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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Meet, Play, Stay at These Meetings Resorts

Resorts are where getaways meet “get to work.”

For attendees, a resort isn’t a bland beige hotel on a street corner where the only open space is a parking lot. And for planners, resorts provide meeting and conference space, on-site restaurants and bars, and built-in entertainment and activities.

From Southern mountaintops to northern California beaches, these resorts are destinations where meeting groups can meet, eat, play and stay.

Naples Grande Beach Resort

Naples, Florida

The Naples Grande Beach Resort overlooks the Gulf of Mexico on 23 waterfront acres in Naples, Florida, and adjoins a 200-acre nature preserve and mangrove estuary. The property features three miles of sugar-white sand beach, an 18-hole golf course, 15 tennis courts, a full-service spa and several on-site restaurants and bars.

The resort’s 18-story tower has 474 guest rooms and 29 suites, each with a private balcony that delivers gulf views. Fifty low-rise Garden Villa Suites, located in an adjacent village, were refreshed in 2018.

The Naples Grande has more than 83,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting and event space. For its largest events, including conferences and events of up to 1,500, “the Royal Palm Ballroom is our most popular,” said Melinda Hutchins, director of sales and marketing. The 14,400-square-foot ballroom can be configured into eight rooms, and the 6,400-square-foot Orchid Ballroom is also divisible into four spaces.

The 5,800-square-foot Vista Ballroom has an adjoining outdoor terrace that overlooks the Mangrove Pool at the center of the resort.

Because of the resort’s location, “our outdoor venues are exceptionally special,” Hutchins said. The Sunset Veranda is a semi-covered, open-air space that’s popular for sunset receptions or after-dinner games and cocktails. A short tram ride through the neighboring mangrove estuary takes guests to Clam Pass Beach, where groups can set up sunset receptions and dinners.

Groups can also take in the surrounding natural areas during kayak trips through the mangroves, experiences in Everglades National Park, ocean cruises and fishing charters.

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa

Acme, Michigan

The Grand Traverse Resort and Spa covers 900 acres just off the shores of East Grand Traverse Bay. With 540 rooms, suites and condominiums, on-site entertainment, three golf courses, tennis courts, a shopping gallery, a private beach club and a spa, the property delivers the full resort experience to meeting attendees less than 10 miles from downtown Traverse City.

“It’s a beautiful, desirable region to visit,” said director of sales Katie Leonard. “Some people pair the meeting or education conference with a visit to the region.”

The property will soon wrap up a three-phase renovation of its meeting space, which included new digital reader boards; high-speed Wi-Fi and audiovisual systems; and new lighting, seating and air walls. The 20,000-square-foot Governors’ Hall was renovated in 2018, and all the lower-level breakout rooms followed in 2019. Renovations of the 10,000-square-foot, lobby-level Michigan Ballroom will be complete in January 2021.

The resort also has two exhibit halls and is looking to expand its outdoor venue options. The property has two covered outdoor venues — the Pavilion and the Plaza — and is planning to add a third covered pavilion to pair with its 4,500-square-foot Beach Club Deck on the shores of Lake Michigan.

Three 18-hole golf courses all start and finish at the Clubhouse, where groups can dine at the Grille restaurant or hold outdoor receptions on the clubhouse lawn.

The Den provides axe throwing, mini bowling, escape rooms and virtual reality experiences. Off-site, groups can arrange for wine tours and visit Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, charter fishing trips and book tall ship or catamaran cruises.

Seascape Beach Resort

Aptos, California

The Seascape Beach Resort sits on a bluff overlooking Monterey Bay in northern California, just down the coast from Santa Cruz.

“The primary thing that brings groups here is our outside access,” said Cassie Olsen, director of sales and marketing. “The highlight to any meeting here is our variety of outdoor experiences.”

A walking path leads to the beach, and the resort offers complimentary golf cart service. The resort has a private section along a 17-mile stretch of public beach, meaning planners can hold practically any kind of beach event without going through city permitting.

The 220-room hotel features 17,000 square feet of meeting space, and “every one of our meeting rooms has an ocean view,” Olsen said. The largest space is the 4,000-square-foot Seascape Ballroom, and groups often book the 1,200-square-foot Bayview Room on the third floor because it has a full balcony.

In front of the resort, the Bluff is an outdoor space perched on a bluff, where panoramic bay views make it popular for welcome receptions and sunset dinners.

The resort has beach bonfires every night, and groups can also arrange s’mores and clambakes on the beach and luaus on the Bluff or the Island, a man-made lagoon with bridges leading to an island with palm trees, a lawn and a sandy beach.

The resort partners with team-building programs to offer archery, volleyball, soccer and obstacle courses on the beach. Groups can also take wine-blending and succulent garden-building classes or get in the water during stand-up paddleboarding or surf lessons.

Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center

Sheboygan, Wisconsin

With sparkling white walls and red-topped turrets, the Blue Harbor Resort and Conference Center in Sheboygan, Wisconsin, resembles a Midwestern version of San Diego’s famous Hotel del Coronado. Though both resorts are beachfront, Blue Harbor sits on the shores of Lake Michigan, about an hour’s drive north of Milwaukee.

The resort boasts 179 hotel rooms in the main hotel — where mezzanines wrap around the soaring two-story lobby — as well as 64 villas.

Blue Harbor has more than 16,800 square feet of convention space, nearly 9,900 of that in the Grand Ballroom. The flexible ballroom can be split into seven smaller spaces and opens onto the outdoor Lakeside Terrace, which offers 4,000 square feet of waterfront space.

At the 54,000-square-foot indoor water park, groups can also play glow-in-the-dark mini golf or rent the indoor surf simulator to take surfing lessons. Attendees can play cornhole on the resort lawn or gather around the fire pit. Blue Harbor also offers a wide range of team-building activities, including a “beach battle” where teams compete in games and activities, like building sandcastles and playing beach volleyball.

Sheboygan has been a surf destination for over 50 years, with unique geography that creates some of the best waves on Lake Michigan. Groups can arrange to take surfing or stand-up paddleboarding lessons through the EOS surf shop.

Lodge at Mount Magazine

Paris, Arkansas

Between Little Rock and Fort Smith, Mount Magazine State Park covers over 2,200 acres of Arkansas forest and is home to Mount Magazine, the state’s highest point at 2,753 feet. And perched atop Mount Magazine is the Lodge at Mount Magazine.

“Being the highest point in Arkansas, the view is our biggest selling point,” said Carolyn Jett, the lodge’s general manager.

Each of the lodge’s 60 rooms offers sweeping views of the Petit Jean River Valley and Blue Mountain Lake. The park also has 13 cabins.

The lodge’s 3,772-square-foot banquet hall can be separated into three smaller rooms. Two additional meeting rooms can be used for board meetings or breakout spaces. The park’s visitor center also has an 880-square-foot meeting room, as well as a small museum and gift shop.

A terrace wraps around the view side of the lodge, with outdoor seating and rocking chairs. The 125-person Skycrest Restaurant features a two-story native stone fireplace and large windows that frame the same view.

Outdoor venues include a 300-person amphitheater and a covered pavilion where groups of up to 50 can cook over the large fireplace. Cameron Bluff Overlook can also be used for group events, like yoga retreats.

Groups can take a scenic loop drive around Mount Magazine, and park interpreters are available for nature walks and talks as well as campfire chats, which can include s’mores, stargazing and a demonstration of open-fire kettle cooking.

Hiking is another popular activity. The Signal Hill trail, the park’s shortest, leads to the highest point in Arkansas, although it’s surrounded by forest, so there’s no view.

Groups can also arrange ATV rentals and horseback trail rides with park outfitters.