries in San Jose

The downside

Real estate and rental costs are astronomical in San Jose, with the median house cost a whopping $1,003,100.

10. Washington, D.C.

You’ll have a plethora of outstanding event spaces and services to choose from in Washington, D.C. You and your guests will also enjoy a robust public transportation system, and fun and historic activities around the nation’s capital. 

Why Washington, D.C. is a top city for event planners

The grandeur of Washington, D.C.’s monuments are inspirational to visitors and residents alike. The city’s history and backdrop lends gravitas to corporate retreats, conferences, and tradeshows. In the greater Washington, D.C. area, there are 111,216 rooms in 695 hotels. Access in-and-out of the metro area is a breeze thanks to Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport, Washington Dulles International Airport, and Baltimore-Washington International.

Guests can enjoy national monuments and museums (many free of charge), as well as plentiful world-class entertainment and dining options. Washington, D.C. ranks in the top 20 of best places to live in the US, with a strong job market and quality schools. 

Event planner salaries in Washington, D.C.

The downside

Housing costs are high, and the Washington, D.C. lifestyle can be stressful due to traffic and the city’s fast political pace.  

Pick the perfect city for your event planning career

From the charm of Atlanta and Austin to the hustle and bustle of Chicago and New York, you have plenty of options when it comes to finding the right work/life balance in the event planning business. Wherever you pursue your career, remember you have an outstanding resource for planning your next event with the Cvent supplier network.

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