• Lenora Kruk-Mullanaphy

Boutique, Upscale & Retreat Destinations

When the goal is to entice attendees to an event, build excitement leading up to a meeting, or provide an incentive to motivate employees, the destination and venue can make all the difference.

Boutique, upscale and retreat destinations with a variety of spaces in which to meet, an eclectic array of accommodations and plenty of choices for networking and after-business activities can be found throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

Between southeastern Pennsylvania and northern Delaware lies Chester County’s Brandywine Valley, a destination with top-notch conference and event facilities, 5,000 hotel rooms in the area, and interesting sites to visit, such as Longwood Gardens, museums made famous by the legacy of the DuPont and Wyeth families, and an assortment of wineries.

“Chester County’s Brandywine Valley is a charming destination offering a variety of inspiring experiences for business and leisure travelers,” said Courtney Babcock, director of sales for the Chester County Conference and Visitors Bureau. “The scenic, green, rolling countryside is just 30 minutes from Center City Philadelphia and the Philadelphia International Airport. Our excellent facilities and accommodations, delectable cuisine and old-world hospitality will delight planners and guests.”

Planners will find the setting of Chester County, PA to be ideal for smaller conclaves, such as retreats and executive board meetings. The county offers non-traditional venues for smaller meetings, such as charming bed-and-breakfasts like Faunbrook Inn and the Inn at Whitewing Farm.

For an event unlike any other with a portrait-perfect backdrop, planners will find the Brandywine River Museum of Art and Knauer Performing Arts Center to be great options. Historical sites like the Chester County Historical Society and the American Helicopter Museum are available for networking events and other gatherings.

Smaller groups can visit one of the area’s more than 20 craft breweries, such as Victory Brewing, which offers tours of its facility where attendees can learn about brewing, packaging and distributing. Attendees can indulge in grape-stomping events, tastings and vineyard tours, too. Guests can explore local coffee roasters, such as Golden Valley, which features tours of the facility that culminate with a coffee “cupping” in its state-of-the-art demonstration kitchen.

With planners leaning toward more interactive experiences that take attendees out of the traditional meeting room, Chester County offers a range of activities. Some options include: Escape Room challenges; Chadds Ford Historical Society’s challenge that incorporates local Revolutionary War history; zip lining at Treehouse World; as well as canoeing and hiking opportunities.

Team building exercises sure to please include the Culinary Cooking challenges at The Desmond Hotel, A Doubletree by Hilton. The Chester County CVB hosts the annual Chester County Culinary Challenge, as well, where planners team up with area hospitality partners for an interactive challenge while also making business connections.

Attendees will look forward to meeting at the Chauncey Hotel and Conference Center and its Laurie House, where rich history and beautiful surroundings help to make events memorable. Guests arrive along a winding, tree-lined drive to discover a retreat-like setting.

Chauncey is surrounded by 370 acres of lakeside woodlands just minutes from historic Princeton, NJ and is a short from the Ivy League university’s campus and the heart of town.

Chauncey’s luxurious guestrooms, conference center, event space, indoor saltwater swimming pool, fitness center, dining room and lobby bar help ensure that attendees won’t have to leave the premises during their stay. But for those who do want to embark on an excursion, budget-conscious planners will appreciate the complimentary shuttle that is available for transporting attendees to the downtown area.

Chauncey Executive Chef Brian Wagner earned the 2018 International Association of Conference Centers (IACC) Global Copper Skillet designation, which recognizes the artistry and skill of the best chefs from IACC-member conference venues around the globe.

At The Solomon, a two-tiered dining room with a fireplace, guests of Chauncey can indulge their appetites with a side of panoramic views of the lake. Al fresco dining on the patio with a lake view also is an option. The CBar’s sophisticated ambience accented by a view of fountains and the lake is a great choice for cocktails and casual dining selections.

The Garden Pavilion Tent hosts up to 165 people for sit-down dining. With a tent extension, seating can be increased to 215 attendees. Weather isn’t a worry, because the tent has clear sides that close.

