Meetings Beyond Amazing
Ten remarkable meeting destinations mix the heights of luxury with exhilarating adventure
Imagine yourself planning your next executive retreat or corporate meeting at a venue that is so over the top and completely attuned to your group’s needs, that you can anticipate each member of your team having literally the event of a lifetime. Now take it another step forward and imagine the look of astonishment on your attendees’ faces at their first sight of this jaw-droppingly stunning space.
Do such places actually exist? Well, yes – and in abundance.
Dubai’s opulent Burj Al Arab is one such venue. Built literally in the middle of the Persian Gulf on a man made island of its own, its graceful curve is reminiscent of a billowing sail. At every turn, both the interior and exterior views are designed to evoke a sense of wonderment and inspiration in the minds of all its guests, many of whom arrive either via helicopter or Rolls Royce airport transfers.
Next let your imagination propel your meeting success to another level by adding a day or two of Richard Branson style fun with, for example, the Aquafari excursion at the Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort in Curacao.
Your team members get to jet set alongside marine habitat 20-feet below the sea in a self propelled, unsinkable underwater scooter. The 90-minute session is complete with all the oxygen you’ll need, minus any cumbersome tanks on your back, thanks to a bell-shaped glass container that supplies oxygen from a SCUBA tank attached to the scooter.
To combine the two – stunning scenery with the thrill of adventure – is to create a near fantasy event setting that’s sure to leave an indelible impression in the minds of your meeting participants. To help you find that next beyond-amazing meeting spot, we’ve assembled a hot list of options with that just-right combination of excitement and indulgence.
1 THE BILTMORE ESTATE, ASHEVILLE, NC
George Vanderbilt’s spectacular French Renaissance-style Biltmore House is billed as the largest private home in America, and it’s certainly among the most luxurious. The 250-room mansion, along with the 8,000 acres surrounding it, appear to have been perfectly painted into the Blue Ridge Mountains as though it were heaven.
The property offers a variety of majestic venues for turn-key meetings and events for up to 450 guests. The most spectacular open spaces by far include the front lawn, the Italian Garden and the incomparable South Terrace.
But for a complete paradigm shift from opulence to adrenaline, try the onsite Land Rover Off Road Driving Experience.
Although to most city dwellers, Range Rover is merely a luxury sedan, the brand made its mark off-road, where it performs extravagantly. With the option to spend hours or days, the Land Rover experience will take you through the Blue Ridge Mountains where you will master the art of driving through mud, deep ruts – deep
To combine stunning scenery with the thrill of adventure is to create a near fantasy event
enough to turn the vehicle sideways with two wheels in the air and two on the ground – water nearly up to the front windshield and all sorts of challenging maneuvers. All along the way, you get to drive the most current model that Land Rover has to offer with a highly skilled coach at your side for added safety.
Visit biltmore.com for details.
2 THE FAIRMONT CHATEAU LAKE LOUISE, ALBERTA, CANADA
One look at the soaring mountain peaks, the Victoria Glacier and the emerald green lake that form the glistening, larger-thanlife backdrop for the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, and you’re likely to abandon your iPhone, iPad, Blackberry and laptop to take in every ounce of the beauty that neither words nor pictures will ever adequately capture.
A UNESCO World Heritage Site in the heart of Alberta’s Banff National Park, the 100 year-old property is not only ideal for meetings and events, but also offers some of the most invigorating outdoor recreation imaginable. Options include downhill skiing and snowboarding, cross-country skiing, ice skating, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, horse drawn sleigh rides, dog sledding tours and more – and that’s just in the winter. Summer adventures include river rafting, canoeing, hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding, fishing and more.
Visit fairmont.com/lake-louise to
3 II SALVIATINO, FLORENCE, ITALY
Tucked in the Tuscan hillside overlooking the city of Florence (a short 10-minute drive away), the 45-room, fresco laden Il Salviatino villa is ideally located within a half-hour of both the Florence airport and the celebrated Chianti wine growing region.
Since the 14th century, when it was originally a privately owned home, the villa has served as a cultural gathering place for artists, performers and intellectuals. Its situation – surrounded by a 12-and-a-half acre private park – continues to provide all the privacy those high-level conferences require as attendees gather along the villa’s multi-level terrace. In dramatic fashion, the terrace opens onto the lavish Italian gardens overlooking Florence; thus as a setting for a meeting or event, it defies any suggestion of mundane.
