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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Arkansas Meeting Guide: Parks in the “Natural State

Courtesy Arkansas Tourism

If the thought of an event in a state park prompts pictures of pup tents and campfire songs, think again. Several Arkansas state parks sport top-shelf meeting amenities.

Consider Mount Magazine State Park in Paris. The Lodge at Mount Magazine, opened in 2006, replaced one destroyed by fire in 1971. Forty of its 60 guest rooms have balconies; 17 have spa tubs.

Since the park is atop a 2,753-foot mountain, rooms have views of the Petit Jean River Valley. Thirteen cabins with covered decks and outdoor hot tubs line the bluff. There’s also an indoor heated pool and a fitness center.

The lodge’s 3,840-square-foot ballroom can be divided into three equal sections; two 880-square-foot meeting rooms provide breakout space. An on-site activities director can help with team building.

Most meeting guests are from Arkansas, but there are exceptions. “Walmart’s corporate affairs people visit and bring people from all over the United States,” said Heidi Ryan, director of sales and marketing.

With the region’s largest city, Fort Smith, an hour away, the park “is a great place for people who want to relax and get to know each other better,” Ryan said.

Go golfing at DeGray Lake
Guests of DeGray Lake Resort State Park in Bismarck needn’t walk far to tee off. There’s an 18-hole golf course on its grounds, which are in the foothills of the Ouachita Mountains. Many meeting attendees arrive a day early to play in a golf tournament, said Kathy Ritter, sales director. Nongolfers can visit the resort’s day spa.

About half the lodge’s 94 rooms received a makeover last winter; the rest are scheduled for freshening in 2013.

The conference center consists of a 4,550-square-foot, divisible ballroom and three small meeting spaces. For meetings of two or more days, the facilities are best for groups of 125 to 150, Ritter said.

Central to social events and team building is the 13,800-acre lake. Party barges hold 30 people; a number of  lakeside spots work well for al fresco dining.

Interpreters can lead nature walks.

“Winter is a great time to come,” Ritter said. “Not only is it quieter, but bald eagles winter here.”