WHEN IT COMES TO HOSTING SMALL SOIREES, it’s important to find a space that is conducive to a professional business setting. But if that’s all you do, you’re missing half the equation. A space should inspire your team to get creative and help recharge its batteries. This may sound like a tall order, but not in Texas, and especially not in the Austin area. There are amazing venues all over the Lone Star State’s capital that will provide the perfect setting for your next executive retreat, so we asked two of the area’s busiest event planners for insider info.

Horseshoe Bay Resort

This outdoor-centric resort is perfect for helping frazzled C-suites relax and unwind so they can revive their minds and bodies. "Horseshoe Bay Resort gets people away from their normal working environment and offers an escape to really focus on the topics at hand," says Dawn Earley of Your Very Own Fairy Godmother Weddings & Events. "They offer an expansive hotel and access to the private yacht club; tennis, spa and fitness centers; nautical activities and amazing amenities."

The resort has more than 30,000 square feet of indoor meeting space. Its very own yacht club boasts 25,000 square feet of outdoor space that can be utilized for team-building or unwinding. The best space for small groups may be the Slick Rock Clubhouse; it is quiet and serene and overlooks the breathtaking green hills of the golf course. Meetings also can be held in gorgeous ballrooms overlooking the lake or on a 90-foot yacht that accommodates up to 110 people.

"I recommend booking ahead for the times of year where the outdoor spaces can be used to their greatest potential," Earley says. "They have large fire pits, gorgeous pools and so much more."

Capital Factory

Located in downtown Austin, the Capital Factory provides 22,000 square feet of space for executive retreats. "This is a great space particularly for technical start-up businesses, but it is such an open and contemporary space that it also works great for events of all sorts, especially for event planners," says Cindy Lo of Red Velvet Events.

The space seats 150 comfortably, which is more than enough room for most event planning teams. However, Lo advises, "Working with a nontraditional space like Capital Factory can provide some flexibility in the 

pricing for rental, and it’s such an open space that you can dress it up by bringing in different furniture and entertainment."

Another factor in securing the space at Capital Factory is accurate timing. Several startup entrepreneurs use the space regularly, and some co-work from Capital Factory, using the space as their office from time to time. This is a key indicator that the space is advantageous for the work environment, but still requires planning on your part. "You can get lucky since it is a nontraditional space, and you may be able book a date that’s less than 60 days away," Lo says.

ZACH Theatre

Austin’s ZACH Theatre is a newly renovated and eclectic space that offers several options for executive retreats. "The newly renovated Serra Skyline Lounge and Terkel Terrace, a 950-square-foot lounge with a bar that overlooks downtown, are perfect for executive retreats that drift over into the evening," Lo says.

The beautiful view is sure to have employees in awe. You can even add a touch of lighting to enhance the beauty of the space. With six other spaces to choose from at the ZACH Theatre, it’s easy to find something to fit your team, in terms of space and style. If you want your employees to take center stage, then you can book the Kleberg or Whisenhunt Stage, or even a studio. If you’d like to have a seated gathering, set your sights on the People’s Plaza and Bobbi Pavilion.

The Driskill

The Driskill, located in downtown Austin, was built in the 1800s and is truly a historical treasure. It has been remodeled to distinction and is among the top luxury hotels in the country. With 18,000 square feet of meeting space and 189 guest rooms and suites, you can have an upscale employee gathering that is sure to be remembered. The hotel’s historical design tends to be one of its benefits when it comes to hosting a retreat.

"Most hotels have partitions that make accommodating certain group sizes a little difficult, but The Driskill has many unique rooms that can fit just about any group size," Earley says. "If you want to wow your guests, then definitely play with lighting-the architecture of the building looks absolutely beautiful with a touch of light. Also, The Driskill’s executive and pastry chefs are absolutely wonderful."

If you’re coordinating group meetings or events in Austin, you’ll soon have another option. The JW Marriott Austin, set to open on Feb. 13, 2015, is now accepting guest reservations. I recently spoke with a hotel spokeswoman who said the public areas inside the hotel are about 80 percent complete, including the meeting spaces, lobby, restaurants, bars, Starbucks, pool and fitness center.


Yesterday, my daughter and I stopped at Target optical so she could try on eyeglass frames. There were no other customers. Within a few minutes, we sat down with a store employee to place our order. I recited my address and began sharing our insurance information, but the store’s phone rang and the employee -- without saying a word to us -- began a lengthy call from a person who I could only assume was a coworker. As they discussed spotty Internet service and a glitchy data system, we left. And I have no intention of ever going back.


Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. and The Howard Hughes Corporation recently announced that the Westin brand will soon open its fifth hotel in greater Houston - The Westin, The Woodlands. Located 27 miles north of downtown Houston, the 302-room hotel will debut at the end of 2015 within The Woodlands, one of the country’s premier, master-planned communities and leading business centers.