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Unique Event Venues: A Guide for Planners & Event Organizers

Switching things up occasionally is important, even for event organizers and corporate planners. Whether you work in public, private, or corporate events, changing the scenery can leave event attendees feeling refreshed and inspired. So, if you’re looking for unique event venues that offer something new and exciting, you’ve come to the right place. This guide explores the wonderful world of non-traditional event venues and their endless possibilities.  

What makes a venue truly unique? Where do planners find one-of-a-kind event spaces? How do you work with unorthodox venues? We answer those questions and more as we explore various unexpected places, like stadiums and aquariums, and examine how they can serve as unique event venues.  

Discover why you should consider unique event venues for your next function 

Before diving into particular locations and the events they host, let’s take a closer look at what makes some venues genuinely unique. How are they different from other types of event venues, like hotels and conference centers? 

What makes a venue unique? 

Many businesses—a few of which may surprise you—double as unique event venues. While some of these places primarily function as event venues (that may not look or operate like standard venues), other businesses on our list host events as a secondary service.  

For example, the House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe, New Mexico, operates as an event venue, but its artistry and design make it completely distinctive. Famed author George R.R. Martin (Game of Thrones) purchased a vacant bowling alley and leased it to a team of more than 130 creative professionals. The artists worked together to design the House of Eternal Return, one of the world’s most unique and artistically impressive event spaces—a venue that slips through time, space, and nature.  

Other unique event venues, like the locations on our list, primarily operate as another business, offering event services on the side. Aquariums, art galleries, botanical gardens, and comic book shops are just a few examples of unique venues that provide event space as a secondary service. Although a comic book store’s first purpose is to sell comic books, many regularly host local events, touring bands, and other events.  

Nine unique event venues planners should know about 

If you’re creative enough, you can host an event just about anywhere. The list of unique event venue options is massive, but planners are also limited by their location and what’s in it. Although specific options may differ from place to place, consider hosting your next event at non-traditional venues you’re likely to find nearby, like—  

  1. Restaurants and bars 

While you may already consider restaurants and bars the perfect places to meet friends and family, they can also be excellent locations for meetings, business lunches, private parties, and other events. Some eateries have separate spaces, like banquet rooms, dedicated to hosting private events; others may offer a separate floor, patio space, bar area, or the entire restaurant for bookings. With built-in décor and the kitchen close by, hosting at a restaurant can help cut costs while ensuring the food arrives piping hot.  

  1. Nightclubs 

Are you looking for somewhere a little more titillating than a traditional bar or restaurant? If so, consider booking a nightclub for your next event. In addition to dance space and loud music, nightclubs can accommodate a broad spectrum of events, from exclusive private parties and corporate retreats to high-energy reunions and close-knit community functions. 

  1. Museums 

Boasting knowledgeable, professional staff and expansive indoor spaces, museums are fabulous venues for hosting various events, including parties, seminars, conferences, and fundraising events, like galas and auctions. Additionally, every museum is unique, holding different art or artifacts. Because of their individuality, museums offer an incomparable event atmosphere. 

  1. Historic locations  

Impress clients and event attendees by selecting a venue with a rich, powerful history. Historic locations, like protected landmarks and century-old estates, are fantastic locations to host community meals, private corporate functions, weddings, and other events. Display your in-depth destination expertise while providing guests with an unforgettable and impactful event experience.  

  1. Art galleries  

Art galleries are unique, modern, and trendy locations to host after-work events, such as networking mixers, happy hours, and even more elevated functions, like black-tie galas and charity auctions. For recurring events, look for art galleries with rotating exhibits to keep things fresh and exciting. You also won’t have to worry about decorating the space! 

  1. Aquariums 

In addition to being entertaining and educational attractions, most aquariums host special events. From various corporate events, including holiday parties and team-building sessions, to private functions, like vow renewals and birthday celebrations, aquariums are flexible and unique event venues with lots to offer.  

  1. Stadiums 

When you think of attending a stadium event, you might picture a crowded football game or concert. While most stadium arenas are available for booking—at remarkably high rates—they usually hold smaller, specialized event spaces within the stadium as well. Incredibly diverse venues, a single stadium may have an auditorium, boardrooms, restaurants, and other specialized event spaces.  

  1. Amusement parks  

If you’re searching for a fun place to host a retreat, family reunion, corporate conference, or tradeshow, look no further than the nearest amusement park. Offering food, fun, and festivities, they offer everything you need for an epic event.  

  1. Public spaces  

Are you looking for a venue that’s accessible and affordable? If so, consider booking a low-cost public space. Reserve public gardens for a wedding, plan a company picnic in your local park, or rope off a few streets in your neighborhood for community events. Contact your local parks department to check availability, booking policies, and event restrictions.  

Why should planners book unique event venues?  

