courtesy Wild Dunes Resort
Published November 15, 2018
When meeting planners host events at destination resorts, they give attendees the opportunity to visit some of the most picturesque locations across America, from wooded mountain valleys to sweeping deserts and vibrant islands. In addition, these resorts often provide everything a group needs for a successful meeting in one scenic venue, including conference space, dining, shopping and activities.
For anyone looking for opportunities to boost attendance and consolidate costs, here are five of the country’s best destination resorts for conferences and meetings.
Stowe Mountain Lodge
One of New England’s premier ski resorts, Stowe Mountain Lodge is conveniently located within a three-and-a-half-hour drive of major cities like Hartford, Connecticut, and Boston. This accessibility enables many East Coast organizations to take their meetings or conferences to a luxury destination without the hassle of traveling all the way to the South or the West Coast.
“It’s a small resort on a grand scale, but large when you look at us on a regional level,” said Jim Beaulieu, director of group sales at the lodge. “We’re the largest full-service resort in Vermont, and we cater to meeting groups of 300 to 400. Not a lot of properties in New England can accommodate those numbers.”
The Stowe Mountain Lodge offers more than 56,000 square feet of meeting space, with unusual venues such as a 420-seat performing arts center, a mountaintop terrace and an expansive two-story lodge with vaulted ceilings. Unlike some of the more historic grand hotels that feature narrow hallways and lowered ceilings, the Stowe Mountain Lodge showcases the natural beauty of its surrounding environment through sweeping floor-to-ceiling windows and elegant open floor plans.
“We have rooms that look right out at Mount Mansfield,” said Beaulieu. “We bring the natural setting of where we are into the meeting experience.”
During their stays, guests can relish the breathtaking mountain terrain as they try fun outdoor activities like skiing, snowmobiling, ice climbing, dogsledding excursions and guided snowshoe tours. In the past, some groups have organized Olympic-style events on the property such as curling or snow castle competitions.
Wild Dunes Resort
Isle of Palms, South Carolina
Wild Dunes Resort is on the northern tip of Isle of Palms, a barrier island in the Atlantic Ocean just 15 miles from the historic port city of Charleston, South Carolina. The 1,600-acre oceanfront property encompasses a charming collection of hotels, condominiums and cottages, providing a variety of accommodations for visitors.
“Wild Dunes is truly a beautiful island paradise with all the cultural components that Charleston has to offer,” said Jeffrey Payne, director of sales and events at the resort.
In contrast to a traditional conference hotel in the city, attendees can breathe in a refreshing ocean breeze between meeting sessions as they stroll along the water and rolling golf fairways. Rated among the top golf destinations in the state, the resort features 36 holes of golf on three courses designed by legendary architect Tom Fazio.
Planners can host meetings with panoramic ocean views in the covered Grand Pavilion or set up a poolside reception in Palmetto Hall. The newly renovated Boardwalk Inn features several smaller meeting venues such as the Club Room and the Board Room.
To give groups a taste of Charleston’s world-class dining, Wild Dunes Resort often brings in local chefs to lead cooking classes, chef’s table-style dinners and other culinary experiences. Planners can also coordinate events on one of the neighboring barrier islands, transporting attendees, vendors and performers across the water on skiffs.
Nestled amid 175 acres of lush woodland in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area, Skamania Lodge is a popular retreat for meeting and conference groups. Attendees can fly into the nearby metropolitan hub of Portland, Oregon, and enjoy a relaxing 45-minute drive along the Historic Columbia River Highway as they pass natural landmarks such as Multnomah Falls, the tallest waterfall in the state.
“We are very much rooted in the Pacific Northwest,” said Kara Owen, director of marketing. “We’re surrounded by old-growth evergreens all over the property, as well as lots of water, providing many opportunities to experience the Northwest at its finest.”
Skamania Lodge offers 254 spacious guest rooms overlooking the Columbia River Gorge and the Cascade Mountains, as well as a number of luxurious treehouses nestled in Douglas fir trees nearly 15 feet off the ground.
The lodge and property were designed with meeting groups in mind, combining state-of-the-art conference amenities with the tranquil surrounding scenery of the Columbia River Gorge. Planners can make use of 23 versatile meeting areas, including a 22,000-square-foot conference center with natural lighting, high-speed internet and an on-site conference service team. During the warmer months, some groups may prefer to set up a reception or dinner outside in one of the open-air courtyards or the covered Pavilion area.
The Skamania Lodge Adventure facility features a wonderful selection of team-building opportunities, such as a zip-line course, an aerial park and an axe-throwing station. In the neighboring region, groups can also visit some of the state’s finest wineries and breweries, or plan an outdoor excursion such as hiking, whitewater rafting or fishing.
The Kohler brand is often associated with luxury and relaxation. Owned by the Kohler Company, one of the world’s leading companies in kitchen and bathroom appliances, Destination Kohler outfits each of its guest rooms with some of the most innovative shower and bathroom products on the market, such as showers with digital thermostat valves and hydrotherapy technology.
“When people come to the worldwide leader in baths and expect an amazing bathroom, they’re not disappointed,” said Justin Gephart, director of sales.
Based just outside the quaint village of Kohler, the property encompasses several stylish lodging facilities, including the five-star, five-diamond American Club. Built in 1918, the American Club originally served as a dormitory for new immigrants to America and eventually became a full-service boutique hotel. Next door, the Carriage House is home to the Five-Star Kohler Waters Spa, one of only 60 five-star spas in the world.
Guests can explore a wide selection of entertainment, dining and shopping opportunities throughout the resort, from high-ropes courses to yoga on the lake and Kohler Factory tours. The Blackwolf Run and Whistling Straits golf courses have repeatedly been listed among Golf Digest’s 100 Great Golf Courses in America. The resort will host the Ryder Cup in 2020.
“When you put Kohler and Whistling Straights on your meeting agenda, it really attracts the right people,” said Gephart. “It’s the kind of thing that people will adjust their calendars in order to experience.”
Event planners can choose from over a dozen meeting venues throughout the property, including the 88-seat Appley Theatre, the 2,738-square-foot Woodlands Hall Conference Center and the 7,519-square-foot Grand Hall of the Great Lakes, which can host up to 850 for a reception.
Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch
Set against the romantic backdrop of the Sonoran Desert, the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch offers a beautiful desert retreat with 326 hacienda-style suites, two championship golf courses, three artisan restaurants and a full-service spa. Meeting groups of all sizes can take advantage of this AAA Four Diamond resort, which features 80,000 square feet of flexible meeting space in 50 unique venues, from outdoor spaces like the Paradise Park Lawn to the 10,000-square-foot Coronado Ballroom.
Between sessions, meeting attendees can enjoy vibrant sunsets from the pool deck, stop by the Luna Spa for a massage or practice their swing at the McCormick Ranch Golf Club, which provides stunning views of Camelback and McDowell mountains. The nine hole of the Palm Course has been featured in Golf Illustrated’s Top 18 Water Holes of America.
In addition to using these amenities, planners can work with Scottsdale Resort’s in-house destination service team, Hello Arizona, to organize unforgettable custom events and activities such as ATV desert tours, hot-air-balloon rides and horseback riding. For special themed events, the service team can bring in Native American artisans and dancers or transform the venue into a classic Western town with mock building facades, hay bales and saddle stools.