Believe it or not, 400,000 people came to hike and see Starved Rock State Park in Oglesby, Illinois in July of 2017. Based on those numbers, the park will break last year's attendance record of 2.75 million visitors. Nestled in the middle of all of that activity is Starved Rock Lodge & Conference Center. There's no place quite like Starved Rock for corporate team building, business meetings and small trade shows. Getting out of the office and into the woods not only allows attendees to reconnect with Mother Nature, the casual atmosphere gives everyone a chance to get serious about their reason for coming and relax in the process.
Some corporate groups choose to board a trolley to tour the town, go wine tasting at August Hill Winery or try locally-made craft beer at Tangled Roots Brewing Company & The Lone Buffalo for locally-made craft beer. Guided hikes to see seasonal waterfalls, deep canyons with sandstone bluffs and panoramic views of the Illinois River Valley make a corporate getaway unforgettable. Other groups take advantage of the Starved Rock Room and Great Hall to have talent shows, guest speakers or dinner parties.
There's something worth experiencing at Starved Rock Lodge. The historic hotel, located within Starved Rock State Park features 69 rooms in the lodge and 21 cabin rooms on the property. The main portion of the Lodge was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s. "Because the Lodge and cabins are listed on the National Register of Historic Places, we strive to maintain the historical integrity created by the CCC whenever updates and changes are made," said General Manager Mitch Wagner. "When the furniture in the hotel and dining areas was replaced a few years ago, we chose a company famous for repurposing old barn board and century-old hardwoods. New carpeting, bedding and curtains were recently updated. The 75-year-old Lodge will be repainted by the end of the year." According to CEO Amy Trimble, the paint for this project is a one-of-a-kind color called "Starved Rock Tan" which was approved by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources, but paid for with private funds. "I'm sure the finished look will support our tagline: Starved Rock Lodge … where the past is always present," Trimble said.
Trolley Tours and guided hikes have been offered by the Lodge for several years, but the newest adventure offered June-September is the "Visit a Canyon" Tour. In addition to a trolley ride, guests stop at the Starved Rock State Park Visitor Center, the IL Waterway Visitor Center and a enjoy a trip through downtown Utica. This is followed by a guided hike to Council Overhang and Ottawa Canyon. The 45-minute walk is less than one mile. The tour also includes a Starved Rock drawstring backpack, a snack and bottle of water. Tours run on Saturday (10 a.m. and 12:30 p.m.), Sunday (10 a.m.) and Monday (10 a.m.). The tour is a great way for first-time visitors to quickly become familiar with Starved Rock State Park.
Many corporate groups enjoy adding a timed scavenger hunt to their itinerary. Just outside the main entrance to the Lodge is an outdoor meeting space called Fox Ridge. It's the perfect setting for a team photo followed by a bonfire and cookout under the pine trees. The Sales & Catering Department specializes in helping every corporate booking select the perfect food, meeting space setup, special event and activity for the group.
The Lodge has a wide variety of entertainment year 'round. There are more than 50 musical tribute shows each year taking guests on a walk down memory lane with songs by Patsy Cline, Frank Sinatra and more.
Autumn is on the horizon … bringing a colorful palette of fall colors to life.
Fall Colors Trolley Tours are offered during October and include lunch. Several Oktoberfest Dinners are also planned to celebrate the season.
Conveniently located near the I-39 and I-80 intersection, families choose the Lodge for holiday gatherings. In November and December, Thanksgiving and Christmas buffets are very popular choices to make celebrations easy for everyone! Reservations are necessary for all holiday buffets. The Lodge will once again host a New Year's Eve party in the Great Hall. This year's theme is "Nashville Nights" so the dress code is jeans, cowboy boots and your best cowboy hat!
For reservations or to learn more, visit starvedrocklodge.com or call (800) 868-7625.
• Jenny Roulston is sales director at Starved Rock Lodge.