Sometimes finding the right space for an event means searching outside your comfort zone. Thinking “outside the box.” Or, just maybe, taking it… outside.
Holding a group function outdoors isn’t restricted to the warmer months, either. There are activities, options and opportunities for making use of outside spaces in all four seasons. Ranging from winter sports to summertime cookouts, planners have plenty of choices when the right call for their event leads them and their group beyond the four walls of a meeting room.
Whether that means a snowy adventure, enjoying a fireside discussion, gathering in a gazebo, training under a tent, dining on a deck, traversing a high ropes course, paying homage to historic heroes of a battlefield, shooting clays at a range, or birding on a beach, outdoor options abound throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.
"There’s a moment,” observes Michelle Wescott, director of sales for Camelback Resort in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania, “that single perfect moment in winter that creates memories that last a lifetime. That moment happens every single day at Camelback. Sitting by any one of the firepits around the resort - and there are many of them - sipping on a perfect 'adult' hot drink, feet warming by the fire as the snow falls all around. Yeah, that’s here. All winter long."
“Or,” she adds, “imagine a board meeting at the very top of the mountain with views to die for. Camelback has that, too, at Summit House, the single highest meeting/restaurant venue in the Poconos at the top of Camelback Mountain.”
For those looking to add outdoor adventure and activity to their function, Wescott suggests skiing, snowboarding, or even taking the team snowtubing at the resort.
"Camelback sits right on the mountain,” she explains. “Not like some of the other area resorts that sit next to the highway. And our meeting spaces and ballrooms bring the outdoors inside with our floor-to-ceiling windows. Camelback’s grand ballroom is designed in the classic 'lodge-style’ with spectacular views of the mountains and a beautiful wood fireplace that adds to the ambience for a perfect winter meeting.”
Groups could also take over the property’s top floor or the private wine cellar conference room at Berrelli’s Italian restaurant for their function. Wescott says that Berrelli’s is an ideal location for a power lunch or meeting, noting that it is ski-in/ski-out and serves up authentic Italian cuisine along with great wine in an outstanding location.
Berrelli’s, Trail’s End and Base Camp One at the Camelback snowtubing hill all feature firepits and provide outdoor dining options. Snowtubing parties are great for groups and can include bar options like hot totties or adult hot cocoa, while The Summit House sets up for a range of different and creative possibilities, including outdoor cocktail parties, meetings and other functions.
“There is never a lack of great options at Camelback,” Wescott proclaims.
When the group wants to enjoy the winter months at Camelback but doesn’t necessarily want to be out in the cold weather, Wescott says the resort has that covered, too. “Our meeting space and ballrooms feature one-of-a-kind mountain views with floor-to- ceiling windows. A cozy fireplace adds atmosphere and serves as a respite from the winter chill.”
Berrelli’s offers views of the mountain and of skiers as they pass by for their next ride on the lifts. Wine in the woods also is available here with light fare options served Italian-style.
In Atlantic City, NJ, Peter Ciccone, senior vice president hotel sales for Ocean Casino Resort, discusses some the property’s outdoor options. “Being such a large property, we are fortunate to offer different varieties of outdoor event space. Our Sky Garden presents multiple options with its large amount of available space and different settings. Its multiple firepits and dramatic views of the beach and boardwalk make it an ideal location for a wedding ceremony, cocktail party or a reception of up to 400 people.”
Another option is The Poseidon, Ocean Casino Resort’s private cabana area that is elevated above the beach and boardwalk. It boasts three swimming pools, 13 cabanas and a dramatic patio area. This venue is well-suited to accommodate up to 500 people for an event and makes for a striking setting from which to watch the sunset.
For those in search of an indoor space that still allows attendees to enjoy views of the outside, the resort is home to “The Brow, which is located on our meeting room level and offers a large amount of space overlooking the ocean,” explains Ciccone. “This is a very flexible area for any type of corporate or social event.”
In addition, the lobby of Ocean Casino Resort is adjacent to its Sky Garden and is able to host events for up to 700 people with a unique design that includes soft seating and permanent bar. Ciccone further notes that this area still is able to maintain privacy for the group because of the large-scale nature of the space. "The Sky Garden is easily accessible to the meeting room and lobby levels,” he adds. “The versatile design and uniqueness of the area is perfect for a break or meal.”
In Lahaska, PA, Brian Shields, director of sales for Peddler's Village, discusses opportunities for outdoor functions at his venue and the value that can serve to a group. “Meetings and events with experiential learning bring a hands-on approach to the attendees. It keeps all attendees involved and engaged. If the meetings or events are outside, it adds a different element. Attendees appreciate the surroundings and it’s a nice change from their regular meeting routine.”
He further notes that Peddler’s Village has hosted wedding receptions and ceremonies outside by its gazebo. “We have done scavenger hunts with meeting attendees throughout the Village while our merchants gave out clues. Lastly, we can host outside picnics here using tents. Peddler’s Village has 42-acres of beautifully landscaped grounds and can therefore host groups of various sizes.”
In the event of inclement weather at Peddler’s Village, Shields notes that planners will appreciate the indoor options available here, as well. “It is very important to have a back-up location if something is planned outside. Weather can have an impact on the best thought out plans. Peddler’s Village has two restaurants, Earl’s New American and The Cock ‘n’ Bull Restaurant, that offer banquet and meeting space. We can reserve backup space in one of these venues for groups planning outdoor events in case of bad weather.”
Brianna Alcorn is sales director for terrain events, which offers locations in both Devon and Glen Mills, PA, as well as in Westport, CT, Bethesda, MD, and in three cities in California. "Celebrations at terrain pair botanical settings with a convivial atmosphere to welcome family and friends,” Alcorn explains.
“Some of our most successful events in the warmer months are held in our outdoor spaces, which allows guests to unwind, reconnect with nature and let go of the stresses of a traditional office setting,” she continues. “The benefits of this can include a stimulation of the mind and enhanced creativity, increased focus, an opportunity to connect with one another in a new way, and also an opportunity to enjoy the health benefits of being in the open air - like lowered blood pressure, stress relief and improved immune function."
She notes that terrain is able to offer unique horticultural retreats for celebrations of all kinds with event spaces that are situated adjacent to the ever-changing terrain nursery, which provides a lush backdrop from spring’s first blooms to the festive richness of the holiday season.
“Both our Glen Mills and Devon locations boast exterior spaces, including Ceremony Gardens with intricate and unique features, and Garden Porches - excellent for small dinners or cocktail hours,” asserts Alcorn.
Terrain offers a variety of hands-on activities that can be added to a meeting, too, from team building terrarium workshops to artisan cooking workshops where guests can learn to create terrain specialties, such as their signature flower pot bread and pies.
“Beyond workshops, we can work together to create experiences bespoke for any group,” says Alcorn, “like a retreat paired with a tour of the nursery to learn seasonal tips and tricks for plant life from our terrain experts. All of our offerings are customizable and we love the opportunity to think outside of the traditional.”
Providing non-traditional settings and creating unique opportunities for group outings is a big part of what sets outdoor events apart from the more traditional indoor function spaces.
These unusual environs help serve as an invigorating alternative to the norm and act as memorable settings that will continue to be talked about long after an event has ended.