Think Outside the Box and Under the Rotunda

Photography by Wes Battoclette and provided by CMC

It’s an event planner and entrepreneur’s worst nightmare: countless time spent planning a company party, awards banquet, employee appreciation event or an important board meeting all wasted because the venue didn’t meet expectations. Maybe it was the food, or a lack of atmosphere or attendees walked away bored to tears. Whatever the problem, it could dampen a company’s motivation to book a similar event in the future – which, of course, is a shame.

Events work best when guests can leave happy, full of good food and feeling that the experience was enjoyable or productive. This is true of small, intimate meetings among executives as well as large-scale corporate parties. The atmosphere created by the venue can be crucial. Unique spaces can be the source of conversation and can make an event stand out. Cincinnati is full of gorgeous, historical buildings where people can gather, but if a company prefers something truly unique, Cincinnati Museum Center at Union Terminal is hard to beat.

Beyond the colorful rotunda, which is available to rent for large parties, there is a plethora of rooms tucked into Union Terminal. These rooms are markedly different from the halls of the museums that are filled with artifacts and display cases. They hold a nostalgia that, for many in Greater Cincinnati, cannot be recreated at another venue.

“A big reason people have events here is for the historical value,” says Ann Hobing, senior director of business growth at Museum Center. “Some of the rooms were restored during Project One, which was the initial part of figuring out our renovation needs before the 2014 levy.”

During Project One, Union Terminal underwent a large renovation process in the southwest wing, where much of the historical portions of the train station were located. In the Cincinnati Dining Room, guests can certainly appreciate the care that was taken in restoring the overhead mural, fixing the beautiful marble floor and bringing the room back to the vibrancy it held as a busy transportation hub.

“This room was part of the original Union Terminal,” says Hobing. “We added a few small touches to things, like the doors to the kitchen and more modern amenities, but other than that, everything is completely original. Our objective as stewards of Union Terminal is to preserve as much of the original elements as we can, while making it functional for guests today.”

For a more formal, yet intimate meeting space, there’s a large meeting room available. The space was also part of Project One renovation, as it sits at a corner of Union Terminal that was in dire need of renovation. The old steel within the bricks and mortar had shifted over the decades, causing expansion and contraction in the walls. This loosened bricks and damaged windows in the room – but today it’s perfectly restored, updated and equipped for any professional meeting or presentation.

“This room is ideal for a smaller group, and it’s more upscale,” says Hobing. “It’s perfect for board meetings or formal retreats. Most people don’t realize there’s a lot of privacy back here – it’s out of the hustle and bustle of the museum’s daily activities, so it’s still perfect for weekday rentals.”

Hobing says this room was used by Union Terminal staff for meetings with Major League Baseball officials during the planning stages of events during All-Star Game week. The space was perfect for the occasion because of its intimate, quiet nature.

For companies who want a less formal setting, Union Terminal has plenty of options. In fact, there are few areas in the museums themselves that cannot be set up for some kind of event – the catch is whether or not food and beverage can be allowed. “Obviously, our main concern in the museums is preserving our exhibits,” says Hobing. “But there are pockets in each museum where food and beverage is allowed.”

For example, Holiday Junction, which features the Duke Energy Trains, is a popular rental space for holiday events and staff appreciation parties. For another unique setting, an event can easily be put together in the museum’s public landing, within the recreated streets of the 1860s. Since this space also features an entrance for Holiday Junction, and receives the full holiday décor treatment, it’s also perfect for parties during the more festive months.

“We can personalize everything to enhance the client’s experience,” says Hobing. “We can bring in any music or DJ, add décor and include our costumed interpreters who are well-versed in Cincinnati history. It makes for a very interactive and entertaining space.” Hobing adds that, for companies in STEM fields, areas of the Museum of Natural History & Science are open to rent, featuring their own unique interactive options as well.

Catering services, decorative options and a wide variety of rooms all featuring unique appearances and atmospheres bring a level of customization for events that is unparalleled elsewhere in Cincinnati. Guests can have dinner and wine in one of the museums, see a movie, learn something new and network with other professionals within the same space – while supporting one of the city’s biggest attractions.

“We’d really love for the corporate community to remember that Union Terminal is a unique, historic location, but Cincinnati Museum Center is a nonprofit organization,” says Hobing. “Every event, banquet or wedding goes to help support all the activities and operations that help us do what we do.”

There is one more thing to consider. After renovations begin on Union Terminal next year, many of these facilities will be shut down temporarily, and companies could lose the chance to access these unique spaces until the project is finished. Because of this deadline, Hobing says dates are filling quickly, even on weekdays. “We’re definitely encouraging everyone to come see the spaces before they’re unavailable for a while,” she says.

However, for companies that miss out on booking their favorite Union Terminal room for a holiday party or corporate banquet, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center offers unique options as well. Under the same facility management as Union Terminal, booking an event at the Freedom Center provides the same level of unique facility and interactive event spaces as Cincinnati Museum Center.

“Freedom Center is a fantastic place to have events, especially if the company is located downtown or guests will be coming from downtown,” says Hobing. “The river views are magnificent.” It may not hold the same historic charm of Union Terminal, but the building has its own unique details that may fit a company’s event just as well.

In the end, however, Union Terminal has had a profound cultural impact on Cincinnati over the years, both as a train station and a museum. It’s because of this that these event spaces are so special. Someone who remembers waiting at the train station for a loved one to come home can reminisce in the restored rooms while celebrating a birthday or retirement. A company looking to engage employees and show appreciation can do so with drinks and dinner under the beautiful rotunda, with music, lights and décor of choice. Holiday parties can have a touch of something new, as guests stroll the public landing while celebrating an incoming new year.

Whatever the event may be, Hobing says the team can personalize it to make it as special as possible for the client.



Cincinnati Museum Center is located at 1301 Western Avenue, Cincinnati, OH 45203. You can reach them at 513.287.7000, by email at or visit their website at