Whatever you call it — teambuilding, bonding, networking — bringing people together in casual, fun ways is at the top of meeting planners’ lists these days. After more than two years of lost or missed connections because of lockdowns, work from home, and cancelled meetings and conferences, reconnecting is a top priority.
There are, thankfully, many ways to bring people together, and they vary from city to city. Destinations are full of ideas; here are a few from some of the country’s smaller cities.
Just Add Water for Fluid Fun
California’s coastal towns can deliver bonding experiences literally by the boatload. In Long Beach, passengers play trivia or sip wine aboard the country’s oldest gondolas as they wind through the Naples-like canals in the Belmont Shore neighborhood. To be near the water but not on it, wheeled vehicles of all types — from surreys to beach cruisers — can be rented from a vendor near the convention center for group rides along the beachfront bike path. In the Bay area’s Marin County, teams quickly become a seaworthy crew aboard two sailing ships. Employees from Google, Fit-Bit, National Geographic and many other leading companies have learned the basics of sailing or simply relaxed with coworkers aboard the Schooner Freda B. Call of the Sea’s four-hour Aloft Seamanship Program builds shipshape skills and self-confidence. For those who prefer to command their own vessel, 101 Surf Sports’ paddling or kayaking trips on the bay conclude with a relaxing picnic.
18 Holes Downsized; No Caddy Required
Who knew that Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, home to famous Valley Forge and many picturesque villages, is also a hotbed of golf’s inexpensive, low-skill/no-skill cousin, mini golf? No carts, no special shoes, no caddies required; just a competitive attitude and appreciation for imaginative design. At Tee’s Golf Center, waterfalls tumble over granite boulders into streams along the course. Freddy Hill Farms’ courses are themed: One is all about water with rivers, waterfalls and rustic buildings. The Discover America course pays homage to U.S. landmarks. Homemade ice cream, milkshakes and flurries are the rewards at the end of 18. One course at Waltz Golf Farm has a farm theme with a mini-vegetable farm; the other has waterfalls, a lighthouse and a magic castle. For rainy days, Arnold’s Family Fun Center has a black-light course with an underwater theme that feels like golfing in an aquarium. Like many miniature golf courses, the one at Manatawny Green Mini Golf is ADA accessible.
Connect Through Creativity
In Corpus Christi, Texas, creativity connects people. At the Art Museum of South Texas, which is filled with American art housed in a Philip Johnson-designed building on the bay, groups start their visit with a tour of the latest exhibits, then try their hand at making art in a pottery class or a workshop led by local creatives. What they make, they take home. Aboard the USS Lexington Museum, creative collaboration is needed to save the day. The World War II carrier is now a museum, and one of its modern features is Escape Rooms, where groups put their heads together to get out of trouble. They can choose from missions like Beat the Blast, where they race the clock to defuse a nuclear bomb hidden on board, or Face Your Fears, where they must find out what happened to a group of ghost hunters who are lost on the ship.
Put the Focus on Fun
Remember where you made your best buds early in life? Often, it was at play, which is part of the thinking behind the Family Fun Day that was a highlight of Affinity Plus Federal Credit Union’s recent annual meeting in Duluth. Instead of the usual one-day, employee-only gathering, the credit union invited employees and their families for a multi-day getaway in the city on the shores of Lake Superior. More than 1,000 people attended the meeting, held at the Duluth Entertainment Convention Center. The highlight was the family day in Bayfront Festival Park, with food trucks, nine bounce houses, a bingo tent, activities by the Duluth Children’s Museum and music. A credit union official called it an important investment to build culture, saying, “It’s less about work and more about humanity and connection. And connection leads to collaboration…it’s our secret sauce.”
Creating Among Others Connects
When we create surrounded by others, we just naturally engage. We encourage one another, offer help and advice, laugh and applaud accomplishments. That’s why Kalamazoo, Michigan, has compiled a list of team-building options that bring small groups together to do artsy projects. For example, the Kalamazoo Candle Company can bring groups on-site to concoct scented wax candles or bring the party to the meeting with its mobile sand candle-making option. At Glass Art Kalamazoo, groups can blow glass, make lamps or fuse glass. Colors and Cocktails combines art and a glass or two of something alcoholic. Participants can paint and customize their own wine glass or beer mug or opt to paint the same scene on a 12-by-16-inch canvas. After they retire their paint and brushes, everyone can compare their “masterpieces” and toast their artistic accomplishments.