Thrills, Chills and Spills Planners are looking to Canada’s unique venues

For thrills, chills and soaking wet spills, Canada offers a great selection of alternatives for any meeting planner looking to take their function out of the “bored”-room.

As diverse as the country is expansive, there are a number of choices that provide meeting participants the chance to escape the confines of a downtown conference room and experience a facility that is just a little out of the ordinary.
Whether it is dining among the whales, literally tiptoeing through the tulips or chilling with colleagues in a frozen palace, the choices are abundant.

Deerhurst Resort

When it comes to booking meetings these days, space just isn’t enough, even when the venue encompasses 40,000 square feet of interior function areas, 780 acres of outdoor adventures, two 18-hole golf courses, prime waterfront and a private airstrip.

“Groups are looking for real flexibility and a different approach,” says Clee Varon, director of sales and marketing for Deerhurst Resort.

This historic Muskoka retreat has evolved to thrive in a fast-paced marketplace. At Deerhurst a “typical” year of events includes everything from political announcements and trade shows to sports races, fundraising concerts, car rallies, a bluegrass festival and various meetings, from executive round tables to national associations.

The reason, Varon notes, is that more organizers are recognizing the “added value” that conference venues beyond the city centre bring to a sales meeting, business conference or teambuilding getaway.

“Deerhurst is just two hours and two turns from Canada’s biggest city and we offer a full range of on-site options that are custom designed and really geared to groups, like our BBQ Point event with beach, bonfire and gourmet s’mores, our paintball tournaments and turn-key golf events.”

Year-round, the participants benefit from a literal “outside the box” setting and the selection of activities. For the organizer there’s a double bonus — they’re keeping everyone happy in one easy-to-navigate place.

And since planners are always being tasked with finding something new, Deerhurst’s complete themed events and pick-and-choose programs makes it easy to shine with a fresh take on a familiar routine.

“Whether the event is large or small, everyone wants to make an impression on their attendees and give them that ‘wow’ moment,” says Varon. “From building 24 pond hockey rinks on a frozen lake to sharing a favorite dinner recipe from the chef, Deerhurst will listen and do whatever it takes.”

These days that “beyond the expected” buzz is building around Deerhurst’s Adventures in Excellence program. Run by on-site, certified facilitators, teambuilding options at Deerhurst include challenges inspired by the latest pop culture trends like CSI: Muskoka and Survivor, two ropes courses and a climbing wall, top-rated indoor options like Personality Dimensions and new golf teambuilding drills.
But what makes Deerhurst’s approach to training distinct is adaptability.

“Whether you just want to shake off that common 3 p.m. slump or you have a specific workplace issue to work on, we tailor to your business, schedule and goals,” says Mark O’Dell, director of sports at Deerhurst. “We can even start your teambuilding session on the coach ride up.”

Initially, many planners are attracted by bricks and mortar, starting with Deerhurst’s impressive “hub,” the Pavilion building with two ballrooms, various break-out areas, two restaurants, tradeshow space, outdoor venues and guest rooms. But it’s always the human touch that seals the deal.

“Ultimately, organizers value the high levels of creativity, flexibility and the unique touches that Deerhurst provides,” says Peggy Mayo, director of group sales. “These days, to succeed with groups you have to pull out the stops right from the initial site inspection through to the conference team and the feedback process.  Space matters, but at the end of the day, it’s all about making relationships a top priority.”

Hôtel de Glace

For a cool time, Quebec’s Hôtel de Glace has everything to make each event an unforgettable success. Made entirely of sparkling snow and shimmering ice, this refrigerated paradise is waiting to mesmerize and amaze you.
Since 2001, the Ice Hotel, located only 30 minutes from Quebec City, has been a world-famous winter experience. The Ice Hotel receives more than 70,000 visitors and 4,000 overnight visitors during its short operating season. The 2009 season is scheduled to run between January 4 and March 29.

