Meeting and incentive groups can accomplish a lot in a conference room. But they can sometimes accomplish even more outside of one.
That's the thrust behind Gather Greene, a new nature retreat and event venue that opened this summer in Coxsackie, N.Y.
Situated between the Berkshire and Catskill Mountains, Gather Greene occupies 100 acres of hills, fields and woods in New York's Hudson Valley, where groups have access to an open-air pavilion, 17 upscale "tiny house" cabins and a vast network of winding nature trails -- all of which was conceived by co-owners and co-designers Amna Ali and Jackie Brown to facilitate closer connections among groups of family members, friends and colleagues.
Specifically, Ali and Brown wanted to create a destination where guests could "connect with nature, but not be challenged by nature." In that spirit, they drew their inspiration not only from the land on which their property sits, but also from the Dutch word "gezellig," which loosely translated means "to gather with friends in a cozy environment."
"Living in New York, you have friends and family coming from all over the world getting together for a once-in-a-lifetime special event. The time is so fleeting and celebrations pass so quickly," explains Brown. "A big part of our goal with Gather Greene was to create a space that allows guests to relax in one place with their family and friends for a full weekend, with less running around and more quality time spent together."
Totaling 160 square feet, each of the aforementioned cabins features a cedar exterior and a pine interior, as well as one glass wall showcasing views of the woods and mountains outside. Cabins offer both heating and air-conditioning, as well as outlets for electronics, full bathrooms, mini refrigerators, coffee makers and furnished outdoor decks, not to mention foodservice courtesy of nearby cafes and shops, from which guests can pre-order food, beer and wine.
Outside, features include a hammock circle in the woods, fire pits, picnic tables, outdoor lawn games and the "Boulder Bar," a 20-foot-long chunk of shale rock on top of which event organizers can serve beverages or stationary hors d'oeuvres.
The property's centerpiece, however, is the aforementioned pavilion, an indoor-outdoor structure with sculptural wooden screening walls, arched ceiling elements, two luxury dressing suites, six single-use bathrooms, a large catering kitchen and a spacious lounge. Totaling over 4,000 square feet of unobstructed space, it can accommodate groups of up to 250 seated guests.
"We wanted people to be able to walk to all of the main areas, but still have plenty of non-programmed space left to explore," Ali said. "Our vision was for all of the architectural interventions to feel modern and intentional, yet at the same time be able to blur the boundaries of indoor and outdoor experience within the built environment."
Four More Awesome Outdoor Retreats
As more and more groups seek connections with each other and with nature, outdoor retreats like Gather Greene are growing both in number and in popularity. Here are four more places like it where meeting and incentive groups can think outside the box not only figuratively, but also literally:
• The Resort at Paws Up (Greenough, Mont.): The Resort at Paws Up in Greenough, Mont., boasts six different luxury camping sites, the latest of which -- North Bank Camp -- debuted in June 2017 with four two-bedroom tents and two three-bedroom tents for groups of up to 15 guests. But these aren't your typical "tents." Totaling up to 1,220 square feet, they've got beds with electric blankets, spa-like bathrooms with heated floors, daily full-service housekeeping, in-tent Wi-Fi and furnished decks on which to enjoy beautiful Rocky Mountain views. Guests even have their own camping butler who tends to their every need. Beyond their tents, guests can gather at North Bank's Dining Pavilion, which features a large stone fireplace, bar seating and floor-to-ceiling sliding glass doors. Along with nightly bonfires, guests can enjoy outdoor activities like archery, horseback riding, mountain biking, skeet shooting, fly fishing and ATV tours, just to name a few.
• AutoCamp Russian River (Guerneville, Calif.): Airstream's iconic aluminum campers began rolling onto American roads in the 1930s and are so popular today that the company has had trouble meeting demand. At AutoCamp Russian River in Guerneville, Calif. -- 90 minutes north of San Francisco -- groups can enjoy a full Airstream experience thanks to 24 custom Airstream trailers that are parked steps from the Russian River, surrounded by picturesque vineyards and towering redwood forests. Each luxury trailer features a queen-sized bed, a flat-screen TV with cable, a built-in sound system with MP3 input, a modern kitchen, a spa-inspired bathroom, a convertible sofa, and an outdoor deck and fire pit. The camp also offers 10 luxury tents and a contemporary clubhouse, along with wooded walking paths, indoor and outdoor lounges, a meadow for picnics, lawn games, swimming and canoeing, cruiser bicycles, and a canteen stocked with local beer and wine.
• Safari West (Santa Rosa, Calif.): Sonoma County is known for its grapes. Groups that need a break from imbibing, however, can replace the wine in their agenda with wild animals, courtesy of Safari West Wildlife Preserve & African Tent Camp in Santa Rosa, Calif. Featuring 400 acres of open-air safari, Safari West offers private safaris during which groups can get up close and personal with hundreds of free-roaming exotic animals, including cheetahs, antelope, zebras and giraffes. Educational presentations from animal caretakers also are available, while groups that want an even more adventurous experience can stay overnight in luxury "tents" furnished with pillow-top mattresses, handmade furniture, space heaters, warming blankets, ceiling fans, en suite bathrooms and porches with seating areas for wildlife viewing.
• Cloud Camp at The Broadmoor (Colorado Springs, Colo.): The Broadmoor in Colorado Springs, Colo., offers corporate camping trips at Cloud Camp, its all-inclusive wilderness experience. Located at the top of nearby Cheyenne Mountain, which towers 3,000 feet above the resort at an elevation of 9,200 feet, it features accommodations for up to 56 guests, including six lodge guest rooms, 15 one- and two-bedroom cabins, and a special suite atop a historic fire tower. To reach Cloud Camp, guests check in at The Broadmoor and can choose between being transported to Cloud Camp in a four-wheel vehicle, on the back of a mule or by way of a guided three-hour hike. Once at camp, guests will hike in Pike National Forest; eat s'mores nightly around a campfire; enjoy activities like birding, photo safaris, yoga and rock art; and assist the chef each evening with the preparation of "social hour" hors d'oeuvres.