4 Ways to Enjoy the Outdoors When Meeting in Michigan

March 19, 2020

From a short 30-minute break to a few hours, a little bit of time outdoors between meetings and breakout sessions can significantly boost attendees’ spirits and productivity. And in a state like Michigan, which has abundant bodies of water and parks within close proximity to many metro areas that are popular for meetings, it’s easy to work some fresh-air activities into the agenda.

Following are some spotlights on accessible ways to experience the outdoors when meeting in Michigan.

Explore Michigan’s First Urban State Park in Detroit

Michigan’s biggest city has a lot to offer meetings. Downtown Detroit’s environmentally friendly TCF Center offers 2.4 million square feet of space, including five exhibit halls and 80 meeting rooms. The convention center is easily accessible to attendees as it’s 20 minutes from the airport, which has 150 nonstop daily flights to destinations around the world.

TCF Center, previously named Cobo Center, sits behind the metro’s revitalized riverfront. The Riverwalk, which runs along the riverfront, is in TCF’s backyard and is an easy way for attendees meeting for conventions to step outside for fresh air and explore Detroit’s outdoors.

Photo: TCF Center sits along the Detroit River waterfront, with easy access to the popular Riverwalk; Credit: TCF Center

Those on the Riverwalk can take a stroll or rent one of the MoGo bikes outside of TCF Center to peddle about a mile down to William G. Milliken State Park and Harbor—a 31-acre green oasis in downtown Detroit that is also Michigan’s first urban state park. A harbor, vast picnic areas, wetland ecosystem and paved trails are within the park, and a lighthouse marks the park’s entrance.

The park includes a demonstration area that promotes Detroit’s wetlands. Signs explain how the wetland naturally cleans the water and then returns it back to the Detroit River without a trip to the wastewater treatment plant.

Covered pavilions can be rented for small groups for meals and outdoor events. Planners should call ahead for availability.

Fishing on the Grand River, Grand Rapids

Grand Rapids is a convenient Midwestern meetings spot, thanks to its accessibility and downtown convention campus that has easy access to seven hotels, six museums, over 100 shops and restaurants, and a lively nightlife scene.

The Grand River—the state’s longest river, which cuts through the city—is a main downtown attraction with adjacent walkways that are popular for morning walks and runs. To experience the river culture from a different vantage point, take your attendees on an urban fishing expedition that combines solitude with downtown convenience.

Photo: Attendees can get picked up from their hotel and taken on a downtown fishing expedition on the Grand River in downtown Grand Rapids with Werkman Outfitters; Credit: Courtesy of Experience Grand Rapids

Your small group can catch salmon, northern pike, smallmouth bass and steelhead right in the city. Werkman Outfitters can come pick your group up at any Grand Rapids hotel, provide all of the gear and educate novice participants about fishing in Michigan’s waters.

Though fishing is often associated with summer, Werkman Outfitters also offers ice fishing outings during the winter months, a hearty Midwestern tradition that can give your attendees some unexpected fresh air and fun.

Werkman’s boats can fit up to three people, but multiple boats can be reserved for a small group.

[Related: Group Friendly Activities—Grand Rapids]

A New Outdoor Park in Lansing

As Michigan’s capital city and the home of Michigan State University, Lansing has academic prowess and the advantage of a deep pool of industry experts and guest speaker options for Michigan meetings. The city is also within 90 minutes from 90% of the state’s population, so it’s easy to access for in-state attendees and exhibitors.

The city has made strides to improve the outdoor areas around its main convention center to make it an even more attractive meetings destination. In August 2019, the ribbon was cut at the grand opening of the $1.8-million Rotary Park in downtown Lansing, a new riverfront attraction steps away from the Lansing Center.

Photo: A new park opened in late summer 2019 behind Lansing Center called Rotary Park; Credit: James Lenon

Conventioneers will enjoy the easy access to the new park, which features a small beach, patio, a large plaza with a fireplace, a “lighted forest” for evening activities, and a small venue for concerts and events. The Grand Princess Riverboat, which is available for corporate event rental, can dock at the park right outside Lansing Center.

The park opening is part of a larger project between the Community Foundation and City of Lansing, who together in 2017 began a major initiative to revitalize Lansing’s riverfront for residents and visitors.

[On Topic: Urban Teambuilding Activities, Michigan Events]

Cruise the Bays in Traverse City

Freshwater beaches, abundant wineries and its unique location on Grand Traverse Bay make Traverse City a natural outdoorsy destination in Northern Michigan. Daily flights from Midwestern cities like Chicago, Detroit and Minneapolis make it an attractive meetings destination, too.

