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Group bonding is easy along the Gulf Coast

January 23, 2018

There’s something special about cities along the Gulf Coast.

The sun and sand brings out the adventurer in everyone, whether they’re joining the circus for a day in Florida, learning to cook in Louisiana, sailing and kayaking in Mississippi and Alabama, or helping out others in Texas.

Wherever planners choose to have their meeting, the Gulf Coast is ready with top teambuilding ideas.

Texas

The beach isn’t the only irresistible thing about Galveston.

Teambuilding takes on a whole new level on this island, from the traditional scavenger hunts and ropes courses to the Fantastic Race, a spin on TV’s Amazing Race, where attendees pair up, look for clues and solve puzzles throughout the historic Strand District. 

“Galveston’s diverse landscape and numerous attractions make it a great place for teambuilding, offering groups the opportunity to get outdoors for sandcastle-building competitions on the beach, a ropes course challenge at Moody Gardens or even a scavenger hunt through our historic downtown district,” said Meg Winchester, director of the Galveston Island CVB. “Or staying indoors is easy with team seafood cook-offs coached by our wonderful chefs or custom-designed activities at any of our many museums and attractions.”

While the games are fun, there’s plenty of options to help fellow humans in Galveston as well. The island has a number of volunteer activities, from participating in beach cleanups to assisting in Meals on Wheels deliveries or fundraising for conservation and local education. But one local attraction combines both: Moody Gardens. 

More than a zoo, Moody Gardens is a destination that educates and entertains, from adventures in the Rainforest Pyramid and Aquarium Pyramid to boat cruises, a 3D and 4D theater, Discovery Museum and even golf games at the complex’s own course. Moody Gardens also works with planners to tailor teambuilding activities with a host of volunteer opportunities, including painting, event preparation, exhibit upkeep and more across the nonprofit facility. Groups can spend a Corporate Volunteer Day helping with special events or working in the garden with the knowledge they are making a difference for Gulf Coast conservation. 

If planners prefer a physical challenge instead of volunteering, Moody Gardens also offers the five-tier Sky Trail Ropes Course, or attendees can fly with a zipline ride over the white sands of Palm Beach.

Louisiana

The coastal region of Louisiana is famed for fun, good times and out-of-this world cuisine. In Baton Rouge, groups can take some of that foodie knowledge home with a teambuilding event at the Louisiana Culinary Institute, one of the most prestigious culinary schools in the South. Leisure classes include learning to prepare pastries for Mardi Gras, sumptuous comfort foods and even Italian desserts.

Planners can work with instructors to choose the perfect project for each group, put together a menu and decide which venue to use, since the institute offers two test kitchens, three demo labs, three bake shops, a dining hall and much more. Aprons are provided, and planners are encouraged to book weekday afternoons or evenings.

In New Orleans, attendees can balance the party vibe of Bourbon Street with volunteer opportunities with Habitat for Humanity or the Lower Ninth Ward Living Museum, where they can help collect and record the memories and culture of the area. Even though Hurricane Katrina ripped through more than a decade ago, several areas of the Crescent City need help to rebound and become the vibrant neighborhoods they once were.

Places like the Beacon of Hope Resource Center and the NOLA Tree Project work to build homes and replace trees across the area.

Mississippi

With 60-plus miles of shoreline, it’s all about the water on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Teambuilding activities can combine education with the pure joy of experiencing special moments, like a sunset cruise dedicated to dolphin-watching or learning about outdoor skills, according to Janice Jefferson, director of sales for Visit Mississippi Gulf Coast.

“The Mississippi Gulf Coast prides itself on its maritime heritage,” she said. “A great way to experience the essence of this heritage from the water is to climb aboard the Biloxi Schooner, an authentic replica of a 65-foot Biloxi oyster schooner, and enjoy the beautiful views, sunsets and even dolphin-watching.” 

The Biloxi Schooners are replicas of the original oyster schooners used from the 1800s to the 1900s, and when the white sails billow against a blue sky, it’s easy to get caught up in the spirit of the sea. Planners can arrange special cruises and events on the schooners, from dockside parties, charter runs and two-hour special educational trips so attendees can learn more about the legacy of the Gulf Coast. The ships are part of the Maritime & Seafood Industry Museum complex, which also features exhibits and galleries to explore.

With a name like the Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Estuarine Education Center, one wouldn’t be surprised if it only involved pens, paper, desks and classrooms. That’s not the case with this education center, Jefferson said.

 “The Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College Estuarine Education Center is a wonderful resource for both residents and visitors looking to explore and expand their knowledge of nature and how to preserve it,” she said. “The center focuses on outdoor learning, using it to develop leadership skills and teambuilding, combining classroom-based learning and outdoor recreation.

"Across 33 acres of woodlands and wetlands, visitors can partake in activities such as kayaking, trail hiking, cycling, scaling a rock-climbing wall and mastering the high and low ropes courses.”

Going on the premise that spending time outdoors makes people think more about the environment, the EEC staff encourages attendees to explore, make decisions and become more confident. With instructors’ help, they also learn about nature and how to preserve it.

Alabama

A rich world awaits in the bayous, bays and along the beaches of Mobile, including one of the largest river deltas in the country, the Mobile-Tensaw Delta. That means teaming up for any watersports planners can imagine, according to Patty Kieffer, director of leisure sales and events for Visit Mobile.

“We’re on the delta, so we have a lot of watersports,” she said. “You can do kayaking, try airboats or take a tour on a duck boat from WWII,” she said, adding that planners can also set up sailing regattas or deep-sea fishing tournaments as teambuilding activities.

Wildnative Tours specializes in customized group experiences and guided kayak tours, while Gulf Coast Ducks travel on land and in water, thanks to their WWII amphibious craft. The ducks explore the Mobile River and Mobile Bay and travel through downtown, giving a whole new dimension to a downtown scavenger hunt.

Another unique location for teambuilding is the USS Alabama Battleship Memorial Park, where groups can tour the USS Alabama and the USS Drum, and even arrange dinner or an evening event on a vessel. The park also features tanks, artillery and an aircraft pavilion, which includes several planes and a flight simulator. Planners can combine teambuilding exercises and meals for an event-filled afternoon and evening.

Florida

For every attendee who as a child dreamed of running off to join the circus, Sarasota is the ultimate place to be. Known as the “Circus Capital of the World,” the city is home to the Ringling campus as well as several other performing circuses.

The Sarasota Circus Arts Conservatory, a training academy for young performers aspiring to the Sailor Circus, can make that childhood dream come true. Planners can customize activities for any group, teaching them the tricks of the trade while improving confidence, balance and skill. The young performers of the Conservatory can also perform at corporate events and retreats, engaging an entire crowd with interactive dinner theater.

Instead of a regular kayak adventure, groups can take the next step up with Dragon Boat racing at Sarasota’s Nathan Benderson Park.  Attendees can take Dragon Boat 101, a beginning class, or experienced paddlers can take Dragon Boat 201 and learn the sport’s competitive edge. These long boats are low to the water and are powered by 12 people rowing in sync, providing a fast and fun team experience groups won’t soon forget.

Planners can check with park staff for dates and times of training classes.  

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About the author
Beth Bartlett