Groups meeting at one of the many lakeside properties and venues in the Midwest often get splendid water views alongside their events, but for a true “lake meeting,” attendees should cruise the waterways aboard a vessel.
There are a variety of options for groups in states like Minnesota, Illinois, Wisconsin and Michigan. Here are four favorite experiences for on-the-lake meetings in the Midwest.
Twin Cities’ Lake Minnetonka is about 15 miles from downtown Minneapolis and one of Minnesota’s largest lakes. Groups meeting in the Twin Cities that want to really experience the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” can opt for an event on Lake Minnetonka with Al and Alma’s Supper Club and Charter Cruises.
Photo: Bella Vista, Al and Alma's.
The charter cruise company offers seven vessels for private group charters, including the Allante yacht with handcrafted teak and cherry woodwork that can accommodate 20 to 35 people, and the Bella Vista yacht, which features floor-to-ceiling glass walls, two open air spaces and the capacity for 149 people.
Groups can enjoy a relaxed lunch, sunset or dinner cruise on the lake with live entertainment, or incorporate teambuilding for a more adventurous experience. Al and Alma’s dedicated planner can assist with programs such as wine tastings, casino tables and even add wellness elements like massages for groups on board.
Al and Alma’s Supper Club is also an add-on option for groups. First opened in 1956, it’s the longest operating restaurant on Lake Minnetonka, according to the company.
The main level dining room, with lofted ceilings, a rock fireplace and large windows, is open to the public.
The upper level loft features private dining space for up to 60 guests. Groups can pair dinner on land with a post-event cruise on the lake.
Groups meeting in Chicagoland can add a history lesson while cruising Lake Michigan aboard the Tall Ship Windy.
Photo: Tall Ship Windy, Chicago. Credit: Tall Ships
The traditional 148-foot tall topsail schooner, which was modeled after a Great Lakes trading ship, allows groups up to 150 to get insight on the lake’s pirate history and maritime traditions alongside live music, food and drink.
Participants can also have a hands-on experience aboard the vessel, taking an active role in sailing the ship. Groups can also learn about the city of Chicago while aboard the vessel with a Lakeside Architecture Cruise.
Groups meeting in Lake Geneva can take their offsite on the water with Lake Geneva Cruise Line. There are teambuilding options, tours and relaxing lake cruises available. Groups can choose from eight vessels, including the larger Lady of the Lake and Grand Belle of Geneva steamboats that can each accommodate up to 225 people.
Photo: Lake Geneva Cruise Line, Lake Geneva, Wisconsin.
The Geneva Geo Challenge offered by the cruise line is an experience that combines GPS technology with fun and challenging puzzles. Participants are divided into teams and use clues and race to solve puzzles in order to get to the next location.
Groups can also arrange for a private tour of Black Point Lake Geneva’s historic estate. Lake Geneva Cruise Line will take attendees to and from the estate, which dates to 1888. Black Point is now owned and operated by the State of Wisconsin as a historical museum.
Food, beverage and entertainment can be added to private charters for events such as a sunset cruise, a jazz dinner or a luncheon tour.
A short drive from Grand Rapids and Kalamazoo, Saugatuck sits at the mouth of the Kalamazoo River on Lake Michigan. Star of Saugatuck gives groups an opportunity to get on these scenic waters with private charters.
Photo: Star of Saugatuck, Saugatuck, Michigan. Credit: Kenneth Sponsler/Shutterstock.com
The original Star of Saugatuck vessel was in use until 2000 when Star II went into service. Star II seats 150 passengers and features an enclosed lower deck that can be used for banquet seating and an upper deck with a partial canopy that can seat 80 passengers.
Cruises start on the Kalamazoo River and sail into Lake Kalamazoo and then on to Lake Michigan, where passengers can look back at the town and local landmarks.
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Groups aboard the Star II can enjoy local wines and craft beers while enjoying a relaxing private cruise. The company offers themed cruises, such as Wine on the Water, with a guided wine tasting, and a pirate cruise with passengers and crew dressed up for the adventure on the “high seas.”
Planners can take note of these themes when planning for their own private cruise.
Latest + Greatest
Atop Chicago’s Navy Pier is Offshore, a new, 36,000-square-foot all-seasons and all-weather venue overlooking Lake Michigan. The space features a full-service bar and kitchen, multiple terraces, fire pits and private space for 900 guests.
The entire venue can be rented as well as smaller spaces, such as the patio space, terraces and 8,500-square-foot indoor room. The 20,000-square-foot Terrace features a stage and two private lawns with shade canopies can also be used for private events.
Margaritaville Lake Resort, Lake of the Ozarks opened in spring 2019. Formerly the Tan-Tar-A Resort, the property introduced new dining concepts and features 89,000 square feet of indoor meeting space across 30 rooms with capacity for 3,500 guests.
Photo: Margaritaville lobby, Lake of the Ozarks.
There are two outdoor pool complexes, a 20,000-square-foot indoor water park, two golf courses and 494 guest rooms.
The Lodge at Geneva-on-the-Lake launched its Signature Immersion Tour in April 2019. This wine tour experience provides guests or groups with the opportunity to travel to select wineries while accompanied by The Lodge’s own Certified Wine Specialist, Lauren Fiala.
During the Signature Immersion Tour, Fiala shares engaging and educational insights about the Grand River Valley Region and the vintners that have helped make the area one of the fastest growing wine regions in the Midwest.
The property offers 109 guest rooms and 25 two-bedroom cottages; Horizons Restaurant; a lounge; an indoor and outdoor pool; and more than 8,500 square feet of meeting and event space.
The Abbey Resort, on the shores of Lake Geneva, completed a renovation of its meeting and convention room renovations in March 2019. The 12-month project included the installation of new roofs on all buildings, including Avani Spa, upgrades to the eight Geneva Lakes Meeting Rooms, resort hallways and lobby.
The 334-room property sits on 90 acres and features over 40,000 square feet of combined meeting and event space.
Just in time for the resort's 25th birthday celebration in May 2019, Grand Geneva Resort & Spa completed the renovation of its largest conference space, the Forum Convention Center.
The upgraded convention center features its own private entrance and outdoor patio, over 13,000 square feet of usable space and can seat up to 1,800 people. The resort also updated its boardrooms for smaller meetings and its Grand Suite accommodations. Overall, the resort offers 62,000 square feet of meeting and event space.
The newly renovated Radisson Hotel and Conference Center Fond du Lac opened its doors in early 2019. The hotel features updated common spaces and renovated guest rooms.
There are 133 guest rooms and a 13,315-square-foot meeting facility across 12 rooms equipped to hold up to 600 guests. Hotel amenities include a business center, fitness center and access to a 10,000-square-foot recreation center that features an indoor pool, hot tub and interactive games.
On the shore of Lake Michigan, the newly renamed Port Washington hotel, The Harborview, completed extensive renovations and a rebranding in July 2019. The hotel features a new aesthetic design throughout the common areas and the 936 guest rooms were also upgraded.
Outdoor improvements include enhanced lighting, new signage, updated landscaping and a revitalized garden patio area. The Beacon Restaurant & Bar features a bar and a new seasonal outdoor area with fire pits and a view of the harbor and Rotary Park.
The property now features two new meeting rooms and a newly renovated event space overlooking the pool.