by Linda Hayes | June 01, 2016

Associations looking to inspire their groups will find it comes more easily amid the naturally stunning scenery of Utah. Groups gathering in this colorful state can't help but benefit from their surroundings. 

The state offers meeting sites ranging from slopeside resorts overlooking snowy mountain peaks to LEED-certified convention centers in the state capital, and is packed with outdoor recreational team-building options at or near spectacular national parks.

Salt Lake City & Northern Utah: Centers of Attention

Salt Lake City, nicknamed the "Crossroads of the West," is a convenient meeting destination for regional association groups as well as an ideal gateway to the rest of the state. Many attendees arrive via Salt Lake City International Airport, which is undergoing a $2.6 billion expansion and improvement project slated to add a new terminal building with two attached concourses by 2020. From the airport, it's just four miles to downtown by car or a quick ride on the TRAX light rail, which offers service to the city center as well as surrounding communities.

Salt Lake's primary event venue is the silver LEED-certified Salt Palace Convention Center, which features more than 679,000 square feet of space. Other major meeting venues include the 20,000-seat Vivint Smart Home Arena (formerly called the EnergySolutions Arena), with meeting space for up to 700 and a 58-seat theater, and the Gallivan Center, which can host events of up to 10,000. The Salt Lake Center for the Arts operates several venues that can be used for association events including the 2,700-seat Abravanel Hall and the new George S. & Dolores Doré Eccles Theater, scheduled to open this fall with a 2,500-seat performance hall, an outdoor plaza and other smaller spaces. And at the University of Utah, the gold LEED-certified Natural History Museum of Utah can accommodate up to 1,500 people.

More than 7,500 hotel rooms are located within the city's convention district. New downtown properties include the 175-room Courtyard by Marriott, with 5,000 square feet of meeting space; the Holiday Inn Express (formerly the Shilo Inn), which benefited from a $10 million renovation last year; and the $100 million, 190-room Regent Street Hotel, expected to open in spring 2018 just north of Gallivan Plaza. The historic Peery Hotel, which dates back to 1910, is scheduled to finish a full renovation this month, when it will offer more than 5,000 square feet of meeting space spread across six rooms. Attendees who want to wheel around the city can take advantage of the nonprofit GREENbike bike-share program. There are more than two dozen stations downtown and a day pass costs $7.

North of Salt Lake, Ogden was rated America's sixth-fastest-growing city by Forbes magazine this year; the report noted a strong, diversified economy and an abundance of outdoor activities. Groups holding meetings downtown can look to the connected Eccles Conference Center & Peery's Egyptian Theater, which offer space for up to 1,500 and 800, respectively.

Two blocks away, a mixed-use development called The Junction is home to the 125,000-square-foot Salomon Center, a recreation facility perfect for team-building fun with bowling, glow-in-the-dark golf, a climbing wall and indoor surfing, and a 13-screen megaplex theater that welcomes private events.

Park City & the Heber Valley: Active Pursuits

Just 35 miles east of Salt Lake City International Airport, Park City is particularly appealing to groups interested in all sorts of outdoor activities year-round. As host to the 2002 Winter Olympic Games and the annual Sundance Film Festival, the area is also well-versed in providing a welcoming, hospitable experience. Groups that have held meetings in Park City recently include the Pacific Dermatologic Association, the Intermountain Farmers Association and the American Coal Council.

A historic downtown with many shops, restaurants and cultural opportunities pairs well with some 125,000 square feet of meeting space and more than 4,000 guest rooms. Unique venues include the theaters used during the Sundance Film Festival.

The big news in Park City of late is the $50 million in capital improvements by Vail Resorts to combine the Park City and Canyons resorts, creating the largest ski resort in United States with more than 7,300 acres of skiable terrain. The combined resort has been rebranded the Park City Mountain Resort. Vail Resorts also now manages the area's Grand Summit Hotel, Sundial and Silverado Lodges and the recently renovated DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Park City-the Yarrow (formerly the Yarrow Resort Hotel & Conference Center).

In other hotel news, the Hyatt Place/Park City opened last year with 122 guest rooms and 1,450 square feet of divisible meeting space. Another local Hyatt property, the Hyatt Escala, has been rebranded as the Hyatt Centric. It offers 10,000 square feet of event space. The Newpark Resort is now managed by Destination Hotels. The resort offers 7,000 square feet of meeting space, including a conference center that can accommodate up to 370 people, and is located adjacent to the 1,200-acre Swaner Preserve, where attendees can enjoy educational and recreational activities.

The Westgate Park City Resort & Spa recently added new meeting space and can now host up to 300 people. In addition, the resort's steakhouse and spa were recently recommended by Forbes. And in 2014, Hotel Park City became a Marriott Autograph Collection property, the only one in the state.

