Mountain destinations from coast to coast
Mountainous destinations can have a spiritual serenity to them—a kind of peace one does not find when caught up in the day-to-day bustle of city life. From coast-to-coast, mountain meeting destinations offer their own specific identity and personality. Smart Meetings collected a sampling of cities across the country that offer lodging, meeting space, tasty eats and mountain activities for both meetings and incentive trips.
Western Glacier Country/Billings, Montana
The epitome of mountain lifestyle, Montana has recently caught attention thanks to the hit television show Yellowstone. Yet Montana has long been a desired destination for both meetings and incentives. Arguably one of the most iconic landscapes on the list, Western Glacier Country, Montana is popular for meeting professionals seeking a mountainous location.
Big Sky Resort welcomes groups from its perch in the northwest corner of Yellowstone National Park. The resort is surprisingly accessible for a mountain destination—over 30 nonstop flights are available to Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport (BZN), just an hour’s drive from Big Sky, making it the best-served mountain destination in America.
Big Sky Resort offers more than its thousands of acres of skiing terrain. The resort’s Yellowstone Conference Center offers 55,000 sq. ft. of meeting and function space and high-end Solace Spa promises relaxation and rejuvenation, including the new Solace Recovery Lounge.
Prefer a summer in Montana over winter sports? Averill’s Flathead Lake Lodge is an authentic dude ranch offering a full Western experience. The lodge offers an all-inclusive rate for guests to experience activities unique to Montana. The land offers 2,000 acres of horseback riding trails and a private elk preserve. For a corporate event on the smaller side, the lodge has 5,500 sq. ft. of meeting space and four meeting rooms. Experience mountain meals around the campfire such as bison tenderloin and cowboy baked beans as you look out over Flathead Lake. This family-friendly destination is a great way to thank an outstanding employee by granting them an incentive trip for their entire family.
Another outdoorsy favorite on Yellowstone River in the southern part of the state, the city of Billings sits at the base of the Rimrock Mountains with views of Beartooth, Pryor, Big Horn and Big Snowy mountains. Downtown, The Billings Depot has been holding court for more than 100 years, welcoming presidents, governors, celebrities and visiting royalty. The restored Beaux Arts building encompasses two event spaces. The passenger station wows with towering, vaulted ceilings, roman columns, terrazzo floors and historic arched window. Two outdoor courtyards open up the event to the sweeping landscape.
The City of Trees is nestled in the foothills of Boise Mountains, a city that locals call “an urban city on a compact scale.” Boise’s Sawtooth national forest and Boise River running through the center of town provide a picturesque backdrop to an urban downtown destination.
In the middle of downtown, the expanded Boise Centre offers over 80,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event spaces and 31 flexible meeting rooms. “Boise Centre is Idaho’s largest convention center, which is located in the middle of vibrant, walkable downtown Boise with plentiful local dining, microbreweries, hotels, shops, and recreation all within walking distance,” says Mary-Michael Rodgers, communications manager of Boise Centre.
Directly adjacent to Boise Centre, The Grove Hotel offers complimentary airport shuttle service and guest bike rental. Guests have the best seat for watching award-winning chefs work in an open kitchen at the hotel’s Trillium restaurant.
“Boise makes it easy to attend meetings and have time to enjoy the trails, rivers and abundant sunshine.”
– Mary-Michael Rodgers, Boise Centre
Jackson Hole, Wyoming
The Grand Tetons provide a majestic Midwest backdrop for the humble valley embracing the city of Jackson Hole, Wyoming. As one of the most sought-after mountain destinations in the country, the opportunities for group adventures are endless.
“Activities are unlimited for groups year-round,” says Kent Elliott, director of destination global sales at Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce. “In the winter, skiing, snowboarding, snowmobiling, dog sledding, ice skating to name a few…summer, our peak season, offers whitewater/scenic river trips, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, biking, hiking and much more.”
For a mountainous experience for your more adventurous attendees, hop on the 100-passenger Aerial Tram to visit Jackson Hole Mountain Resort. Nestled between Apre’s Vous and Rendezvous mountains with over 3,000 acres of backcountry, the resort is one of the pillars of Teton Village, Wyoming. In less than 10 minutes, the Aerial Tram carries 4,139 vertical ft. to the mountain summit.
“With the Grand Tetons and the surrounding mountain ranges that overlook our valley, you have a sense of belonging.”
– Kent Elliott, Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce
The resort’s Rendezvous Lodge is located at 9,095 ft. altitude and accessible by a 10–15-minute ride via the Bridger Gondola. With a full buy-out of 500 capacity or a partial buy-out of the Rendezvous Room with a capacity of 300, the sweeping views of the Jackson Hole Valley and the adventurous gondola ride will remind visitors the answer to “why?” embedded in the word Wyoming.
Ski resorts have always been attractive destinations for incentive trips but have recently been trending as meeting and corporate events venues. As one of the most famous ski destinations in the world, Vail offers both the excitement of a vacation as well as the refreshing mountain environment for group collaboration.
Kim Brussow, director of sales at Visit Vail Valley, articulated the timeless appeal of high elevation meetings beautifully. “There is something very special about hosting meetings and events in the mountains. In the spirit of building solidarity and collaboration, the invigorating mountain air will energize and inspire group attendees, while also allowing them to slow down and self-reflect in a calm serene environment.”