Made entirely of 15,000 tons of snow and 500 tons of ice, this structure will stay frozen in your memory. With a surface area of 32,000 square feet and ceilings that can reach up to 19 feet high, the Ice Hotel presents a majestic atmosphere.

“Planners are looking for a setting that will amaze and bewilder their clients and the Hôtel de Glace is the answer,” says Michèle Leblond, sales consultant at the Hôtel de Glace.

“This unique location can provide all the amenities of a world class hotel with clear
crystal ice surroundings. The Hôtel de Glace is the solution if you want to create memories for a life time.”

The facility includes 36 rooms and theme suites — including one which has a fire place and a private hot tub — an ice chapel where about 30 weddings are celebrated each year, the Ice Bar and the N’Ice Club reception room.

The fascinating décor, as well as the original activities and services, has inspired guests to hold special events such corporate events, product launches, team building events and film productions.

Each event is customized to the company and can include ice logos, a red carpet and flaming torch to greet your guests while individual ice glasses will ensure the drinks are truly served “on the rocks.”

The hotel can accommodate up to 1,000 people for any type of function from private receptions to meetings and seminars. Team building workshops including igloo construction and ice sculpting provide guests with a flurry of activities.

Among the venues available are the N’Ice Club and interior courtyard which can handle up to 400 people, the Ice Lounge which can accommodate up to 100 people and the Grand Hall which can greet up to 300 people.

A collaboration between Hôtel de Glace and the Station touristique Duchesnay, with an additional 102 rooms, suites and villas, offers combined packages of winter activities such as dog sledding, ice fishing, snowmobile tours, and cross country skiing.

Vancouver Aquarium

For a whale of a time, meeting planners are turning to the Vancouver Aquarium. Voted one of Canada’s best-loved attractions, the aquarium is an intriguing and unforgettable venue for the next special event.

Guests discover a world of fascinating animals in a number of breathtaking settings, while the professional catering and events team ensures that everything is planned and creatively executed, down to the last detail.

From formal dining among majestic Beluga whales to a cocktail reception in a “living art gallery” setting with tropical fish, reef sharks and British Columbia-themed exhibits of West Coast seascapes, planners have a sea of choices. Each gallery of the aquarium provides a unique experience for guests with creative lighting, display and classic and artistic theme options.

Every event held at the Vancouver Aquarium is different than the last. The aquarium’s event planners design unique floor plans based on the distinct objectives of each client. For the large scale events, the entire aquarium can handle up to 1,200 people for a cocktail reception or 350 guests for a plated and seated event. The individual floors and rooms can also handle both the intimate event with as little as 25 guests to the larger cocktail and plated events up to 800 guests for cocktails and 300 for a sit down meal.

The aquarium is a self-supporting non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of aquatic life through display and interpretation, education, research and direct action. By hosting an event at the Vancouver Aquarium, groups support its conservation, education and research initiatives.

“Clients who host events at the Vancouver Aquarium are looking for a chance to make an incredible impression with little effort, as the décor and entertainment are a natural aspect of this facility,” says Leslie Puska, the aquarium’s senior event planner.

The catering and events team supports the organization in its effort to preserve conservation at all levels, and has developed a number of initiatives designed to reduce impact on the environment. Among those are success stories such as

“Zero Waste to Landfill” events, or the commitment to 100 percent compliance with the aquarium’s own sustainable seafood program, Ocean Wise, as well as working with clients to provide custom designed menus, highlighting local cuisine and ingredients, in an attempt to reduce the event carbon footprint.

“As a member of Green Table Network, and true to our Sustainable Purchasing policy, we continuously strive to find innovative solutions to assist clients in greening their next event,” says Puska.

Canada’s Wonderland

For an up-tempo change of pace, meeting planners are looking to give their participants the thrill of a life time. And Canada’s Wonderland, just north of Toronto, is able to provide a heart-stopping and breathtaking venue like no other in the country!

With more than 200 attractions and 66 rides — including Canada’s biggest, fastest and tallest coaster ever BEHEMOTH! — a water park and live shows, Wonderland offers something for every member of the group.

