Natural wonders, sweeping views and time on the water — that’s what planners can offer their attendees by hosting meetings at national and state parks.
Because of their beautifully preserved landscapes and their range of thrilling activities, these parks appeal to those looking to instill a sense of adventure into their events. However, the venues at these parks also cater to those planners building a peaceful retreat for their attendees with activities such as golf or hiking. Whether it’s a hidden gem or a bucket list item, each of these parks serves as a beautiful natural setting for meetings and events.
DeGray Lake Resort State Park
DeGray Lake Resort State Park can be found in the Ouachita Mountains of western Arkansas. The area has a long history of residency by Native American tribes, most notably the Ouachita. In the 1960s, a reservoir was created off the Caddo River for flood control purposes, forming DeGray Lake, for which the park is named. The area was established as a state park in 1974, and today, it’s a popular tourism and recreation site known for its wide array of water activities, its 18-hole golf course and its beautiful Arkansas landscape.
Michael Sindelar, manager of the DeGray Lake Lodge, said the best part of hosting meetings at the park is it allows attendees to “get in touch with nature and connect with the folks you need to connect with, all in a beautiful environment.”
At the park’s lodge, located on an island off the lake’s shore, planners will find a conference center that seats up to 250, as well as breakout meeting rooms for smaller groups. The lodge is equipped with 90 guest rooms; and extra amenities such as a pool, hot tub and fitness center add a note of luxury to every guest’s stay. The lakeside Shoreline Restaurant provides beautiful lake views and handles all of a planner’s catering needs, from plated dinners to hors d’oeuvres.
Hiking trails, horseback riding, kayaking, boating and golf are all popular activities for attendees to enjoy as part of an event’s agenda or during their downtime.
Zion National Park
St. George, Utah
Located in Southern Utah, Zion National Park is unique because of its ecological diversity. It preserves an area where the Mojave Desert, the Great Basin and the Colorado Plateau converge, meaning park visitors can see a variety of geological features and diverse wildlife. It was established in 1919 to protect the Zion Canyon, the 1,000-foot-deep canyon carved by the Virgin River. The steep red canyon, sandstone arches and rushing water features are some of the many breathtaking sights that attract countless visitors each year.
“When planners are hosting meetings here, everybody wants to come; they know they’ll be able to extend their trip and experience these bucket list destinations at the same time as their conference,” said Jacqueline Grena, meeting and convention sales manager at the Greater Zion Convention and Tourism Office.
Planners will find a wide array of venues just outside the national park in St. George, Utah. The Dixie Convention Center is a full-service venue with 100,000 square feet of meeting space, including a ballroom that can seat 1,600 theater-style and 978 banquet-style. Another popular venue offering a mix of indoor and outdoor spaces is the Holmstead Ranch Resort, which seats up to 160 and provides on-site lodging from individual cabins to campgrounds. The St. George area is also home to four conference hotels.
Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park
Nestled along the Kentucky and Tennessee border, Dale Hollow Lake State Resort Park is known around the state for its beautiful 28,000-acre manmade lake, which was created in 1943. The lake and its surrounding forest offer a serene and secluded setting for park guests looking to enjoy time at the lodge or on the water. There are plenty of ways to explore nature in the park, with hiking, horseback riding, mountain biking, boating and fishing being some of the most popular activities. Attendees can hike to Eagle Point Overlook for their chance to catch a glimpse of the park’s bald eagle population or enjoy a round of golf in the park’s award-winning 18-hole golf course.
Planners can find a stunning backdrop for their meetings at the Mary Oaken Lodge. The stone-and-cedar lodge rests on a cliff overlooking Dale Hollow Lake. It has 60 rooms for overnight guests and a restaurant, which provides full-service catering for any event. The adjoining Ray Mullinix Convention Center can accommodate up to 250 people, while the lodge dining room can seat 50. Outdoor meeting spaces include a covered terrace at the lodge overlooking the lake and a nearby picnic shelter.
“The meeting space is top notch,” said LaDonna Miller, director of marketing and sales at the Kentucky Department of Parks. “The dining room and the meeting rooms have beautiful views of the lake.”
Hueston Woods State Park
College Corner, Ohio
Located just outside of Oxford, near Ohio’s western border, Hueston Woods State Park opened in 1957. It is home to a national natural landmark, a large beech-maple forest that gives the park its beautiful autumn foliage. The site is well-known for the extensive fossils of marine life found in the park’s bedrock. Hiking, golf, hunting for fossils and visiting the scenic Hueston Woods Covered Bridge are popular activities within the park. The park’s 625-acre Acton Lake offers plenty to do on the water, including fishing, boating and swimming.
The Hueston Woods Lodge and Conference Center overlooks Acton Lake and is an elegant and peaceful choice for meetings. Attendees can stay in one of the lodge’s 92 rooms, some of which feature balconies with lake views, or go for a swim in the lodge’s indoor and outdoor pools. The lodge features a total of 6,000 square feet of meeting space, giving planners a selection of meeting rooms to choose from. The lodge’s 3,404-square-foot Teepee Ballroom has a built-in stage that can accommodate up to 250 for a banquet. The lodge also provides full-service catering for any event and an extensive list of team-building activities, from geocaching to tree-climbing to golf.
Glacier National Park
Though the glaciers for which the park is named have largely retreated, they left behind the stunning landscape of mountains, valleys and lakes that make up Glacier National Park. The park, situated in northwestern Montana near the Canadian border, was established in 1910 to protect the gorgeous wilderness carved by glaciers over thousands of years. Today, the park’s meadows, vast forests and streams resemble what they did when the area was first discovered by settlers.
The park is home to several threatened or rare species such as grizzlies, lynx and wolverines. Visitors can enjoy it year-round, though heavy snows mean certain parts of the park are inaccessible during the winter months. In the warmer seasons, visitors can enjoy hiking, fishing, boating, mountain biking and camping, while skiing and snowshoeing are popular in the winter.
The nearby town of Whitefish, Montana, offers many venues for planners to choose from, with 1,100 hotel rooms and 30,000 square feet of combined meeting space. Grouse Mountain Lodge has 11,000 square feet of meeting space in nine meetings rooms, as well as full-service catering and an onsite restaurant, Logan’s Bar and Grill. Another popular venue is the Lodge at Whitefish Lake, which has nearly 14,000 square feet of meeting space in 10 meeting rooms. Whitefish is home to many other full-service hotels, restaurants and shops that add to its small-town Montana charm.