Groups meeting throughout Louisiana will find an array of engaging teambuilding activities that encourage team rapport while showing off the state’s unique culture.
A Mardi Gras-themed event in New Orleans, a paddling outing on the bayou in Lafayette and whipping up a batch of gumbo in Lake Charles are among the possibilities. And beware: Alligator encounters may be involved.
Following are some “only-in-Louisiana” teambuilding highlights.
Classic teambuilding experiences, including a ropes course and scavenger hunts that leverage New Orleans unique and natural surroundings, as well as a Mardi Gras activity, are all available to groups meeting in New Orleans.
If you’ve ever wondered how the elaborate costumes associated with Mardi Gras are created and their cultural significance, you can participate in the Nomgi Sip & Sew Experience in New Orleans, created and led by Mardi Gras Indians at Second Wine Vine. Groups enjoy drinks and snacks while creating pieces of art that resemble the intricately sewn costumes and headdresses made annually for the celebration by more than 40 Mardi Gras Indian tribes.
Photo: Sip & Sew, New Orleans
Groups can learn about the history of this tradition as they work with an assortment of beads and stencil patterns to create special souvenirs on a 3x3-foot canvas, said Rachel Avery, CMP, director of convention services and special events at New Orleans & Company.
If attendees prefer to get outside for meeting breaks, planners can instead organize a scavenger hunt through the iconic French Quarter with local companies like Dat NOLA Race and Let’s Roam.
Avery added that many local DMCs can create a curated scavenger hunt that includes classic New Orleans tastes and experiences.
“Getting beignets from Cafe Du Monde, trying the ghost pepper hot sauce and having your tarot cards read are just a few examples of activities to include in the checklist,” she said.
Another outdoor team-bonding option, facilitated by LOOP NOLA, is a ropes challenge course in the beautiful New Orleans City Park.
“The course features a variety of high and low activities that push participants to break out of their comfort zones,” Avery said.
Louisiana’s capital city has a lot to offer meetings, thanks to its easy accessibility from New Orleans and other Southern cities. After work, both physical and relaxing challenges are on deck for groups convening in Baton Rouge.
Uptown Climbing is an indoor rock-climbing facility that’s Louisiana’s largest climbing gym, home to a 90-foot-long bouldering wall and 60 rope stations. The gym can also host group parties.
[On Topic: Plan a Meeting Around One of New Orleans’ Top Festivals]
“Adding this fun and physical challenge to your meeting or convention is a great way to literally take teambuilding to new heights,” said Meredith Conger, communications specialist for Visit Baton Rouge.
Groups can even reserve the full gym during weekdays between 8 a.m.-2 p.m. to hold meetings, have lunch and then climb the walls during breaks.
Another option for active groups is a friendly game of beach volleyball at The Oasis, an outdoor venue with sand volleyball courts, a restaurant and a bar.
Photo: Red Stick Social, Baton Rouge
“Baton Rouge has plenty of fun and competitive ways for your group to relax and unwind,” Conger said. “The Oasis, Topgolf and Red Stick Social are all ‘one-stop-shops’ for interactive games, live entertainment and amazing Louisiana cuisine.”
Topgolf—an increasingly popular teambuilding activity across the nation—and Red Stick Social offer lively atmospheres where attendees are certain to have a good time competing in golf and bowling tournaments, respectively.
Paddling on a local river is a go-to teambuilding activity in Lafayette, and a great way to work up an appetite for other popular team-bonding options featuring Cajun cuisine.
Groups can paddle in two-person canoes or kayaks down the portions of the 70-mile-long Bayou Vermilion that runs along the city.
“End at Vermilionville where the team can sample some Cajun and Creole cuisine,” suggested Jesse Guidry, vice president of communications for Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission.
Photo: Cajun Food Tours, Lafayette
Another way to sample Cajun culinary staples, including boudin, king cake and gumbo, is to book an outing via foot or bus with Cajun Food Tours.
Another culinary opportunity awaits groups at Crawfish Haven/Mrs. Rose’s Bed and Breakfast, where they can participate in either Cajun cooking classes or crawfish excursions.
“Your guide will take team members out in groups to catch their food before returning to shore to learn how to prepare this Cajun delicacy,” Guidry said. “The bed-and-breakfast onsite serves as the perfect meeting place after all the fun.”
Teambuilding in Shreveport-Bossier can be a thrilling experience—and one that can bring you up close and personal with some of the area’s sharp-toothed residents.
A favorite local team-bonding activity is at Gators and Friends, an alligator park and exotic zoo. Here, brave individuals can zipline over a swamp of intimidating alligators.
Photo: Gators & Friends ziplining, Shreveport-Bossier
“To see alligators that close up while soaring through the air is a thrilling experience that you can only have down South,” said David Bradley, vice president of sales and services for Shreveport-Bossier Convention and Tourist Bureau.
For those who still want an adrenaline rush but want to avoid the wildlife, one of the newest teambuilding facilities in Bossier City is Bayou Axe Throwing Co., where groups can let off a little steam while learning to throw at a target. Teams can play for prizes, including “closest to the bull’s-eye.”
Tailgating and gumbo are at the heart of popular teambuilding events in Lake Charles.
