Hotels have long served not only as overnight lodging for travelers and tourists but also as venues for meetings, conferences and conventions. Meetings hotels are as diverse as the events they host. Some deliver surf and sand at oceanfront locations, and others offer soaring views of surrounding forests from mountaintop destinations. Some hotels provide lakefront fun; others create it at indoor water parks.
These hotels give planners flexible function space along with plenty of options for food, fun and free time.
The Lodge at Gulf State Park
Gulf Shores, Alabama
The Lodge at Gulf State Park opened in November 2018 – 14 years after Hurricane Ivan destroyed the original lodge in 2004. Designing and building the new hotel from the ground up gave developers an opportunity to incorporate “a lot of unique pieces surrounding environmental and sustainability efforts,” said Dan Keyser, the lodge’s director of sales and marketing.
For starters, the property is the state’s first-ever designated Fortified Commercial building, meaning it can withstand hurricane winds of up to 150 mph.
It is also LEED Gold-certified, boasting an array of sustainable features, such as heating, ventilation and air-conditioning systems that collect and filter condensation water to refill the pools. SITES Platinum certification means that indigenous plants in the landscaping contribute to the environment and to local wildlife.
With the Gulf of Mexico on one side and Lake Shelby on the other, the lodge’s 350 guest rooms and 40,000 square feet of event space take full advantage of the views and surrounding nature.
The 12,000-square-foot flexible Gulfview Ballroom has a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook the ocean and leads to the adjoining 5,500-square-foot Dunes Terrace. Groups can also use the beach for company picnics or to roast s’mores over bonfires.
Being inside Gulf State Park, the lodge has access to the park’s 6,500 acres and 28 miles of trails. Groups can arrange kayaking or biking tours and charter fishing excursions. Planners can also use the park’s Learning Campus, which features a variety of indoor and outdoor classrooms, meeting spaces and bunkhouses, with the Woodside Restaurant just across the street.
At the park’s Interpretive Center, which is also a certified Fortified structure, attendees can learn about the area’s dune ecosystems.
Grand Hotel and Spa
Ocean City, Maryland
When it comes to event location, you can’t get much better than on the beach and on a boardwalk, both of which meeting planners find at the Grand Hotel and Spa in Ocean City, Maryland.
“We are located directly on the beach — oceanfront — and also on the boardwalk, which takes guests to the attractions and restaurants,” said director of sales and marketing Amy O’Connell. The hotel’s location on 21st Street also means it’s within easy walking distance to nearby attractions and restaurants, although with five in-house food-and-beverage options, guests don’t have to go anywhere.
The 251-room hotel offers 15,000 square feet of meeting space, including the largest space, the 8,200-square-foot Grand Ballroom, which can be divided. The Stowaway Ballroom provides another 2,000 square feet that can be halved, and a 690-square-foot conference room is an additional meeting option.
Planners can also use the Grand Terrace Restaurant for receptions or dinners. Attendees enjoy panoramic ocean views from the sixth floor. The second-level pool deck is another popular option for cocktail hours and networking mixers; the Maryland Fraternal Order of Police used it this summer for a welcome reception.
The hotel can also arrange for meeting groups to use the beach for bonfires or team-building activities, like sand-sculpting competitions.
White Mountain Hotel and Resort
North Conway, New Hampshire
The staff at White Mountain Hotel and Resort in North Conway, New Hampshire, have been there for “many years, and it provides a very homey atmosphere,” said Carol Sullivan, the hotel’s director of sales and marketing. “It really makes people comfortable.”
The warm welcome paired with the hotel’s postcard New England setting attract meeting organizers. And though it’s close to area attractions and amenities, the property abuts both state and national forests, so “we feel like we’re a million miles away.”
The Echo Ballroom offers 1,550 square feet of function space and can accommodate meetings and receptions for up to 120 guests. Groups can also use the 975-square-foot White Horse Room and additional conference rooms and breakout suites, as well as the Ledges Restaurant.
The pool deck is popular for cocktail parties and receptions “because you get to take advantage of the views and the beauty of the local area,” Sullivan said. The North Lawn is another outdoor option and can be tented or not for events. At a recent gathering, vendors set up, and guests enjoyed, lawn games and fire pits.
The property connects to hiking and biking trails at Echo Lake State Park, and guests can walk the trail to the spring-fed Echo Lake. On property, guests can golf or play basketball, pickleball, shuffleboard or cornhole. In the region, planners can arrange for their groups to go canoeing, kayaking and mountain biking.
Cove of Lake Geneva
Lake Geneva, Wisconsin
Planners choose the Cove of Lake Geneva in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, for events because “they want to have their meeting and do business, but also have a retreat for their people — let them enjoy the area and relax,” sales manager Jolie Perez said.
The all-condominium resort sits just off the shores of Lake Geneva and just a block from the downtown area, known for its shopping. Each of the Cove’s 222 suites has a fireplace, a kitchenette and a living room area, and every suite features a balcony or a patio.
The hotel also offers 6,600 square feet of meeting space. The Promenade is the largest function space at 3,700 square feet and can be halved; it offers views of the neighboring wetland preserve. Planners can use the 2,200-square-foot Lakeshore room and two additional conference rooms, each with 500 square feet of event space. Groups can also gather at the attached Sprecher’s Restaurant and Pub.
Across the street, Flat Iron Park sits on the shores of Lake Geneva and is home to the Brunk Performance Pavilion, a reservable open-air pavilion built in 2015. The park also has a gazebo available for events, like an evening reception to watch the sun set over the water.
Just north of the park, the Lake Geneva Cruise Line offers a wide variety of tours, including bay tours, sunset cruises and brunch trips. The cruise line provides private charters aboard its fleet of eight boats, which includes two 225-passenger steamers that evoke turn-of-the-20th-century style with preferred vendors for catering and live music.
Great Wolf Lodge
Traverse City, Michigan
Great Wolf Lodge is synonymous with indoor water parks: surf, slides — sun optional. But among planners, the Great Wolf Lodge in Traverse City, Michigan, is known for its meeting spaces and culinary choices.
“The first thing we hear about planners liking best is our staff and the level of service provided,” said Taryn Miracle, the hotel’s director of sales and catering. “Of course, food is the one thing attendees always remember, and the quality of food presented by our culinary team is top-notch.”
The lodge has over 10,700 square feet of flexible meeting space and 10 separate, configurable rooms. White Pine Ballroom is the largest and the most popular, with 4,000 square feet that can be separated into four smaller spaces. Northwest Territory is a 2,000-square-foot room that can be halved, and the 900-square-foot Timberview room connects to a patio where guests can lounge on patio furniture around a portable fire pit.
Attendees can also gather on Dogwood Terrace, a 4,000-square-foot outdoor lawn area with a large bonfire area.
At Camp Critter Bar and Grille, guests slide into their booths to dine under a lantern-lit, cozy camp tent. Contactless ordering and pickup is also available at all the hotel’s food and beverage outlets via the Great Wolf Lodge mobile app.
Planners can use the lodge’s entertainment options for team building or social activities, from a game at the Ten Paw Bowling Alley to a round at Howl-In-One Mini Golf.