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Minnesota offers the gamut of teambuilding options
From ziplining at the Mall of America in Bloomington to performing improv with a full group of coworkers at a live theater in Minneapolis, Minnesota offers teambuilding adventures groups will not want to miss.
In 2015, Meet Minneapolis, the city’s CVB, launched Go Minneapolis Signature Experiences to offer meeting planners a host of activities to enjoy with their groups. So successful was the program that in 2016 Meet Minneapolis partnered with other local CVBs—Visit Saint Paul and Bloomington CVB—and also the Mall of America to add to the list of experiences, creating the largest collection of such experiential activities in the country.
Today, there are more than 30 unique tours, performances and demonstrations that offer groups exclusive and interactive teambuilding activities, ranging from outdoor adventure to arts and culture experiences.
“We started this program and it was an immediate success,” said Nathan Hermiston, director of destination sales, Meet Minneapolis. “It’s great for our corporate clients who want to try a uniquely Minneapolis experience.”
Some of the current offerings include improv at the local theater Brave New Workshop, feeding giraffes at the zoo and glass blowing.
Julie Krueger, sourcing and contracting manager, meetings and events, for Arden Hills-based Land O’ Lakes, said she was looking for something different for her group and found it at Foci–Minnesota Center for Glass Arts.
“Everyone does Segway tours or Amazing Race-type activities, but we brought a group from around the country to the Minnesota Center for Glass Arts, which we set up with Meet Minneapolis,” she said. “It was a very artsy and unique teambuilding event. When they weren’t blowing glass, everyone was networking and talking to each other. And after everyone had their turn with the instructors we had a catered cocktail party. They loved it.”
The group also had something to look forward to when they got home; each participant made a glass paperweight at the studio, which was later shipped to them.
This year, Land O’ Lakes organized a pottery class with Northern Clay Center in Minneapolis, which created a custom teambuilding event for the group.
Other Meet Minneapolis partners, each of whom created new experiences, include Brave New Workshop, where sketch comedy performers show attendees their tricks of the trade and help guests rediscover their own creativity—with lots of laughs along the way.
“What’s great about our workshops is that attendees create in a very safe space,” said John Sweeney, owner of Brave New Workshop. “This allows people to stretch their own creativity and innovation without concern about being embarrassed. Our workshops connect the participants in a real and human way, which leads to greater collaboration and productivity.”
Other Minneapolis classes include Spoonriver: Harvest Your Health, where attendees are inspired to be healthier by learning about how to support local and sustainable agriculture through a four-course luncheon and discussion at chef Brenda Langton’s Spoonriver Restaurant, located in the Historic Riverfront Mill District of downtown Minneapolis. Another, Textile Center’s Felting Fun shows guests the ancient technique for crafting designs from a variety of wool textures, colors and materials. Attendees leave with a handmade rug, colorful coaster or felted artwork.
“As far as teambuilding events for planners go, the Signature Experiences Program not only makes it easy but gives planners options that will win over attendees every time,” Hermiston said.
Shannan Cook, director of meetings for the Minnesota Dental Association, plans the annual three-day Star of the North continuing education conference held at the Saint Paul RiverCentre. Responsible for registration, housing, speakers and all continuing education for her attendee dentists, she also plans extra-curricular teambuilding and spouse events as well.
“We have two cooking classes at Cooks of Crocus Hill during the day,” Cook said. “It’s a well-known cooking school with a great reputation attached to a retail store. This class sells out every year.”
One dental group uses the cooking school as a teambuilding event while others come to the class when their spouses are in session during the day. During the Flavors of the Mediterranean class, for example, attendees made spinach feta salad, lemon chicken and Greek yogurt cheesecake while sipping on Greek mojitos.
After lunch, participants can peruse the wares in the Cooks of Crocus Hill shop for spices or utensils, or in any of the many boutiques along Grand Avenue.
Cook also added a beer tasting at Surly Brewing Co. one night of the conference. The event included a tour of the brewery ending with a tasting. Participants left with a souvenir glass.
“This was the first tour to sell out,” Cook said.
Other uniquely St. Paul teambuilding activities include the St. Paul Saints’ Saint for a Day, where guests take to the field and see their name in lights at CHS Field, the baseball park in downtown Saint Paul that is home to the St. Paul Saints. The visit includes lunch, a tour of CHS Field, official jersey and a Saints-issued baseball cap.
Another great teambuilding event is Como Zoo: Behind the Scenes, where visitors can go behind the scenes before the zoo opens to the public to hear stories from Como’s past. Guests make a treat for the polar bears, feed a giraffe and meet one of the many zookeepers who make Como Zoo a world-class facility.
The Bloomington CVB has a unique opportunity for visiting groups to give back to the local nonprofit community, said Dan O’Neill, vice president of strategy and sales for the Bloomington CVB.
“We encourage all of our visiting groups to work on projects to assist in charitable work while in town for a meeting or event,” he said.
Susan Breen, convention services coordinator at the CVB, said there is one charitable organization in particular meeting professionals like to work with when they come to Minnesota. The organization, Bridging: We Furnish Homes with Hope, provides furniture and household goods to those transitioning out of homelessness and poverty.
“We have groups buy and build dressers for the needy,” Breen said. “It’s a great teambuilding activity. Everything a group needs to build a dresser is supplied by Bridging.”
Bridging also has towel drives for the homeless who have transitioned to new living spaces.
This year, the International Association of Insurance Professionals decided to work with Bridging on a towel drive as a teambuilding event and it was a big success.
“While we’re in the industry to be the safety net for an individual during hardship, I never stopped to think what fresh new towels could mean to someone who found themselves homeless or in a shelter,” said roz Horton, 2015 International Association of Insurance Professionals president. “We had a great experience working with Bridging. I’m proud of the huge response from our members to provide so many towels to a worthy organization. What a reminder to not take the little things for granted.”
At the Mall of America, the largest retail and entertainment complex in the Western Hemisphere, there are plenty of teambuilding activities, according to Jill Renslow, senior vice president of marketing and business development, Mall of America.
“Mall of America offers private groups a multitude of memorable teambuilding experiences from thrill rides and entertainment to private event space and fine dining,” she said.
One adventure includes riding the longest indoor zipline in North America, located at Nickelodeon Universe, the nation’s largest indoor family theme park. There is also a mall-wide scavenger hunt, offered at Dick’s Last Resort, where team members use an iPad to answer questions about the mall while taking team pictures along the way.
“It’s probably our most popular teambuilding activity,” said Brett Burger, public relations coordinator, Mall of America.