Whenever we here at Prevue travel on business, we scope out the area golf courses and newest spas because both go a long way to help relieve stress and improve mental focus. They’re obviously good places to network too, where people can casually talk shop in a more relaxed, natural and convivial environment.
We haven’t come up with a business case for shopping, yet. But few planners would argue that attendees love to browse for something to bring back home, whether it’s a new Coach clutch or handmade artwork singular to the region’s culture.
PALM DESERT, CA
Tucked among the eight cities that make up the Palm Springs basin, Palm Desert is a serene 45,000-person community with sweeping views of the Santa Rosa and San Jacinto mountain ranges. What’s more, Palm Desert is a sunny self-contained utopia seamlessly meshing group infrastructure and leisure amenities.
“We’re living the dream in Palm Desert,” says Scott White, President/CEO of Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVA. “The community is so well maintained, it feels like a large country club.”
Planners with experienced golfers to please should check out the Desert Willow Golf Resort—a golf-only facility offering two courses for varying skill levels. The Firecliff layout is not for your once-a-month duffer. The hazards are mean and plentiful. The Mountain View course meanwhile is easier to play but no walk in the park either. Overhauled in 2009, it was redesigned as a transition between a pro circuit and a casual municipal course.
In January, Desert Willow wrapped a $4.8 million expansion to the clubhouse. The facility’s outdoor patio can now accommodate up to 300 for a seated dinner and up to 1,000 for standing reception. Indoor meeting rooms seat up to 250 pax.
“The clubhouse offers incredible views of the course and surrounding mountains and great facilities for indoor and outdoor dining,” says White. “It is the type of facility that you would expect at a private country club, not at a public course.”
The 833-room JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa is the city’s major large meetings destination. Walking into the 450 acre property, your eyes are immediately drawn to the soaring walls of windows overlooking a crystal clear lake with a golf course in the background. The hotel features 53,000 sf of meeting space and a 38,000-sf spa with 48 treatment rooms.
“The JW is a gorgeous property for large groups,” says White, adding that the property offers two 18-hole golf courses: Palm and Valley, flanked by hundreds of towering palm trees.
And then there’s El Paseo—Palm Desert’s Rodeo Drive.
“El Paseo recently opened a whole new block of shops, which meeting attendees love when they have down time,” says White. “Palm Desert is really one of the premier incentive meetings destinations in the world. It’s a very dramatic experience.”
ATLANTIC CITY, NJ
Ranked among the top 10 golf cities in America, Atlantic City is working diligently to promote its golf product consisting of eight regional courses. For example, the city is hosting the inaugural Atlantic City World Amateur Open golf tournament this June.
“We have worked hard to make golf an important addition to the entertainment component of Atlantic City,” says Brian Hoey, Executive Director of the Greater Atlantic City Golf Association. “With this tournament, I believe we will solidify Atlantic City’s place among the best golfing regions in the country.”
For meeting pros, the historic Atlantic City Country Club provides a cultured atmosphere for any style of event.
“The Atlantic City Country Club opened in the 1800s and it is impeccably restored,” says Jeff Vasser, President of the Atlantic City Convention & Visitors Authority. “It offers beautiful views of the city skyline.” Built in 1897, the legacy club has hosted many US Women’s Open tournaments. It offers several banquet rooms and an open air terrace for 200 pax.
Come mid-March, the 278-room Seaview—A Dolce Resort will unveil an updated lobby, refurbed meeting space and two renewed golf courses: Pine and Bay. Seaview features 27,000 sf of meeting space and a patio for up to 350 guests. Also on property, the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa hosts groups with 20 treatment rooms, a gym, indoor pool and steam room.
For the full-service group package, check out the 2,000-room Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa. It features 70,000 sf of meeting space and a fantastic relaxation facility: the 54,000-sf Spa Toccare outfitted with a lovely garden, indoor pool and 22 treatment rooms.
Next door to the Borgata, connected by 161,000 sf of gaming space, The Water Club is an 800-room property with 18,000 sf of meeting space. The Immersion Spa is perched on the 32/33 floors with an infinity pool and 16 treatment rooms.
And how’s the shopping, Jeff?
“About 10 years ago, we didn’t have any shopping in Atlantic City. But in just the past six years, we’ve added one million square feet and we’re adding more.”
The WALK, an outdoor shopping center, is a retail magnet close to the Atlantic City Convention Center. This spring a dozen more stores are slated to open next to the existing 100.
“We really have something for everyone,” says Vasser. Go out and golf during the day, enjoy some time at the beach and then see Lady Gaga at night.”
In 1895, George Vanderbilt finished his famous Biltmore Estate in Asheville, NC, and E.W. Grove, a St. Louis native who made millions selling medicine, opened The Grove Park Inn Resort & Spa in 1913. With these two properties as cornerstones, Asheville has developed into a sophisticated artsy mountain escape. Especially downtown, there’s an eclectic mix of high-end boutiques, retro coffee shops and vintage clothing stores.
“Asheville has a high-end hippy vibe; it’s Berkeley meets Park Avenue,” says Kelly Miller, Executive Director of the Asheville CVB. “You can have a world-class spa treatment and 10 minutes later be getting your face painted and listening to a drum circle downtown.”
Asheville’s standout spa is at Grove Park Inn, which Miller says, “rivals any spa in North America.” The 43,000-sf spa has a Grotto look with waterfalls and 24 treatment rooms.
The resort’s 18-hole golf course opened in 1899. Entirely surrounded by the Blue Ridge Mountains, the course is a serene and picturesque place for group tournaments.
In March 2010, Biltmore opened Cedric’s Tavern, a British pub seating groups up to 80. “Cedric’s is great because it offers striking views of the mountains and estate,” says Miller. We like the Corner Kitchen at Biltmore, with two rooms seating 12/20. So too do Mr. and Mrs. Obama who ate there during their spring break last year.