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Wellness in the South

Meetings in the South present the opportunity for outdoor creative and hyperlocal outdoor wellness experiences, whether that means massages using pine needle ingredients culled from the forest surrounding Pinehurst Resort, a fun run through the streets of the French Quarter or hiking through one of the largest sand pine scrub forests in the world in Ocala, Florida.

A temperate climate beckons groups outdoors to soak up the scenery and build up a sweat. As David Rome, CMP, DMCP, director of sales at BBC Destination Management, puts it, “They can get a tour at the same time as they are exercising.”

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Island Activities at the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort

Its location on St. Simons Island, Georgia, makes the King and Prince Beach & Golf Resort an idyllic setting for all things outdoors. “The number one activity we get requests for is bike riding,” says Bud St. Pierre, director of sales and marketing. “What’s neat here is that the sand is really hard, so you can bike (or run or walk) right on the beach.” The 12-mile island is also known for its interconnected bike paths, which he estimates stretch over 100 miles.

Another option is sea kayaking, which is offered by two different outfitters, Southeast Adventure and Barry’s Beach Service. The starting point takes paddlers through the marsh, where in the winter months they are able to view the many species of birds that have migrated from up north. To top off an active day, guests can try a spa treatment at the Royal Treatment Cottage. This historic hotel first opened as a seaside dance club in 1935, the hotel being constructed 6 years later. After a number of renovations and expansions, it was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005. In addition to a 2,880- sf ballroom, it offers a number of spaces for meetings overlooking the Atlantic Ocean, including the 1100-sf Solarium and the second-floor Retreat Room, with 180-degree views, which can accommodate 125 people for a reception.

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SUP in South Walton

Another stunning seaside destination for outdoor activities is South Walton, Fla. The area comprises 16 distinct beach communities along 26 miles of sugar-white sand beaches, with properties ranging from beachside cottages for small corporate retreats to full-service golf resorts. Groups have the opportunity to explore the region’s 15 rare coastal dune lakes and nature preserves (40 percent of the land is protected). Little-known fact: South Walton offers the highest concentration of dune lakes in the world. In addition to kayaking, venues such as the Boathouse Paddle Club offer groups the opportunity to try the latest sport to take off, stand-up paddleboarding. Known as SUP, it is becoming increasingly popular because it’s easy to learn, requires a minimum amount of gear and offers a complete body workout.

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Pinehurst Signature Massages

Though Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina is known as “The Cradle of American Golf” and has been the site of more championships than any other golf course in the country, it is also home to a gem of a spa. For a rejuvenating spa experience that draws from Pinehurst’s spectacular wooded setting, the Heart of the Pines massage uses fresh longleaf pine harvested locally. The bundled needles increase circulation and aid in detoxification. There’s also the signature Pinehurst Massage, which combines a pine needle ritual with Swedish and deep-tissue techniques.

The main hotel at Pinehurst, the 230-room Carolina Hotel, has more than 61,000 sf of meeting space, while the boutique-style 82-room Holly Inn—where most rooms come with their own fireplaces—also has five meeting rooms, including a charming library that can accommodate 20 people for a reception.

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Social Sweats in New Orleans

David Rome, CMP, DMCP, director of sales at BBC Destination Management, has seen an uptick in groups asking for wellness activities. “They’re looking for new ways to see the city while they get a workout.” One such idea is a Fun Run along the Mississippi River. “Most clients run it like a 5k but it’s not timed and people don’t wear numbers like an official 5k.” BBC can set up a route along the river that includes the Moonwalk, a walkway named for the former New Orleans mayor Maurice “Moon” Landrieu, and passes by sights such as the Audubon Aquarium and the famous Café du Monde (known as the best place in town for beignets). Another run takes participants through the French Quarter, and BBC can even arrange for street closures to make the event more exclusive.

The jazz and the street music that proliferate throughout the French Quarter inspired BBC to design an activity that brings in a choreographer from a local nonprofit, Dancing Grounds, to teach groups dance moves. Participants can learn a variety of genres, including traditional New Orleans second-line dancing, to tunes from local artists.

A new Ace Hotel opens in March at 600 Carondelet in the French Quarter in the former Barnett’s Furniture store, a 1928 Art Deco building. The 234-room hotel features a restaurant by two James Beard Award–nominated chefs. Open last spring are the 167-room Old. No 77 Hotel and Chandlery, located in the Warehouse and Arts District a few blocks from the convention center, and the Aloft New Orleans Downtown, with 188 guest rooms and 6 small meeting spaces.

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Ziplining Through History

For adventurous groups, Birmingham’s Red Mountain Park is located on the site of a former iron mine, with a zipline over the historical sites. It’s a unique experience that combines the area’s rich history with a thrilling activity. The approximately one-hour experience includes a sky bridge and cable swing. There’s also the Mega Zip, a 1,000-ft zip thrill ride where participants start from 80 ft high and reach speeds of up to 30 mph.

Among hotel openings in Birmingham, the 100-room Grand Bohemian Hotel Mountain Brook is the Kessler Collection’s first property in Alabama, located at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. It has 13,801 sf of meeting space in 7 rooms and a rooftop farm-to-table restaurant. The 120-room Redmont Hotel Birmingham, named for Birmingham’s Red Mountain, recently reopened after a $20 million remodeling. Downtown, the Empire Building Birmingham, one of the city’s most historic buildings, will be part of a $45 million project that will encompass two Marriott hotels.

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Barbara Scofidio is Editor of Prevue and heads up the Visionary Summits, our exclusive conference series targeting senior-level meeting and incentive planners. In her 30 years in the industry, she has become known for her passion around greening meetings, growing awareness of human trafficking and promoting CSR activities as part of business events. She is currently a member of SITE's Women IN Leadership committee and the media liaison for FICP's Education Committee. She was the first member of the media ever to be invited to sit on a committee by GBTA, where she spent three years on the Groups and Meetings Committee. She has also been an active member of SITE for 30 years, chairing its Crystal Awards committee and acting as a judge. Before joining Prevue in 2014, she served as Editor of Corporate Meetings & Incentives (MeetingsNet) for more than 20 years. She has a BA in Literature/Rhetoric from Binghamton University. Barbara is based outside Boston, in Groton, Mass.