Resorts are fantastic spots for meeting groups to get away from the office and out into nature for a bit of relaxation and inspiration. Groups that host events at these top-notch Southern resorts can take advantage of that and more, from paddleboarding, kayaking and hiking to competitions that involve outdoor adventures, shooting sports, golf and scavenger hunts.
Sonesta Resort Hilton Head Island
Hilton Head Island, South Carolina
Set on an 11-acre beachfront property on South Carolina’s Hilton Head Island, the Sonesta Resort is a AAA Four Diamond property with 340 guest rooms and suites that have private balconies overlooking the Shipyard Plantation grounds, tropical gardens and the Atlantic Ocean.
Sonesta is the closest resort to the island’s restaurants, nightlife and shopping areas and includes a zero-entry lagoon swimming pool, a hot tub and a children’s area; Arum Spa; and four restaurant and dining options. Bayley’s Lobby Bar and Terrace offers atrium seating where guests can enjoy a morning coffee, afternoon refreshments or evening cocktails. Heyward’s Restaurant serves breakfast and dinner with fresh seafood and steaks. Seacrest has indoor and outdoor fireplaces, a patio and terrace seating and serves lunch, cocktails and small-plate evening appetizers.
Sweet Cane is poolside and features casual dining and walkup and poolside service for food and beverages.
The resort tailors leisure activities to the meeting group, including golf outings at the neighboring Shipyard Golf Club, with 27 holes, a practice facility and clubhouse, and tennis at Van Der Meer Shipyard Tennis Resort, which has 14 clay, six hard and three enclosed tennis courts. The resort has over 12 miles of beach and a variety of beach equipment available for guests to enjoy.
Meeting groups can take advantage of the resort’s 23,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 10,000-square-foot ballroom, a covered 7,000-square-foot room overlooking the ocean and the Shipyard Beach Club, with 4,000 square feet of indoor space and an oceanfront deck that can accommodate up to 1,100 guests.
Oglebay Resort and Conference Center
Wheeling, West Virginia
Oglebay Resort and Conference Center in Wheeling, West Virginia, is in a 2,000-acre city park that was established 90 years ago when Earl Oglebay gifted his land to the city. The property features four golf courses, including two championship courses and a nine-hole short course with a driving range, as well as a small ski hill, a 254-room lodge, 54 cottages, seven restaurants, a full-service spa that offers wellness classes and more than 30,000 square feet of meeting space. With 35 species of endangered animals, the Good Zoo, on property, is the only accredited zoo in West Virginia, and the Bissonnette Gardens is a re-creation of the many gardens that surrounded the summer home of Earl Oglebay in the early 1900s. The property also has several hiking trails.
Meeting groups can stay at the resort, which can host conferences for up to 500 people. The 8,000-square-foot Glesner Ballroom, the property’s flagship meeting space, can hold 325 people for a banquet or 400 for a reception. The resort recently finished renovating all of its meeting spaces, stepping up the technology in each room with audiovisual systems and the ability to host virtual conferences.
Team-building activities include scavenger hunts across the property, a miniature golf course, hiking trails and Segway tours through the property. From November through January, Oglebay hosts its Festival of Lights, which features over 1 million lights and more than 100 displays along a 6-mile drive through the park. Groups also can enjoy two museums on property: the Earl Oglebay Mansion Museum and the Glass Museum, which offers glassblowing demonstrations and workshops.
Best Western Inn of the Ozarks
Eureka Springs, Arkansas
The Inn of the Ozarks in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, is not your typical Best Western. On 15 acres situated between two lakes, the property is more like a mountain resort of old. It has a beautiful swimming pool with a waterfall flowing into it, a game area with a nine-hole miniature golf course, video games and table tennis. It features basketball and volleyball courts and a large Foot Pool area, where guests can play billiards with their feet.
A city trolley system helps guests get around without hopping in their car. Five routes around the community allow visitors to enjoy the scenery and many attractions in Eureka Springs and shop in the town’s historic district. The property has so much open space that it can host large outdoor events as well as more traditional meetings and conferences.
The inn has 122 guest rooms and 18,000 square feet of meeting space that includes a 5,600-square-foot ballroom that can seat 825 people for a banquet, 10 meeting and banquet rooms and a poolside pavilion. The property has two kitchens: one for the restaurant and one dedicated to banquets and catering.
Eureka Springs is known for “The Great Passion Play,” a large outdoor theater presentation of the last days of Jesus Christ’s life. When groups aren’t meeting on property, they can attend the production, tour the Holy Land replica and visit the Christ of the Ozarks statue.
Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee
The Ritz-Carlton Reynolds, Lake Oconee will celebrate its 20th anniversary in 2022. It recently underwent a complete renovation of guest rooms and suites that included the private cottages and Lake House, a new Ritz-Kids Clubhouse and the family pool. Just outside Atlanta on Lake Oconee, the resort offers plenty of activities to keep meeting groups and their families occupied, among them hiking through the Georgia pines, boating and watersports on the lake.
Nearby, guests can enjoy the Reynolds Lake Club Tennis Center, play a round of golf at one of five local courses or spend a day at the Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds.
The resort can accommodate groups of many sizes, from intimate board meetings to large conferences. Its 58,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting space include the Linger Longer Ballroom in the Oconee Clubhouse; the Forest Tent; an 8,000-square-foot covered outdoor space that can host groups of 200 for a banquet; the Pavilion, a 6,000-square-foot venue; an 1820s barn for a more rustic setting; and several conference rooms and ballrooms. There are 251 guest rooms on property and plenty of fun things to do year-round. In the summer, groups enjoy boating, fishing and watersports like kayaking and paddleboarding on the lake or relaxing by the pools. In the winter, they can roast s’mores by the firepit or go ice skating at the lakefront rink.
Blowing Rock, North Carolina
Chetola is in the heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, just a short drive to the famous Blue Ridge Parkway. Nestled on 78 acres with a beautiful lake, the resort is great for smaller meetings and conferences of 50 to 75 attendees.
Guests can enjoy the Highlands Sports and Recreation Center on-site, which has a heated indoor pool, a gym, personal training and fitness classes. Chetola Lake offers swimming, boating and other watersports, and the property has tennis, volleyball, spikeball and pickleball courts; fishing clinics; a nine-hole disc golf course; and a three-hole practice course. Chetola Sporting Reserve has archery, pistol and rifle ranges and sporting clays and offers Orvis fly-fishing excursions. The resort has numerous maintained hiking trails and offers guided hikes on property.
Because Chetola is a resort, food and beverages are all part of the package. People can stay in the 42-room lodge, which was fully renovated in 2019 and overlooks the lake, or they can rent one of the 75 condos the resort manages for a more intimate experience.
The lodge has six main meeting rooms for rent that can host groups of up to 100 people; outdoor meeting spaces are also available.
The resort is in a college town, so there are plenty of opportunities to bring in experts from the university for training or educational seminars. The resort also partners with local businesses for whiskey or wine tastings and cooking demonstrations. Teambuilding includes competitions at Chetola Reserve, game shows, scavenger hunts, cardboard boat races and outdoor adventures.