From a family-owned vineyard to George Washington’s Mount Vernon, the commonwealth of Virginia offers groups a variety of teambuilding activities seeped in history.
Each of these places in Northern Virginia—Fairfax, Loudoun County, Alexandria and Richmond—boast group activities fit for meetings that represent their identities. Loudoun County is known as “D.C.’s wine country,” so expect plenty of vineyard opportunities. Fairfax will soon be home to the National Museum of the United States Army. And each area has important historical ties, including to figures like George Washington and Patrick Henry.
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These four areas are also more affordable alternatives to staying in Washington, D.C., for an event, but the country’s capital city is only a bus ride away.
Below are noteworthy teambuilding and group outing activities in Fairfax, Loudoun County, Alexandria and Richmond.
1. Whitewater Rafting in Richmond
It might sound unbelievable that Virginia’s capital and one of America’s oldest major cities is a prime spot for water sports, including whitewater rafting. But settled on the James River, Richmond offers the thrilling activity near downtown for a variety of group sizes and skill levels.
“We can offer from Class IV to lazy river,” said Matt Robinette, director of convention and sports services for Visit Richmond, VA. “You can get large groups down the river, working together. It’s extremely fun and unique, because it’s downtown. It’s something people are surprised that they can do here.”
If interested in booking a whitewater rafting adventure for your meeting or event, Robinette recommends reaching out to Visit Richmond first, since they can help you the best rates and negotiate the right times. “Sometimes during the week it’s not available or there can be size restrictions—we want planners to reach out to us,” he said.
Photo: Your group can go whitewater rafting on the James River in Richmond, Virginia. Courtesy of Visit Richmond
Worth a Stop
Monument Avenue: Attendees can take in art and history with a tour of Monument Avenue, a stretch of median lined with Confederate statues of Virginian veterans of the Civil War, including Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The avenue also recently unveiled a monument by artist Kehinde Wiley titled “Rumors of War,” depicting a heroic figure sitting upon a horse—much like the Confederate statues—but the figure is a young African-American man in modern-looking streetwear. “It’s amazing to see how they’re juxtaposed,” Robinette said. “It’s art that generates conversation.”
2. Seeing a Show at Wolf Trap in Fairfax
Attending a show at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts and its outdoor amphitheater, the Filene Center, is an experience meeting attendees can have only in Fairfax, located about 20 miles west of Washington, D.C. It’s America’s only national park dedicated to the performing arts,” said Ali Morris, destination marketing manager for Visit Fairfax.
“It’s an amazing venue—people are shocked when they first see it,” she said. “Attendees can bring a picnic and see a show from top-tier performers.” This year’s calendar includes shows from Steely Dan, The Head and the Heart, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Brandi Carlile and Goo Dolls.
Wolf Trap also offers a number of spaces for meetings and receptions, including two outdoor tented deck facilities with views of the amphitheater for up to 250 guests.
Worth a Stop
The National Museum of the United States Army (coming soon): The doors to the first national museum dedicated to the U.S. Army will open June 4 in Fairfax County after 25 years of planning. The Army Historical Foundation has begun booking events for the museum starting in August, according to its website. Attendees can participate in teambuilding activities at the Experiential Learning Center that will test their geography, science and technology skills.
Photo: The first national museum dedicated to the U.S. Army will open June after 25 years of planning. Courtesy of Visit Fairfax
3. Making Sangria and Chocolate in Loudoun County
Culinary adventures abound in one of Virginia’s northernmost counties. Loudoun has the largest concentration of breweries and wineries in the commonwealth of Virginia, said Beth Erickson, president and CEO of Visit Loudoun County, as well as more acres of grapes than anywhere else in the state.
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Groups can plan a trip to Bluemont Vineyard for such group activities as grape stomping, tours and tastings, and sangria making. Attendees can pick fresh fruit and bring their bounty to the vineyard’s tasting room to learn about the art of making sangria—then split into teams and use their newfound knowledge to craft recipes and see whose sangria tastes best.
The sweetness can continue at The Conche, a chocolate-centric restaurant and boutique, where celebrity chef Santosh Tiptur can lead attendees through his specialty of creating eye-catching chocolate sculptures.
“It’s a lot of fun, and attendees can learn everything from how chocolate is made to how a team can work together to create an award-winning work of art that’s edible,” Erickson explained. (Photo: Arrange for groups to create chocolate sculptures at The Conche with a celebrity chef in Loudoun County. Courtesy of Visit Loudoun)
Worth a Stop
Polo: Loudoun County is one of the top destinations for horses in Virginia. At Morven Park Equestrian Center, attendees can take polo lessons, which include learning how to swing a mallet and how to get on a horse to play. They can then “play a very tame version of a polo match,” Erickson said. Groups can also watch professional polo matches. “I’ve brought several groups out to see that, and they’ve really enjoyed it,” she added.
4. Leadership Exercises in Alexandria
Alexandria is just minutes from D.C. and offers a host of attractions suitable to meeting and event groups. Old Town Alexandria, a historic district founded in 1749, is known as George Washington’s adopted hometown, as he owned a townhouse in Alexandria and frequented many other city sites.
Photo: The “Be Washington,” interactive experience at Mount Vernon in Alexandria, Virginia. Credit: Dan Chung for George Washington's Mount Vernon
Groups can participate in leadership activities at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, including “Be Washington,” an interactive experience where attendees can step into the boots of Washington and see how they would have made decisions. The Leadership Collection at Alexandria invites attendees to practice “presidential decision-making” in the Washington Presidential Library.
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“Within the group, someone is named the president and others can be cabinet members and ambassadors,” explained Lorraine Lloyd, vice president of sales and international marketing for Visit Alexandria. “And they decide the fate of the nation.”
Add to the Mount Vernon experience post-teambuilding with a Washington whiskey tasting or a tour of the mansion.
Worth a Stop
Waterfront activities: Located on the banks of the Potomac River, Alexandria is an ideal spot for a variety of waterfront activities, from paddleboarding to kayaking. Its Waterfront Park was even recently expanded at the foot of King Street in the city’s historic Old Town. Attendees can enjoy waterfront paths and parks or take a cruise across the Potomac to the National Harbor, to George Washington’s Mount Vernon and into D.C.
Visit Alexandria | 703.838.5005
Visit Fairfax | 703.790.0643
Visit Loudoun County | 703.771. 2170
Visit Richmond, VA | 804.783.7450
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