A couple hundred days of sunshine per year makes outdoor activities popular for groups meeting in southern Texas.
Fishing excursions, bird outings, golf tournaments and paintball competitions are just a few of the teambuilding activities that can be planned for groups in the area.
From Houston to Galveston, here are our best recommendations for getting the group outside the conference room when meeting in South Texas.
Group Golf in Houston and Laredo
With an average annual temperature of 70 degrees and 250 sunny days per year, Houston is an ideal golf spot during any season, according to Natalie Young, associate director of client services for Visit Houston.
“A short drive in any direction will present a wide variety of courses to entice beginners and challenge even the most experienced players,” she said. “For a great teambuilding experience, split your group in half and play a round of ‘best ball.’ It allows players to rely on each other from shot to shot and demonstrates that teamwork is often more effective than individual achievement.”
Memorial Park and Hermann Park are among the recommended golf courses for group play in Houston.
In Laredo, a standout option is the picturesque Max A. Mandel Municipal Golf Course, a public course that accommodates group tournaments. The Max, as it’s known locally, also hosts post-play banquets in its full-service clubhouse.
Paintball in Downtown Houston
Urban War Zone Paintball, a full-service paintball field located minutes from downtown Houston, is a fun venue for groups to blow off steam while building a strong team dynamic.
Urban War Zone Paintball, Houston
“Divide your group into two teams for brightly colored, fast-paced tactical action,” said Young. “Nothing beats the feeling of strategizing with one another in the heat of the moment to outmaneuver an opponent.”
The field extended its hours to stay open until 8 p.m. during the week and 9 p.m. on the weekends to better accommodate groups meeting during the day that want to schedule a teambuilding event after work hours.
Segway Tour, Corpus Christi
Laid-Back Outdoor Activities: Group Segway Tours and SUP Yoga Sessions
For groups looking for laid-back activities, a popular Houston choice is a mural tour in the East Downtown neighborhood facilitated by Segway Tours of Houston, including a stop at Graffiti Park.
Hopping on a segway is also an option for attendees meeting in Corpus Christi, where SegCity Segway Tours operates entertaining guided outings including an exploration of Heritage Park.
Groups can also reenergize at various times of the day with Waterdog Floating Yoga, which facilitates standup paddleboard (SUP) yoga at the Corpus Christi Marina, according to Teresa Rodriguez, chief of domestic and international business development for Visit Corpus Christi.
“Start your day with a sunrise yoga session or unwind after a long day with one of their sunset classes,” she said.
A similar experience can be arranged in Galveston with SUP Gulf Coast, which offers private SUP group lessons and sunrise beach yoga classes.
Waterborne Adventures in Galveston and South Padre Island
Water outings are essential in the warm locations throughout South Texas, and Galveston and South Padre Island offer a variety of options for groups.
Galveston-based Artist Boat customizes eco-educational tours and activities depending on the group’s size and physical capabilities. Kayaking expeditions in a conservation wetlands area on West Galveston Island include watercolor instruction and time to paint.
Artist Boat, Galveston
Galveston Sea Ventures is another trusted area outfitter planners can call on, added Antoinette Lynch, destination services manager for the Galveston Island CVB.
“They can put together a turnkey fishing tournament for groups,” she said. “They can run it early in the morning, which fits in wonderfully with many group agendas. They will book as many boats as needed, provide a structure for the tournament and run the fish weigh-in at the end.”
South Padre Island also offers excellent fishing excursions for novices and experts alike, according to Alisha Workman, senior marketing and communications manager for the City of South Padre Island CVB.
For groups that don’t want to go on the water, Workman added horseback riding complete with amazing views of Laguna Madre Bay and the Gulf of Mexico can also be arranged in South Padre Island. Similarly, small groups meeting in Corpus Christi can plan equestrian outings with Horses on the Beach.
Bird Watching in Corpus Christi and Harlingen
South Texas is known as a prime birdwatching region in North America. Here, groups can find many areas to observe resident orioles, falcons, sparrows, hawks and more.
Rodriguez suggests a visit to Hans & Pat Suter Wildlife Refuge, which is a favorite for viewing coastal birds including pelicans, spoonbills and egrets.
“The nature trail extends for one mile and ends with an 800-foot boardwalk alongside the Oso Bay,” she said. “You’ll walk alongside amazing views of Corpus Christi marshes, woodlands and mudflats.”
