Chicagoans are a hardy bunch, but after suffering through the requisite eight months of winter, it's no surprise that when summer comes, everyone wants to get outside and celebrate.
For meeting planners, one of the most effective ways of boosting morale (or impressing out-of-town groups who think Chicago is landlocked) is to plan an event that takes full advantage of the warm weather. And Lake Michigan, of course.
Hilton Chicago/Indian Lakes Resort
Ideally located in Bloomingdale, Ill., the Hilton Chicago/Indian Lakes Resort is easy to get to from the city, suburbs and O'Hare. With 250 acres of small lakes, lush green space and an abundance of open areas, meeting planners can get creative with 50,000 square feet of meeting space, including 14,000 square feet of outdoor function space that takes full advantage of the rich landscaping.
If your attendees are golfers, Indian Lakes ranks among the best courses in the area. Blackhawk Trace Golf Club offers three ninehole courses and a brand-new driving range and practice facility with a 10,000-square-foot putting and chipping green and bunkers for green side and fairway practice. For non-golfers, there's also plenty to do, such as indoor and outdoor pools, a fitness center, a full-service spa and a variety of restaurants, including Shiraz on the Water, which offers more than 1,200 wine labels.
According to Julie Behrel, a sales analyst for Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions, who helped coordinate the company's annual regional meeting at Hilton/Chicago Indian Lakes last summer, it's the wide variety of activities that sets the resort apart. "Our annual region meeting in August 2009 was a huge success in part due to the beautiful facilities at the Hilton Chicago/ Indian Lakes Resort, the top-notch service of the staff, and the variety of amenities that provided the perfect mix for focused, productive meetings and relaxed, teambuilding opportunities," says Behrel.
Tennis • Volleyball • Horseshoe Pits • Fitness Center • Game Room • Complimentary Local Shuttle Service • Car Rental
630.529.0200 // www.indianlakesresort.com
Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort
There's a venue just 90 miles south of Chicago that's perfect for groups who are particularly fond of mixing business with pleasure. In fact, considering everything there is to do both on site and off, your colleagues might forget they're working at all.
Just down the street from Starved Rock State Park in Utica, Ill., Grizzly Jack's Grand Bear Resort is a great place for family friendly meetings. Home to a 24,000-square-foot indoor water park, a 36,000-square-foot amusement park and an 18-hole miniature golf course, your meeting attendees and their families will be entertained from dawn till dusk. For sports lovers, Lumber Jack's full-service sports pizzeria bar, within the amusement park offers a full menu and large-screen TVs. Adults can also hang out in the newly revamped outdoor pavilion for lunches and teambuilding activities.
In addition to fun and games, the resort offers an ample 10,000 square feet of versatile space, with a 6,000-square-foot ballroom, which can be divided three ways. In addition, the accommodations are especially unique, with a variety of options including 92 hotel rooms, 140 villas and 48 luxury cabins which are perfect for large or small groups, such as executive boards.
Lastly, for groups who like to experience nature, the Starved Rock State Park is one of the state's most popular attractions, with 2009 attendance figures topping 2 million. The unparalleled rock formations, waterfalls and hiking trails are the perfect natural complement to the action-packed atmosphere of Grizzly Jack's.
Grizzly Bean Cafe • Honey Pot Sweet Shop • Wave Snack Shop • Bandit's Bar • Curtis Canyon Observation Deck • Enchanted Forest
Hot Deal: Meeting planners can enjoy deep room discounts (subject to availability) with rates being offered as low as $79 (compared to $199) per night, Sunday through Thursday, for newly booked meetings held in June, July and August of 2010.
866.399.3866 // www.grizzlyjacksresort.com
Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center
Like a mini Cape Cod, but just 60 minutes from downtown, the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center in Zion, Ill., offers lakefront meeting and event space for groups up to 500. With 15,000 square feet of space, nine flexible meeting rooms and, perfect for warm weather, a 3,000-square-foot outdoor pavilion terrace with unobstructed lake views, it's just right for groups looking to flee the city and enjoy the beach.
