When it comes to meetings and conferences, most attendees hope to gain more than just a few days in a boardroom.
They want to experience something fresh and inspiring, and few places stir the imagination quite like one of the country’s magnificent state or national parks. To make sure your attendees stay relaxed and engaged throughout the meeting experience, consider one of the following parks as your next destination.
Glacier National Park
Known as the Crown of the Continent, Glacier National Park features some of the most spectacular scenery in the country, with more than 700 miles of hiking trails, 762 lakes and a breathtaking portion of the Rocky Mountains. This aquatic region is also the headspring of waters that flow to the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and Hudson Bay.
Visitors can hike past massive floating chunks of ice on the Iceberg Lake Trail or travel to the iconic Grinnell Glacier at the foot of the continental divide. The diverse terrain invites a wide range of wildlife as well, including bighorn sheep, grizzly bears and mountain goats, which are the official symbol of the park.
When planners bring their events to Glacier, they give many people the chance to cross out a major item on their bucket lists.
“It’s a really cool opportunity to get out into the park and see the sights of Glacier,” said Rebecca Baker, marketing and public relations manager at Glacier Park, Inc. “And people can experience it on their own, even if they don’t get the opportunity with their group.”
Many planners host events or conferences at the historic Glacier Park Lodge, which is just outside the park in the village of East Glacier. Featuring an impressive backdrop of snow-capped mountains, the property is characterized by sweeping outdoor gardens and 60 towering Douglas fir tree trunks that line the main lobby. Guests can relish the mountain view with a steaming cup of Montana Coffee Trader coffee from the Empire Café or step into the train-themed Empire Bar to dine like passengers on the Great Northern Railway.
Other meeting facilities are available at Grouse Mountain Lodge and St. Mary Lodge.
Mount Magazine State Park
Nestled atop the plateau of Arkansas’ tallest mountain, Mount Magazine State Park provides a stunning panorama of canyons and lakes in the Petit Jean River Valley below. Visitors can spend the night on this “island in the sky” in one of the Lodge’s 60 guest rooms and 13 cabins, where every room comes with a view.
“It’s a great place to get away and relax,” said Heidi Ryan, director of sales and marketing at the Lodge. “You really have your group’s attention when you’re up here.”
Planners can use the Lodge’s 3,772-square-foot meeting facility, which can be divided into three conference areas or opened for banquet-style seating. The property also features a 300-seat outdoor amphitheater that overlooks Cameron Bluff. Originally built by the Civilian Conservation Corps more than 70 years ago, the amphitheater is now being restored and renovated.
“Once they have electricity, it’ll be a great place for group events and concerts,” said Ryan. “It’ll have one of the best views on the mountain.”
No trip to Mount Magazine is complete without taking the 1.4-mile hike from the Lodge to Signal Hill, the highest point in the state of Arkansas at 2,753 feet above sea level. Visitors can sign their names in a guest book at the top. For an after-hours activity, meeting groups can take advantage of one of the park’s guided programs, such as a night sky exploration where a park interpreter discusses the constellations and planets, or a hawk watch along one of the trails.
“Groups can actually watch eagles and falcons fly by,” said Ryan. “Birds of prey are very common to the area.”
Other recreation pursuits in the park include horseback riding, hang gliding, rock climbing, mountain biking and ATV adventures.
The Lodge’s Skycrest Restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with savory items like barbecue brisket, farm-raised catfish and black-bean salsa. At the end of the day, attendees can soak in the indoor pool and hot tub as they watch the sun set over the valley.