Some of the best meeting venues in Illinois can be found at its resorts.
These five Illinois resort properties are situated in some of the prettiest locations in the state, along rivers, bluffs and woodlands. Along with first-class meeting venues, they also offer plenty of on-site entertainment and activities for attendees who want to get out of the conference room and out into nature.
Perched atop a bluff overlooking the confluence of the Mississippi and Illinois rivers in beautiful Grafton, Aerie’s Resort attracts smaller meeting groups that want to mix business with pleasure. The resort is best known for the Grafton Skytour, a chondola, which is a combination of gondola and open air chair aerial ride, that takes visitors soaring from downtown Grafton 300 feet up the bluff to Aerie’s full production winery at the top.
Visitors don’t have to stay at the resort to take a leisurely chondola ride up the bluff for fantastic views of the two mighty rivers. While at the top, they can stop and have a meal at Aerie’s restaurant or enjoy a glass of wine on the terrace while enjoying the gorgeous views.
The resort has 46 overnight accommodations, both on top of the hill and down below on Main Street. Aerie’s can host smaller events of up to 40 people in its meeting room, which is equipped with A/V gear and has a fantastic view of the river. A former event venue was converted into the Winery and Terrace at Aerie’s Resort and features a 30-foot bar, an expansive deck and weekly live entertainment.
Grafton Zipline Adventures offers a classic team-building opportunity for groups meeting at the resort. One of the largest zip lines in Illinois, the facility has seven cables of varying heights, lengths and speeds, testing the mettle of even the most adventurous of meeting attendees. Treehouse Leap is the longest cable on the course, and the Soaring Eagle reaches the highest point. Creek Hopper is the fastest cable, reaching up to 45 miles per hour.
Eagle Ridge Resort and Spa
Located just outside historic Galena and two-and-a-half hours from Chicago, Eagle Ridge is surrounded by 6,800 acres of the Galena Territory, a private housing community that offers tennis, horseback riding, swimming pools, boating and fishing on the 225-acre Lake Galena, and hiking and biking along 31 miles of wooded trails.
The 80-room resort boasts 15,000 square feet of event space that can host 300 guests for a sit-down banquet, conference or presentation. Beautiful outdoor venues overlook Lake Galena or offer stunning views of the surrounding northern Illinois hills and woodlands. There are nine function rooms, three boardrooms, the 5,300-square-foot Eagle Ballroom and 3,300-square-foot Galena Room. There are three restaurants on-site, from casual to formal, including the acclaimed Woodlands Restaurant.
The conference center features calibrated acoustics and lighting, ergonomic furniture, and state-of-the-art technology, ranging from high-speed wireless internet to built-in video systems for presentations and video conferences. Full-service catering is also available.
A team of professionals works with planners to customize events, and the resort offers several recreational programs and team-building activities designed to promote leadership, communication, cooperation and creative thinking. Blindfold Pizza is a team-building exercise that promotes communication within a group. Each team of five people chooses one person to be blindfolded. The other team members will then lead the blindfolded person in creating a pizza the team will enjoy at the end of the exercise.
The resort is known for its 63 holes of championship golf and its full-service spa.
Harpole’s Heartland Lodge
Harpole’s Heartland Lodge isn’t your typical resort. Instead of offering things like spas and swimming pools, the lodge property is more outdoor focused, offering hunting, fishing and side-by-side UTV Polaris rentals that allow guests to scoot around the 1,500-acre property’s rolling countryside. There are also horseback rides, hayrides, sporting clays, paintball and bonfires.
Guests can stay in individual cabins or lodges, or they can rent out the whole resort, which has 42 guest rooms. Meeting groups can host meetings, come to play or do a combination of both. The lodge has a 1,500-square-foot conference room, as well as a huge building outdoors that can be used for cookouts or larger events. It can accommodate 300 to 400 people.
Groups meeting at the lodge enjoy scratch-made meals served family-style. For fun or team-building activities, guests can fish at one of four fishing ponds located at Heartland OHV Park or drive to nearby Pittsfield Lake. Heartland has 1,200 acres of horseback riding trails, where visitors will get to explore forests, creeks and prairies.
For something less strenuous, groups can take a one-hour scenic hayride along the Mississippi River bluffs. Smaller groups can rent a six-person Polaris Ranger to ride around the 15-station sporting clays course. Each shooting station simulates different hunting situations. After a long day of meetings and adventure, groups can relax around the bonfire and enjoy some s’mores.
Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock
Located just steps from the natural beauty of the Starved Rock and Matthiessen state parks, Grand Bear Resort has several different styles of lodging, including 92 traditional lodge suites, 140 vacation villas and 48 luxury cabins. The luxury cabins can sleep up to 18 people per unit and are perfect for smaller meeting groups visiting the property.
With 11,000 square feet of newly renovated flexible meeting space, the resort hosts conferences, conventions, special events and weddings. The main banquet facility is designed for about 660 guests depending on configuration, and there are several smaller meeting spaces between 420 and 1,200 square feet. The property also has a 1,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion and canyon deck. Complimentary WiFi and audiovisual equipment are available. Grand Bear also handles all of the catering, table setup and cleanup.
Grand Bear Falls Indoor Waterpark is a great way to relax after a long day of meetings. The waterpark features a wave pool and swimming area, a lazy river, a whirlpool, a slide tower, a kids pool, a family slide and a hot tub. The resort also has four food and beverage outlets and additional onsite entertainment, such as Cave Arcade, which features more than 60 interactive games.
For team building, the resort offers trivia and miniature golf at Canyon Creek Mini Golf. Off-site but in the area, groups can go hiking, take guided tours, visit an escape room or go horseback riding. Starved Rock State Park in nearby Oglesby has 13 miles of trails, 18 canyons and seasonal waterfalls to explore. Matthiessen State Park, which is just a few miles from Starved Rock, has an archery range, camping, cross country skiing, equestrian trails, fishing, geocaching, hiking and mountain bike trails.
Lincolnshire Marriott Resort
Built by Bill Marriott in 1975, the historic Lincolnshire Resort sits on 175 acres in the north suburbs of Chicago, along the Des Plaines River. One of the main features of the resort is Crane’s Landing Golf Club, an 18-hole golf course that is also a Certified Audubon Cooperative Sanctuary that protects the natural heritage and areas of natural habitat in and around the golf course. There’s also a river trail for walking, biking or hiking.
The resort has an herb garden and raises its own honeybees, peach and pear trees. The resort’s chef and pastry chef utilize the products grown on property in the food that is prepared for guests, including salad dressings, soups and sauces. The Marriott shares its honey with Tighthead Brewing Company, which in turn makes Five Eyes honey beer especially for the hotel’s bistro and pub.
Another hidden surprise is the 850-seat Marriott Theater, which presents musicals in theater-in-the-round style with a small orchestra for accompaniment.
The resort has more than 64,000 square feet of unique flexible meeting space that can host weddings of up to 600 guests and meetings up to 1,000. Three of the resort’s spaces are pavilions, two of which are permanent and one that is temporary. The Grand Marquis is 12,000 square feet with one full wall of glass windows overlooking the Des Plaines Trail. Lakeside Pavilion is 5,000 square feet with 270-degree views of the sanctuary, lake, outdoor plaza and outdoor pool.
The Grove is a 3,200-square-foot seasonal tent. The resort has 390 guest rooms with unique views and many of the first-floor rooms have patios.