One of the best ways to get your group outdoors to enjoy Traverse City’s scenery is aboard the Tall Ship Manitou, which is a replica of an 1800s schooner that can take your attendees out on the bays of Traverse City for two-hour sails (or longer). The ship can accommodate 59 passengers, and no sailing experience is required.

Photo: Take a tour of Grand Traverse Bay in Traverse City aboard an 1800s schooner replica; Credit: Traverse City Tourism

There are several day sailing options, depending on the schedule of your meeting and event.

“I love the evening sail—the sunsets are absolutely gorgeous,” said Jillian Manning, the PR and media manager for Traverse City Tourism. “But the Moomers Sail is extra quirky. Moomers Ice Cream is a nationally award-winning ice cream shop here in Traverse City, and the sailing trip gives you a midday ice cream snack.”

Other tour options include the Noon Sail and Manitou Day Sail.

Latest Hotel Openings and Renovations in Michigan (2020)


DoubleTree by Hilton Bloomfield Hills Detroit recently underwent a complete renovation. The refreshed property includes an expansive two-story atrium lobby, new business center and lounge. Onsite dining is Zalman’s Delicatessen, a restaurant that serves breakfast, lunch and dinner options made from locally sourced ingredients. The Duke cocktail lounge offers a range of specialty wines, champagnes, rare whiskeys and scotches.

Photo: Mid-level lounge at the refreshed DoubleTree by Hilton Bloomfield Hills Detroit.

A Holiday Inn Express is currently undergoing a massive renovation in downtown Detroit, targeting a spring 2020 reopening. The 241-room hotel’s largest meeting space will be able to accommodate up to 100 people. The hotel is located in the heart of downtown within walking distance of the convention center, restaurants and entertainment attractions.

Cobo Center—Detroit’s main convention center—was officially renamed TCF Center in August 2019. In October, the center was awarded a LEED Gold certification.


The 600 Block Development by the Gillespie Group is bringing the first new hotel to downtown Lansing in 30 years, a 124-room Courtyard by Marriott that will have three meetings rooms. Other features of the block include new apartments, a 5,000-square-foot restaurant and bar, and Meijer grocery store. The 150,000-square-foot development is scheduled to be complete by the end of 2020.

A 10-story Graduate Hotel is under construction in East Lansing. The 194-room boutique-style hotel will have 5,000 square feet of event space and is a 10-minute walk from Spartan Stadium and Breslin Center on the Michigan State University campus. A rooftop bar is also planned.

The shuddered municipal Red Cedar Golf Course is the proposed future site of a 55-acre, $250 million, six-building development project called the Red Cedar Development. The project is in phase one of construction and is slated to include two hotels, multiple restaurants, retail and apartment space, an amphitheater and public park connecting to the Lansing River Trail system, and more. The completion date is yet to be announced.

A 124-room Hilton Garden Inn just opened on Lansing's west side. The property has 5,500 square feet of meeting and event space and is near dozens of nearby dining and entertainment options.

New in the growing Jolly and Okemos road corridor is the Courtyard East Lansing-Okemos by Marriott. It’s located behind Stillwater Grill, offers nearly 100 guest rooms, an American bistro and Starbucks in the lobby, fitness center, convenience store and one 480-square-foot meeting room that fits 35 people.

SpringHill Suites East Lansing University Area by Marriott is complete. The property is a short walk from the MSU campus, which offers guests easy access to the university and Greater Lansing. The 88-guest room all-suite hotel will offer daily complimentary breakfast, an indoor pool, a fitness center and a 323-square-foot space for groups of 20-30.

Traverse City

Grand Traverse Resort and Spa recently completed a renovation of its Governors’ Hall, the largest meeting space in Northern Michigan, with 19,000 square feet of space plus 5,000 square feet of prefunction space. Other refreshed spaces include the Tower, Mackinac and Peninsula ballrooms.

West Bay Beach a Delamar Resort completed a renovation of its meeting and event space (5,800 square feet) with additional renovations planned throughout the property this year.

Read Next: Detroit Historic Event Venues


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About the author
Danielle LeBreck | Lead Destinations Content Strategist

Danielle started at Meetings Today in March 2019 after seven years of editorial experience in the travel and food industries. She oversees all of the destination content for Meetings Today and collaborates with the team on digital content strategy and content marketing initiatives.