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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Saddle Up! for a Ranch Meeting

There is a kind of timeless appeal about the imagery of horseback riding under clear blue skies and gathering around a bonfire for a cowboy cookout.

Though it may come as a surprise to some planners, many ranches across the country cater to groups with meeting facilities, team-building opportunities and other accommodations. These ranches often function as part of a larger resort, so other modern amenities and dining options are readily available.

Next time you are looking for an unforgettable, scenic getaway, consider taking your group to one of the following locations.

Flying L Ranch

Bandera, Texas

Surrounded by sweeping green landscape, Flying L Ranch offers an excellent getaway for executive retreats, training seminars and customer appreciation outings. The “L” in Flying L Ranch derives from the original owner, Col. John Lapham, a retired air corps pilot who purchased the 542-acre ranch in 1947. Lapham managed a flight school on the property for a number of years, later adding a series of villas designed to resemble grounded aircraft. Over the years, his ranch attracted celebrities such as John Wayne, Willie Nelson and Ray Price. In 2013, Flying L was purchased by longtime employees, who have worked hard to restore the historic pilots lounge and T-Hangars on-site.

Three main meeting rooms are available for groups: The Roy Rogers features 1,800 square feet of space, a 14-foot LCD drop screen and a private wrap-around porch; The Legends provides 910 square feet of space, a stone fireplace and an eight-foot LCD drop screen; and The Dale Evans offers 820 square feet of space and an eight-foot LCD drop screen.

“Once a corporate group finds us, they usually come back,” said Susan Jenkins, one of the ranch owners. “They know we’ll take care of all their needs.”

Between meeting sessions, attendees can grab a bite to eat at the Hangar 47 Bar and Grill, which features savory menu items like smoked brisket, po’boy sandwiches and burgers, along with wine and beer offerings.

After hours, there are plenty of activities to choose from. The ranch’s award-winning, 18-hole championship golf course winds through the surrounding hills and oak trees. During a guided horseback riding excursion, guests can spot wildlife such as armadillos, wild turkeys and roadrunners as they pass through wooded areas and creeks.

Other popular team-building activities include archery; tepee building; karaoke; and cowboy-hat bending and branding, which can involve branding the company logo onto hats for a one-of-a-kind souvenir. During Cowboy Olympics, attendees compete in ranch activities such as wrangler relays, sheep herding, Texas skiing and tug of war. The ranch hosts live entertainment and music every night, along with campfires and s’mores.

Marriott Ranch Bed and Breakfast

Hume, Virginia

Based in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the Marriott Ranch Bed and Breakfast offers an intimate and picturesque retreat for smaller meeting groups. The centerpiece of the 4,200-acre property is a beautiful 19th-century red-brick manor house that features seven country-style rooms with fireplaces, four-poster beds and free high-speed Wi-Fi.

In the morning, attendees can sip their coffee on the outside patio as they soak in the surrounding scenery and then gather in the lounge area or dining room for a complimentary three-course breakfast. As the daily schedule transitions into business meetings and other social events, planners can make use of the manor’s three meeting rooms and several outdoor picnic areas.

After their meeting, group members can stretch their legs and enjoy the fresh air with activities like horseback riding, fly-fishing, clay target shooting, jeep adventure tours, scavenger hunts, cattle drives and cowboy cookouts.

Near the ranch are four golf courses and over a dozen wineries. Adventure seekers may want to pay a visit to Luray Caverns, one of the most visited caverns in the Southeast, with its expansive subterranean rooms with 10-story-high ceilings. The ranch is just nine miles from the famous Appalachian National Scenic Trail, a 2,180-mile hiking trail that spans 14 states from Georgia to Maine.