The Laurie House is the only bed and breakfast in the area that offers meeting space. Perfect for board retreats, exclusive meetings and social events, the venue was a former hunt club with origins that date back to 1769. Updated with lavish furnishings and accessories, Laurie House offers privacy and the charm of an exclusive country home.

The Laurie House boasts seven guest rooms, including two suites with cozy sitting areas, peaceful views of the lake or lawns, the living room, library and drawing room, a well-equipped meeting room and a large patio attached for outdoor dining, team building and

social gatherings. The property also offers complimentary electric car charging stations.

Chauncey is ideal for a quiet retreat with a mix of style and function. Able to host up to 200 attendees in conference rooms that comply with the rigorous standards of IACC, its 10,500-square feet of meeting space can accommodate groups up to 150 people. Natural lighting is another attractive feature within the property’s meeting spaces.

“Meeting packages allow you to focus on your meetings and not on the details,” said Chauncey’s director of sales, Cindy McQuaid. “A dedicated conference planning manager is your contact prior to arrival as well as on-site.”

McQuaid added that the retreat-like setting makes Chauncey a hidden gem in the Princeton area, and that the meeting space lies on beautiful grounds. Planners will find impeccable service from the property’s longtime staffers and feel they’re in capable hands with a team that specializes in meetings of any size.

Chauncey’s landscaped grounds also are well-suited to hosting team building and outdoor activities, including walking and jogging trails, bicycle paths and a firepit. Attendees will want to stop in Brodsky Art Gallery, too, which boasts a fireplace and a grand piano.

McQuaid said off-site team building options include those offered through partnerships with local companies, from Terhune Orchards to Cherry Grove Farm to Sourland Mountain Spirits distillery. The staff also can bring these experiences to Chauncey’s campus for those groups who don’t have time to leave the premises.

With historic spaces and picturesque farmhouses that offer lodging and in-house catering services, groups will find the countryside, rustic elegance and professional services of Bucks County, PA to be a quintessential group destination.

The county’s history as an artist’s retreat includes legends such as Oscar Hammerstein, writer and theatrical producer; Pearl S. Buck, Nobel and Pulitzer Prize-winning author; and the prolific author, James A. Michener.

Bucks County is very alluring to meeting and event attendees and Visit Bucks County offers a wide range of complimentary services to entice group business, including assistance in planning an event, finding the ideal venue, help with team building services, providing collateral material and welcome bags, and securing overnight accommodations and room blocks.

“Bucks County specializes in small- to mid-sized meetings and offers a wide range of professional services in a rustic region that makes it the perfect place for a retreat,” said Visit Bucks County president and COO, Paul Bencivengo. “The central location and proximity to major cities on the East Coast have always made it an ideal destination for creative minds and innovative thinkers who are seeking a peaceful escape.”

Bencivengo said castles, wineries, breweries and farmhouses are just a few examples of the unique function spaces available for group outings throughout the county, and Visit Bucks can

provide information about all of the destination’s meeting and event venues to planners who will find that Bucks County has everything they might want or need.

Whether they’re looking for a secluded stay or an itinerary filled with adventure, there’s so much to see and do in Bucks County. Attendees will want to add a few days after business to take advantage of the destination’s offerings, such as historic sites, museums, wineries and breweries, newly renovated properties, austere bed-and-breakfasts and full-service hotels.

Planners who want to add a unique aspect to events can find a variety of options for team building activities, networking opportunities and other gatherings. Attendees will enjoy the Bucks County Wine and Ale Trails, bike tours on the Delaware River Canal Path, cooking classes that incorporate seasonal and local ingredients, as well as do-it-yourself workshops. The history buff will find that a visit to Washington Crossing Historic Park or Mercer Museum and Fonthill Castle will provide a peek into the nation’s past.

Spanning 18-miles long and not wider than a half-mile is the barrier island in New Jersey known as Long Beach Island (LBI). Driving over the Route 72 causeway, visitors get a seagull’s eye view of the tranquil bay dotted with boats that leads to the sand and surf that are trademarks of Long Beach Island’s beauty.

