For many Americans, the fall means sipping pumpkin spice lattes, watching football, and hiking through places like the Morton Arboretum to experience the changing of nature’s colors from green to burning red, bright yellow, and deep orange. The Morton Arboretum, located 26 miles west of Chicago, is tucked away amid a network of highways and suburbs — yet once you’ve stepped inside the 1,700 acres of trees, ponds, paths, and plants, you might as well be in another world. The Morton Arboretum is not only a popular destination for nature enthusiasts; it’s also an ideal location for events. Here are some reasons why the arboretum stands out:
The Morton Arboretum is justly famous for its hiking and biking trails, which wind their way through wetland, prairie, and forests. The hiking on the grounds has been praised by publications such as Business Insider, and for good reason. Each trail has its own personality, and all of them are easy even for novices. The Conifer Walk, for instance, allows you to get immersed in pines, firs, larches, and junipers. During the winter, walking this particular trail is like exploring the North Pole. The trails are marked with placards that help you learn something about the natural beauty as you walk through it, whether you are walking past a Japanese pear tree or a Korean three-flowered maple. The hiking is especially appealing for smaller groups, perhaps as a creative activity for a breakout session. You can either hike free form or book a guided tour if you need to plan something with more structure. Whatever you do, you will be fully engaged, no matter what season. In fact, winter brings a special kind of beauty to the grounds, as the trees create a snowbound vista perfect for Instagrammers and Snapchatters in your group.
One of the Arboretum’s overlooked charms consists of the buildings that dot the grounds, such as the Sterling Morton Library, which features cherry wood trim, high ceilings, and wide hallways, and a reading garden, or the Ginkgo Restaurant, where you can dine and watch the wildlife on Meadow Lake thanks to floor-to-wall windows. The Morton Arboretum offers these spaces for corporate events all-year-round.
These destinations inject the appeal of nature into employee events, offsite meetings, or smaller parties, and because of the setting, attendees can either simply savor the location or get out and do some hiking. In the evening, when the high windows of the Thornhill Educational Center are ablaze with light, you’ll think you’ve wandered on to the grounds of an otherworldly estate.
The Arboretum itself hosts events that can make an employee gathering different and memorable. During select weekends, Theatre-Hikes offer short productions that capitalize on the natural wooded setting to create a dramatic backdrop. The Chamber Concert Series consists of classical musical performances in the Thornhill Education Center. (The concerts are so popular that the 2016-17 season is already sold out — so plan ahead for 2017-18). The Thornhill Mansion is also the site of periodic Mystery Dinners, where dinner guests help a detective solve a make-believe crime. The Cider and Ale Festival gives guests a chance to savor ciders and seasonal beers. These types of events occur all-year-round. Corporate events planners with small groups can create a memorable time for, say, executives on a retreat.
These are just some of the highlights of the Morton Arboretum. The best way to figure out how to integrate the arboretum into your event planning strategy is to visit the website and talk with the staff about planning an event. And don’t forget to scout the grounds. With one visit, you’ll discover why the Morton Arboretum has received awards and honors from organizations ranging from the Conservation Foundation to the American Institute of Architects. Happy fall!
Image sources: the Morton Arboretum
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