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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Heartland Meeting Resorts

Work and play are a natural pair in America’s Heartland.

Resorts throughout the Midwest offer not only first-rate meeting and convention services but also recreational experiences that include skiing, kayaking, zip lines and treetop adventures. From Nebraska to Minnesota, here are several resorts that are well worth a visit.

Chestnut Mountain Resort

Galena, Illinois

Chestnut Mountain Resort is a popular travel destination in Illinois. Located near historic Galena, the resort is perched on a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. The 99-room lodge is slope-side to the ski hill, which has 19 ski runs that range from novice to black diamond, and a seven-acre terrain park called The Farside, which features more than 25 rails and structures for snowboarders. The resort features an indoor swimming pool, sauna, whirlpool and electronic game room.

In the warmer seasons, visitors to Chestnut Mountain can ride the Alpine Slide (which travels 2,050 feet down the hill to the banks of the Mississippi River), take a cruise on the Mississippi River, get their heart rates up on the Soaring Eagle zip line or take a 75- to 90-minute Segway tour through the Chestnut Hills. The Farside Mountain Bike Park offers lift-serviced downhill mountain biking trails. There are also hiking trails, an 18-hole miniature golf course and a nine-hole disc golf course for additional outdoor adventures.

The resort’s 3,627-square-foot meeting space can accommodate groups of up to 250 people. There are three meeting rooms over 1,000 square feet and two large guest rooms that can host smaller meetings of 20 or fewer. The executive chef works with groups to plan customized menus for their events, which can feature traditional fare or more exotic options.

Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center

Alexandria, Minnesota

Located in central Minnesota, Arrowwood Resort is easily accessible from every corner of the state. Nestled on the shore of Lake Darling, the resort offers a quiet respite from the bustling urban centers of the Heartland. Groups hosting events at the resort can rent pontoon boats from the full-service marina to get out and enjoy the lake, or they can rent canoes, paddleboats, kayaks or standup paddleboards.

Meeting planners will love that there is so much to see and do on property that no one has to leave the resort. Attendees can enjoy an executive putting course and plenty of yard games during their free time. There’s also tennis and basketball courts, an 18-hole championship golf course, a spa, and Big Splash Minnesota Indoor Waterpark, which features three four-story waterslides, a lazy river and a tropical whirlpool spa.

The resort offers plenty of team-building activities, such as scavenger hunts, miniature golf tournaments, game shows and fun runs. At the end of a long day of workshops and lectures, attendees can decompress around a bonfire.

The conference center features 28,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including 14,000 square feet in the Exhibit Center, as well as 12 breakout rooms. There are 200 main lodge rooms, 16 townhomes and 13 cottages, and the Conference Center can easily host 600 people for an event. The kitchen serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks. It also provides customized menus.

Arbor Day Farm/Lied Lodge and Conference Center

Nebraska City, Nebraska

Nestled in Nebraska City, Nebraska, Arbor Day Farm encompasses 260 acres of tree-filled natural beauty. Meeting planners wanting to host more traditional events can rent space at Lied Lodge, which has 140 guest rooms and meeting spaces that can accommodate up to 280 guests for a banquet or nearly 400 theater-style. All the lodge’s meeting spaces have access to natural light and the outdoors.

The Historic Barn is a rustic option for groups that want to get out of the traditional ballroom for dinner, a reception, a trade show or teambuilding activities. Groups can participate in a murder mystery or take a guided tour of Arbor Day Farm.

Arbor Lodge is a mansion across the street from Lied Lodge. Groups can arrange teas in the sunroom or organize lawn and garden parties on the terrace. The carriage house is perfect for elegant, intimate receptions. Steinhart Lodge is a throwback to the 1950s, with tall wood-beamed ceilings and a rustic fireplace that can be used for elaborate dinners or team-building activities for up to 140.

Treetop Village in the resort’s three-acre aerial adventure area allows guests to explore 11 treehouses that are connected by unique bridges and netted walkways. The WonderNet is a large, raised area for jumping and playing, and there is a 50-foot slide to race down. Groups can also hike into the heart of the forest on the South Table Creek Trail.

Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center

Sterling, Ohio

An hour south of Columbus, Ohio, Deer Creek Lodge and Conference Center is in the heart of Deer Creek State Park, with its miles of scenic hiking trails and lush woodlands. The property also has a marina, where guests can rent kayaks, standup paddleboards or pontoon boats to get out and enjoy the lake. The resort has 110 guest rooms and 26 two-bedroom cabins. Corporate groups tend to use the traditional guest rooms, but church groups and organizations that want to host more intimate retreats like to rent out the cabins. The ballroom can seat 450 theater-style or 272 for a banquet, and the conference center has several smaller spaces to use as breakout rooms.

Since the lodge is in the middle of a state park, groups can organize golf outings or scrambles or access the park’s many hiking trails, which begin right outside of the lodge. The resort has an indoor and an outdoor pool. The outdoor pool has a tiki bar that is open in the summer. There are bonfire pits that groups can enjoy, and the resort provides marshmallows, chocolate and graham crackers for s’mores.

The outdoor pavilion is a more relaxed space that can fit groups of 150 for a cookout. There is a restaurant and lounge on-site, as well as a gift shop, fitness center and game room.

On-site catering and audio-visual equipment are available for meeting groups.

Treetops Resort

Gaylord, Michigan

Gaylord, Michigan, is known as an outdoor lover’s paradise, with fun recreational opportunities year-round. Treetops Resort takes advantage of that with its five award-winning golf courses and its 80 acres of winter terrain, 24 downhill ski runs and 30 other activities on and off the slopes. In total, the resort covers 2,500 acres.

Treetops has 209 hotel rooms and features a variety of lodging options. Larger meeting groups will enjoy staying in the resort’s lodge or inn. Small retreat groups that want to stay together and do some of their own meal prep can rent out one of the Chalets at Treetops, which are at the base of the ski slopes, or the Treetops North Condominiums, which can accommodate up to 12 guests each and overlook the only Tom Fazio golf course in Michigan.

The 25,000-square-foot convention center features 20-foot ceilings and can be divided into four equal rooms. One of the 5,000-square-foot rooms can be divided into three separate spaces for breakout sessions.

In the main lodge, the Oak Room and Birch Room can host 200 for a banquet, and both rooms can be split in half so that groups can meet on one side and have their meals on the other. There’s also a small boardroom.

The resort offers several fun team-building activities, including rafting trips on the Sturgeon River and competitions on the resort’s par-three golf course.