Newly built and opened in May 2019, Hotel LBI in Ship Bottom represents a new form of luxury with a design reminiscent of the early 1900s-style of grand hotels. The charm of a summer home combined with world-class amenities and spectacular views of Barnegat Bay, Hotel LBI boasts 3,700-square feet of meeting and event space. Its impressive Conservatory boasts vaulted ceilings, a gas fireplace and panoramic windows that overlook the seaside town.

There’s no need to leave the property with all that Hotel LBI offers, including the full-service Lighthouse Beauty and Wellness Spa, large fitness center, and the tropical-themed indoor swimming pool with retractable roof and doors that open to let in fresh sea air.

Attendees will find business to be a pleasure when they whet their appetites at the Tide Pool Bar and Grille, the Rooftop bar with firepits and a helping of breathtaking views, 24-hour Marketplace, the Living Room lobby bar and the award-winning Salt Kitchen Restaurant and Bar for fine dining.

As if that’s not enough to entice planners, there are an abundance of complimentary offerings on-site, such as beach badges, towels, chairs and


An all-suite (from studio to penthouse) property with full kitchens in each room, the hotel overlooks Barnegat Bay. Centrally located in southern Ocean County with easy access from the Garden State Parkway, Hotel LBI is in the heart of the town of Ship Bottom at the entrance of Long Beach Island.

Planners will find plenty of sites for networking and special events, including a visit to Barnegat Lighthouse State Park, shopping at eclectic stores in Bay Village, bicycling on the paths of a National Wildlife Refuge, strolling on the beach, renting boats for fishing and crabbing, sipping drinks by the hotel bar with bay views and more.

Influenced by the natural seaside surroundings, The Reeds at Shelter Haven in Stone Harbor, NJ offers a luxurious experience at the Jersey Shore. A boutique resort with 58 guestrooms and suites, it houses 9,000-square feet of flexible event space, including three hospitality suites for small meetings, dinners, presentations and breakout sessions. There’s a ballroom for larger conferences, too - all in an intimate setting by the bay.

For a break in the day, the new Salt Spa at The Reeds is a welcome oasis, and the resort is easily accessible to local shops, restaurants and beaches.

Groups at The Reeds will find opulent amenities throughout the resort, such as valet parking, nightly turn-down service, seasonal dining experiences and access to its cutting-edge fitness center. Team building activities and experiences are customized to each group, including rides on a fleet of custom bikes, boat excursions, wine education dinners, painting parties, firepit events, clambakes, spa days, and beach and bay activities.

Dining options at the resort are abundant, too, with choices like the Water Star Grille, Sax at The Reeds, Buckets Margarita Bar + Cantina, Stone Harbor Pizza Pub, and Wafflewich Waffles and Ice Cream.

“When it was built in the early 2000s, The Reeds at Shelter Haven became the founding property in the Refined Hospitality portfolio,” said founder and CEO of Refined Hospitality, Ron Gorodesky. “Since that time, Refined has grown to include additional luxury-lifestyle hotels, restaurants and catering facilities, but one very important fact has remained the same - our dedication to offering guests unparalleled luxury experiences and service. This honed focus on providing an exceptional guest experience is what sets The Reeds and its sister properties apart from all other meeting and events destinations in the area.”

With stunning views of the Lambertville landscape and the Delaware River, the River House at Odette’s in New Hope, PA is a complete meeting, retreat and event destination. Views of the river in its dining venues, top-notch amenities, a rooftop lounge, modern meeting facilities and team building activities make the property a great choice for groups.

Here, attendees will find 38 guestrooms accented with bold murals, tufted leather headboards, luxury linens and spa-like bathrooms. Dining at Odette’s, relaxing at the Piano Lounge and indulging in the exciting nightlife at the Roof are all options available on-site at the River House. Just outside of the property there’s plenty more to do, too, including browsing the many local shops, dining at dozens of restaurants and checking out cultural attractions.

“As part of the Refined Hospitality portfolio of properties, River House guests can feel confident they’ll experience the same level of attentive service and unparalleled event execution they’ve come to expect from our team of professionals,” said Gorodesky.

