Fellow Insiders, I am beginning to think about 2017. I'd love to hear your suggestions regarding the best place to hold a leadership retreat. Every year we head "offsite," in the middle of January to lay out our operating plans for the year. Getting away from the noise of the office is essential to clear thinking and the time together promotes camaraderie on the team. I'd love to hear suggestions from Insiders about great Marriott locations, or perhaps non-Marriott locales, where you've had a similar retreat.
We've done the beach at Hilton Head, a mountain cottage in the North GA mountains, and a golf trip in Augusta. Essential items are a quiet place to meet, close proximity to dining, and some unique things to do locally. It will need to be in the continental USA, and accessible to a major airport. I'd love to do something new and different. Where have you gone to have a productive offsite for a few days? I am anxious to hear your thoughts.
nationwide, limiting to warmer weather locales, I've attended similar events at:
Marriott Monterey CA - not near a major airport unless you drive from SFO (I did) - great offsite excursions nearby
Hard Rock at Universal Orlando - checks all your boxes except it's hard to navigate Orlando without a car
Loews Portofino Bay at Universal Orlando - same issues as Hard Rock
Four Seasons Westlake Village, CA - LAX is a $170 cab ride away (each way) so hard to get to
El Conquistador Puerto Rico - far away from airport so need to rent a car; hard to get off property without a car
Bellagio Las Vegas - checks all the boxes but not everyone appreciates Las Vegas
I guess PR is not continental US
Out of these my favorite was Monterey - nice mix of outdoorsy stuff and cultural stuff but need to rent a car probably and not super close to major airport.
clebert, these are excellent suggestions! Thanks for taking the time to share. I think you are right, warmer weather locales are preferable. A little drive from a major airport would be fine. I guess it's 1 &1/2 hours out to Monterey from SFO? We've done Vegas once before, gotten a suite as a base of operations, and seen shows, played cards together etc. That was a lot of fun. I'd love to operate with a budget in mind, so if there are best places to get a deal, that's always a plus.
nationwide, my group event at Monterey Marriott negotiated a room rate of $289 which was quite reasonable for that location. Our events were held at the Marriott, the convention center across the skyway from the Marriott, the Aquarium, Point Lobos State Park, and one of the public outdoor spaces just down the street by the custom house museum. Flights to SFO are generally pretty reasonable as well since it's such a major hub, especially for UA. I recall flights to SJC were a bit more pricey, and flights to MRY were very expensive and required a change of planes in SFO if coming from/through DEN or ORD (my available hubs on UA) but not sure about IAH. The Chicago folks were complaining that it's almost unheard of for them to have to connect anywhere since ORD has direct flights to almost everywhere in the world, but they had to connect in SFO to get to MRY, and even for them flights were pricey to MRY.
IAHFLYR has a good suggestion, too. I've never stayed at the Marco Marriott for a corporate-type event, but I've stayed for personal trips and have heard good things from people have stayed for conferences, etc. That hotel has everything you could possibly want, including a world-class beach, every type of restaurant from a tiki bar to 5-star dining, a golf course (a couple of miles away, so you'd have to drive there or take a hotel shuttle), in-hotel shops, and nearby shopping and dining. As IAHFLYR said, RSW is the nearest airport and about 45 min. away. It's a super easy smaller airport that's served by UA, AA, DL, and others that I don't fly. Car rentals are usually pretty reasonable and right on site at the airport, or there are taxi/shuttle services for about $70-90 or so from Marco from the airport. Sometimes I fly into MIA and drive across the everglades which takes 1.5 - 2 hours depending on time of day. Believe it or not, UA and DL sometimes run dirt cheap fares to MIA so I take them once and awhile even though AA is the major carrier at MIA. Other fun things to do around Marco are dinner cruises, fishing charters, kayaking, paddleboarding, bike rentals, jet skis, parasailing, birding, Everglades tours/airboat rides, the Marco history museum, boat rentals, or venture into adjacent Naples where there is high end shopping and dining, a Zoo, museums, etc.
One also can connect to MRY through LAX as I've done quite a few times in recent years. It beats SFO often in price as well as connection times if one was to select Monterey for the destination. Then there is the SFO delay factor, any clouds around 3,500' and the airport acceptance rate drops off which means increased delays for arrivals. Since they need to land on very closely spaced parallel runways 28L/R the pilots need to see the other plane paired up with them about 15-18 miles out clouds around 3,500' preclude that happening, thus less airplanes land/hour.
RSW does not have that issue with only one runway.
PS - I drove PCH from SFO to Monterey just for the scenery, and I took my time and went into San Francisco first for a few hours, then headed south and stopped at Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz. Drove 101 back and had no problems with traffic, but it was on a Sunday morning so that helped.
Monterey is an easy two hour drive from SFO of course depending on the time of day getting through San Jose on 101.
What about Marco Island in a state you're pretty familiar with? Great Marriott Beach Resort, plenty of meeting rooms, weather in January normally very good, great golf in Naples and close to good dining on the Island. Marco Island is a 45 minute drive from Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in S. Ft. Myers with a good number of non-stop flights from most large U.S. cities.....even though Continental no longer flies there, but United does!!!!
IAHFLYR, I really like the Marco Island suggestion too! One of my team members has a condo nearby, and that could compliment the trip quite nicely... I hadn't even thought about that part of Florida, but that could really work well!
Any other suggestions from our loyal Insiders? tef6178, I know you have some ideas on this one too
I'm trying to think of other places where I've stayed for a corporate-type event that would be warm/warmish in January.
