The team at Hotel Vermont in Burlington, Vermont, recently added outdoor heaters to its terrace to accompany a fire pit and Adirondack chairs, increasing its use as a place for social gatherings year-round, General Manager Hans van Wees said via email.
He said his team took advantage of the growing interest from guests to congregate in a safe and socially distanced manner.
“Vermont has always been a popular destination to enjoy the outdoors, but has been especially appealing during the COVID-19 pandemic,” he added. “With ample outdoor activities that can be enjoyed safely during every season, we saw surging interest from guests to gather outside, even during the colder months.”
The goal was also to blend the indoors with the outdoors. His team looks at the terrace as an extension of its restaurant, Juniper.
“By blending our indoor and outdoor seating, we have given guests the option to choose a location that’s most suitable for them. This arrangement allows us to further showcase the beautiful surroundings of Burlington, such as views of Lake Champlain, and extend our locally sourced food and drink programs to those that opt for outdoor air,” he said.
Over the past two years, the hotel has seen an increase in micro weddings and outdoor adventure enthusiasts. It regularly draws in young adults and families with kids on weekend getaways from out of state as well as parents visiting college students.
The Skyline Lodge in Highlands, North Carolina, opened in summer of 2021 with 40 guestrooms and plenty of outdoor space.
General Manager Jason Dauble said the best decision his team made during the construction phase was filling in the property’s pool to make it a social space. They also added astoturf, fire pits, fresh flowers and greenery to the area.
The hotel’s restaurant, Oak Steakhouse, is currently open for dinner only. Its bar, Butler’s, isn’t open during the day. Because of that, he said the courtyard became the social space.
“That instantly became our outdoor lobby for the lodge,” he said. “Guests would check in at the reception where we sell beer, wine, sodas and snacks, and they could instantly go right out to the courtyard.”
Another outdoor space on-property is its covered pavilion, which his team has found success in hosting chef and pitmaster events for guests.
“The goal of that is for people to show up strangers and leave with new friends,” he said. “Between the courtyard, the fire pit and those [pavilion] events, we’ve seen hotel guests actually then go out with some of these people the next night for dinner.”
For a more casual experience, Dauble said guests are taking advantage of the terrace space off Oak Steakhouse, which seats 30 people and includes a fire pit and mushroom heaters.
“I’ve even seen a group, they must have had six hotel rooms doing a family reunion, and they got pizza and posted up under the pavilion and bought their beer and wine from us,” he said. “It’s a very relaxing, approachable property in that sense.”
Boccie ball, cornhole, oversized Jenga and Connect Four have been added for outdoor activities in the courtyard, he said.
While there’s plenty of opportunities to cater to social groups, Dauble said companies are also taking advantage of the outdoor space for corporate retreats.
“We’ve already hosted two companies’ corporate retreats in Butler’s, the bar below Oak Steakhouse, and it has one whole wall of windows and a patio,” he said, adding those two groups held meetings all day there.
The next phase of outdoor renovations could include adding an outdoor ping pong table, converting the tennis courts into pickleball courts and the rec center into a spa, and building a shipping container pool.
Lou Eppelsheimer, director of sales and marketing at condominium resort The Gant in Aspen, Colorado, said the property has a rooftop terrace that primarily was used throughout the summer months for group events and has historically sat empty during the winter.
“With COVID, it gave us an opportunity to expand the usable space we have by putting an [Igloo dome] on the rooftop,” he said. “The rooftop terrace does have a snow melt system. When the snow falls, that whole rooftop space is warmed, so that’s when we got the idea of ‘Wow, we should use this space; it’s snow-free.'”
In celebration of Aspen Snowmass’ 75th anniversary, The Gant is using the rooftop dome as an activation piece and created the Diamond Dome event that began Dec. 10 and runs through April.
The resort is charging groups of guests —between six and eight people — a $250 food and beverage minimum for the event, he said. The Igloo dome is bookable for three-hour windows.
“That $250 food and beverage, especially for Aspen, is pretty low, and we’re seeing most guests are spending more than that because the experience we’re pushing is an après-ski experience,” he said.
In terms of revenue generation, he said it’s been great for the resort.
“That, of course, wasn’t utilized space in the past and now it’s a whole new experience that exists,” he added.
Grand Hyatt Vail
Danielle Boyles, director of sales and marketing at Grand Hyatt Vail in Vail, Colorado, said the resort has 285 guestrooms, 80 private condos and outdoor features that accommodate guests year-round.
This year, the hotel partnered with Moët & Chandon to create the Moët Imperial Yurt for guests to rent outdoors, which includes two fire pits outside the doors of the yurt, Champagne, charcuterie and s’mores kits.
“We had clients there [Wednesday night] … and over the holiday season, a number of families that rented out that space and we moved in dining tables. The chef came out and did a private dining service for them,” she said.
Boyles said she hopes the hotel continues using this yurt, which the resort already had, for more opportunities.
“For such a cool concept and space, it was really underutilized. This year, with that partnership, it’s really come to life,” she added.
Other flexible outdoor spaces on property include its zen garden near its Gore Pavilion, which transforms into an ice bar in the winter. Boyles said this is a popular area on property for wedding dinners and corporate groups hosting awards dinners.
“A lot of groups to do their board meetings outdoors and we’ve set it up, it’s worked out great,” she added.
VEA Newport Beach
The VEA Newport Beach, a Marriott resort and spa in Newport Beach, California, is set to debut this spring with a top-to-bottom renovation.
Ben Stinnett, market director of sales & marketing of the property, said via email that being outside is part of the hotel’s DNA as there’s 300-plus days of sunshine and year-round mild temperatures in Southern California.
Part of the hotel’s reimagination includes a new outdoor event lawn next to the ballrooms, a new indoor/outdoor flex event space behind the property for larger social events and additional spaces that accommodate indoor/outdoor environments.
“From signature dinners, wedding and social events to corporate team building and networking events, we have ample amounts of creative furniture to offer extra seating and tables,” he said. “Large or small, we have the ability to scale from 10 to 1,500 attendees.”
The Marea Canvas is the flex indoor/outdoor space with 9,000 square feet and panoramic views of a golf course and the ocean.
“For today’s style of events where attendees crave less traditional programming, more creative setups and the flexibility to meet indoors, outdoors or both, we have the ideal space to do that,” he added.
For cooler days, heat lamps and portable fire pits help protect against the elements, he said.