By Maura Keller

Fresh air…the sounds of songbirds or maybe a loon… woods and water that seem to extend as far as the eye can see. This is the setting perfect for your next retreat. Where your team can turn their Zoom cameras off, step away from their laptops and enjoy the camaraderie of their peers. This is what groups are looking for as they work to recapture the personal connections that have been lost over the past 18 months. And the Midwest is teeming with options — from delightful island getaways to resorts tucked amidst the grandeur of majestic woods to charming country locales that keep attendees wanting more. Here are a few to check out.


Birchwood, Wis.

Who wouldn’t want to spend a few days on an exquisite island teeming with historic charm in northern Wisconsin? Located on Red Cedar Lake in northwestern Wisconsin, Stout’s Island Lodge features a 12-acre main island that has been welcoming visitors for more than 150 years. This historic gem includes incredible early 20th-century log buildings reminiscent of a time when life moved more slowly and people embraced a more relaxed lifestyle.

Built in 1903 as a summer family estate, Stout’s Island Lodge offers an idyllic locale to work some and play some. Located about two hours from the Twin Cities, meeting and event attendees are whisked to the island via a private ferry. With a variety of accommodations, attendees can enjoy unique amenities situated within both cabins and lodges.

The sprawling property offers a wealth of outdoor areas for gatherings and recreational activities. In addition, the ice house, which is adjacent to the main lodge, features a 1,000-square-foot space and can host 60 guests indoors, with additional seating available on the outside patio.

Located off of the lodge’s Great Room is Mrs. Stout’s Room, a charming space that can host 24 adults in the 475-square-foot space. The room’s wood-burning fireplace and barrel-vaulted ceiling are perfect accoutrements to the overall historic lodge feel.

All catering on Stout’s Island Lodge is prepared onsite, using local ingredients when possible (including items from the lodge’s own gardens). The staff at Stout’s Island Lodge can work with you to make your meeting or event successful.


Custer, S.D.

More and more companies are taking notice of the unique venues available for their next meeting or event across the country. And Custer State Park Resort is one such option. The resort is a collection of several historic lodges and cabins located in

the Black Hills of South Dakota. Custer State Park offers an array of incredible natural sights, scenic drives and abundant wildlife. And while there is
a wealth of outdoor activities to enjoy, when it comes to getting down to business or gathering as a group, Custer State Park Resort is the perfect location. The resort features four distinct and historic lodges for guests to enjoy.

The resort’s State Game Lodge was considered the “summer White House” for Calvin Coolidge in 1927. The outdoor pavilion at the lodge boasts an open-air floor plan, complete with wood-burning fireplaces, WiFi connectivity and can accommodate up to 350 people.

Located on the grounds of the State Game Lodge, the Creekside Lodge offers interior meeting space that accommodates up to 75 people, and both adjoin an outdoor patio space so attendees can enjoy the beautiful Coolidge Creek. The Creekside Lodge is open year-round and features modern amenities.

Considered to be Custer State Park’s “crown jewel,” the Sylvan Lake Lodge is a stunning resort that invites visitors to stay for awhile. Sylvan Lake Lodge offers various meeting locations accommodating 20 to 280 people. In addition to wood-burning fireplaces, these spaces feature everything from auditorium spaces, patios and verandas to presentation areas for meeting needs. The Blue Bell Lodge offers a wonderful atmosphere thanks to its log building interior and exteriors. Two spaces fit from 40 to 80 guests and offer an adjoining outdoor patio, which boasts beautiful views of French Creek.

For outdoor meeting or event gatherings, the team-building activities of Custer State Park Resort are paramount. From open-air, off-road jeep tours and chuck wagon cookout adventures to geocaching and horseback riding tours, the resort offers ample opportunities to have fun and explore the surrounding environs.


Shell Knob, Mo.

Looking for the ideal place for a corporate retreat? Look no further than Stonewater Cove, located on Table Rock Lake in southwest Missouri. Perfect for smaller groups of 10 to 40 people, Stonewater Cove Resort offers a conference room, boardroom and outdoor terrace for groups.

To continue the team-building experience, Stonewater Cove offers all-encompassing menu options, including three meals per day, coffee service during meetings, hors d’oeuvres and snacks, as well as nightly s’mores by a bonfire. Adventure as well as relaxation await meeting attendees, with a variety of activities, including canoeing, ziplining, miniature golf, kayaking, hiking and swimming.

Plus, resort guides are available to help groups explore the area on an ATV tour or boat ride, and guided fishing excursions. And when it comes time to relax and unwind, the resort offers plenty of spa services to choose from.


Pleasanton, Kan.

For smaller gatherings, Cedar Crest Lodge, located an hour from Kansas City, Mo., is an ideal place to connect. Cedar Crest Lodge exudes a splendor and peacefulness all its own. And along with the beauty of nature’s handiwork surrounding this bed and breakfast, the lodge offers a style that is quietly conducive to escaping big city life, making it a great option for retreats or small groups. The award-winning bed and breakfast features a 7,000-square-foot lodge that boasts nine bedrooms in the main building, three luxury rooms in the 3,000-square-foot carriage house, a meeting room, two living rooms and various decks and patios.

Being a bed and breakfast means that each of the guest rooms boast a charm all their own. While some rooms include jetted tubs, others offer steam showers and relaxing environs to unwind after group gatherings or post hiking, swimming or exploring. All spaces offer a rustic, yet elegant charm that will make an impact on attendees.

And when guests are looking to further explore Cedar Crest Lodge’s expansive 100-acre property, they can enjoy wandering over 16,000 feet of garden space, which is complete with vegetables, herbs and flowers aplenty.