The icing on the cake comes in two flavors: white truffles and Ferraris.
From September through November – the height of white truffle season, the villa’s Tuscany location provides the perfect truffle hunting excursion with an education on origin, classification, varieties, preparation and storage. After the hunt, guests enjoy a special truffle tasting menu followed by truffle cleaning and a special truffleladen lunch.
However, for those who may find truffle hunting a bit placid, the good news is, the villa is close to Maranello, Italy. And what, you may ask, is so special about Maranello? It’s the headquarters of Ferrari, that’s what, and you can only get there if you’re purchasing a Ferrrari. But groups of up to 20 guests at a time can get behind the wheel to drive themselves, with or without the accompaniment of a Ferrari professional, through the winding roads of the nearby Tuscan countryside. And in the Ferrari Challenge, the villa will arrange for guests to drive professional competition vehicles on a nearby track alongside a racing professional for instruction, where they can let it rip full bore.
Visit salviatino.com for details.
4 ROME CAVALIERI, ROME ITALY
Overlooking the city of Rome on 15-acres of Mediterranean park land, the 370 room Rome Cavalieri proclaims itself to be the only European 5-star hotel, and possessor of the world’s most prestigious art collection housed within a hotel. If regal suits you, this is it.
And when it’s all said and done, when in Rome, you get to do as the Romans.
The Gladiator lesson is an inspiring teambuilding activity where instructors from Rome’s Gladiatorial School instruct guests in ancient combat techniques while
providing insight into the life and times of a true gladiator. Participants don the usual gladiator garb including the traditional tunic, Roman sandals, belt, protective gloves, and wield a wooden training sword. For groups of up to 100 participants, the experience is made available either at the hotel, or the nearby Gladiator School.
Visit waldorfastoria3.hilton.com for more information.
5 SANDY LANE, BARBADOS, WEST INDIES
The legendary Sandy Lane is the premiere luxury resort on the island of Barbados. Poised along the white sandy shores of the Caribbean side of the island, the 112-room property has an available 7,300-square-foot private villa that’s likely to make the choice of an event indoors, versus seaside, quite the triumph.
For the golf aficionado, the chance to play on the world renowned 18-hole Tom Fazio-designed Green Monkey golf course will be the high point of the event. Carved out of a rock quarry, beautifully landscaped greens situated high above a spectacular ocean view are the stuff of golfing legend. The once in a lifetime experience is exclusive to hotel guests with very strict tee times and caddy requirements.
Afterwards, the resort’s complimentary airport transfers via Mercedes and BMW vehicles may simply never do, which is why for an additional surcharge, service via Bentley or Rolls Royce is available.
For details visit sandylane.com.
With no strings attached, you must then leap into your new world — both practically and metaphorically
6 MIRAVAL RESORT & SPA, TUCSON, AZ
Formerly known as Miraval Life In Balance, this resort’s heavenly views of the adjacent Catalina Mountains are one of many reasons celebrities like Oprah Winfrey tout it as their absolute favorite.
An abundant choice of outdoor/indoor meeting and event areas affords guests the opportunity to capture the beauty, and depart with a new mindset.
For example, Quantum Leap, one of the many exclusive challenge courses, presents guests with the opportunity to discuss transitions and letting go as the journey begins with a 25-foot climb to the top of a pole. With nothing to hold on to, guests are encouraged to declare their abandonment of something or someone. With that in mind and with no strings attached, you must then leap into your new world – both practically and metaphorically.
Another unforgettable opportunity is the Equine Experience. Designed to improve person-to-person communication, guests are given a command to execute in direct communication with a horse, less the use of words. Success in the process suggests great intuitive communication. On standby are counselors to ensure that everyone eventually succeeds through individual coaching designed to promote clear and concise communication skills with people – both with and without the use of words.
More information is available at miravalresorts.com.
7 BOCA RATON RESORT & CLUB, BOCA RATON, FL
This Waldorf Astoria property situated on 356 acres of Florida’s Gold Coast offer views that range from the Atlantic Ocean, the Intracoastal Waterway, the iconic pink Tower or along the edge of the historic golf course.
