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State Parks are Meeting Gems

The sprawling landscape of the United States is dappled with state parks that have a variety of gorgeous scenery and recreational offerings. They make great weekend getaways for leisure travelers, but they’re also hidden gems for meeting planners. Many state parks come equipped with quality conference or convention centers for hosting secluded events surrounded by nature.

For great events in the great outdoors, planners should look to some of these conference and convention venues for their next meeting.

Kentucky Dam Village  State Resort Park

Gilbertsville, Kentucky

Located on the shores of Kentucky Lake in the western portion of the state, Kentucky Dam Village State Resort Park is known for golf, fishing and boating. The park is close to the Land Between the Lakes National Recreational Area and the city of Paducah. Established following the construction of the Kentucky Dam and the creation of the lake in the 1940s, the resort has since become a AAA three-diamond property.

The park’s meeting facilities include a convention center adjacent to the main lodge. It totals over 6,000 square feet of meeting space and can be divided into three distinct spaces perfect for smaller meetings or breakout spaces. The convention center’s maximum capacity is 525 attendees for a banquet or reception. It comes equipped with a kitchen. More meeting space can be found within the 72-room lodge, including a terrace and a meeting room that can accommodate 60 for a banquet. The property’s Village Green Meeting Room also has a capacity of 60 and an outdoor patio.

After the meeting, attendees can head to the 18-hole Kentucky Dam Village State Park Golf Course or hit the marina for a trip out on the lake. Kayak rentals and an outdoor pool are offered seasonally. The park’s Harbor Lights Restaurant is another great choice for off-sites.

Ozark Folk Center State Park

Mountain View, Arkansas

Just north of the town of Mountain View, the Ozark Folk Center State Park combines Ozark Mountain heritage with what Arkansas is known for — its parks. Open from April to October, the park contains a Craft Village, where visitors can watch artisans handcraft items such as home goods, jewelry and art. Adding to atmosphere is an extensive herb garden and opportunities to hear plenty of music. And for those looking to extend their stay, the park has a lodge, cabins and a few restaurant options.

The park is also home to plenty of facilities for meetings and events. Though groups may have to work around the park’s busy visitor schedule, it has 53 guest rooms. The Ozark Highlands Theater hosts concerts and events in its 1,000-seat auditorium and is available for events during its off season. The Bois d’ Arc Center, the park’s conference center, has a meeting room for up to 70 attendees, while the park offers additional auditoriums and breakout rooms for planners to choose from. The public dining room can be reserved during the off season.

The park’s catering team can handle everything from casual box lunches to banquets and also provides A/V equipment.

Lodge at Marconi

Marshall, California

Formerly known as the Marconi Conference Center and State Historic Park, the Lodge at Marconi is on Tomales Bay in Marconi State Historic Park. The 62-acre park and lodge are renowned for their tranquility, though there’s plenty to do. Guests can go hiking, hang out on the beach, play volleyball or take part in a giant chess game. Yoga and wine tastings are held weekly, and nearby activities such as kayaking, oyster farm tours, and cheese tastings and tours are also available. The area is also popular for watching wildlife.

In addition to its 45 guest rooms, the Lodge at Marconi has eight indoor and outdoor event spaces. The lodge’s largest indoor event space features high ceilings and views of Tomales Bay and the park. It has a capacity of 106. McCargo Hall is an L-shaped space with a capacity of 40, while Cypress and Pine Halls are two adjacent halls with a capacity of 45 each. The lodge’s main dining space, Redwood Dining Hall, can also be used as event space and can seat 100; it has a wrap-around deck for outdoor seating. Outdoor spaces include Tower Hill, found on the state park’s highest point; Meadow, complete with a tent; and an amphitheater that holds 40.

“The lodge has such a variety of meeting spaces,” said Lodge at Marconi co-owner Rodney Fong. “Some are outdoors under the trees, some on a grassy field, some in meeting rooms and some on top of a hill. Many of us have been to multi-day meetings, but when you can transform the meeting spaces like that it’s beneficial because it feels like a completely new space.”

Warren Conference Center and Inn

Ashland, Massachusetts

Located in Ashland, a small town outside of Boston, the Warren Conference Center and Inn offers serenity and a great New England backdrop for meetings. It’s on 100 acres in Ashland State Park, with beautiful views of the Ashland Reservoir. Ashland State Park has 470 acres of lush forests and water features and includes popular hiking and biking trails. Water activities such as kayaking and boating are also well loved activities on the reservoir.

The Warren Conference Center was established in 1992 and can host meetings, events and retreats for groups with up to 150 guests. The center’s formal dining room, found in its Hayden Lodge, offers 2,400 square feet of meeting space with plenty of natural light and a beautiful stone fireplace. There’s also the Reservoir Room, totaling over 1,500 square feet and accommodating up to 100 theater-style with the option of dividing the space in two. The Warren House contains five additional rooms suited for meetings accommodating groups of eight to 100.

The conference center offers meeting packages that come with selected meals, and options of additional food and beverage, team building, watercraft rental and extended meeting hours. Each meeting room comes equipped with projectors and sound systems.

Fort Worden Conference and Event Center

Port Townsend, Washington

Fort Worden Historical State Park encompasses 432 acres, including hiking trails, museums and historic buildings that have been incorporated into event facilities and lodging. The historic fort was constructed from 1898 to 1920 to defend Puget Sound from invasion. It became a state park in 1971 and is also a National Historic Landmark.

“Port Townsend is on the water with two miles of coastline, a sandy beach and a variety of hiking trails,” said Natalie Maitland, director of operations for Fort Worden Hospitality. “There’s a lot for people to take in the nature that’s around them, and then there’s the modern conveniences of the conference center.”

Fort Worden Conference and Event Center comprises 92 acres of the property’s historical and contemporary buildings. Its numerous spaces can host events of many sizes. For a banquet, one of the venues known as Commons can accommodate 400 attendees and features four different spaces within. Chapel, located in the fort’s historic church, is another great banquet venue with vaulted ceilings, wood floors and a capacity of 115.

Smaller meeting venues include any of the eight rooms within the historic schoolhouse or some of the smaller rooms within Building 204. Other notable venues include USO, once used as a dance hall, and Wheeler Theater, which offers seating for 261 attendees. Catering, audiovisual and additional planning staff are available through Fort Worden Hospitality. Lodging is also available in historic homes and barracks on the campus.