The most effective team-building activities are all about fun and relationships. They let coworkers see each other in a new light. Sharing an extraordinary experience in an extraordinary setting, while working toward a common goal, allows team bonding to happen naturally, in a far more effective way.
So, whether you’re looking to build a better team for the sake of the bottom line or simply to recognize and reward employees, read on for just a small sample of the vast team-building activities on the menu in Greater Palm Springs.
1. Polo—Just Hold the Horses
Picture this: While professional polo players drive the golf buggies, your team builders wield the mallets in a rollicking no-holds-barred golf-cart polo match. Empire Polo Club supplies the field, balls, mallets, helmets, carts and even a play-by-play announcer to whip up enthusiasm for an audience cheering from the sidelines. The only thing missing? The sound of hooves thundering down the green.
The club, located in Indio and home to the Coachella Valley Music & Arts Festival among others, sprawls over more than 250 acres, which makes it the largest event facility in Greater Palm Springs. In addition to the aforementioned festivals, the club centers on polo, as its name suggests, hosting a busy schedule of world-class matches from January through March on 30 acres of emerald-green polo fields.
The club also entertains private groups year-round in four distinct venues: the Rose Garden, Hacienda del Toro, Medjhool Lake and Forum. It hosts everything from lawn sports and hot-air balloon rides to board meetings, corporate-wide banquets and headline entertainment for groups of 15 to 90,000 attendees.
2. The Road Less Traveled
The name Earthquake Canyon Express Downhill Bike Adventure says it all, and it’s one of Big Wheel Tours’ most popular options for team builders. Adventurous and yet appropriate for groups of mixed ages or physical abilities, the 20-mile ride follows a two-lane paved road that glides mostly downhill (with no crossroads, no turns and very little traffic) between incredibly scenic stone cliffs to start and ends with hills of soothing-green citrus trees sailing by.
Along the way, your group zips through a protected wilderness straddling the San Andreas Fault and beholds the Salton Sea, Mount San Jacinto, the All-American Canal and a big chunk of eastern Greater Palm Springs. One stop visits a date-packing operation for free date shakes and samples of the various date varieties grown in the area. And from start to finish, a Big Wheel van trails the group, with a driver-guide ready with refreshments or insight on the terrain and local history, to pick up any tired cyclist or to exchange a damaged bike for one in the back.
In business for more than 20 years and with a fleet of more than 400 bicycles, Big Wheel specializes in bike tours but also offers guided tours on foot and by Jeep. It operates from two locations, in Palm Desert and Palm Springs.
3. Palm Springs Pedal Party
It takes teamwork to keep things moving on a Social Cycle tour-- You need strong communication skills to make group decisions like which bars you're going to hit? Will there be time for tapas along the way? Since the transportation runs exclusively on pedal power, your team will have to pump together if they want to reach their next stop.
The vehicle—part party bus, part group bicycle and part mobile bar—is powered by its passengers but operated by a “captain,” a friendly Social Cycle guide and designated driver who handles steering, signaling and brakes. The bike has 10 seats with pedals, 2 seats above the back wheels and a bench seat for 3 to 4 people in the back. So up to 16 team members can hop aboard and 6 to 10 of them get busy pumping to move the vehicle up the street at blistering speeds—of up to 8 miles per hour, max.
The route takes your group through the heart of Downtown Palm Springs along Palm Canyon Drive, home to some of the hottest spots for specialty cocktails and local brews and ranging from celebrity haunts and roadhouse pubs to tiki bars and rooftop lounges.
4. Outstanding—to a Fault
Palm Desert–based Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours offer an amazing lineup of sightseeing activities throughout Greater Palm Springs. But the most popular for team builders combine a Jeep Riddle Rally & Scavenger Hunt with a San Andreas Fault Jeep Tour. The combo weaves a perfect team-building challenge into a fascinating tour.
Before diving deep into one of the most colorful and geologically tortured landscapes in the world—the San Andreas Fault zone—teams receive their assignments to solve a series of brain-twisting riddles, answer some trivia puzzlers, identify items out of place in the environment and be ready to perform a team cheer at the end. The challenge can involve up to 100 participants at a time in a single round or 200 where one part of the activity takes place on foot and the other half in Jeeps.
Kimberly Nilsson, owner and operator of Desert Adventures, noted that groups will often wish to hold an awards lunch or dinner after the challenge, and often at the company’s Enchanted Desert venue. Hidden deep in the Indio Hills, it provides a stark desert setting next to a lush natural oasis in one section and a historically accurate replica of an ancient native Cahuilla village in another.
5. Just for Kicks
What do you get when you cross soccer and golf? FootGolf! And yes, it’s a thing. In fact, it’s a very big thing at Palm Desert’s Desert Willow Golf Resort, home course of the American FootGolf League and one of the most admired public golf courses in Southern California.
At Desert Willow, FootGolf players divide into foursomes, and then each player kicks a regulation soccer ball in as few moves as possible into a 21-inch cup, one at a time, over the 18 holes of the Mountain View course. Clearly more golf than soccer, the sport uses golf carts, fairways, tee boxes, greens, bunkers, hazards and most of the rules of golf—even scorecards that list par for each hole. Laura Balestrini, president of the American FootGolf Federation, described the game as combining the “elegance and precision of golf with the passion, energy and fun of soccer in a marvelous sport full of life."
The official dress code of the sport’s international governing body calls for players to wear knee-high argyle socks—which at Desert Willow is only suggested and not mandatory. However, according to Desert Willow’s tournament coordinator Jason Wilkinson, one recent corporate group bought 100 pair of argyles for its 100 players to wear during their FootGolf event. “A nice touch,” he said, “and it made for some great visuals.”