Charcuterie and Caves experience in Lincoln, Nebraska. Courtesy of Lincoln CVB
Nebraska Teambuilding Activities That Bring Groups Together
As in-person meetings come back in 2022, many attendees are gathering face to face for the first time in a few years. After many hours spent behind screens, some destinations are seeing an increase in requests for teambuilding ideas and networking opportunities to renew team camaraderie.
“Our CVB has seen such an increase in requests for teambuilding activities and unique things to do in town that we actually launched a meeting planning series that connects our planners to these teambuilding activities,” said Kelsey Meyer, sales development manager for Lincoln CVB in Nebraska. “It’s so relevant to what’s happening in the planning industry right now.”
In Nebraska, cities like Lincoln, Omaha and Kearney are showcasing activities that will not only bring your team back together, but will change your preconceived ideas about the Midwestern hub, proving that it’s anything but boring.
Following are some activities that go beyond your traditional icebreaking networking sessions and get your attendees immersed in Nebraska’s local communities, and will help them foster meaningful connections along the way.
As Nebraska’s state capital and home to the University of Nebraska, Lincoln’s core meetings business comes from association and higher education groups, and Meyer said the CVB is seeing these two crucial categories bouncing back in 2022.
“We have been rebuilding on those events and seeing them return,” Meyer said. “But they are having a hard time getting the attendance [numbers] they had pre-COVID and reengaging the folks. In 2024-2025 planners are hoping they will rebuild those pre-COVID numbers.”
To do this, Meyer said she has noticed planners building more-creative teambuilding activities into their programs to draw interest.
To aid planners in this process, the Lincoln CVB launched “Fun After the Business Is Done,” which is a series for meeting planners that showcases unique teambuilding ideas in town and connects planners with local businesses. The series kicked off in May of this year and continues through this summer and fall.
“We have had such a good response from the planners attending,” Meyer said of the program thus far, which works hard to not only provide planners with unique teambuilding and networking ideas, but to also connect them with local small businesses that give visitors a new perspective on the city.
“In Lincoln that’s what we really pride ourselves on—the people make the place,” Meyer added. “We have so much heart, and it’s so satisfying for me as a salesperson to bring a group in who is a little hesitant about Nebraska and Lincoln and show them the business owners on the ground working hard to keep their doors open.”
The activities showcased in the “Fun After the Business Is Done” program include:
- Charcuterie and Caves: Older than the city of Lincoln, named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2020 and riddled with stories based in legend and facts, Robber’s Cave doubles as both an intriguing underground historic attraction and a unique events venue. Attendees can take a guided tour of the actual cave, and then venture above ground for an event in one of the venue’s flexible indoor or outdoor spaces. During the “Fun After Business Is Done” session, planners toured the venue and experienced a charcuterie-making class by a local purveyor.
- Sleepy Bees Lavender Farm: A lavender farm...in Nebraska? Typically reserved for Mediterranean climates, attendees will be surprised to find a thriving lavender farm in Lincoln with honeybees buzzing about, too. Local farmers planted the lavender in 2018 and produce aromatherapy, bath and beauty products from natural lavender, beeswax and honey. Groups can go out into the fields, learn about the farm and continue onto onsite event or class space.
- Lincoln Children’s Zoo: After hours, groups can receive a behind-the-scenes tour of Lincoln’s popular children’s zoo, which is also equipped with indoor and outdoor meeting space. Activities like catered meals and interactions with zookeepers and animals can also be arranged. Hosting a teambuilding event at the zoo also directly supports the zoo’s conservation, animal care and education projects.
- Coffee and Candles: This fall, planners in “Fun After the Business Is Done” will connect with local Lincoln makers, experiencing a coffee tasting at the Mill Coffee Shop with its master coffee roaster and continuing onto another local business, Wax Buffalo, where they will pour their own soy candles and learn about how the owners launched their business.
Beyond the activities the team is showcasing in the meeting planner series this year, Meyer stresses that Lincoln CVB can really help planners customize teambuilding activities and source vendors based on the group’s needs.
“We have attractions that are more nature-based; Spring Creek Prairie Center does a wonderful nature walk, which is more of a meditative experience. Sun Valley Lanes and Games is Lincoln’s premiere bowling and events facility, with mini golf, laser tag and an outdoor courtyard area with yard games and an area with bonfire pits and things like that,” Meyer offered as examples.
“And some groups might be focused on giving back, so we can work with local nonprofits for group outings to some of those locations like the food bank and city mission or cleanup our downtown area. We can really cater and work with individual planners for their interests to create an event.”
[Related: 4 Venues Where Attendees Can Explore Nebraska Arts and Culture]
Nebraska’s largest city is in the midst of more than $8 billion being spent on developments, enhancements and modernizations, which further provides the amenities planners want for meetings. Business is on its way back, too.
“We are seeing leads all the way into 2031 at this time, giving us the opportunity to lay in good citywide base business for future years,” noted Jasmyn Goodwin, vice president of marketing and communications for Visit Omaha, who also noted the CVB has seen short-term bookings rising as well.
As groups return to Omaha—including those in the government, ag, sports industries and more—Goodwin said that while traditional teambuilding activities may not be on every group’s radar yet, she is seeing a desire to foster networking as attendees return to face-to-face meetings.
“We have seen more planners wanting to give their attendees different options for offsite things to do in their free time,” she said. “I think planners want to see their attendees out socializing, but at their own comfort level.”
Omaha can offer planners a wide variety of activities, depending on attendee comfort level. Escape Rooms, murder mystery dinners, game nights or even casual brewery tours have been popular with Omaha groups. Local favorites include Farnham House Brewing Company, which features European-style brews, and the Lucky Bucket and Cut Spike Distillery, which offers tours and can host private events.
For more structured teambuilding that gets groups outside, Goodwin recommends TreeRush Adventures in Fontenelle Forest, just 15 minutes from downtown, where attendees can enjoy some of Omaha’s natural beauty while problem solving together. Groups can work with the team at TreeRush to customize climbing and ziplining outings, with a facilitator that guides the group through experiential networking.
Additional offsite activities Goodwin recommended for group outings and networking include a trip to Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo, where private events are possible, or to the Old Market Entertainment District, located a few blocks from the convention center, to experience some of the city’s local F&B scene and makers. Its cobblestone streets are lined with restaurants, pubs, boutiques, antique emporiums and sweet shops.
Conveniently situated between Omaha, Nebraska, and Denver, Colorado, markets, Kearney offers mid-size, easy drive-to options for meetings and events. Its newly opened Younes North Conference Center expands the options for larger groups, with 75,000 square feet of meeting space, bringing the Younes Campus total to more than 150,000 square feet of meeting space.
As more groups inquire about meetings and events in Kearney, Sarah Focke, tourism and convention sales manager for the Kearney Visitors Bureau, is seeing an increase in requests for offsite experiences.
For groups that enjoy spending time outdoors, Focke recommends taking advantage of the Kearney Water Trail, a 2.3-mile waterway open from April to October. Kayaks, canoes and tubes can be rented through Kearney Paddle Sports for groups that want to traverse down the water trail, giving visitors a unique vantage into Kearney’s natural beauty. Whitewater rapids were also added this spring for fun drops on the trail.
“For groups that want to spread out, the Big Apple Fun Center provides bowling, laser tag, indoor go-carts, black light mini-golf and more,” Focke added.
Custom trivia events, puzzle wars and murder-mystery games can also be arranged through the visitors bureau.
Kearney Visitors Bureau
Read this next: Discover Omaha’s Multibillion-Dollar Meetings Makeover