can take advantage of a meal option with
the group tour, which ranges from a box
lunch to a full-course dinner. Speakers
are also available to make the history and
beauty of the gardens come alive.
Prairie Moon Winery and Vineyards
also makes nature come alive, especially
in your wineglass. The rolling, verdant hills
of the vineyards make an amazing setting
for events, and the facility also offers an
indoor banquet hall that accommodates
up to 300. In the summertime, the winery
hosts live music and serves up fresh gour-
met pizza on the weekends.
Attendees can work off
that pizza with a day
of teambuilding at
Seven Oaks Rec-
has activities for
in summer to
skiing in winter.
Northeast of Des Moines is Marshalltown,
noted for its dedication to green space
with parks, trails and outdoor activities.
The Linn Creek Greenbelt Parkway is
nearly eight miles long and part of the
cross-country American Discovery Trail, so
it’s a perfect way to get attendees outside
and moving. The trail connects to Grimes
Farm and Conservation Center, with hiking
and biking trails, an observation tower
known as Mildred’s Tower and a preserve
with wetlands and prairies. With so much
nature available, geocaching is a popular
activity, along with trail and bike runs.
More teambuilding activities can be
found at the Iowa Valley Adventures
Challenge Course, which features a 50-foot
Alpine rope tower as the centerpiece of
problem-solving and leadership training exercises. The area also offers six golf
courses, perfect for conference-based
Just 30 miles from Des Moines is the town
of Newton. The town has its own Arboretum
and Botanical Gardens with 1,220 square
feet of meeting space, along with trails,
a butterfly garden and a water garden.
Another outdoor option is the Neal Smith
National Wildlife Refuge, a 700-acre sanctuary where attendees can spot bison, elk and
other wildlife. The facility offers environmental education programs, along with
1,300 square feet of meeting space, a movie
theater and a bookstore.
Best known for its Dutch heritage and Tulip
Time, a festival held during the amazing tulip blooming season in spring, Pella also has
group activities throughout the rest of the
year. Planners can arrange for guided tours
featuring the town’s rich European heritage
and architecture, including the Klokkenspel,
an animated musical clock on Franklin
Street featuring four-foot-high figures dancing on the hour to the sounds of a 147-bell
carillon. Also, Pella Historical Village and
the Vermeer Mill are open for tours, and
allow groups to catch a glimpse of life from
pioneer days to the turn of the century.
Everything in Pella, including team-
building activities, has an old-world flair.
The Roberts Creek Archery Range is part
of the 1,535-acre Roberts Creek Park, and
features 56 targets. Pella also boasts the
14-mile Volksweg Trail, which follows the
Des Moines River then heads through the
North Overlook woods. At Lake Red Rock,
groups can also arrange tours of the Red
Rock Dam, followed by a hike along the Eagle Lair Loop below the dam, where many
bald eagles feed and rest.
The heart of Iowa is home to several unusual attractions that make perfect side trips for groups. In Ames, planners can give their attendees a caffeine boost with the 90-min-
ute For the Love of Coffee workshop at Burgie’s Coffee Roast
Lab. The workshop includes a brief history of coffee, plus a
demonstration of how the coffee is roasted, how the beverage
should be cupped and how to make superior coffee at home.
Each attendee receives a bag of Burgie’s best to take home and
apply what they’ve learned. Planners interested in scheduling a
workshop should contact the Ames CVB ( www.visitames.com).
Treehouses occupy a special place in everyone’s heart. Some
think of the treehouse they had as a child, and some wish they had one now.
Attendees can revisit those feelings of wonder at The Big Treehouse ( www.bigtree
house.net/treehouse.html) near Marshalltown. The Big Treehouse is a six-story,
12-level structure with a spiral staircase, walkways and observation points from 50
feet in the air above the trees. It began as a hobby for the Jurgensen family, and
as the treehouse grew, its reputation spread. Now it’s a one-of-a-kind destination
built for adults to be able to reclaim a bit of that wistful nostalgia. It has 13 porch
swings, music, electricity, running water and 5,000 square feet of space. Tours are
available on dry weather days during warm seasons.
Outside Des Moines in the town of Winterset is a museum dedicated to an
American original: John Wayne. The John Wayne Birthplace & Museum (www.
johnwaynebirthplace.museum) is located next to the four-room home where the
actor was born in 1907. More than a million people have toured the home since
the John Wayne Birthplace Society opened it in 1982, and it remains a popular attraction today. The home has been restored to appear exactly as it did when Marion Robert Morrison (John Wayne’s birth name) was born, and the museum next
door holds an amazing array of memorabilia including scripts, costumes from his
movies and his car. There’s also a theater where visitors can watch a presentation
on Wayne’s life and career. Although the museum can’t accommodate receptions,
it gladly welcomes group tours and can host up to 55 people per tour.
JOHN WAYNE BIRTHPLACE &
CATCH DES MOINES
More CENTRAL IOWA...
PELLA HISTORICAL VILLAGE