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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

Twin cities are far from identical


Separated by Interstate 94, Waukesha and Pewaukee are located in southeastern Wisconsin between Milwaukee and Madison. Once a resort area known for its springs, Waukesha has retained a historic downtown with numerous buildings from the late 1800s. Mary Todd Lincoln and Ulysses Grant drank the mineral waters there, and the general claimed that they cured his ills.

Smaller Pewaukee sits on a lake known for substantial-size muskie; to date, the record catch is 52 inches. The shore is lined with local pubs and pizzerias, and groups can rent pontoon boats and houseboats for outings.

In Waukesha, the 187-room Country Springs Hotel Waterpark Conference Center is the largest meeting facility, with 40,000 square feet of meeting space. Its 45,000-square-foot water park entices families to join attendees.

A draw for small meetings is an executive learning center with a boardroom and four learning suites. Each of the suites seats 36 and has built-in power, T1 data ports, and state-of-the-art audio-visual equipment and laptop connections for each attendee.

“The center’s design came from suggestions from meeting planners who were our regular clients,” said Julie Beck, marketing manager. “Each suite is an independent meeting site, and the center itself is intentionally away from the hotel hubbub.”

The hotel makes good use of its 40-acre site with two outdoor venues, a garden gazebo for up to 200 and surrounded by flowers, and the smaller Band Shell for breakouts. Catering can include picnic lunches and barbecues.

Marriott’s only full-service property in the Milwaukee area, the 281-guest-room Marriott Milwaukee West in Waukesha, has 14,000 square feet of meeting space. The Clarke Hotel, a downtown historic site revamped into a luxury boutique hotel in 2008, is geared toward board meetings and retreats with 20 guest rooms and 2,800 square feet of meeting space.

Customized team-building possibilities abound in the area. The Center for Organizational Advancement has high- and low-ropes courses, or attendees can bond in half-day, day or overnight programs as they hike, fish, canoe, toboggan, tap maple syrup or climb at Camp Minikani in the Kettle Moraine State Forest, north of Milwaukee.

Other relationship-building options include a courtroom murder mystery, golf, miniature golf, baseball batting cages, bumper cars, evening pub crawls, a martini lounge, a cigar bar and a summer outdoor concert series.

Spouses can explore Old World Wisconsin, an outdoor living-history museum of the state’s 19th-century farm life (also an offsite venue for up to 400), or take the East Troy Electric Railroad 10 miles into the Kettle Moraine Woods to the Elegant Farmer, the orchard and bakery that developed Apple Pie in a Paper Bag.

The local CVB is happy to handle all the legwork for meeting planners, from gathering hotel proposals to organizing team-building activities.

“We gather proposals from the properties so planners will only have to deal with our group manager,” Tiffany Zamora, meetings manager for the Waukesha and Pewaukee Convention and Visitors Bureau said. “Once they [planners] select a site, there’s a seamless transition between the CVB and the sales manager at the chosen property. We make it so easy.”

(800) 366-8474

Next in the Wisconsin Meeting Guide >> "An old river town with new tricks"