Ballroom square-footage and room blocks aside, what really makes a property stand out when it comes to site selection are the experiences that business groups can have outside of the meeting. These seven hotels and resorts have tapped into local resources to provide more than the traditional team-building menu.
Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club
Guests can lean into the coastal lifestyle with the group offerings at Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club (above) in Cape Cod, Mass. With a fleet of oyster beds right off its private beach, the property brings visitors to the Brewster Flats to learn about the Crassostrea Virginica oysters (more commonly known as the Eastern oyster, American oyster or Virginia oyster), aquaculture and the best times to eat the shellfish. Guests also will be able to spot other sea life, such as fish, crabs, scallops and clams.
Speaking of clams, the resort invites groups to put on their chef hats for a clam “chowdah” cook-off. A chef teaches attendees how to make one of New England’s signature dishes, and then they partner up to either replicate the recipe or put their own spin on it. The chef samples each chowder and selects a winner, who receives credit toward another meal on the property.
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay
The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina in Maryland recently added several team-building activities for groups. Many of the options are wellness-focused, including stand-up paddleboard yoga classes on the Choptank River, kayak excursions, bicycle tours of the nearby Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge, pop-up spa services and 3K runs around the resort. Indoors, guests can partake in archery lessons, trivia sessions, scavenger hunts and a new on-site escape room.
For foodies, there’s a Chesapeake Master Chef competition, as well as a mixology class, during which attendees learn how to make the resort’s signature cocktails. Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay also partners with RAR Brewing Co. to offer tours and tastings.
L'Auberge de Sedona
A leading luxury resort in Sedona, Ariz., L’Auberge de Sedona has a new series of group activities that tap into attendees’ spiritual side, called the Power of Presence. The program includes group chakra balancing, where local healers use meditation and crystal sound bowls to clear and balance chakras; “masters of manifestation,” which uses cards to help guests understand the power of written manifestation and bring the practice into daily life; and “drink your chakras,” an immersive (and Instagrammable) way to wrap up a day of meetings with five colorful cocktails accompanied by a note with why every ingredient was chosen based on the traits of each chakra.
The resort also offers a number of metaphysical offerings, such as an introduction to crystals, where everyone receives the crystal of their choice after learning about the healing properties associated with different stones; Sedona energy and vortexes, a discussion of the geologic phenomena in the region; Qigong healing and meditation, an ancient Chinese practice that combines meditation, breath work and gentle movement to strengthen the immune system and restore energy; and sound healing, which uses crystal bowls to bring groups into a deep meditative state to restore the body’s balance through sound waves.
Salamander Resort & Spa
Taking advantage its location in Virginia’s horse country, the Salamander Resort & Spa in Middleburg offers an equine-communication program. The program can be tailored to the group’s individual needs, whether attendees are only executives or the entire company.
After watching a demonstration by equestrian director Ashley Farrell, members of the group gets to interact with a horse. The animals respond to their environment and are extremely intuitive when it comes to a person’s body language and energy. Even if someone isn’t trying to come off as aggressive, a horse will pick up on any subconscious assertiveness, which directly correlates to both verbal and nonverbal communication in the office.
Equine communication is also a great indicator of leadership skills. As explained by Farrell, the alpha horse leads from behind, nudging the herd in the right direction. While interacting with humans, the horse will respond to the person who demonstrates a quiet, yet confident guidance.
The Hythe, a Luxury Collection, Vail
The Hythe has partnered with Adventure IO to feature a number of custom-curated experiences for groups that will appeal to everyone from the adrenaline junkie to the outdoorsy-type to the amateur mixologist. Avid skiers can go on the ultimate backcountry expedition by heli-skiing in the San Juan Mountains with two-time Olympian Anna Lisa Drew, creating fresh lines on untouched mountain slopes. Or trade the skis for a fishing pole with the Vail Caste and Taste Adventure, a high-end fly fishing experience on a private ranch. A catered meal with wine pairings prepared by a professional chef also is available. For an early evening event, there’s the 10th Mountain Distillery Tour, which starts with a guided tasting at the lobby bar of the Hythe, followed by a tour and private cocktail hour at the distillery's headquarters in Vail.
The resort also has teamed with Red Sky Golf to offer two packages at the members-only club. The first is a round of golf on one of its two nationally acclaimed championship courses with 360-degree views of the Colorado Rockies. The second entails a two-hour private lesson and lunch with the pro, followed by a round out on the course.
Inviting groups to slow down and step into nature, Hotel Ivy in Minneapolis invites groups for a forest-bathing experience. Also known as "shinrin yoku," forest bathing is the Japanese art of taking in the forest air with all the senses. The walks are led by a professional guide from Motz Studios, a Minneapolis-based wellness provider.
Note that this is not a hike; groups will wander through nature for two to three hours but won’t travel far. Unlike with hiking, where the goal is to get to a destination, forest bathing is about appreciating the journey and noticing the small things along the way. The practice reduces stress, boosts immune function and increases productivity.
Conrad, Washington, D.C.
At the Conrad, Washington, D.C., group activities are all about fitness. The hotel allows groups to do yoga classes on the rooftop, taught by an Equinox instructor. On the cardio side, guests can explore the city by foot with a group run organized by the Conrad, which provides routes along the National Mall at various distances, including one that goes around the U.S. Capitol.