“Meeting planners are looking to bridge the gap between unique and professional and Canada’s Wonderland allows the ability to maintain the highest levels of professionalism while delivering a remarkable wow-factor to their groups,” says Dineen
Beaven manager, Public Relations and Special Events.

“Companies and groups are always looking to enhance their experiences with different settings and unique venues. The nature of the park alone provides meeting planners with a unique venue from the get-go.”
Canada’s Wonderland offers three Theatres — Kingswood with a capacity of 14,000 people, Showplace, which can host 3,000 and Wonderland Theatre, which can hold 800 participants. With each of these facilities, the Park is able to display high-end multimedia presentations featuring full audio/visual set-ups, internet access, and access to on-site technicians.

Wonderland also offers full catering services for breakfast, lunch and dinner with the option of a specialized or pre-set menu in the group sales packages.

The park tailors its packages to meet the needs of each client, including custom seating, custom menus, early openings and exclusive ride times.

“The decision to hold any event at Canada’s Wonderland provides an organization with a unique venue for team building activities, luncheons or whatever their needs may be,” says Beaven. “Groups can also enjoy full use of the Park upon completion of their meeting or activity.”

Although the corporate meetings business is a new area of business for the Park, it has already seen a number of interesting functions held on the sprawling property including ride and drive events, scavenger hunts, Amazing Races, product launches, and Town Hall meetings. It has played host to corporations large and small including auto manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and beverage suppliers.

“We have always remained proactive in adapting to the requirements of any function. Although this is a somewhat new area of business, the Park will continue growing in this area,” Beaven says. “Subsequently we will adapt our communications strategy and technology offerings to meet the client’s needs.”

The Calgary Stampede

Calgary’s Stampede Park might be known for its internationally-recognized Calgary Stampede, but what most people don’t know is that the park plays host to more than 1,000 events and shows each year.

In fact, more people visit Stampede Park from August through June, than they do during the 10 days in July. Aside from the large crowds that attend the Calgary Flames home games, 2.6 million people visit Stampede Park on an annual basis.

And the complex has hosted a wide variety of events from Queen Elizabeth’s visit to private rodeos with live gunfighters, and black-tie bull riding events.

“As host of the Greatest Outdoor Show on Earth each July, our biggest challenge is educating national and local planners that we are open the other 355 days of the year,” says Rebecca Wood, customer relations manager for Sales and Events.

“It is a pleasure to tour clients through our variety of venues and have the opportunity to offer such a wide variety of venues and experiences.”

From the Roundup Centre, the Big Four Building, to the various other pavilions, a theatre, an arena, and Grandstand there is an abundance of choices for the next meeting and event.

The venues include:

Exhibit halls – the Roundup Centre has more than 200,000 square feet of contiguous space, divisible into four 50,000-square foot halls. The Roundup Centre features the Palomino Room, a 12,000-square foot function room which can accommodate 700 guests for a gala dinner — or up to 1,000 people theatre style. Smaller function space with natural lighting is also available to accommodate from 20 to 75 people.

An arena – the Corral Centre provides 17,000 square feet of floor space as well as 6,400 unobstructed seats. This venue can accommodate private indoor convention rodeos.
Theatre – the newly renovated Boyce Theatre is a 500-seat amphitheatre auditorium with a built-in stage, house PA system and large screen.

Character rooms – including a log cabin – the Rotary House; ranahans – an upscale private club; or the Lazy S – an urban chic lounge with western flair.

Grandstand and Infield – perfect for hosting a private rodeo; displaying and demonstrating vehicles and outdoor equipment – this venue offers seating for more than 17,000 people.
The latest addition to the Roundup Centre is another 50,000-square foot exhibition hall and meeting rooms scheduled to be completed for September 2009.

