I’ve spent the last few years traveling for work almost every week. I’m notorious amongst my coworkers for spending my evenings out exploring town and finding interesting things to do after work. The chance to travel the country on my company’s dime is too good to waste watching tv in the hotel, so I try to take advantage of this opportunity to see and do as much as I can. Along with some other travel bloggers, here are some of my favorite fun things to do on business trips in the United States.
Waldameer Water World – Erie, PA
One of my most surprisingly fun buisness trips was to Erie, Pennsylvania. I found Waldameer, a little amusement park near the lake, and was thrilled to discover that it was pay-per-ride. That meant that instead of having to buy a full admission ticket to ride a couple of roller coasters, I could buy just enough credits to ride what I wanted. Their biggest ride is a coaster called the Ravine Flyer II. I wasn’t expecting much, but I was absolutely blown away. I ended up going back to buy more credits just so I could ride it again. Afterward, I looked up the ride, and it turns out that it’s one of the highest rated wooden roller coasters in the country. It deserves every accolade. I finished the evening at nearby Presque Isle State Park, watching the sunset over Lake Erie from one of the many beaches.
Top of the Rock – New York City
By Leigh from Campfires & Concierges
New York is very expensive and not someplace I would visit on my own dime, but when my company sent me for a conference recently, I also tried to squeeze as much tourist time in as I could! Visiting Top of the Rock, the observation deck at Rockefeller Center, is the perfect after work tourist activity. If you can time your visit with sunset, you will get to enjoy both daytime and evening views from the 70th floor. You will have great views of Central Park, the Empire State Building, and all of Manhattan in every direction. Rockefeller Center also houses NBC Studios, so you may get lucky and see familiar faces in the hallways. I saw Martin Short in the lobby when I was there!
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National Mall – Washington D.C.
One of the great things about the monuments in Washington D.C. is that they’re open all night. I was working about 40 minutes outside of town, and I battled the traffic to spend the evening exploring the National Mall area. I was concerned that I might be all by myself at night, but the place was hopping with tourists and tour buses. I even got to get stamps in my National Parks passport because some of the ranger stations were open. I hit all of the memorials, including the ones for Martin Luther King, Jr. and WWII soldiers that had been built since my last visit. The coolest moment was having the Jefferson Memorial all to myself. I passed some other visitors who were leaving as I climbed the steps up, but I was the only soul in the rotunda. As a bonus, visiting after dark means that you get to see the monuments lit up dramatically.
Thacher State Park – Voorheesville, NY
I love exploring parks, so when a customer in Albany told me about a nearby state park with an easy hike to some waterfalls, I jumped at the chance. I hiked the Indian Ladder Trail at Thacher State Park, and loved the views. It winds behind two narrow waterfalls – Minelot and Outlet – that tumble down from the cliff above. You get some really unique views from behind the falls, and going in the evening meant that there was very little traffic on the trail. If you’re willing to get wet, you can even touch the streams of water. The parking area also has a great view of the valley looking out from the top of the cliff. Read more about the hike here.
Exploratorium Science Museum – San Francisco, CA
By Justine from Wanderer of the World
Travelling for work can really open you up to visiting some cool places, although it can be tricky to try to fit in sight-seeing around your normal work day. If you’re fortunate enough to be sent to San Francisco for a business trip, then you’re in luck as there are some fabulous things you can do in the evening. One of which is the Exploratorium Science Museum found at Pier 15 along the Embarcaredo.
Although usually only open from 10-5, on Thursday evenings (6-9.30pm), they open their doors to adults of all ages for an 18+ night! You can have all the fun in the world trying out the exhibitions (this is a very hands-on museum), without any screaming kids around and with a wine in your hand (pop-up bars are found throughout the museum during the Adults Only nights).
My advice would be to head on over to the pier as soon as your work day has finished, grab a quick bite to eat in the various restaurants found here and scuttle straight on over to the 18+ night – now that’s a fun way to wind down after your work day!
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Hershey’s Chocolate World – Hershey, PA
I spent a couple of weeks in nearby Allentown, PA, so naturally I had to drive out to Hershey one night. I didn’t have time to check out their amusement park, but the Hershey factory tour is free to the public. I made the hour-long drive out there and checked out Chocolate World. (I’d drive a lot more than that to visit a place called Chocolate World.) The factory tour is a ride-through that no longer takes you to an actual factory, but it’s fairly amusing and you get free chocolate bars at the end. I also paid to do a chocolate-making activity where I got to design my own Hershey bar with different add-ins and packaging with my name on it. We got aprons and hairnets and got to watch our candy bars making their way through the automated machine that added the appropriate ingredients and boxed up the chocolate.
Dolphin watching – Virginia Beach, VA
I loved working in Virginia Beach. I got a hotel right on the water and did some swimming and morning jogging on the sand. My favorite activity was an evening dolphin watching boat ride. Tickets were inexpensive and easy to get right at the dock, and we spent about an hour out on the water. The crew told us that the dolphins like swimming in the wake of the boat, and sure enough, several of them showed up to leap through the water behind us.
