Having recently returned from the ASM (American Society for Microbiology) General Meeting held in Philadelphia, I’m convinced that it should be held there every year–or, at least, it should be the permanent East Coast venue.
When I go to a meeting, I want several things:
- Stuff to do. Restaurants, museums, and so on.
- Things need to be accessible. That means I have to be able to walk to them or take public transit (I don’t want to have to rent a car just to leave the conference center).
- Lodging needs to be close to the convention center (ASM is usually an 8,000-12,000 person meeting; it needs a convention center). By close, I mean no more than five to ten minutes from the center. It’s good to be able to return to your room for a minutes after lunch, or to practice a talk. If you have to spend 40-50 minutes roundtrip, that pretty much kills that possibility (or you end up missing parts of the meeting).
- Decent weather. There isn’t much that can be done about rain, but temperatures usually fall within a certain predictable range. Hotter than hell is not the good part of the range.
By all accounts, Philly did well. Most of the hotels were nearby (mine, the Loews Philadelphia was right across the street. And very cool in an art deco kind of way). The convention center is a block away from the center of the city. To veer off topic, City Hall, which is basically the center of the city looks amazing at night–we don’t build them like that anymore. It’s one of the architectural wonders of the U.S.
Not only was the meeting centrally located, but the city is small enough (and flat) so you can walk anywhere: Walnut Street, Rittenhouse Square, Broad Street, South Street, Old City. And, of course, the Liberty Bell (the bell has a big crack in it. I think it’s broken). While the transit system is byzantine (tokens, transfers, and so on–and I live in Boston), the PHLASH pretty much gets a tourist anywhere you want to go, and it’s affordable.
Lots of great restaurants (Jamaican Jerk Hut–very yummy, and fun). Compared to some of the recent sites, Philly was great:
Atlanta: Hotter than hell. From the convention center, it’s not walkable (and hotter than hell). I did, however, get a room in the hotel associated with the convention center, so I didn’t have to melt too often.
Toronto: Weather was good (if a little cool). But most of the hotels, including mine, were too far from the convention center. On the other hand, there’s lots to do in Toronto, and it has great mass transit.
Boston: You might expect me to be a homer, but, for a meeting the size of ASM, Boston simply can’t handle it. The Boston Convention Center is not well located–it’s a ten minute walk to South Station. From there, some parts of the city are accessible, but it’s not centrally located. The convention center is well-suited for cars, but not for people who fly in. Also, there simply aren’t enough hotel rooms–I heard some real horror stories about forty minute bus rides each way. If ASM were a smaller meeting, Hynes would be a great place (and should Bostonians an indication of just how large this meeting is).
So, if we’re to have the meeting on the East Coast, why not make Philadephia the site? It worked for me.