The catering department can also rustle up enough cuisine for guests numbering as little as 10 to 10,000. The professional service employees will entice guests with specialty meals prepared by its outstanding chefs. Whether it is a casual gathering or a formal dinner gala, the catering department provides a selection of hors d’oeuvres, fresh salads, beautifully presented entrees and desserts.

New this year, is a food program called “Grown right. Here.” The menus created under this program source food through local food producers. It is a component of the park’s environmental initiatives.

The Calgary Stampede has also been ISO 140011 certified, after a comprehensive review of all of its environmental programs. To become certified, the Stampede underwent a thorough review of its current environmental management system including objectives, practices, employee training and documentation, record keeping and commitment to continual improvement.

“Anything used, recycled or thrown out at the Stampede was looked at,” says Gerry McHugh, chairman of the Environmental Protection committee and operations manager for the Calgary Stampede.

“Pop cans, water bottles, manure, cardboard, energy, vehicles, food, paper — even coffee grounds — were extensively audited or examined. We actively work with our clients to offer green meeting and event experiences.”

Great Wolf Lodge

Located in Niagara Falls, Ontario, Great Wolf Lodge has no trouble soaking meeting participants.
Canada’s only exclusive water park resort features a 90-foot tall indoor water park complex and more than 100,000 square feet of indoor entertainment.

This resort features 406 all-suite themed guest rooms, a 7,000-square foot arcade with more than 100 video games, an 18-hole miniature golf course, a fitness room, five fully-licensed themed restaurants, a gift shop and a spa and salon.

The park features 13 water slides, a giant wave pool, four swimming and activity pools, a lazy river and two whirlpools. A state-of-the-art arcade area provides many creative team-building opportunities while its Iron Horse Fitness Center will keep the health-conscious attendees in top shape.

Great Wolf Lodge can accommodate groups from 10 to 240 in a number of its meeting rooms. The site features 10,000 square feet of flexible meeting accommodations including a 92-seat symposium permanently configured to provide a classroom or theater environment.

The lodge’s three biggest meeting rooms — Fallen Timbers, Northwest Territories and Niagara Falls Room — average about 2,000 square feet and can accommodate between 92 in the Niagara Falls Room to 260 in the Northwest Territories.
Exclusive to the lodge is The Wolf Tracks Adventure. Aimed at developing skills in communication, collaboration and trust, this program features a fast-paced, unpredictable race that incorporates the best of Great Wolf Lodge.

Royal Botanical Gardens

For a blooming good time, corporations are turning to Canada’s largest botanical garden for business in paradise. Royal Botanical Gardens is a national historic site of Canada, featuring 2,700 acres of breath-taking gardens and spectacular nature.

Located on the border of Burlington and Hamilton, just west of Toronto, the Royal Botanical Gardens boasts impressive surroundings, excellent restaurant and catering, and quality audio-visual equipment to make any function comfortable and professional in one of southern Ontario’s most idyllic settings.

Whether it’s a small company meeting, a seminar for 500, a dinner for 30 or 300, a trade show or a special fundraising event, the venue can customize the setting to suit your needs. The facilities are available year-round, from early in the morning to late at night.

RBG’s facilities accommodate a wide range of occasions. The auditorium comfortably holds 300 people using tables and chairs or 450 people sitting in lecture style. The Auditorium can be split with a retractable wall for smaller functions. Available props for rent include staging, various microphones, overhead and slide projectors, screens, TV-VCR unit, and flip charts.

The Gardens’ Cafe is ideal for receptions, complete with a dance floor and outdoor courtyard, it can comfortably accommodate 80 to 120 guests. The auditorium can easily seat 120 to 300 guests with enough space for a dance floor, while the foyer, just outside of the auditorium, is the perfect setting for a cocktail hour.

Royal Court is a private, outdoor area that seats up to 140 guests. Its colorful plants and ornamental pond provides a quaint garden setting for a function. A canopy provides shade and protection from light rain. The Atrium is a grand area for a special day that seats up to 120 guests and is available from November to April. For a quainter environment the Rose Garden Tent is available from May to October. 

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