“To me, there is nothing more Southern than a tailgate party,” said Taylor Beard Stanley, senior sales manager at Visit Lake Charles.
She explained teambuilding could easily be arranged during a tailgating-themed event at Crying Eagle Brewing Co.
Photo: Crying Eagle Brewing Co. outdoor beer garden, Lake Charles
“The outdoor space is really great for setting up tailgate games such as a cornhole tournament,” she said. “You can run four different games at once and have brackets and an ultimate winner at the end of the night. This would be a great first-night event to get everyone mingling, working together and having fun.”
Southwest Louisiana is also known for its food, especially gumbo. Planners are encouraged to reach out directly to Visit Lake Charles’s Beard Stanley, who can help facilitate a gumbo cook-off at a local casino resort such as Golden Nugget Lake Charles.
“I love this activity because small groups have to work together to cook the dish,” she said. “It shows how different ingredients can come together and make something delicious, and I compare that to working with other people. Everyone contributes their talents to get to the final result.”
Briefly state what your job entails.
I lead the marketing function, which includes innovation in our digital marketing, communications, producing award-winning tradeshows and collaborating with internal and external stakeholders to achieve our strategic plan. (Photo: Ari Goldsmith, Vice President of Marketing for KeHE Distributors in Naperville, Illinois)
What type of meeting did you hold in New Orleans?
The KeHE Summer Show, an annual trade show that brings together more than 4,500 specialty, natural and organic and fresh food and beverage industry professionals. The event gives KeHE retailer partners a marketplace to discover innovative new products and purchase consumer favorites at exclusive show deals. Each year this event rotates to a different major city within the U.S. This year the show was at the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center.
Was anyone particularly helpful in executing your event?
A handful of longstanding wonderful partners helped make our event the most successful Summer Show in company history. We also had the opportunity to work with the Children’s Hunger Fund and the Humane Society of Louisiana. The two not-for-profit partnerships allowed for thousands of meals to be donated to children in need along with providing critical pet supplies to the local community.
[Related: Distinctive Louisiana Event Venues]
Did your group happen to participate in any teambuilding events?
On the second day of the Summer Show, we provided attendees an opportunity to volunteer and pack meals for local children in need. KeHE’s Serving Goodness™ event attendees packed 100,000 meals that were donated through the Children’s Hunger Fund. The event occurs before we eat breakfast and sets the tone for a filled with day energy, connectedness and mutual dedication to serving others.
What did your attendees seem to enjoy the most about New Orleans?
KeHE always picks locations where we can illuminate the local cuisine and highlight the regional culture. Attendees of the Summer Show seemed to enjoy the Cajun, Creole-inspired, soul food and lively energy that abounded in New Orleans.
Are there any group-friendly experiences away from the host hotel that you would recommend for groups?
At each KeHE trade show, we host an After-Show Party to thank our partners for choosing KeHE as their trusted source in the specialty, natural and organic and fresh product categories. This year we chose to have it at the renowned National WWII Museum, which was a huge crowd favorite. After Show Party attendees enjoyed exploring exhibits and had a chance to experience live musical performances from the Victory Belles, a vocal trio performing 1940s musical hits.
How does New Orleans compare to other destinations where you have hosted meetings?
The improvements the city is making to the convention center and the updated airport sets New Orleans up for even more successful future events. We look forward to being back in a few short years!
The five-year capital improvement plan for the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center includes $557 million worth of upgrades to the facility’s interior and exterior. Currently under construction is a pedestrian park along the entire length of the convention center that connects pedestrians to both ends of the building, landscaped with outdoor seating and gathering spaces.
The 341-room Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans is currently under construction and is expected to open in late 2020. The property will have 22,500 square feet of meeting space.
Higgins Hotel & Conference Center, part of the Curio Collection by Hilton, opened in December 2019 adjacent to The National WWII Museum. The 230-room property has 18,000 square feet of conference and event space, restaurants and a rooftop venue.
Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport opened its new terminal in November 2019, completely replacing the previous facility. The 972,000-square-foot, $1 billion project consists of three concourses with 35 gates, a consolidated security checkpoint, and a variety of restaurants and retail shops, including Cafe Du Monde and Starbucks.
Crowne Plaza Executive Center Baton Rouge, which has 32,000 square feet of meeting and event space, completed a renovation of its 294 guest rooms and fitness facilities in August 2019.
Baton Rouge Marriott recently completed a renovation including updates to all 299 guest rooms, lobby, restaurant and over 10,000 square feet of meeting space.
Courtyard Lafayette Airport renovated its guest rooms and meeting room in summer 2019.
Hilton Shreveport, which is attached to the Shreveport Convention Center, recently completed a full renovation including updates to guest rooms, meeting rooms and public spaces.
Lafayette Convention and Visitors Commission | 337.232.3737
New Orleans & Company | 504.566.5095
Shreveport-Bossier Convention & Tourist Bureau | 318.222.9391
Visit Baton Rouge | 225.383.1825
Visit Lake Charles | 337.436.9588
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About the Author: Carolyn has been writing and editing professionally for nearly 20 years. Her relationship with Meetings Today began as an on-staff features editor, and since 2006 she has been a contributing writer covering meetings destinations, news and trends.