Group exercises in which you build up trust in your colleagues by falling backwards into their arms have, thankfully, fallen out of favor. And while hitting the links may be fun with your co-workers, it is more likely to foster frustration than camaraderie. For your next off-site corporate retreat, check out these more innovative team-building activities; all offer meeting facilities to properly host the “working” half of your retreat.
Funny how working together with sharp knives and flames can turn formerly wary employees into instant BFFs. Iron Chef-like cooking competitions challenge up to 30 employees, divided into three groups—one for the appetizer, another for the entrée, and the third for salad and dessert—to whip up the best-tasting dishes possible using specified ingredients in under an hour. After the culinary staff votes for a winner, everyone sits down to enjoy the meal they’ve created. Groups of 30-plus are divided into larger teams and charged with creating a restaurant theme, décor, and a three-course meal, in up to 90 minutes. From $120 per person, not including alcohol. For more info: Tarrytown House Estate and Conference Center, Tarrytown (800) 553-8118; tarrytownhouseestate.com.
Freed from cubicles and computers, participants in programs at Stone Barns stretch and grow in new ways while getting their hands dirty doing seasonal farm work. Group activities include anything from planting crops to building new pig habitats(!). “Our experience gathering eggs, herding sheep, and building fences definitely brought our team closer together,” says Tina Marchisello, director of special projects and events for Woman’s Day magazine.
Programs range in types of activity, price, and time. Call for more information; Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture, Pocantico Hills; (914) 366-9600; bluehillfarm.com.
Fun & Games
Bill from accounting and Phil from sales are bound to bond in new ways while zapping their opponents at laser tag, scaling a climbing wall, or striking out at the AMF mini-bowling lanes at this unique 29,000-square-foot event space that hosts office parties, bar mitzvahs, and other special events. Prices start at $29.50 per person. For more info: Life: The Place to Be, Ardsley (914) 591-4400; lifetheplacetobe.com.
Nearby Day Trips
Once you’ve soared up to 600 feet above ground at more than 50 miles per hour along this zip-line course at Hunter Mountain in the Catskills, there’ll be nothing you won’t be able to tackle at the office. At least that’s the theory. From $89 per person. Distance from White Plains: 2 hours. For more info: New York Mountain Tours, White Plains (914) 441-7669; newyorkmountaintours.com.
Off the Beaten Track
Get your team back on track at this off-road Land Rover driving school—one of only three such facilities in the country—affiliated with the top-of-the-line Equinox Resort. Its 80-acre course, complete with dizzying descents, challenging creek crossings, and one-of-a-kind rock crawls, is the site of such unique exercises as rescue scenarios and GEO-cache scavenger hunts. Packages from $359 per person, including Land Rover event, meeting and guest rooms, and some meals. Distance from White Plains: 3 1/2 hours. For more info: Equinox, A Luxury Collection Golf Resort & Spa, Manchester, VT (800) 362-4747; equinoxresort.com.
Sticky Wickets & V-Ball
Groups of five or more can take a whack at issues or concerns during a professionally run croquet tournament at this tony beachside retreat ($10 per person, per hour). Too tame? Spike things up a bit with beach volleyball ($500 for two hours). Packages are available from $510 per person, including meeting and guest rooms and some meals. Distance from White Plains: 2 1/2 hours. For more info: The Ocean House, Watch Hill, RI (401) 584-7000; oceanhouseri.com.