Here are some more:
Marriott World Center Orlando - too big and too hard to get off the property but has a golf course which is a plus
Ritz Carlton Amelia Island, FL - January would be a bit chilly so may be affordable then; beautiful property and would be great for a retreat if not too pricey; not sure JAX is a major airport, and it's a little bit of a drive from there
Ritz Carlton Naples FL - beautiful but really, really, really, really expensive. Really. Especially in January.
Marriott Marquis San Diego - I really like this property but some of the Insiders don't; not sure SAN is a major airport; also pricey part of the country but fun and lots to do
South Coast Winery, Temecula, CA - would be perfect for a retreat but not near major airport.
JW Marriott Le Mergot, Santa Monica, CA - NEAR LAX!!! WOO HOO!!! Kind of pricey though. Nice facility, near lots of shopping and dining, right across the street from beach and Santa Monica Pier. Has a spa and nice bar and restaurant on site. I think this one checks all the boxes if you could get a good rate.
Oh, Bingo on Temecula. I was thinking that San Diego might be too busy for a retreat, but Temecula would be perfect. Ponte Vineyard is nice too (and good wine), 1.5 hour drive. Spirit flies non-stop, so does UA. There are a number of Marriotts along the coast between SAN and MCB Camp Pendleton that would serve as excellent locations for a leadership retreat, and perhaps not as busy or distracting as San Diego. Thinking about La Jolla, Del Mar, Sorrento Valley, Carlsbad-by-the-Sea...
There have been some really great suggestions made for your Retreat! The time of year makes warmer climate areas most likely a better choice. However, warmer climates are in their 'season' in January thereby increasing prices. I would suggest the St. Pete/Clearwater/Tampa area as another possibility. There are some iconic locations such as the Vinoy in St Pete. The Marriott Waterside in Tampa is another possibility. There is also the Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites right on the beachfront. The rates at these properties might be a little less than the Marco and Naples area and still good locations. All three have great access to good restaurants, nightlife, golf and shopping.
tef6178, good suggestions. We had a fantastic family stay at the Clearwater Beach Marriott Suites on Sand Key and got probably the best service I've ever had at a hotel anywhere. Michel at the front desk was amazing. The servers at Watercolours were great, too. And The Columbia next door is a Tampa area institution.
I stayed at the Tampa Marriott Waterside Hotel a few years ago for the Florida Bar Exam, and the service there was exceptional, too. The hotel was sold out with a waiting list (because of the Bar Exam at the adjacent Convention Center), but you'd never know it because the staff was so efficient and such a well oiled machine. I got an upgrade to a room facing the waterfront with a balcony, and it was excellent. The CL was great as well. They let me have a late check out because of the exam, and they arranged for boxed lunches to be ready for us examinees back in our rooms during our lunch break which saved us time and the headache of worrying about finding a nutritious and quick lunch at the correct time of day. I would recommend this hotel to anyone!
So for the beach = Sand Key
For the city = Tampa Marriott Waterside
I've heard the Vinoy is great, too. Or the Epicurean right by Bern's Steakhouse, another Tampa Institution, but haven't stayed at either.
You cannot go wrong with a meeting at the Marco Island property. It meets all your requirements. In addition, you can even take a day trip by boat to Key West if that fits in with your agenda. I was a meeting planner among other things before I retired and this place has everything for a business gathering. Good luck, let us know where you go for your meeting.
I was also thinking Monterey and Florida as well, in addition to places like SLC, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite, Denver, but alas for those places, January means - snow. Santa Barbara is a great place to hold a retreat, though, a bit of a drive from the major airports (Ventura Beach Marriott is closer...). Along the lines of Monterey, there's Santa Cruz and the Santa Cruz mountains, with it's own appellation and also, the Giant California Redwoods. Also out west, Napa isn't too far from SFO, and Palm Springs isn't too bad of a drive from SNA or ONT. Perhaps also consider Scottsdale near PHX.
Well, even though you've posted "Correct Answer", here are a couple of other suggestions:
Non-Marriott - Buckhorn Inn, Gatlingburg, NC - http://www.buckhorninn.com/
Marriott Hotel & Resort, Point Clear, AL - Grand Hotel Marriott Resort - Alabama Gulf Coast Resorts
Marriott Ocean Watch Resort Hotel (and villas), North Myrtle Beach, SC - Myrtle Beach, SC Luxury Resorts | Marriott's OceanWatch Villas at Grande Dunes
Opryland Hotel, Nashville, TN - Opryland Hotel In Nashville TN | Gaylord Opryland Hotel
JW Marriott Hotel, Desert Ridge, Scottsdale, AZ - Resort Hotel in Phoenix, AZ | JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa
For a really different - yet distant place to meet (Italy) - Tuscany Resort and Luxury Hotels | Renaissance Tuscany Il Ciocco Resort & Spa
fschumpert, pluto77, and bpelican - I greatly appreciate the suggestions. I didn't mean to prematurely select a "correct" answer It appeared as though I wasn't going to hear from any others, so I thought I should close it out. That said, I have not yet made a decision, and I appreciate any/all suggestions. You rock! Thanks to all 3 of you!!!
I would like to add the Marriott Laguna Cliffs resort on Dana Point. I've been there several times when staying at our timeshare at NCV and it is a beautiful quiet location. There are several restaurants and activities in the area, and it is not far from Orange County John Wayne airport. Another great location would be Wentworth by the Sea, but it would likely be very cold during that time of year.
If you have an active, workout-oriented group, there is also a Renaissance ClubSport in the Laguna area.
An aside, don't you have one of the best business meeting places in your backyard? The Woodlands is a hard act to follow, one of my favorite meeting spots.
bpelican, you are absolutely correct! The Woodlands is home for me these days, and is really hard to beat!!!
We use our office, the conference center, and the Woodlands Waterway Marriott quite frequently. My hope was to break from the norm, despite how much we enjoy it.