For some, an event atop the historic tower will do. For others, beachfront on the Atlantic Ocean is the way to go. Then there’s the Waldorf Astoria Spa. Built to resemble The Alhambra Palace in Spain, the area offers over 50,000 square feet of grand arches, elaborate mosaics and opulent surroundings.
Meeting and event attendees can choose to go “bad boy” and “bad girl” with tattoo artists and graffiti walls. Also nearby is Palm Beach Speedway’s opportunity for exotic race car driving. Nearby hot air balloon and helicopter rides add further flavor as well.
But the real fun is set to begin in October when the resort is set to debut South Florida’s first Flow House. The dual-sided Flow Rider wave simulator for flow and bodyboarding is an all new destination for
A combination of volunteering and team-building helps groups plan activities that benefit the community
group events where smaller groups can also select team building surf lessons, plus soon to come, lessons with professional Flow boarders as well. Afterwards, kick back to a Cirque-esque experience on the beach, enjoying performances under the direction of Neil Goldberg, a producer on Broadway’s Cirque Dreams.
Find out more at bocaresort.com/ Things-to-do/Waldorf-Astoria-Spa.
8 CAPELLA PEDREGAL, CABO SAN LUCAS, MEXICO
From iconic hotelier Horst Schulze. co-founder of The Ritz-Carlton Hotel Company, comes the Capella Group, with properties now open in such far-flung places as Washington, DC, and Singapore. New properties are also coming soon to Japan, Thailand and St Lucia.
Meanwhile, Cabo’s Capella Pedregal has been garnering a reputation as one of the top resorts in Mexico thanks to its spellbinding interior design and equally mesmerizing exterior views.
Built into an oceanfront cliff, access is granted only through a tunnel burrowed into a mountainside to provide privacy, cinematic water views of the Pacific Ocean and customized service.
After being swept away and into the lap of luxury, perhaps nothing could be more well suited than a tequila tasting followed by a wind down at the resort’s Auriga Spa, which in 2012 was voted “Best Spa in the World.”
For details visit capellahotels.com/cabosanlucas.
9 BACARA RESORT & SPA, SANTA BARBARA, CA
Under the radar with an exclusive beachfront setting, Bacara Resort & Spa is located on the American Riviera – one of California’s last remaining untouched coastlines. The 360-room Spanish-style dwelling is framed by the arrival courtyard paved with nearly 70,000 cobblestone bricks imported from Europe – and that’s just the beginning of the property’s beauty.
After your event, your attendees can taste the fruits of their labors with the “Bacara Crush,” an adventure that takes wine making to new depths.
Offered September through November, it’s a hands-on winemaking experience where participants work alongside Santa Barbara County winemakers and producers. It’s interactive, educational and there is no shortage of tastings. Participating area wineries include Firestone Vineyard, Foley, Brewer - Clifton, Carhartt Vineyard and Harrison Clarke.
Find out more at bacararesort.com.
10 THE RITZ-CARLTON LOS ANGELES
“Located on the entertainment campus of L.A. LIVE, steps from Staples Center arena, Grammy Museum and the Convention Center, planners like to incorporate the mix of sports, entertainment and culinary options of L.A. LIVE into their planned group activities, for a very memorable experience,” explains Peter Psihas, director of group sales at The Ritz-Carlton, Los Angeles, JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE.
The 54-story tower features views that, on a clear day, span from downtown to the ocean. It houses both the JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE and the The Ritz- Carlton Los Angeles. It is therefore easy to imagine the premium setups available for meetings or events, ranging from rooftop poolside, to glass enclosed rooms with dazzling night time views.
In a city where indulgence is always flaunted, the Ritz-Carlton Los Angeles makes the process of giving as easy as receiving. This opportunity falls under the Ritz-Carlton VolunTeaming initiative, a combination of volunteering and teambuilding which helps groups plan activities that benefit the community, such as a day of volunteering at the L. A. Food Bank.
“Response is always overwhelmingly positive from our participants,”says Psihas. “Guests feel they have made a meaningful difference to the local community, and walk away with an understanding of how hunger can impact any person.”
Visit ritzcarlton.com for more information. BT