Skip to site content
The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Meet Outdoors This Fall

In most parts of the country, fall brings warm days without swelter. We embrace autumn and go outdoors, leaving air-conditioned homes and offices behind.

Summer’s end also brings more meetings as vacation season ends and school begins. This fall, considering that experts say outdoors is safer than indoors in thwarting the spread of COVID-19, it might be time to keep meetings outdoors as much as possible.

Nearly every hotel or convention center, even those in city centers, has outdoor spaces, from rooftops and lawns to patios and seasonal tents. Here are a few ideas.

New spin on a safe harbor

What were those Vanderbilts, Astors and Morgans thinking back in the early 1900s? They spent the summer in Newport, Rhode Island, but come fall, they shuttered their massive mansions and headed off to one of their other estates.

But this harbor town is a treat anytime, and fall is no exception.

Two Newport hotels have found ways to make the most of the season by bringing meetings outside.

The Newport Harbor and Marina Hotel and partner Wave Cycle Studio’s Wave package start the day with a socially distanced, 45-minute outdoor cycle class on the Newport Pier. A mimosa is the workout’s reward. If the group wants to extend the event, they can have an a la carte dockside brunch on a covered deck. Other outdoor meals can also be arranged.

A few blocks from the waterfront, at the historic Hotel Viking, the rooftop bar the Top of Newport looks out over the harbor. During the daytime, when the bar is closed, it can be used for meetings. The hotel’s courtyard has plenty of Adirondack chairs that can easily be moved as needed, and the hotel is also looking at ways to tent the space so it can be used in inclement weather.

Lots of upsides to being lakeside

The Branson, Missouri, area isn’t all about live music shows. Evidence? Two meeting resorts that bookend the town. Both Big Cedar Lodge, 10 miles south, and Chateau on the Lake, about eight miles west, overlook winding Table Rock Lake. Big Cedar lives up to its name, covering 4,600 acres. Chateau on the Lake is smaller but still takes best advantage of its perch above the lake with a saline pool and a large green lawn that overlook the water. Among Big Cedar’s outdoor spaces is a large lawn and an open-air bar that sits high above the lake. Big Cedar is also big on outdoor activities, from its Arnold Palmer Driving Range with three teeing decks and 10 lighted target greens to its NASCAR-themed go-karts.

Mountain views for peak experiences

Picnics and movies under the stars are easily accomplished at the Broadmoor Resort in Colorado Springs. Colorado. Among the Broadmoor’s biggest advantages is that it is, well, big. With the addition of an exhibit hall early this year, it now has 310,000 square feet of meeting space and 784 guest rooms, so social distancing isn’t as challenging as before. The resort reports that it’s seeing demand from small groups, like boards and top executives who have likely tired of virtual meetings. The resort’s outdoor spaces don’t waste the mountains that surround them. A roomy patio at Cheyenne Lodge looks out on the Rockies and Colorado Springs and has a fireplace. The Mountain View Terrace is covered in case it rains. There are plenty of ways to be outdoors, active and distanced with golf, tennis and pickleball, hiking trails, a croquet garden and mountain biking.

Soothing benefits of sea breezes

Two neighboring hotels in Virginia Beach, Virginia, combine sea breezes and beautiful outdoor spaces. One is modern, the other historic.

Directly on the beach, the Marriott Virginia Beach Oceanfront has made the most of its enviable location by turning its ocean side into a series of outdoor spaces, with a green oceanfront lawn, bocce courts, firepits and terraces. The rooftop also offers airy spaces for dining and drinking.

Across the street, the century-old, redbrick Cavalier Hotel is looking regal after a four-year restoration. Its outdoor areas include the Magnolia Garden, a lush green space with a carefully preserved brick staircase as its grand entrance and the East Lawn, a rolling swath of green that faces the blue Atlantic.

Far apart in a farm field

Pioneers in search of elbow room found it in the wide-open spaces of North Dakota’s Red River Valley. Now farm fields, those flat prairies can easily be turned into venues that allow groups to spread out even as they socialize.

The Fargo-Morehead Convention and Visitors Bureau has worked on several dinners for locals that were hosted by Common Ground, a grassroots organization aimed at educating people about the value and importance of agriculture.

The event, called Banquet in a Field, could easily be replicated for any meeting group. For Banquet in a Field, planners set up tables and high-tops, far apart, in an empty field next to a big stand of corn. The high-tops were perfect for visiting while chefs smoked meats over big grills and fiddlers played some tunes. An old-fashioned dinner bell brought diners to their tables.