To think outside the box, it helps to be outside the box. Blue skies, dry warm temps and fresh air lead to bright ideas and smiling faces. That’s the solar energy infusing a Greater Palm Springs meeting. Think general sessions where natural light doesn’t simply filter through a window. It sparks creativity in spectacular settings defined by Mother Nature.
The great outdoors paints our desert canvas with stunning strokes of sunshine, vibrant bougainvillea, regal palms and dramatic mountains. The outside temperatures are ideal for alfresco gatherings nearly year-round which translates to memorable meetings “without boundaries.”
Riviera Palm Springs Resort & Spa
A former Rat Pack haunt, this edgy retro dazzler reopened in 2008 following a mega $70 million makeover that retained its original spoke-wheel footprint. That’s particularly appealing for planners, with the main pool’s fire pits, cabanas, seductive Bikini Bar and lush landscaping creating a communal hub accented by intimate vignette areas.
“Groups can hold general sessions in outdoor gardens and courtyards or around the pool, and then use our AV-equipped cabanas for breakouts,” says John Hansen, senior sales manager. Cabanas also morph into exhibit areas for trade shows and product launches, as does the Presidential Suite patio fringing the pool area.
Hansen recommends such novel approaches as team building via synchronized swimming, mixology breaks, air mattress networking and swinging Sinatra-themed soirees with era libations and dancing to a 10-piece orchestra. Fireside chats fuel camaraderie as a nightcap.
La Quinta Resort & Club
Greta Garbo came to escape, while Clark Gable frequented to revel with his Hollywood cronies. Today, planners can tap into both extremes amid 620 guest rooms and 98 villas in whitewashed enclaves clustered around 41 pools and 53 jet spas. “Varied room types provide us the flexibility to group attendees together for a more private feel,” says Christopher George, director of marketing. “Our design makes us the most intimate large resort you’ll find.”
Rumor has it that Garbo shunned society at La Casa, now an alluring function venue with 10,500 square feet of al fresco space. Delegates can convene in the courtyard, brainstorm on the lawn and imbibe with cuisine and spirits on the patio.
For less reclusive hoopla in this 45-acre retreat, attendees talk shop while mingling on the Fiesta Verandah and two Plaza levels embellished by waterfalls, fountains, colorful foliage and winding walkways. “Meetings and trade shows use outdoor seating areas for networking, and create ‘pop up’ stores for displaying merchandise,” George says. When you toss in farm-to-table stations for roaming dinner affairs, everyone feels like an A-Lister.
Parker Palm Springs
With 13 acres and only 144 rooms, this midcentury modern hideaway is primed for buyouts thanks to outdoor event spaces reflecting its sophisticated style. “It’s our grounds that set us apart,” says Alexandra Falcon, sales guru. “Planners have so many opportunities to hold different events at the same time without attendees feeling like they’re on top of each other.”
Function spaces flow seamlessly throughout linked French gardens laced with rosemary, lavender and olive trees. From the Mafiya Suite, guests meander along pathways for teamwork on the croquet lawn or petanque courts, bantering in butterfly chairs at a fire pit and breaking for a few sets on clay tennis courts.
These private pockets encourage engagement. “A group can leave a general session for a roaming picnic where areas are assigned rather than random,” says Falcon. With so many nooks and crannies, tables can be tucked by the spa, on the Palm Court or near the Backyard pool. “It encourages people who don’t typically interact to meet new friends.”
Ace Hotel & Swim Club
With a philosophy of bringing new life to old things, Ace conjures up images of a 1950’s motor hotel with chic, artistic twists. This trendy 173-room hangout is all about outdoor action, with patios and communal fireplaces luring attendees to connect.
“Groups love our Commune space,” says Jodi Graham, director of sales. The 3,000 square-foot indoor-outdoor living room features floor-to-ceiling glass windows rolling up garage-door style. “You can be under roof for PowerPoint presentations and then move to the covered patio, fire pit or pool for breakout sessions.”
Ace’s creative vibe means going with the flow. The vintage Date Trailer doubles as a registration desk or exhibit space. “Hot Talks” ignite around a fire pit trimmed by beanbag chairs, while breaks hit the pool or the street on beach cruisers. “We’ve even transformed a walkway into a half pipe for a skateboard new product launch,” says Graham.
She adds that Ace’s meetings business isn’t all rockers and millennials. “We’re working with a large financial company from the east where attendees want something completely different.” During progressive poolside sessions, the group plans to schmooze in sunshine versus snow.
Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells
Rambling along the foothills of the Santa Rosa Mountains, this refined 560-room retreat enhances a desert staple with a splash of water. After addressing business formalities, attendees slip off flip-flops to dig their toes in the sand at Sandy Beach pool.
“We’ll do a traditional clambake with food stations serving Carlsbad mussels, clams, shrimp king crab and corn on the cob,” says Hillary Byrne, director of catering. “It’s such a unique venue because it’s so unexpected.”
The 8,400 square-foot Rose Garden sets a more mellow tone with concerts under the stars fringed by uplit swaying palms. “The next day, you can transform that same area with pods of comfortable furniture,” Byrne says. “Planners can have indoor sessions and then move outside for breakouts where delegates are working hard while enjoying beautiful weather and fresh air.” The venue also shines for team activities like building bicycles for the local Boys & Girls Club. “That’s what makes this such a wonderful setting. Scenery aside, you can use it so many ways.”
The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa
Dramatic landscaping, a pair of championship golf courses and 26,000 square feet of outdoor event space enhance this sprawling desert escape with awe-inspiring views from every angle – especially when you’re floating above it in a hot air balloon. “We’ll hold a carnival on the Pete Dye Driving Range with a Ferris wheel, food booths and balloon rides that take you up a few hundred feet for a great view of the resort, desert and mountains,” says Klint Kolbu, director of catering and event management.
On complete buyouts of the 512-room resort, planners can hook attendees with golf clinics, tournaments and “speed golf” that incorporates fitness through running to balls between shots. With its blazing fire pit and stargazing, the “19th Hole” Fireside Lounge and signature Masters Plaza spark post-play fraternizing. “This space is also nice for breakout sessions at rounds or in sofa-style seating with mobile fire pits,” says Kolbu. “Our outdoor space lets planners use their imagination to create truly unique experiences.”
Two Bunch Palms
Nestled in a 77-acre natural oasis where stillness speaks volumes, Two Bunch Palms is a legendary getaway where mineral rich waters have flowed for 600 years. “One of the biggest reasons we’re so unique is our position around wellness – not just focusing on the mind-body-spirit connectivity, but also that of the individual-community-environment,” says Katie Camarena, event and marketing manager. A 3.5-acre solar farm makes it the first carbon neutral resort of its kind.
“We’re all about serenity, and minimizing noise and clutter so that people can find their better selves,” she says. “When guests have a workshop or yoga retreat, a meditation session by our lake or relax in our Grotto, they’re comfortable knowing they won’t be distracted.”
More than 30 weekly yoga, movement and enrichment classes can be built into any small meeting itinerary. Complimentary sessions range from juicing and varietal wine tasting to guided meditation and Tai Chi/Gong. Sunset meetings by the lake can be crowned with healthier gourmet cuisine ranging from vegan and gluten-free dishes to grass-fed beef and decadent desserts. Wine pairings add to the afterglow.
JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort
With 450 acres wrapped around the desert’s largest private lake, this sprawling 884-room water world encourages planners to go with the flow. Gondolas drift along Venetian-esque waterways that ramble from the atrium-styled lobby past cascading fountains, mega pool complexes and a decadent spa indulging with 47 treatment rooms.
Event spaces follow suit, with the 21,000 square-foot Springs Ballroom merging into the Springs Patio that leads to the palm and fruit tree-lined Grove. “From an events standpoint, it’s unique from anything else in the desert,” says Matthew Diefenbach, director of group sales. “Groups can access the JW Pavilion, The Grove and Springs Pool. It’s a trifecta of lawn, pool and covered area for everything from receptions to meetings and breakouts.”
Tennis plays a dominant team theme at the 20-court Peter Burwash International (PBI) facility with its trio of surfaces. “Our Tennis Lawn is a larger scale space for meetings, team building and concerts,” says Diefenbach. Edging the venue, The Lawn Games program presents another break and team building outlet through croquet, badminton, horseshoes, lawn bowling, putting and half-court hoops.
Of course, golf swings onto the scene with 36 holes designed by acclaimed architect Ted Robinson, lauded as “King of Waterscapes.” “At end of day, we want our guests to be outside as much as possible,” Diefenbach says. “And while we’re a large property with large spaces, we also have the elements of intimacy to embrace smaller groups. This is simply a great resort with anything a planner wants.”