There are some fantastic settings throughout the region that are a perfect fit for group bonding and team building. Here, some of these sites, venues and destinations offer information and tips on how easy and fun it can be to provide a group with a truly unique experience as part of their event.
Once one of America's largest and most prestigious private estates, Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center is a meticulously restored American landmark destination for meetings, events and fine dining - and it is a perfect fit for an experiential event.
“Our specialty is executive level corporate retreats and we have been recognized as one of the area’s top 25 meeting sites by the Philadelphia Business Journal,” says Karen Mandel, senior business development manager for the property. “Normandy Farm boasts three floors and 113 exquisitely appointed king and double queen hotel rooms. The property also features an East and West Gatehouse, Carriage House, and original Manor House, each of which has been renovated to include a total of 28 spacious guest suites.”
Located just 25 minutes from Center City Philadelphia and situated in the heart of Blue Bell, PA, Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center is easily accessible to companies traveling from the tri-state area. “Relax on our grand terrace, sip a cocktail in America's oldest silo, play a challenging game of golf on our championship course, plan an event with us or dine on our delectable farm-to-table cuisine. It all adds up to ‘one historic experience’,” boasts Mandel.
Normandy Farm is never at a loss for options when it comes to interesting and fun team building ideas for a group outing. “Culinary: ‘a team that cooks together, stays together’ is our motto,” she continues. “Sweet success: team created and decorated flavored cupcakes - you'll be surprised what you learn in the kitchen. Or Wacky Golf: a challenging team-based way to improve communication, strategy and problem-solving skills while having fun with our golf professionals. Also, Golf Clinic: get additional team building skills as you explore the vistas of our golf course.”
Alternatively, groups can opt to take part in team building “game shows.”
“Casino and giant board games create a sense of whimsy as you discover new ways to pump up morale and learn to work together,” explains Mandel.
Not only are all of these options unique, but they also add to the “farm charm” vibe of the property. Normandy Farm Hotel and Conference Center truly features some fresh and fun options for team building experiences. “Other properties may strive to attain our home town hospitality, but we are the real deal,” says Mandel.
“We practice what we preach at every touch point of our property, which makes us irresistibly attractive to our corporate clients,” she continues. “We ooze everything local, including the food that we source, the libations that we serve, and the artists whose works are displayed in our contemporary art gallery in the conference center. Our bar’s offerings have been hand selected to ensure that local breweries, distilleries and wineries are given the opportunity to share their craft with our guests. As a participant in Pennsylvania Proud, our beef, chicken, and pork are all sourced from local farmers, thus contributing to the local economy.”
Normandy Farm’s “local vibe” is low key and it provides an ideal, relaxed learning setting for guests. “All of our team building events have a special layer of ‘farm charm,’ whether you are competing in a culinary team building activity, teeing off at Blue Bell Country Club, or enjoying a wine pairing event featuring local wineries,” adds Mandel.
She further notes that daily activities can comfortably fold into one another by combining work and play on the same campus. “We offer a stress-free transition from the time that you park your car (400 free spaces), to hotel check in, to meeting, team building, happy hour, dinner, until bed. The next day? Repeat!”
For competitive teams in search of a fun experience, Main Event Entertainment offers a truly active and exciting team building environment. Here, Robert Jenkins, vice president, sales for Main Event, talks about their family entertainment center and how they are much, much more than just games for kids.
“We try and provide a premier dining experience as well as entertainment options for the whole family,” says Jenkins. “We are a restaurant with bowling and other activities, but also many event segments. Each location has a team of event specialists dedicated to providing the ultimate guest experience - whether it is a birthday party, team meeting, team building or more.”
In their 40 locations, Main Event hosts over 50,000 events per year. Their regional venues include Newark, Delaware and the franchise’s newest property in Columbia, Maryland.
“You have the ability to have up to 60,000-square feet of entertainment. We do full and half day meetings, client and employee appreciation events, team building, but the biggest gem is RENT the Event. Companies can take over the entire building and have 60,000-square feet of fun,” explains Jenkins.
Guests also can enjoy chef inspired buffet options while the building is exclusively theirs for their custom day. “So often in family entertainment you are catering to children and it’s hard to help adults recognize they can have fun with it too,” Jenkins adds. “Escape the bored room - our new mantra - and learn a different way to team build, learn and grow together.”
To fully customize an experiential team building event at Main Event Entertainment, Jenkins notes that they don’t just hand over a cookie cutter option, but really try to learn more about the client and look at what format will work best for each individual guest.
“We try to understand why the team building is being looked at,” explains. “For instance, did you take over a new department, melding two teams together? Is there communication improvement needed between team members? Are you looking for a leader or working on collaboration? When we understand what will work for their goal, we are better able to create that specific experience. Maybe a competitive challenge in the arcade. Or a point-based challenge with different options and various packages.”
