• Midwest hospitality on rivers and lakes
• Cruise into creative meetings
• Lazy rivers and long-range thinking
From water sport activities to cruises, beautiful Midwestern rivers and lakes offer plenty of choices for meeting professionals.
With so many resorts and lodges located on or near rivers and lakes, there is no need to look for a coastal retreat outside of the Midwest for bountiful options of relaxation and sport.
If cruises and lakeside fun don’t come to mind when you have visions of the Midwest, you will be surprised by the options throughout the region. From riverboats to paddleboats and kayaking adventures, the possibilities are endless.
Carrie Stier, Owner, Riverboat Twilight, expands on the benefits of taking advantage of the aquatic beauty aboard a riverboat. “A cruise aboard the Riverboat Twilight offers more of a retreat than ‘meeting’ space. It is an opportunity for teams to step back, slow down, and let ideas spring up organically – all while enjoying the peaceful setting of being on the river and immersed in nature. Did I mention that all meals, snacks, entertainment, ground transportation, and shore tours are included in the fare? A definite plus for the retreat organizer. We host many different types of groups, from family reunions to military reunions, bus groups, and more.”
Need to feed your guests? Riverboat Twilight offers some great Midwestern fare and cocktails. With overnight accommodations, there is a true getaway atmosphere, private meeting rooms aren’t available, but groups can spend their time getting to know one another and, if needed, meet in small groups informally. You won’t find slideshow presentations on this boat, but they offer plenty of great scenery and time to network and strengthen relationships.
The Breezy Belle Paddle-Wheel Boat at Breezy Point Resort in Breezy Point, MN can accommodate up to 100 passengers and is a great way for your group to relax on Pelican Lake while enjoying the view, May through October. Whether you want a simple cruise with drinks and hors d’oeuvres, a special lunch, or sunset dinner you can break up the monotony of your meeting with this outing.
Looking for a little more pizzazz on the water? Joey Thorsen, Marketing & Special Events Manager with Silver Dollar City Attractions, works with one such entertainment option, the Showboat Branson Belle, in Branson, MO. The Showboat Branson Belle is just the vessel to impress your group! This grand boat can handle large groups, offering seating for up to 700 guests. While cruising on Table Rock Lake guests can enjoy the finest entertainment of magicians, musicians, or dance.
Thorsen raves, “It is really cool, there is nothing else like it, and it is the largest landlocked vessel of its kind anywhere.” Having worked with sporting events in the past, he loves helping meeting planners create one-of-a-kind experiences, whether it is having a full meeting onboard or focusing on a special event. They offer full A/V and can assist with meals and entertainment.
Nothing is too out of the ordinary to host on the water. Last summer the International Brotherhood of Real Bearded Santas held their convention in Branson and used the Showboat Branson Belle for a fun night that included Santa’s in full costume, a reception on the top deck, awards ceremony, and dance. Next up in March is the Travel South Travel Showcase where chefs will take over the entire space to share culinary creations with live cooking demonstrations and a rotating cast of entertainment.
Further north, neighbor to the La Crosse Convention and Visitors Bureau, is the La Crosse Queen. This 149 passenger ship runs charters mid-April to end of October, providing everything from sightseeing cruises to lunch, brunch, dinner, and cocktail cruises.
Kathy Jostad, General Manager and Owner of the La Crosse Queen in La Crosse, WI shares why groups love to take advantage of their boat, “Being on the Mississippi River is a big selling point, they go through the lock and dam system, get in touch with nature, and watch eagles and wild life.”
For groups looking for a little more, Jostad offers a partial or full narration of the city and river at no charge. One of the most common comments they receive from guests is that they are still able to have one-on-one discussions, but are able to relax on the river and enjoy the scenery. Jostad notes, “People have held their business meetings right on the boat along with special events — we can be a one-stop shop. Whether they want us to take care of parts or the whole event, we can work with them on food and beverage and assist with arranging or recommending entertainment, such as bands, magicians, or even a casino night.”
Staying on land and enjoying rivers and lakes is another great option. Larry and Sheryl Johnson, opened Cedar Valley Resort in Whalen, MN (Lanesboro area) to the delight of guests from all over. As one of the only places in the area without a lake, they have taken full advantage of being in what is referred to as ‘the driftless area’; part of the land that was not affected by the continental glacier. Instead of a traditional lake feature, they have access to an amazing river area that is fun for all levels of water sport enthusiasts. Rather than heading to a waterpark’s manmade lazy river, guests here enjoy nature’s lazy river or immerse themselves in quiet beauty while kayaking or canoeing.
The Johnson’s have hosted everyone from business groups to teacher associations, and even relief groups, offering a place to gather and conduct business, and a spot to unwind — a recharge while surrounded by nature.
As the Johnson’s shared, groups feel the same way they do about their location. “Think Bank comes every year to our resort and I asked them why they like coming here. They said, ‘Our executive team stays at Cedar Valley for our annual strategic planning retreat. The facility and its setting allow us to unhook from the day-to-day pressures of the office so we can focus on long-range thinking. But we don't work 24/7 -- cooking our meals together, walking the Root River Trail, or biking down to the pie shop are great teambuilding activities, too!’”
The Johnson’s couldn’t agree more, “this is generally why we think our place is good for business groups. It allows people to relax away from the day-to-day grind, do bonding activities, and get out to enjoy nature.”
Stop daydreaming about the ocean and begin thinking about the endless possibilities surrounding lakes and rivers in the Midwest. From small groups to large conventions there are a variety of fun and unique places to meet from the land to water.