by Sarah J.F. Braley | June 01, 2013

Massage-chair stations, smoothie breaks and other wellness components have been a staple at events for years. Now, a new trend is bringing groups into the spa itself, rather than taking spa elements to the meeting room. Beyond welcoming guests for individual appointments, resorts are recognizing that their wellness havens can double as unique event facilities.

"We're seeing the spas really partner with the groups that are in the hotel," says Lynne McNees, president of the International Spa Association in Lexington, Ky. "They're hosting everything from book clubs and having an author in for a book signing to conducting cooking demos, nighttime yoga and Zumba classes after dark."

Even a small reception in a spa lobby can be a calming experience for attendees. "The number-one reason people go to a spa is to learn how to handle their stress," says McNees, citing research from PricewaterhouseCoopers. "Taking any event to the spa, whether there's a treatment or not, even just walking through the doors, the smells start the relaxation process. So any part of the meeting you can put into the spa helps."

The following properties have hosted a number of creative events in their luxurious spa facilities.

Kohler Waters SpaThe American Club Resort
Kohler, Wis.

The incredible golf courses at the 241-room American Club Resort are an undeniable draw, but the 25,000-square-foot spa here is equally attention-worthy. In 2005, the facility added a rooftop room featuring a coed whirlpool, a 16-foot fireplace and a deck -- ideal for group events of 20 to 30 people.

"In the winter, when it's dark early, it's a lovely space," says Linda Machtig, marketing manager of the Kohler Waters Spa. "We move the chaises out and do wine tastings there, complete with a wine educator."

Another popular group activity, called Yogi and Toes, involves guided stretching and mini pedicures. "For a corporate group, we could easily customize the event," says Machtig, "putting everyone in loose casual clothing and picking movements that the group is comfortable with."

Tucked away on the main level of the spa is the relaxation lounge, where aestheticians can teach groups how to create the perfect bath, for example, or vendors of the spa's skin care and makeup lines can provide mini treatments. The facility's director of wellness businesses, Jean Kolb, has done presentations on the link between wellness at work and wellness at home, and a vodka vendor once held a martini tasting in the room. When the spa is closed, the space can hold 200; when it's open, the room accommodates about 30.

In May, the American Club reopened the 55-room Carriage House above the spa, following a renovation. The property offers six top-notch golf courses, including Whistling Straits, site of the 2004, 2010 and 2015 PGA Championships and the 2020 Ryder Cup. For meetings, there is a resortwide total of 27,000 square feet of space.

Spa DjangoHyatt Lost Pines Resort and SpaHyatt Lost Pines
Bastrop, Texas

Set next to the 1,100-acre McKinney Roughs Nature Park (and only 30 minutes from vibrant Austin), the Hyatt Lost Pines is an oasis on the Colorado River, and the 18,000-square-foot Spa Django helps underscore the quiet beauty of the surroundings.

The Texas climate makes any season perfect for an evening event at the spa, but it's especially inviting in summer, when the sun lingers. Director of sales Kim Britton recalls two events that incorporated the facility's outdoor pool and can be duplicated elsewhere. The first was held at the spa's outdoor pool for a group of 25. Moroccan-inspired tents were decorated with white-leather furniture; glow balls floated on the pool, and Moroccan food was prepared to order. For entertainment, musicians seated on the floor played traditional Middle Eastern tunes, while belly dancers moved through the crowd in a blur of spangled scarves.

For a larger corporate group of 150, "metropolitan chic" was the theme. Tables glowed white on the patio, and white lights illuminated the pool. The sophisticated menu included sushi, cosmopolitans and martinis, and a Sinatra playlist entertained the crowd -- all under a starry sky.

The 491-room Hyatt Lost Pines features more than 60,000 square feet of meeting space and 230,000 square feet of outdoor function space. Among its amenities are the Wolfdancer Golf Club; hiking, biking and jogging paths; an equestrian center; and canoeing, kayaking and rafting on the Colorado River.