Texas’s Big Bend Country is a beautifully orchestrated mix of extremes—from mountains to plains and deserts to forests. Named for the curve the Rio Grande River makes as it traces the border of Texas and Mexico, it’s home to Big Bend National Park, an 880,000-acre wilderness playground that is ripe for engaging outdoor activities and team-building exercises. When traveling to the region for a retreat or conference, here are some spots to stay.
Lajitas Golf Resort
Lajitas Golf Resort is so remote it has its own airport. “We arrange private charter flights from Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, Austin—all the major markets in the state of Texas,” says Director of Sales and Marketing Terry Olson. “The very nearest airport that you can fly into commercially is in Midland, which is about a four-and-a-half-hour drive. We’re situated right on the banks of the Rio Grande River, nestled between Big Bend National Park and Big Bend State Park.
“Groups love the complete remoteness of the resort, the captured audience that you have with your clients and colleagues. There are no distractions. You’re there together in a unique setting, this Wild West flair. It’s really like no other place I’ve ever experienced, and I hear the same thing from our guests who come back year after year.”
The resort has 104 guest rooms, and each has a distinctive charm. “There are 16 different room types, and all of them are unique in their own way,” says Olson. There are also two restaurants, two outdoor swimming pools, and a spa and fitness center.
For private events, the resort’s ballroom can accommodate up to 200 guests for a seated dinner or cocktail party. Another event space can host up to 100 guests seated and up to 160 standing. There is also a boardroom and a theater for lectures and presentations.
Groups can enjoy several team-building activities, including the true gem of the resort: Black Jack’s Crossing, the golf course designed by former PGA Tour player Lanny Wadkins. “It’s been ranked and voted the number one golf course you can play in the state for the last six years by The Dallas Morning News,” Olson says. “It’s been ranked in Golfweek and Golf magazines, too. The course is built up into the mountains, so you’ve got dramatic elevation changes from tee to green.”
A world-class zip line is built up into the canyons in an area called “Quiet Canyon.” Also available are shooting activities, including three-gun combat, a five-gun sporting clay stand and a cowboy action shoot in which guests walk through a replicated old Western town. “We have an equestrian with 14 horses for riding on our trails,” says Olson. “You can also do stand-up paddleboarding in the Rio Grande.”
History just emanates from the Gage Hotel in Marathon. “It was built in 1927 but has been fully restored,” says General Manager Carol Peterson. “We’re in the process of being part of the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel was designed by a very noteworthy architect named Henry Trost. It was built by a rancher, Alfred Gage, who had a vast ranching operation out here. He built it really as a ranching headquarters. It’s always been a hotel.”
The Gage is an upscale, boutique hotel. “We’re somewhat of a destination,” says Peterson of the property, which has 47 guest rooms, an 8-acre garden, an outdoor swimming pool, a fitness center and a spa. There are three dining options: a barbecue restaurant that was recently named one of the 25 best new barbecue eateries in Texas, an upscale coffee shop and the iconic White Buffalo Bar.
“We’ve been named one of the top 10 hotels in the state of Texas a number of times,” Peterson says. “Our level of quality and service is probably the best in the region. Our grounds are really beautiful and well taken care of. It’s a much different experience than a branded hotel, if you will. It’s a very unique experience. We’re also really close to Big Bend National Park; groups love that.”
Private indoor event space can accommodate up to 150 guests seated and up to 200 standing. An outside garden area can host up to 300 guests seated and up to 600 standing. There are several other outdoor event spaces, the largest of which can accommodate up to 170 guests seated and up to 250 standing.
As for the banquet menu, the Gage is known for its beef and wild game entrees, but says Peterson, “We do barbecuing, Mexican food, really all types of food categories.”
Terlingua is known as a ghost town because it was deserted from the 1950s to the 1970s. Before it was a ghost town, it was home to the Chisos Mine, where workers traveled deep into the mineshafts to extract cinnabar, the raw ore that produces mercury. When the mercury market disappeared, the mine closed, and all the homes and buildings began to decay.
These days, little more than 100 people live in Terlingua, and its ghost town image has turned it into a resort location for many. One of the biggest attractions is The Starlight Theatre, a restaurant that was once a movie house for the miners. It got its name when the wind blew the roof off. The entire venue can accommodate private groups of up to 50 guests, both seated and standing.
At the entrance of Terlingua is the El Dorado Hotel. It has 20-25 guest rooms and the High Sierra Bar & Grill. A second-level dining room with a large deck can host more than 50 guests, both seated and standing. Two other restaurants in Terlingua are Taqueria el Milagro, which can accommodate small private groups, and Posada Milagro, which serves a full breakfast plus burritos and sandwiches.
“It’s a lovely, little place with fountains inside and outside,” says Gail Turner, manager of the nearby Rock House Guest House and Ivey Rentals.
Perry Mansion, once the home of the mine’s owner, Howard Perry, has two decks and is “lovely for private events,” Turner says.
The other hotel in town is Big Bend Holiday Hotel also built by Perry. It has five guest rooms and housed single miners back in its heyday.
Lajitas Golf Resort