The Omni Bedford Springs Resort in Bedford, PA was recently recognized as one of the “Top 10 Resorts in the Mid-Atlantic” by Condé Nast. It features the world-class Springs Eternal Spa, a breathtakingly restored golf course, spacious guest rooms, options for dining, as well as cutting-edge conference rooms. While the Omni’s original historic charm has been preserved, the venue is equipped with all the modern components for a successful event.

“With our long history and unique function space, we’ve hosted some of the most important events held in Pennsylvania,” said Omni Bedford Springs’ director of sales and marketing, Dave Nostrand. “We’re a world-class resort that’s nationally ranked in several areas.”

With 216 guest rooms and 20,000-square feet of function space, the venue only accommodates one or two groups simultaneously. Whether it’s a team building experience, a product rollout or an annual gathering, planners appreciate the personal service and specialized attention they have come to expect at Omni Bedford Springs.

A variety of leisure and adventurous activities await attendees, including the award-winning Springs Eternal Spa and an 18-hole golf course (ranked second in the state for “Golf Courses You Can Play” by Golf Week Magazine). Let the journey begin with off-road vehicle tours, Segway adventures or mountain trails. The culinary and beverage options boast a variety of local flavors, and dining is made extra special amid the beauty of the property’s natural surroundings.

Planners looking for intimate group dining will find the Chef’s Table Dinner to be an exclusive experience. A six-course prix fixe menu is paired with beverages on Friday and Saturday evenings, where only one seating per day is available. The 1796 Room serves steaks, chops, fish and poultry in a relaxed, upscale atmosphere.

Tillie’s At The Clubhouse is the venue’s newest restaurant, and The Crystal Room, the main dining room, boasts a sophisticated ambiance. Frontier Tavern is a casual eatery that’s open for lunch, dinner and in between for small bites, and it transforms into a vibrant bar scene in the evening. Che Sara Sara serves dollops of ice cream, confections, smoothies and more.

While enjoying the outdoor swimming pool and summer weather, the Turtle Shell offers a pool menu. For attendees bringing that special four-legged friend, a pet menu for in-room dining pampers Fido with delectable selections, as well.

There’s always something taking place at Omni Bedford Springs, too, such as Fall Foliage weekends at the resort that coincide with a festival in downtown Bedford. To greet December, the resort hosted “Grand Illumination,” a tradition where the entire town convenes at the property to celebrate the beginning of the holiday season. Holiday lights are turned on and a 40-foot tree graces the property.

Woodloch Resort in Hawley, PA is a four-season resort in the Pocono Mountains. Nestled in a mountain lake setting, the property has been owned and operated by the Kiesendahl family since 1958. Woodloch features three distinct properties situated within a two-mile radius to present guests with a variety of choices and to meet the needs of every group.

Woodloch Pines Resort’s lakeside beauty offers inclusive packages and an activities schedule that is focused on creating memorable events. The Lodge at Woodloch, a world-class destination spa and wellness retreat, provides opportunities to reawaken the senses and a place where attendees can connect through creative and stress-relieving outlets that will leave them feeling invigorated and energized. Finally, the Woodloch Springs Community combines ownership opportunities, upscale dining, and a championship golf course.

Accommodations at Woodloch run the gamut from beautiful guest houses for a “home away from home” to magnificent resort rooms and suites. A haven for dining, attendees can enjoy a casual, lakeside cookout at Woodloch Pines, the formal atmosphere at The Country Club at Woodloch Springs, and gourmet dining at the TREE Restaurant at The Lodge at Woodloch.

Customized team building programs on-site include innovative activities, and planners can have them tailored to a group’s specific needs. The property also offers management workshops, seminars and health and wellness programs. Planners will work with a team of professionals at Woodloch who will ensure that each event is seamless, and a personal

coordinator is dedicated to every group.

In each of these locations, planners will find a boutique venue with offerings that are well suited to the needs of their retreat, meeting or event - from upscale accommodations to right-sized meeting space to expert staff to on-site dining options to team building and recreation.

Though each destination is quite different, they all represent intriguing options for planners in search of the ideal environment for their smaller group functions.

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