Main Event offers four different packages: Lightning Strike, which is tag team bowling; Power Play includes bowling and laser tag; Vertical Velocity involves gravity ropes added to the package; and Adrenaline Rush, which includes bowling, laser tag and the ropes course. “The key as a facilitator is understanding the message we’re delivering and what we’re learning from the experience.”
One of the things that makes choosing a venue like Main Event such a good option for a unique team building experience is that it offers so many opportunities under one roof.
“Also, we are budget friendly, and have the most value for your dollar with food, beverage and entertainment,” says Jenkins. “The people working for us are specialists in their field. They understand the ins-and-outs of event execution and providing experiences. It takes a lot of pressure off of the event planner. They can be comfortable too and have the best experience.”
Jenkins further adds that Main Event is extremely flexible and knowledgeable about who they are and what they can do. “We cater to everyone. Full bar, customizable rooms, room for live bands and more. And don’t forget about the Winner’s Circle! You can redeem arcade game tickets for prizes - really nice prizes! We always try to enhance the experience. We can provide digital invitations, upgraded giveaways and more.”
Another great regional spot for a fun experiential event is Escape AC at Tropicana in Atlantic City, NJ.
Media services administrator for Tropicana, Nadya Ramos, discusses this unique space and the many options it can offer to planners looking for a fresh and fun team building opportunity.
“Since 2013, Tropicana Atlantic City has invested more than $200 million in upgrades, renovations and enhancements across the property ranging from gaming and non-gaming amenities, hotel rooms, restaurants and more,” says Ramos. “The property now features just under 2,400 hotel rooms, is the home of The Quarter (a 200,000-square foot entertainment complex), 26 restaurants, 25 shops, 20 bars and lounges, four swimming pools, the Tropicana Showroom, an IMAX Theatre and a spa.”
To address a higher demand for unique and engaging activities for groups and convention attendees, Tropicana Atlantic City also offers Escape AC.
“Escape rooms have become increasingly popular among meeting planners who view them as a great tool for team building,” says Ramos. “The rooms are designed to challenge groups of people to work together toward the same goal. Escape AC offers four classic Atlantic City themed rooms from which to choose: The Poker Room; The Boardwalk; The Casino Cage; or Backstage. Each game room provides a thrilling yet challenging experience that requires attention to detail, critical thinking, communication and teamwork in order to break out. These 60-minute sessions are unique experiences that are great for team bonding.”
For those planners hosting their groups at Escape AC, after the activity is finished, there also are virtually endless dining and entertainment options that can be included for the full experience.
“Tropicana Atlantic City features more than 25 restaurants all under one roof,” says Ramos. “Top dining options for corporate groups include three new dining concepts by award-winning chef Jose Garces: Olón, Bar Olón, and Okatshe.”
There also is plenty of nightlife and entertainment at Tropicana Atlantic City, and The Quarter and The Marketplace at Tropicana offer groups some of the city’s most-energetic partying and dancing venues in town.
“Boogie Nights is a time warp back to the era of 8-track disco, bell bottoms, sideburns, crushed velvet and afros. Retro-style furniture, specialty pop culture cocktails and an oversized disco ball creates the ideal atmosphere for a night of flashback fun. At Kiss Kiss Nightclub, club-goers will be amazed at this trip down the rabbit hole into the neon-fueled nights of Bangkok, complete with bottle service, dancers in virtual cages, and a kaleidoscope of mind-blowing lip imagery.”
Those in search of over-the-top entertainment will find revue shows, sporting events, Broadway productions, and headliners at the Tropicana Showroom. This venue has a capacity of up to 2,000 people, making it one of the largest showrooms in Atlantic City.
In addition, Tropicana AC acquired adjacent boutique hotel The Chelsea in 2017 and began the process of linking it to Tropicana as its fifth hotel tower, bringing the property’s total guest room count to just under 2,400 and adding another 5,600-square feet of conference space to its offerings.
“Under construction is an enclosed pedestrian walkway bridge connecting all Tropicana guests to the Chelsea Tower and its hotel rooms and amenities. It is exciting to offer meeting planners more hotel rooms and dining experiences for their convention attendees,” notes Ramos.
Ramos also shares some advice when planning these types of team building events, and how planners can accommodate every attendee.
“When planning an experiential event,” she cautions, “it is important to keep in mind that not everyone is as outgoing or open to participating in group activities. It is good to give the group a ‘head’s up’ as to what type of experiential activity they will be participating in so that they will show up prepared - but don’t give away all the details! If the event is something that is completely outside an individual’s comfort zone, he or she might be inclined to pull a ‘no-show’ the day of the outing.”
Many attendees, however, will be excited by the prospect of engaging in a new and fun experience as part of their event. Many attendees like to be engaged and challenged while taking part in group activities.
Providing attendees with a true experience will certainly provide a much-needed boost and generate a lot of buzz among the group moving forward.