Groups will also find hiking trails in Harlingen’s birding hotspots, including Arroyo Colorado World Birding Center and Hugh Ramsey Nature Park.
“Both places are highly recommended to groups as over 400 species of birds have been found in the vicinity of these properties,” said Janie Rea, marketing and events manager for the Harlingen CVB.
Al Fresco Group Dining Options in South Texas
If the only time available during a busy itinerary is to head outside for a meal, there is an array of outdoor dining spots in South Texas.
Following are some delicious ideas for group-friendly dining outside in the South Texas air.
Batanga Tapas + Drinks.
Houston has several scenic patios where groups can grab a meal, including downtown’s Batanga. The restaurant has one of the largest patios in the area, at 3,600 square feet, where attendees can enjoy tapas under string lights, according to Visit Houston’s Young.
This hidden gem in Houston also has a welcoming patio. Here, groups will enjoy fresh, rustic, “from scratch” cooking including everything from avocado toast for breakfast to house-made pizzas for dinner.
Doc’s Seafood and Steaks
In Corpus Christi, groups can unwind with a surf ‘n turf meal on the deck of Doc’s with a sunset view over the water.
This outdoor, floating restaurant in Corpus Christi is surrounded by sailboats. Groups can enjoy seafood, burgers, salads and daily drink specials.
Jimmy’s on the Pier
Southern seafood, including stuffed snapper (the Gulf Coast’s most prized fish), snapper creole and classic seafood po’boys, are popular items on the menu at this Galveston spot. The restaurant sports unbeatable views of the Gulf of Mexico from its large decks.
Longboard Bar & Grill
One of South Padre Island’s newest places for great food also has ample space for large groups who can enjoy sunset views as they dine. Foodies can enjoy everything from Gulf shrimp ceviche to street tacos.
Carlito’s Wine House
Located in historic downtown Harlingen, this premiere nightlife spot has over 40 different beers and more than 70 wines from around the world, along with shareable eats for big groups.
Andrea Mikus // Director of Events, First // Manchester, NH
Briefly state what your job entails.
First is a youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education. As the director of events, I handle all the large-scale, high-profile events for our organization.
What type of meeting did you hold in Houston?
We have two championship programs each year. The first one is held in Houston with 30,000-plus attendees, about half of them under age 18. We have events at the George R. Brown Convention Center, Hilton Americas-Houston, Discovery Green and Minute Maid Park.
Was anyone particularly helpful in executing your event?
Everyone that we’ve worked with in Houston has been engaged, helpful and really committed to the success of our events. Visit Houston is a great CVB team, including Nathan Tollett and Natalie Young, who I can’t ever say enough good things about. The convention center staff, including Veronica McClelland and Joseph Granado, is amazing. All the vendors we work with, including Eugenia Vance at Hilton Americas-Houston, are all true partners of ours.
What did your attendees seem to enjoy the most about Houston?
The way the venues and hotels are laid out with the amount of green space is always a hit with attendees. There is just so much space and flexibility that really allows for great flow.
Are there any group-friendly experiences that you would recommend for groups meeting there?
Our group has had a great partnership over the years with Space Center Houston.
How does Houston compare to other cities where you have hosted meetings?
Houston sets the bar very high from a service standard; it is hard for others to duplicate. What sets Houston apart from many other cities is that it strives to create a relationship so that you want to come back year after year. The city is committed to being a true partner vs. just a host city.
Would you recommend Houston to other meeting planners?
I would always recommend Houston to other meeting planners, and I do so every chance I get. Houston’s venues, service and commitment shine through in everything they do.
Latest + Greatest Hotels in South Texas
Residence Inn Corpus Christi Downtown opens this summer with 110 suites and 2,500 square feet of meeting space.
Harlingen Convention Center had its grand opening on May 1. The convention center features 44,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including a ballroom for up to 1,800 people and outdoor options including a patio, event lawn and pavilion. There are also plans underway for a 150-room Hilton Garden Inn that will be connected to the convention center.
C. Baldwin will be the new anchor hotel for the Allen Center (www.allencenterhouston.com) when it opens this fall. The property will have 354 guest rooms and more than 14,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as a signature restaurant and abundant green space.
South Padre Island
The 205-room Courtyard by Marriott is scheduled to open in October 2020 with more than 10,000 square feet of meeting space, and an oceanside restaurant and bar.
South Texas CVB Contact information
City of South Padre Island CVB
Galveston Island CVB
Visit Corpus Christi