And while the resort may scream "vacation," the down-to-business, on-site conference team works to ensure corporate meetings and events go off without a hitch. There are 92 guest rooms, plus high-speed Internet in all meeting rooms and public areas. Some of the meeting rooms have lakefront views, and the facility also offers state-of-the-art A/V equipment and I.A.C.C.-approved conference tables and ergonomic chairs. Best of all, because the resort is right on the lake, guests will enjoy incredible views-whether working or playing.
Of course the playing is the best part, and according to Beth Beringer, catering sales manager, the Illinois Beach Resort offers a wide variety of unique options you won't find at other venues.
"We recently partnered with the Windy City Fieldhouse in Chicago to offer teambuilding events at the resort, which is something not many other venues are doing," Beringer says. "They will come to the resort and do something as simple as a scavenger hunt or full-scale team challenges and barbecues."
Beringer adds that in addition to swimming in the lake, or in the resort's indoor pool, the resort has the unique advantage of being located within 4,100 acres of state land with hiking and biking trails. Fishing enthusiasts can work with the resort meetings team to host a fishing outing at nearby Winthrop Harbor, or guests can enjoy the resort's beachfront firepit, which is perfect for bonfires and marshmallow roasting.
Fitness Center • Spa • Sauna • Heated Swimming Pool • Bike Rental
Hot Deal: For summer meetings and events, the Illinois Beach Resort and Conference Center offers reduced-rate packages for day and overnight meetings for groups of more than 25 that include teambuilding activities in partnership with the Windy City Fieldhouse as well as continental breakfast, a mid-morning break, a lunch buffet and A/V and facilities charges.
847.625.7300 // www.ilresorts.com
Pheasant Run Resort
With the exception of McCormick Place, which caters to massive exhibitions and conventions, there are few resorts in the area that offer small, medium and exhibition-size space for meetings and trade shows. Pheasant Run, which sits on 300 acres in St. Charles, is one such venue, with a 38,000-square-foot exhibition center in addition to more than 39 meeting rooms and a 320-seat tiered auditorium.
The resort also houses an 18,000-squarefoot, IACC-Certified, "built by trainers, for trainers" training facility with the latest technology. But the top-tier meeting facilities are just a small part of this full-service resort, which also offers 36 holes of championship golf, two live theaters, a Mario Tricoci salon, a Zanies Comedy Club, several outdoor function areas and a full-scale indoor Bourbon Street replica ideal for networking. "Our goal is to create an environment where it is both stimulating and easy for attendees to connect with each other," says Gene Hare, director of sales and marketing. "Our uniqueness is what sets us apart from everyone else and helps meeting planners exceed expectations."
Also worth noting are the significant efforts Pheasant Run has initiated to help reduce waste and promote an environmentally friendly atmosphere, such as compact fluorescent lighting in the guest rooms, a water-saving laundry program in the guest rooms, the recycling of all cardboard boxes and a water-recovery system (part of the initial hotel build) that ties together rainwater roof run-off, surface water, ground water and six man-made lakes by using underground pipes. This fills the lakes on the golf course, which in turn irrigate the golf course and landscaping.
Garden Atrium • Sunday Jazz Champagne Brunch • Terrace Café • Ben & Jerry's Scoop Shop • Harvest Lounge
Hot Deal: The Pheasan Run Meeting Stimulus (subject to availability June--December 2010)
>> Prior to booking, take advantage of an event strategy meeting for up to 10 people at no charge
>> Rebook Clause: The Stimulus Package allows you to re-schedule your event before April 30th, 2011
>> 80 percent performance clause
>> One complimentary meal for every 15 purchased
>> 4 percent rebate on all guest room revenue to the master bill
>> Airport transportation credit
>> Complimentary parking
630.584.6300 // www.pheasantrun.com