11 Nature-Inspired Meeting Spots

From Ohio State Park lodges to a capital city botanical garden to a national park, these places are sure to spur creativity 

Oak Openings Lodge (photo courtesy of Metroparks Toledo)

Metroparks Toledo’s Oak Opening Lodge
Metroparks Toledo’s Oak Openings Preserve Metropark covers 5,000 acres and is by far the largest of the regional park system’s 19 locations. It boasts a unique diversity of plant and animal life in natural habitats that range from oak savanna to vegetated sand to wetlands. The park’s Oak Openings Lodge offers a view of Swan Creek and meeting space for groups of up to 80 people. The property features a kitchen (with two refrigerators, a microwave and warming oven), Wi-Fi, a screen for presentations, an indoor gas fireplace, an outdoor propane grill and a patio with movable picnic tables for when it’s time to take the discussion outside. 5440 Wilkins Rd., Whitehouse 43571, 419-407-9701, metroparkstoledo.com

Kingwood Center Gardens
This historic garden estate in Mansfield provides a relaxing place for meetings year-round. The beauty of the 47-acre property complements the stately architecture of Kingwood Hall, built for Charles K. King in 1926. Book either the 120-capacity Carriage House or the 240-capacity King Ballroom. Tour the mansion or walk the grounds on a self-guided tour that allows attendees to learn about the property’s history while bonding with one another. You can also opt for a guided history and horticulture tour, including a visit to the Display Greenhouse. During your visit, keep
an eye out for the four peacocks that roam the grounds. 50 N. Trimble Rd., Mansfield 44906, 419-522-0211, kingwoodcenter.org

Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens
This capital city favorite has spaces that can host larger groups. The historic Palm House, which showcases over 40 different species, can accommodate up to 190 people, while the conservatory’s Grand Atrium can fit up to 250. The rustic Wells Barn can accommodate 250 people for a meal (more in a cocktail setting), while The Veridian can seat 130 people and offers access to a rooftop and outdoor garden space. After your meeting, explore the conservatory’s four biomes: Himalayan Mountains, Rainforest, Desert and Pacific Island Water Garden, or explore the outdoor gardens and enjoy works by renowned glass sculptor Dale Chihuly on display throughout the property. The conservatory can also facilitate team-building exercises that educate attendees on plantings, the Chihuly glass works and more. 1777 E. Broad St., Columbus 43203, 614-715-8100, fpconservatory.org

The Wilds
The Wilds, located just outside of Cumberland, offers the chance to explore one of North America’s largest wild animal conservation parks. The nonprofit safari park also hosts meetings of up to 50 participants at Straker Hall, which is equipped with both Wi-Fi and AV. There are a variety of ways to spend quality time with your participants. Choose a private catered breakfast, lunch or dinner for your team (on-site May through October; local caterers available the rest of the year). Larger groups can opt for a guided Open-Air Safari Tour together. Small groups can participate in guided bird-watching treks, take a zip line tour or choose from one of the species-themed tours. 1400 International Rd., Cumberland 43732, 740-638-5030, thewilds.org

Stone Cottage at Cuyahoga Valley National Park (photo courtesy of Cuyahoga Valley National Park)

Cuyahoga Valley National Park
Located a short drive from both Cleveland and Akron, Cuyahoga Valley National Park offers the chance to gather for a great meeting while enjoying nature and even giving back to Ohio’s only national park. The Hines Hill Campus offers three spaces to gather. The Hines Hill Conference Center can accommodate up to 40, while the Stone Cottage is great for smaller meetings of around 12 people. The Barn, which has to be rented alongside the conference center or cottage, boasts a rustic interior and can hold meetings of up to 80 people. (All spaces are equipped with Wi-Fi and AV equipment.) Walking trails are nearby, and there are opportunities to work together via the Cuyahoga Valley National Park’s Volunteers-in-Parks program. 1403 W. Hines Hill Rd., Peninsula 44264, 330-657-2909, conservancyforcvnp.org

