Outdoor Adventures: Get Your Group Thinking Outside the Box

We’ve all been there: Sitting in the glow of yet another PowerPoint on day X of a meeting, wishing there was a window to stare out of, at the end of your energy reserves and the limit of your caffeine intake. Meetings can be a fun few days of quality time with colleagues away from the office, but long hours in a hotel ballroom can be more than a little yawn inducing.

Fortunately there’s an easy way to save your attendees from the doldrums (and win their adoration at the same time). Planning an outdoor adventure during a multiday meeting not only reinvigorates the daily routine, leading to greater engagement and retention, it can make for a fun team-building experience your group will remember long after they return home. It’s also a great way to highlight the best of a destination’s unique attractions.

Take a hike
This is the low-hanging fruit of outdoor group activities; all it takes is a pair of sneakers and you’re ready to go, while national, state and county parks can be found virtually everywhere. Take L.A. Despite its seemingly endless sprawl, the metro area has at least a dozen wonderful hikes to choose from. And like elsewhere, trails come in degrees of difficulty, from an easy stroll along forest paths to butt-kicking treks up rugged terrain. Hiking is also a great option if you need to wedge something in last minute, or don’t have much time or budget to devote. Add in a local guide or park ranger, and your group will get a healthy dose (and education) of a destination’s natural bounty.

On two wheels
It may require a little more planning than a half-day hike, but the options for group bike rides are just as plentiful. It’s a great way to tour your destination and get your group out and exercising. For instance, one of San Francisco’s most popular visitor activities is a bike ride across Golden Gate Bridge and down to Sausalito (with a ferry ride option back). You can find bike rentals in any destination these days, and many vendors will even deliver, whether you’re starting from your hotel or the trailhead of a state park. Mountain biking is also allowed on specific trails, and is an exhilarating alternative to a nature hike.

Row your boat
Lakes, rivers, oceans, there aren’t many destinations that don’t offer at least one option for getting out on the water with your group. Even desert-locked Las Vegas has lakes and rivers, such as Lake Mead 30 miles to the southeast. Canoeing and kayaking are fun options for getting up close and personal with aquatic and shoreline nature, and boating vendors will outfit and feed your group, and provide transportation after you’ve paddled down a river. You can up the excitement (and the heart-rate) with white-water rafting trips, which can be tuned to the experience level of your group, from beginner (class 1) to expert (class 5).

For most of us city slickers, horseback riding is a unique adventure, and much more of a workout than anyone thinks. Ambling along a trail atop one of these 1,000-pound beasts can be a thrilling and memorable experience shared by everyone in your group. It also gives the rider a different perspective than a hike; you see through the eyes of your horse as you work together to navigate the trail. Destinations like Denver or Santa Fe are logical choices for horseback riding, but even New York City has several parks that offer horse riding trails, and the vendors to accommodate your group.

Snow play
If it’s snowing outside, don’t be a hothouse plant (as my mother used to say), get out and play! All that white stuff opens up a whole range of outdoor adventure options. Depending on your destination, this could mean an afternoon of skiing or snowboarding on nearby slopes. But even if you’re nowhere near a mountain, your group can still snowshoe or cross-country ski its way along hiking trails. There’s nothing quite like being out on a nature excursion with the landscape under a blanket of snow. And to bring out the collective inner 10-year-old, take your attendees sledding (even pool table-flat Chicago has sledding hills), with snowman-building competitions and tubs of hot cocoa (extra marshmallows for the winners).

Photo credits: Shutterstock.com

John Anderson

John Anderson

John Anderson is an award-winning journalist, travel writer and blogger based in San Jose, California. He has covered the meetings and hospitality industry extensively since 2008. Follow him on Twitter @jcax01

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