Broadway Shows – New York City
By Anisa from Two Traveling Texans
Seeing a show on Broadway is one of the best ways to spend your evening, whether you are traveling for business or pleasure, or just happen to live in NYC area. There are so many shows playing on Broadway, everyone can find something that looks interesting and that they haven’t seen. The performers on Broadway are always top notch and sometimes celebrities even join the cast.
Most shows start at either 7 or 8 pm and run about 2-3 hours. Most theaters are located close to the Times Square subway station. There are plenty of restaurants in the area to grab a quick bite before or after the show.
The only downside is that the tickets can be expensive. You may be able to charge the tickets as a team building/client entertaining expense or get discounted tickets like at the TKTS Booth. You can get tickets to most shows the same day if needed. Off-broadway shows are also a lot of fun and less expensive.
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Sunset on the Blue Ridge Parkway – Asheville, NC
When I was working in North Carolina, I couldn’t pass up the chance to visit the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. I drove about an hour to get to the Asheville area entrance, and then spent some time enjoying the spectacular views along the road. I found the perfect overlook to catch sunset over the mountains and relaxed as I watched the sun dip out of view. I finished the night off at an amazing restaurant in town before heading back to my hotel.
Silicon Valley, California
By Daniela from The Lost Romanian
The company I work for has a big office in Sunnyvale, CA, and I spent some time there. Though it sounds awesome when you say you’re going on a biz trip in Silicon Valley, it can be pretty boring. Renting a car it’s the first step to escaping boredom.
Santana Row (Sunnyvale Downtown) is a nice street with pretty restaurants and shopping stores. You can find good wines and sometimes live music. It’s perfect for a nice dinner. To add, there is a Cheesecake Factory at the end of the road.
Winchester Mystery House offers a guided tour around a haunted and bizarre mansion. The tours can be booked in advance and the last one starts at 7pm.
Enjoy a football game at Levi’s Stadium. I find this a great way to experience the local life and entertainment. Of course, it depends on the game, but I’ve seen many starting at 7pm.
Check out some “big names”. We drove to Facebook HQ. You are not allowed inside, but there is a big LIKE ad at the entrance, we took some pictures there. A bit further, there is Google HQ. You can visit the campus and use a bike for free. Also, not far away there is Stanford University, and you can visit the campus for free. It’s a nice walk and makes you remember student life.
Shopping in outlets. There are huge factory stores and prices can go really cheap. The closest one is an outlet mall in Milpitas. There is another one in Gilroy, further but bigger. There is no way you can explore all stores in one go, as they close at 9pm, but if you look at the store list in advance, at least you get an idea of which ones you want to see first.
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If you’re really lucky, you’ll get a chance to use some vacation time to explore a fun place. Doing this allows you to use company-paid airfare to do some additional adventuring like Paroma describes below.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
By Paroma from Year of the Monkey
I love to travel but I also have a full time day job. I try to strike a balance between these two by combining a few vacation days here and there with business travel. For someone like me who does not drive, it sometimes get challenging to venture beyond my hotel but with the advent of shared riding, I can now easily explore my surroundings in a new city without any problem. My most memorable account for this “fun side of business travel” is undoubtedly San Juan, Puerto Rico where I had gone to attend a consortium. I added three extra vacation/personal days to make the most of this business travel. I not only enjoyed walking through old town San Juan which has the most colorful Spanish colonial style homes ever, but also kayaking at night in the bioluminescent bay (no prior experience needed) with an eco-tour group. I also toured the El Yunque Rainforest with a private tour guide along with several other people and thoroughly enjoyed my time there. These activities are easily doable with one or two extra days in hand (the kayaking is at night) and totally worth spending some time after you are done with work.
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Have you ever gotten to go on a fun business trip? Tell me about it in the comments!
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I used to travel a lot for business purposes. I did not always have the time to do sightseeing, and after work you don’t always feel like going out and seeing new things. However, sometimes it worked out well and I enjoyed the destinations that I saw and managed to visit some of the highlights. One should actually just enjoy business travel as much as possible.
In my previous two positions I traveled extensively throughout the US for work. Every city or state I would make sure to find something different to do or see. I also loved trying local food joints!
Seattle would be my favorite as I was able to get into Pike Place Market before it opened for the day!
Also I would extend my trip a day or two before or after since my airfare was already taken care of!
OMG! The chocolate tour sounds great! I would definately do a detour to be able to visit that too. Totally cool.
I’d love to have a job which involves me travelling and exploring new places. Your time staying on Virginia Beach looks so peaceful and I bet seeing the dolphins was incredible.
As soon as I saw that roller coaster ride picture I was super stoked! Great article and thanks for sharing!
Really awesome read! It’s really interesting to read about the sites and attractions different states have. I would definitely be down for a trip to Chocolate World!
Loved this post! It really goes to show how much you can do on a trip if you utilise your time properly. It’s amazing that you can combine vacation days and business trips too.