Cedar Grove Lodging and Events
Adventure awaits in the Hocking Hills. Cedar Grove Lodging’s Haven Event Lodge has a more than 250-person capacity meeting space as well as indoor and outdoor AV equipment. Its location a little more than a mile from Hocking Hills State Park’s Old Man’s Cave makes this spot a central location for exploring the area’s variety of trails, waterfalls, caves and gorges. Cedar Grove Lodging can also help you choose from nearby outdoor activities. If you don’t want to stray too far, there are on-site trails, a fishing pond, a gas fire pit and a large open lawn for group outdoor events. 19555 St. Rte. 664 S., Logan 43138, 740-380-2209, cedargrovelodging.com

Event space at the Toledo Zoo and Aquarium (photo courtesy of Toledo Zoo)

Toledo Zoo & Aquarium
Go under the sea for your next meeting. Choose from a variety of different spots — all with their own unique environments. The Aquarium space holds up to 80 people (and for an additional fee you can have an Ocean Lab touch tank set up to view starfish, sea urchins and crabs up close). For smaller groups, the Captain’s Room offers a 20-person space that features a jellyfish tank, and the zoo offers AV equipment to rent for all meeting spaces. The zoo’s staff can help set up team-building exercises throughout the grounds including a scavenger hunt and animal experiences such as the giraffe feed deck. 2 Hippo Way, Toledo 43609, 419-385-5721, toledozoo.org



Maumee Bay Lodge and Conference Center (photo courtesy of destination)

Lodge Life 
Ohio State Parks’ lakeside locations offer great ways to get away and connect with your team. 

Maumee Bay Lodge
Explore where the land meets Lake Erie at this conference center in Lucas County. The Grand Ballroom can host corporate events of up to 330 participants (550 in a theater set up), while four other meeting spaces can hold groups of 40 to 100 people. Enjoy a private catered event such as a New England Clam Bake or book on-the-water activities like pedal boats or canoes. Take a walk along the wetland boardwalk for the chance to see water birds, mink and other animals. 1750 State Park Rd. #2, Oregon 43616, 419-836-1466, maumeebaylodge.com

Deer Creek Lodge 
This lodge with lake views located about 30 miles southwest of Columbus offers an indoor ballroom space that can hold up to 270 people as well as six additional smaller meeting spaces that can accommodate groups of anywhere from 25 to 180 people. Each meeting area is equipped with AV equipment and Wi-Fi. After the meeting, hit the Deer Creek State Park Golf Course, head out on the water by renting kayaks or paddleboards, or enjoy taking a walk along the lakeside paths. 22300 State Park Rd. 20, Mount Sterling 43143, 800-282-7275, deercreekparklodge.com

Hueston Woods Lodge
Surrounded by beech and maple trees, this unique, A-frame lodge near the college town of Oxford has six meeting spaces and can accommodate gatherings of up to 375 people. The lodge offers views of Acton Lake and opportunities for recreation. After the meeting, make a visit to the on-site Nature Center’s Raptor Rehabilitation Center to see healing birds of prey such as bald eagles, hawks and owls, or enjoy an evening bonfire with your coworkers. The 108-foot Hueston Woods Covered Bridge is located on the property as well. 5201 Lodge Rd., College Corner 45003, 513-664-3500, huestonwoodslodge.com

Fire pit at Salt Fork Lodge and Conference Center (photo by Kevin Kopanski)

Salt Fork Lodge
This lodge just outside Cambridge in Guernsey County can host meetings from as few as a dozen participants all the way up to 250 people. Take a guided tour on the lodge’s pontoon boats to learn about Salt Fork Lake and the wildlife that lives in and along it. Enjoy a round of golf with your team, play giant lawn games or sit around the bonfire and roast s’mores. Those who stay until dusk may be treated to a guided night hike led by a state park naturalist. 14755 Cadiz Rd., Lore City 43755, 800-282-7275, saltforkparklodge.com