by Rachel Carter | April 01, 2017

More than ever, people want it all—and the same goes for meetings and conferences. Some attendees want to combine business and pleasure by bringing their families along, which leaves planners looking to create an agenda that appeals both to those who will have kids in tow and those who won’t. In such cases, groups can book adjacent hotels—one that touts itself as family-friendly and one that caters to adult preferences—or opt for a resort that offers something for everyone.

On the western shore of Oahu, about 25 miles west of Honolulu (and the Hawaii Convention Center), two adjacent resorts work together to offer associations multiple options: Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa, whose focus is family fun, and the neighboring Four Seasons Resort/Oahu at Ko Olina, offering sophisticated luxury. “They have something we don’t have, and we have something they don’t have,” said Joe Medwetz, Aulani’s senior sales and services director. The 374-room Four Seasons offers nearly 78,000 square feet of indoor function space, while Aulani has 351 hotel rooms and 481 one-, two- and three-bedroom Disney Vacation Club Villas as well as a 21,000-square-foot conference center. The resorts share a beach and are a two-minute walk apart. What appeals to many visiting groups is the diversity when it comes to options, said Les Pedersen, director of sales for the Four Seasons.

Four Seasons offers a “Kids for All Seasons” children’s camp and expansive grounds for activities. At Disney, families can attend the Makahiki Breakfast with Disney characters or take to the Menehune Adventure Trail, a high-tech scavenger hunt. Aunty’s Beach House is the kids’ club and features supervised educational experiences and activities for guests ages 3 through 12. Aulani also developed a new luau specifically with families in mind.

Wisconsin Dells, Wisconsin, is known as the “Waterpark Capital of the World,” so attendees often bring their families along to a meeting in town. One of the larger options for groups is the Wilderness Resort, which covers 600-plus acres in the Dells and offers nearly 1,200 lodging options and a 56,000-square-foot conference center. And just a mile down the road and under the same ownership is the Sundara Inn & Spa, a 26-suite, adults-only wellness retreat.

At Wilderness, groups have multiple lodging options, and rates include access to the indoor and outdoor waterparks, which “is a big sell for them,” said Shannon Timmerman, director of sales. There is a misconception that screaming kids in swimsuits will be running through meetings at the resort’s Glacier Canyon Lodge & Conference Center. “They did an excellent job of keeping the waterpark area separated from the conference center,” said Jody Roos, meeting planner for the Wisconsin Bankers Association, which holds about 10 meetings there a year, ranging from 30 to 350 attendees. Although most of those meetings aren’t geared to families, the WBA hosted one event in which delegates were encouraged to bring their kids. Roos said the group provided attendees with a Wild Fun Pass, which includes access to the resort’s mini golf, laser tag, bumper boats and more.

Only people 18 and older can stay at Sundara, which has a policy of no electronics in all public spaces in an effort to offer guests a “digital detox,” said resort manager Chris Scheel. Smaller groups will sometimes stay at Sundara and use meeting space at Wilderness or at the Wild Rock Golf Club—all connected via shuttle—and Wilderness guests often visit Sundara for spa treatments.

In Brewster, Massachusetts, in the crook of Cape Cod, the Ocean Edge Resort & Golf Club is like two resorts in one. There’s the historic Nickerson Mansion side, with 90 luxury guest rooms and the two- or three-bedroom Presidential Bay Collection villas, both a short walk to the resort’s private beach. And there’s The Villages side, where one- to three-bedroom villas overlook the Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course and guests can enjoy water sports on Blueberry Pond, five pools or bike riding on the Cape Cod Rail Trail. With 429 acres, the resort is able to “curate” any kind of event, McFarland said, whether it’s a meeting in the 4,500-square-foot Mansion Ballroom, dinner for up to 220 in the Bay Pines Pavilion, a trade show on the event lawn or fireworks on the beach.

For more of a rugged experience in a wild mountain setting, associations can organize events for all at Adventures of the Gorge, located on the edge of the New River Gorge in Lansing, West Virginia. The property is a “giant playground for families,” said Dave Arnold, one of the original owners who now handles public relations for the resort. “Our philosophy has always been: You can wake up in the morning, and mom and dad can go do one thing, and the kids can do another.”

Last year, the resort opened the Lookout Post Conference Center, whose 1,920-square-foot ballroom can host up to 200 and is attached to a 2,200-square-foot event deck. In November, the Greater Kanawha Valley Foundation used the center for its staff retreat. The group also held a business meeting in a cabin, took a cooking class and went on a hike through the woods. “It’s a beautiful escape,” said Megan Simpson, its program officer. “You can get lost there in a good way.”

Florida’s Emerald Coast is known for its sugary white beaches and emerald-green waters, and the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa in Miramar Beach is no exception. The Gulf resort was built for two things: beach fun and family activities. While meetings gather in the resort’s 32,000 square feet of indoor function space or 20,000 square feet of outdoor deck space, planners want attendees to be “focused on the task at hand knowing their loved ones are entertained and well taken care of,” said Lisa Jones, its director of sales and marketing.

The Kids Krew program keeps children ages 5 to 12 busy with games and activities such as kite-flying and sand-sculpting but Jones noted that meeting planners are building in more free time for attendees to spend with their families rather than keeping them in meetings all day—and isn’t that the best of both worlds?