The open expanse and distinctive attractions of Palm Springs and the nine other cities that comprise Southern California’s Coachella Valley set the stage for a host of teambuilding options for groups.
Gone are the days when golf and tennis reigned supreme. Those are still favorites for many, but a new wave of activities showcases the uniqueness and diversity the desert has to offer. Palm Springs and surrounds are also sophisticated when it comes to group venues, flush with resort hotels and meeting options like the Palm Springs Convention Center, boasting a 112,000-square-foot exhibit hall among its amenities.
“Greater Palm Springs is a resort community that feels like an island without having to travel across oceans,” said Scott White, president and CEO of the Greater Palm Springs CVB. “We are surrounded by three mountain ranges, providing access to great locations with breathtaking views. The environment is perfect for outdoor teambuilding activities, from the high adrenaline of the BMW Performance School to a group hike on one of our 100-plus trails.”
Following are five activities that embody the Greater Palm Springs experience.
At the BMW Performance Center West, and the newer MINI Motoring School, which gives drivers the chance to test out the John Cooper Works hardtops, groups can customize their own experiences.
“One of the newest group activities that is wildly popular in our area now is the BMW Performance Center,” said Barb Smith, partner at ACCESS Palm Springs, a Palm Desert-based DMC. “Our clients are clamoring to do events at this location. It’s unique to our area, to the West Coast, and offers a ‘thrill of a lifetime’ for those car and speed enthusiasts.”
In addition to the multiple track options, classes and off-roading experiences, all of which focus on teambuilding and communications, the center also has conference rooms and indoor and outdoor dining options for groups.
Palm Springs is home to a large concentration of well-preserved modernist architecture. The Mid-Century style of the area comes from the 1940s to 1960s when many of Hollywood’s elite would descend on the desert as an oasis from Los Angeles.
Palm Springs Mod Squad offers group tours of commercial and residential standouts from known architects such as William Cody, Albert Frey, William Krisel, Donald Wexler and E. Stewart Williams.
“In just 90 minutes, discover what makes Palm Springs the mecca for Mid-Century Modern architecture and still have time to relax by the pool,” said Kurt Cyr, Palm Springs Mod Squad owner and tour guide.
Tours include a look at the houses that were home to stars such as Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin and Marilyn Monroe, buildings by local architects that are responsible for the Modernist look of Palm Springs, and how the light and landscape influenced their visions.
Cyr can join as a guide on groups’ charter buses. For smaller tours the Mod Squad mini can give five people access to streets that larger buses are not able to navigate.
At Indio’s 200-acre Empire Polo Club groups can use the grass polo fields, the 48,000-square-foot Forum space or the Medjhool Lake venue for events with up to 90,000 people.
But the real fun begins when guests get on the field for a little competition that takes one of the area’s favorite pastimes—golf—and mixes it with the facility’s game of choice to get Golf Cart Polo.
“Golf Cart Polo is fast paced; typically, no skills are required,” Smith said. “The attendees are able to enjoy our beautiful weather and the videos and photos are really entertaining.”
The game has experienced polo players in the driver’s seat and guests ride along with a mallet showing off their skills, all while an announcer gives the play-by-plays.
Desert Adventures offers outdoor excursions and eco-tours throughout the Greater Palm Springs region. The company’s Red Jeep Tours can take groups to Painted Canyon, the Mecca Hills Wilderness Area and to the San Andres Fault.
“Our most popular teambuilding activity is our San Andreas Fault Jeep Tour plus Jeep Riddle Rally & Scavenger Hunt,” explained Kimberly Nilsson, owner and operator of Desert Adventures.
The activity entails solving riddles, answering trivia questions, finding scavenger hunt items and performing a team cheer.
“We can accommodate up to 100 guests at a time in a single round or 200 guests doing double rounds where either part of the activity is done on foot and the other half in the Jeeps,” Nilsson said.
Another teambuilding activity is the Desert Olympics. In this competition teams compete in a series of five-minute challenges and points are awarded based on the team’s score on each challenge. The number of activities can be adjusted based on the number of teams.
“Many groups choose to add an awards lunch or dinner to their activity at our Enchanted Desert venue on the San Andreas Fault,” Nilsson said.
Since the 1980s the San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm has been greeting many drivers heading into Palm Springs. Along Highway 10, thousands of windmills fill the slope of the pass, known as one of the windiest places in California.
Palm Springs Windmill Tours is the only windmill farm tour that is endorsed by the Desert Wind Energy Association. Groups are able to get an up-close view of the windmills and get a better understanding of several forms of sustainable energy: wind, solar and natural gas.
Private tours can be customized, but typical tours are two hours and include walking through the implement yard, looking at some of the historical windmills no longer in use, visiting solar and natural gas facilities, and partaking of a treat famous to the desert community: date shakes.
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Greater Palm Springs CVB