• Family-Friendly Venues Help Meeting Planners Lure Attendees

    FROM THE Winter 2017 ISSUE
  • Family-Friendly Venues Help Meeting Planners Lure Attendees

    FROM THE Winter 2017 ISSUE
  • Family-Friendly Venues Help Meeting Planners Lure Attendees

    FROM THE Winter 2017 ISSUE
  • Family-Friendly Venues Help Meeting Planners Lure Attendees

    FROM THE Winter 2017 ISSUE
  • Family-Friendly Venues Help Meeting Planners Lure Attendees

    FROM THE Winter 2017 ISSUE
  • Family-Friendly Venues Help Meeting Planners Lure Attendees

    FROM THE Winter 2017 ISSUE
  • Family-Friendly Venues Help Meeting Planners Lure Attendees

    FROM THE Winter 2017 ISSUE

Looking to boost attendance at your next meeting? Consider holding it at a family-friendly venue.

Increasingly, business travelers want to blend work-related travel with vacation. According to the Professional Convention Management Association’s 2015 survey, “Decision to Attend,” more than 50 percent of respondents indicated a desire to extend their stay or turn their trip into a vacation.  And nearly one-half will bring someone with them (friend, family, companion).

“Making meetings more family-friendly leaves attendees with a good feeling about the time they have spent—not away from  their  families, but having the opportunity to engage with them when the meeting agenda allows,” says Lisa Bower, owner of Plus One Meetings, which creates custom children’s programming for companies. “Venues that offer truly family-friendly amenities will be best  poised  to take advantage of these trends. Treating a customer like family can score you points; treating their family like your most  important  customer can help you secure a loyal, repeat client.” 

Of course, being family-friendly means more than having chicken fingers on the menu and a pool on the premises. Planners holding a meeting in Michigan have several venues that truly understand how to welcome and entertain spouses and kids. Here are four that deliver both for meeting attendees and their families. 

Great Wolf Lodge, Traverse City

Great Wolf Lodge offers a relaxed setting, with 280 guest rooms. 

“It has a lodge feel to it,” says Taryn Miracle, Great Wolf’s director of sales and catering. “I think that any meeting attendee or family member who walks into our lobby feels like they’re going to be well taken care of the moment they walk in the door.”

A large indoor—and allergy-friendly— water park is the feature attraction and center of a range of activities. The park offers three water slides, a water fort tree house, indoor and outdoor swimming pools, and two indoor hot tubs. 

Other family-oriented activities include outdoor volleyball, family yoga, story time, a wolf walk that educates participants about the wildlife on display in the lobby, and dance parties on Friday and Saturday nights.

The building’s conference center wing can accommodate up to 320 guests for a seated dinner and up to 400 for a standing cocktail party, or can break into four smaller rooms. Of the lodge’s seven other meeting spaces, the largest can host up to 150 guests both seated and standing, and the two smallest spaces can each host up to 40 guests both seated and standing.

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, Acme

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa manages to combine amenities loved by adults—like golf and fine dining—with experiences kids will embrace. The resort offers a six-story hotel with 240 guest rooms, and an adjoining 17-story tower with 186 guest rooms. The property also offers a variety of condominiums.

“It’s a very casual atmosphere,” says J. Michael DeAgostino, the resort’s spokesman. “You see a lot of people in the summer wearing shorts, a T-shirt and flip flops.”

The 900-acre property includes three golf courses, one designed by Jack Nicklaus and another by Gary Player. There are nine tennis courts (five indoor and four outdoor), a beach club on Grand Traverse Bay with a watercraft vendor, two indoor and two outdoor swimming pools, and four outdoor whirlpools and an indoor one. 

“There’s so much to do here, it kind of knocks people’s socks off,” DeAgostino says.

Also on-site is a 2,000-square-foot licensed daycare center, the Cub House. Children’s activities include everything from scavenger hunts to ballgames and board games.

Winter activities include cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and outdoor ice skating. A farm a mile away provides horse-drawn sleigh rides.

The largest meeting space is Governors Hall, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into several smaller rooms. Planners looking for intimate spaces will have several options to consider. 

Bavarian Inn Lodge, Frankenmuth

The food at the Bavarian Inn Lodge has helped make the lodge’s name in Michigan; signature dishes come from the 128-year-old Bavarian Inn Restaurant, located across the river. 

“All menus are full of family recipes passed on from generation to generation,” says Chief Operating Officer Jim Engel. “It feels like you’re eating at grandma’s house. That’s what people say all the time.”

The lodge offers four indoor swimming pools, three whirlpools and two waterslides. A Family Fun Center includes, among other things, 165 video games and a Bavarianthemed miniature golf course with trees that twinkle with 45,000 LED lights. Toddlers can explore a two-story German village.

Special events include holiday-themed celebrations, including a Halloween contest in which children use toilet paper to turn their mother or father into a mummy. There is also Willy the Dragon, a life-sized figure dressed in lederhosen that hangs out with kids and parents alike.

The lodge offers two main conference spaces—the Composer Room, which can accommodate up to 500 guests both seated and standing, and the River Room, which can host up to 230 guests seated and up to 300 standing. Both rooms can be split into three breakout areas, and there are four breakout rooms as well. A courtyard area by the adult-only swimming pool can host up to 300 guests for luncheons and welcome receptions.

Crystal Mountain, Thompsonville

Families will have a hard time fitting all the available activities at Crystal Mountain into their stay. During the winter, guests can enjoy 58 downhill ski trails, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and fat tire biking. During the summer, explore golf courses and an outdoor water park. Other activities include an alpine slide, bonfires, scavenger hunts, laser tag and a ropes course.

“We also have our Mountain Adventure Zone that includes a daycare center and a ski school for kids who want to learn how to not only ski but snowboard,” says Brian Lawson, the resort’s spokesman. “Adventure Care is an indoor area for the younger children.”

The property includes three hotel units— the Inn at the Mountain, the Hamlet and the Colony—plus cottages, bungalows and townhomes.

Crystal Mountain offers the only conference center in northern Michigan approved by the International Association of Conference Centers. The Crystal Center’s lower level can accommodate up to 400 guests during the non-winter months; when the snow is falling, it serves as the tickets and rental area for skiers. A second-level banquet room can host up to 250 guests seated and up to 300 standing; it can also be split into two smaller spaces. On the third level is a space that can host up to 150 guests seated and up to 200 standing; on the same level are four breakout rooms.

In-room babysitting is available, and during the winter children ages 6 and younger eat breakfast for free (with a paying adult). Catering is done in-house. 

First came COVID. Then came the tornado.

The northern Michigan community of Gaylord was just starting to rebound from the pandemic with its groups and events business as a new season was getting underway when a rare EF3 tornado with estimated wind speeds between 136 and 165 miles per hour struck May 20.

Two people were killed and at least 44 were injured, according to official reports at the time. West Michigan meteorologist Bill Steffen said it was the strongest tornado to strike in the U.S. that month. 


Is celebrating Michigan Wine Month a work activity? Absolutely, especially when you’re checking out wine-centric venues for possible future events. Traverse City Uncorked is offering a mobile-exclusive pass to a collection of curated wineries offering deals and discounts to redeem during Michigan Wine Month—also known as May!


Speaking at this year’s Pure Michigan Governor’s Conference on Tourism, which took place on April 19-21 at Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, Governor Gretchen Whitmer had a clear message: the citizens of Michigan play a key role in supporting the state’s tourism industry.