At the base of Vail Mountain is Grand Hyatt Vail. With 40,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 13 meeting rooms, the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains is felt in both indoor and outdoor event spaces. The hotel offers 285 guest rooms and a culinary team that can create a customized menu for attendees.
Together by Hyatt focuses on bringing groups together in the new era of travel and tourism. “We’re better together,” says the World of Hyatt on their Together by Hyatt landing page. “That’s why we’ve developed Together by Hyatt, a new philosophy to help bring people together again with a deeper sense of trust, connection and wellbeing.”
Transport your incentive trip guests to the Swiss alpines without ever leaving the lower 48 with The Hythe, a Luxury Collection Resort, Vail. The resort provides both the adventurous activities of the mountains and their calming serenity with a luxury resort and spa. In addition to the opulent European aesthetic and four food and beverage concepts, The Hythe offers almost 29,000 sq. ft. of event space and 20 breakout rooms in addition to The Hythe’s Well and Being Spa.
The West isn’t the only side of the country for incredible mountain meetings and incentive destinations. The Great Smoky Mountains have inspired classic American music, cinema and culture. Gatlinburg, Tennessee is a quaint town hugging the foothills of the range’s national park.
Bring the outdoors inside for an event at Gatlinburg Convention Center. Built in an Arts and Crafts style, the exposed wooden beams and mountain stone mirror the natural beauty of the Great Smoky Mountains in over 160,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The earthy convention center will have attendees feel embraced by the Tennessee mountain range.
Each guest can overlook the town of Gatlinburg and Smoky Mountains National Park at The Park Vista – A DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel on their personal balcony from any guest room. The 25,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space features built-in AV services. The Lawn space perched on the hillside overlooking the mountains and the town of Gatlinburg can host up to 500 people.
Asheville, North Carolina
Source the best of mountain life and downtown sophistication in Asheville, North Carolina. The Blue Ridge Mountains can be both the backdrop to an urban North Carolina experience or meetings and events can be planned in the heart of the mountain range.
Read More: Asheville: Meet Where Community Is Strong and Creative Spirit Abundant
Aloft Asheville Downtown is in the center of downtown Asheville and adjacent to the art and culinary scene of the Blue Ridge Mountains. River Arts District is home to hundreds of painters, jewelry designers, sculptors and artisans. Find handcrafted treats in the hotel at the W XYZ Bar, serving handcrafted cocktails and featuring its own art gallery. Enjoy your drink on the outdoor Ledge or the Air Level to witness the Blue Ridge mountains at sunset.
To experience the true magic of the Blue Ridge Mountains, visit Craggy Gardens for a high-elevation hike to see vibrant floral displays. The pink and purple Catawba rhododendrons create a fairytale setting for groups to explore, learn about the history and witness a 360-degree view of the Blue Ridge Mountains at the summit of Craggy Pinnacle trail.
Hudson Valley, New York
Less than 100 miles away from the noise and lights of New York City is the mountainous Hudson Valley. Composed of 10 counties stretching along the Hudson River and cradling the Catskill mountains, Hudson Valley offers a wide variety of mountain destinations.
For the ultimate luxury in the forest, Mohonk Mountain House is surrounded by 40,000 acres of relatively untouched forest terrain. Endowed with both lake and mountain views from guest rooms as well as spacious suites, Mohonk Mountain House offers guided outdoor activities, a hiking trail network and both an indoor and outdoor spa. For team building, meeting professionals can work with on-site recreational staff to plan for one of Mohonk Mountain House’s 40-plus team-building activities.
Stay like royalty for an incentive trip—literally. The lower Hudson Valley is home to Sugarloaf Mountain and the hilltop estate that is Glenmere Mansion. Known as one of the finest country homes in America, Glenmere mansion has hosted royalty and much more. Offering the perfect incentive trip destination with 15 guest accommodations and the estate’s private collection, guests are in for an exclusive experience. Guests can experience Italy in the New York Catskills by visiting the Gardens at Glenmere. The 150 acres are designed with terraced vistas, decorative Roman urns and fountains with ethereal statues.
Eat Like a Mountaineer
Mountain regions are known for wild game cuisine, which has been gaining mainstream culinary notoriety. Restaurants across America have proved that perfectly cooked mountain proteins with a fine dining atmosphere can create an elevated meal.
A popular spot in The Grand Tentons offers high-end mountain cuisine with a twist. Gun Barrel Steak and Game House in Jackson, Wyoming, serves up cowboy-sized beef steaks, cuts of elk loin and bison ribs with a rustic backdrop.
Travel further South to experience Smoky Mountain comfort food at Tom & Earl’s Back Alley Grill in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. Never lacking in personality, the dishes are jovially named to represent the local culture. Try the “Sloppy Jethro Manwich” or the “Hillbilly Philly” if you’re ready for a mountainous plate or go lighter with fried green tomatoes or cream corn fritters.
After getting your fill of Southern comfort food, head up to Hudson Valley, New York, for mountain-to-table cuisine at Swoon Kitchenbar. With access to proteins from both the land and the Hudson River, Swoon Kitchenbar serves a variety of mountain food from the clam shack menu to the local grilled pork chop.
Explore Asheville Convention and Visitors Bureau
Gatlinburg Convention & Visitors Bureau
Jackson Hole Travel & Tourism Board
Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce
Western Montana and Glacier National Park Travel Help
This article appears in the January 2023 issue. You can subscribe to the magazine here.