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Memorable Meetings In Yellowstone

Memorable Meetings In Yellowstone

Written by: , June 05th, 2024
Categories: Plan

Meeting in Yellowstone

There are the things you need for a meeting or event: spaces that meet your group’s requirements, comfortable lodging, food and beverage, and technology.  And then there are things that take the meeting to the next level: appealing activities, a helpful on-site team, and high-quality food. Yellowstone hits all of these categories.

Bride and Groom outside a historic yellow bus

Bride & Groom with a Historic Yellow Bus

“The draw of having our annual fall meeting in Yellowstone, at the Old Faithful Inn, played a significant role in its attendance being as high as it’s ever been,” says Chris Brown, the executive director of the Wyoming Hospitality & Tourism Coalition (WHTC), which rotates the location of its fall conferences around the state. “Normally, we have 100 to 120 people at the fall conference. When we had it in Yellowstone, there were 158 people. Everyone was excited to come. And for me, when planning the conference, the Xanterra team was responsive to every detail.”

Rick Hoeninghausen, the director of sales and marketing for Yellowstone National Park Lodges (YNPL), managed by the Xanterra Travel Collection, says, “We have the amenities that most conferences need and then we’ve also got Yellowstone National Park. Being able to share its wildlife, landscape, and activities with meeting participants is really special.”

Meeting Room at Old Faithful Snow Lodge set with round tables

Snow Lodge Meeting Room, Reception Style

The first national park in the U.S., Yellowstone is home to grizzly and black bears, bison, elk, and wolves, among other species. Within its 2.2 million acres — it’s bigger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined — are more than 10,000 thermal features, including more than 500 geysers (more than half of all the geysers in the world). Brown says, “People loved that they could go and watch Old Faithful erupt right outside of the meeting.”

Marisa Cleary, the event and meeting planner for the nonprofit Yellowstone Forever Institute based in Gardiner, Mont., agrees. “Yellowstone is an amazing amenity to be able to offer to our meeting and conference guests,” she says. “We’ve worked with Yellowstone National Park Lodges to create many unique experiences over the years.”

Cleary has planned Yellowstone Forever meetings and events all over the country and says those in Yellowstone are always special. “You can’t get the scenery, history, wildlife, and activities Yellowstone National Park offers anywhere else. Having a meeting or event in Yellowstone is such a special experience.”

All About Timing

Yellowstone National Park Lodges are rarely able to accommodate large groups and events during the park’s peak season in June, July, and August. “The fall (September, October, and November) and winter (January and February) are when we’re best positioned to offer full support to meetings and events,” Hoeninghausen says.

In early October, groups can also have the park’s two most iconic hotels, Old Faithful Inn and Lake Yellowstone Hotel, all to themselves. If your dates align and your group meets attendance and food and beverage minimums, Yellowstone National Park Lodges can keep either of these two properties open the week after they close to the public. This is what the WHTC did at Old Faithful Inn for their fall meeting. (The public makes reservations a year in advance to stay at this 120-year-old inn.)

With the Inn, considered one of the largest wood structures in the world, closed to the public, WHTC’s general sessions could take place in its seven-story lobby. “We put chairs around its fireplace and, of course, made sure the fires were roaring,” says Hoeninghausen, who was actually at the conference as an attendee and WHTC board member.

The Inn’s fireplace is made from 500 tons of rhyolite and has a soaring 82-foot-tall chimney. It’s photographed almost as much as the geyser it’s named after. Attendees slept in historic rooms and ate a tailored menu of steak and lobster in the dining room, which is one of the hardest reservations to get during peak season. “[Old Faithful Inn] was everything I hoped for and more, and everything was executed at the highest level,” says Brown.

While the timing of a meeting has to be just right to take advantage of having Old Faithful Inn and Lake Yellowstone Hotel to yourself (both properties close to the public in early October; a meeting has to start within several days of the closing day), Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel is available from September through Thanksgiving and also in January and February. Thanks to a recent remodel that included the addition of dedicated meeting spaces, including conference rooms named after hot springs in the park, Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel has facilities to host meetings for small boards up to groups as large as 350.

Event-Worthy Culinary Offerings

Meetings at the three hotels include catering from Yellowstone National Park Lodges’ culinary team. Cleary says that the team’s Western BBQ buffet and its Taste of Yellowstone buffet are guest favorites. The Taste of Yellowstone buffet includes roasted trout and bison tenderloin. “Having good meals is so important to an event,” she says. “I think that, even with how unique Yellowstone is, if there wasn’t good food, people wouldn’t like events here as much.”

Minerva Meeting Room U-Shapr

Mammoth Hotel, Minerva Meeting Room, U-Shape Style

“I know the remote location of Yellowstone can make logistics difficult for catered events, but Yellowstone National Park Lodges has always carried them out so well,” adds Cleary. “And by doing their job so well, they’ve helped us offer many unique experiences to our donors and supporters over the years.” The YNPL team can also work with meeting organizers to develop custom menus as it did with the surf and turf menu WHTC wanted.

Activities in the Park

 But, naturally, meeting in Yellowstone is not just about good food. Take care of your business in the morning, and then spend afternoons cross-country skiing or hiking through geyser basins, watching wildlife, taking a photography workshop or a class in craft cocktails, or even painting en plein air alongside a local artist.

Weather prevented the WHTC group from doing its planned bike tour of one of the park’s geyser basins, but YNPL helped them pivot to a private tour of the geyser basin on a vintage bus.  Hoeninghausen says, “Groups tell us what they want to do, and we can put together activities for them.”

Memories to Last

 The YNPL retail department can customize park souvenirs ranging from clothing to glassware and also curate gift baskets for participants. “We can do all kinds of custom items for corporate and wedding groups,” Hoeninghausen says. “Attendees have something to take home that reminds them of their amazing experiences in Yellowstone.”

Dina Mishev is a freelance writer based in Jackson Hole, Wyo.