From atmosphere and size to location and cost, planners book non-traditional venues for many reasons. In addition to gaining access to unique space and resources, choosing a non-traditional venue for your next event could— 

  • Saves you money. Convention centers, full-service hotels, and similar locations are go-to event venues for many, and their pricing reflects the demand. Booking a non-traditional venue can help cut costs, especially if they can meet your vendor needs. For example, booking a restaurant for a rehearsal dinner or corporate conference can help save on additional costs incurred from acquiring outside catering.  
  • Make sourcing easier. During wedding season, the holidays, and other high-demand event periods, it’s much harder to find an affordable venue with availability. By thinking outside the box and redefining what an event venue can be, planners have a much better chance of finding an available, affordable, and unforgettable host—even during the busiest seasons.  
  • Impress your clients. Whether you’re a wedding or corporate event planner, you can pleasantly please clients by showing them event spaces they were not expecting. Make a strong impression by proving yourself an expert on all things local; secure your place as the go-to person for unique venue ideas, restaurant recommendations, and other hidden gems.  
  • Create a more memorable event experience. Sitting in the same meeting room week after week or attending monthly events at the same all year gets boring. Help your events stand out by hosting them in new and unique locations. Mix things up and ensure your next special event is extra special by hosting it at an amusement park, botanical garden, or concert hall.  

How do planners find unique event venues?  

So, you want to find a unique venue off the beaten path, but where do you start? Discovering lesser-known event locations isn’t always easy, but determined planners can find what they’re looking for by— 

  • Asking around. Take advantage of your local hospitality network and its expertise. Ask area planners which venues they suggest, or grab a venue directory that covers your locale. If you’re unsure where to start, your local Chamber of Commerce or destination management organization (DMO) can help.  
  • Using online directories. Online venue directories are a valuable resource for sourcing planners. Offering profiles, photos, and pricing estimates for a range of potential venues, free sourcing tools like Cvent Supplier Network provide all the information planners need to find their next event space. While some directories include many different venue types to accommodate a wide range of events, others tailor their content to attract specific audiences, like weddings or wellness groups.  
  • Joining online groups and forums. Look for local event groups on social media and forum sites, like Facebook and Reddit. Search for group names like “Roanoke events” or “Jacksonville hidden gems” to find community pages you can join. Ask for advice, answer questions, and engage with other members to uncover new venues and other insider information. 
  • Checking networking websites. Sites like Eventbrite and Meetup make it easy to discover where networking events occur near you. Even if you don’t attend the events, you might discover a venue you didn’t know existed.  
  • Paying attention to your surroundings. Is there a building you drive by daily that makes you think, “Wow, that place looks so cool. What is it?” If so, consider stopping by one day to ask. They may have extra studio space, auditorium seating, or a built-in stage. If you don’t ask, you’ll never know. 
  • Getting out and exploring. Get to know your destination, inside and out. Join a walking tour to discover parts of your city you’ve never seen before. Gather a group of friends and make it a day-long affair, or spend the day exploring independently.  

Tips for working with unique event venues  

Whether booking a nightclub, stadium, or upscale restaurant for your next event, the process may differ from what you’re used to. Follow these tips to navigate and streamline the process.  

  1. Determine which venues are best suited for your event 

Identify your essential event needs so you don’t waste time falling in love with a charmingly unorthodox venue that can’t accommodate it. Outline the basics, then begin your search by looking for venues that fit your vision. 

  • How many attendees do you anticipate?  
  • How much space do you need?  
  • Is it a single or multi-day event?  
  • What’s your ideal event layout?  
  • Will you serve food?  
  1. Tour potential venues  

If possible, visit the space in person to see it up close. Schedule a tour with the venue’s coordinator, who can highlight the amenities and characteristics that make it so unique. Remote organizers and long-distance planners will benefit from virtual tours, which enable you to complete immersive online walkthroughs in photo-realistic 3D. Look for venues that utilize interactive planning software, making it easier to visualize what an event will really look like, even in a space you’ve visited. 

  1. Create a list of questions to ask the venue coordinator  

It’s easy to get distracted when touring unique event venues, so take a checklist or list of questions. Write down everything you want to cover with the venue coordinator, such as deposit requirements, cancellation policies, setup restrictions, etc. Here’s a site inspection checklist and planner’s guide to help you stay on track and find the perfect venue for your event.  

  1. Keep your event goals in mind  

Look for venues that fit your event goals and objectives. How formal or casual is the event? Are you hosting performance reviews or a holiday party? Is it for friends and family, residents, or your office? Think about the timeline and included activities. Is it a participatory or seated event? Will attendees need room to move or dance? The large open spaces museums and art galleries provide are perfect for community and networking events, while restaurant banquet rooms are ideal for more intimate, personal functions. 

  1. Compare and contrast potential venues 

After exploring a few venues, compare their pricing, amenities, and services. What makes a particular venue better suited for your event than others? How does it outshine the others? What special services does it offer? Is the price right? 

  1. Discuss venue restrictions  

How early does the venue allow event organizers to set up? Are there noise or entertainment limitations? Are there any restrictions on food and drink outside? Discuss all policies and regulations in detail before making a final decision.  

  1. Choose staging and décor that relates to the venue 

Depending on the venue’s interior design and decor, specific setups or décor choices might look out of place, so finding a location that matches your vision for the event matters. We also recommend seeking locations that match your event’s fundamental themes. If you’re hosting a high-energy, technology-focused event, a stoic, historic estate may not be the best location to do so.  

  1. Read online reviews 

Many people are uncomfortable voicing their concerns or highlighting an issue in person. Instead, many of these individuals turn to online review sites like Yelp, Google, and TripAdvisor to describe their experiences. Read reviews from former patrons if you want an honest, unfiltered look into a venue’s services.  

Now you know how to find and book unique event venues! 

Once you’ve explored some of the unique venues in your area, you’ll have inventive locations to host events in every season. As your calendar begins to fill, stay ahead of the game by keeping up with other meeting and event trends impacting the industry this year