Utah Olympic Park recently completed a $3 million modernization project and continues to be a favorite off-site group venue for activities, team building, receptions and banquets; one of its larger spaces can accommodate events of up to 300. Fun challenges include bobsled rides (available in both winter and summer), zip lines, an alpine slide and ropes courses.

The resort area of Deer Valley, renowned for superb customer service, impeccable ski runs and high-end lodging such as the Stein Eriksen Lodge and the St. Regis, was named the World's Best Ski Hotel at the World Ski Awards last year. The resort offers event space for upwards of 1,000 people. Sitting slopeside is the Montage/Deer Valley, whose newly renovated Empire Room is composed of four spaces: the 2,000-square-foot Empire Terrace, overlooking the Uinta Mountains; the 3,000-square-foot Empire Lounge, with a fireplace and floor-to-ceiling windows; and the Empire East and the Empire West, each with 1,375 square feet of space that can be transformed into one grand social space.

The Utah Valley: Sporty & Scenic

Sports and the outdoors are also celebrated in the Utah Valley, a region about 30 miles south of Salt Lake City. Recreational pastimes include golf at nearly a dozen courses, a full range of traditional wintertime sports, fishing, rafting, sailing and paragliding.

In Lehi, the nonprofit Thanksgiving Point farm, garden and museum complex offers 23,726 square feet of indoor-outdoor event space as well as 55 acres of themed gardens, a shopping emporium and one of the state's biggest golf clubs.

Farther south, Orem is home to Utah Valley University, whose on-campus options for meetings and events include the UCCU Center, which can seat up to 8,500 people and features 65,000 square feet of arena space; and the Sorensen Student Center, with a 10,384-square-foot ballroom.

At Sundance, located in the mountains to the northeast, groups can stay and meet at Robert Redford's 5,000-acre Sundance Mountain Resort, which offers 12,000 square feet of event space in a striking canyon setting.

In Provo, highly ranked as a place to work, meet and play, top venues include the 160,000-square-foot Provo Recreation Center; the silver LEED-certified Utah Valley Convention Center, with 83,578 square feet of space; and Brigham Young University, whose meeting venues include the BYU Conference Center with 24,000 square feet of space.

St. George & Cedar City: The Spectacular Southwest

Two of the country's most remarkable national parks, Zion and Bryce Canyon, are easily accessed via St. George, known as the hub of southern Utah. The city and its surroundings are notable for everything from hiking and biking to golfing and spa-hopping.

Association meeting planners will find that the all-inclusive Dixie Convention Center meets the needs of most groups. The center can accommodate up to 6,200 attendees and features include a 46,000-square-foot, column-free exhibit hall (for upwards of 240 booths) and some 32,000 square feet of flexible meeting space. Fifteen minutes from downtown, St. George Municipal Airport serves the region with regularly scheduled commercial flights, including daily SkyWest flight service to Denver.

In Cedar City, 50 miles north, mountain biking is all the rage and one of best ways to explore the area (Cedar Cycles offers daily rentals). The city also serves as a convenient base for easy excursions to Zion's Kolob Canyons and Cedar Breaks National Monument. June through October, the famed Utah Shakespeare Festival at Southern Utah University features both Shakespeare and contemporary productions and offers literary seminars, classes and backstage tours.

Moab: Red Hot

A red-rock playground that annually draws an athletic-minded crowd for unsurpassed biking, hiking and river-rafting, Moab provides an active retreat destination for groups or an exploratory one, due to its proximity to Arches and Canyonlands national parks as well as Dead Horse Point State Park and the Colorado River. Moab is served by Canyonlands Field, which sees direct flights from Salt Lake City and Denver.

Venues available for groups meeting in Moab include the Old Spanish Trail Arena, with 24,000 square feet of indoor space and outdoor seating for up to 3,500 people; the Moab Arts & Recreation Center, with 2,888 square feet of space; and the historic, 289-seat Star Hall.

Additionally, Canyonlands By Night & Day, an established operator located on the Colorado River, offers area tours by water, land and air and also has a 4,140-square-foot building that can be used for group events. Downtown, the Homewood Suites by Hilton/Moab is expected to open in October with 96 guest rooms (but no meeting space).

Groups that have hosted events in Moab of late include the Utah Society for Environmental Education, the Utah Veterinary Medical Association and Utah Friends of Paleontology.

Natural Bounty

Meeting planners have Mother Nature on their side when it comes to captivating attendees and sending them on an inspiring journey in Utah. Team-building opportunities abound against some of the most amazing backdrops in the country. And when it's time to meet, the state's venues stand up to their surroundings.