At the Shore

By the River

Ivory Towers

Conference Centers

Day Rates

Tapping the Past

For Soul Searching

Pitching In

Corrections or additions?

This article by Barbara Fox was published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on

September 9, 1998. All rights reserved.

Retreats: Outside the Box

Take your team meeting to the big front porch of a

bed and breakfast at the Jersey shore, and, for an afternoon break,

walk on the beach.

Gather around a big stone fireplace in the hills of North Jersey and

— when the lessons of teamwork need to be learned — clamber

onto a ropes course.

Stretch the horizons of your group members by taking them to a tower

room with a 360 degree view of the trees in all their autumn splendor.

Enjoy a catered lunch in the tower, and leave at the end of the day

with an expanded group vision.

Conferences and retreats don’t have to be dull, and they don’t have

to be held in Aspen or Seattle to get people to attend. Within an

hour’s drive of Princeton you can find all sorts of exciting, fun,

and often reasonably priced locations to hold your meeting, whether

it’s a corporate retreat or a planning session for a nonprofit group.

If your goal is to promote thinking "out of the box," then

start with an "out of the ordinary" location.

Once you decide on your objectives and come up with a theme, you can

pick a location that has a lot of things built into it, says Michael

Young, president of Activities Inc. and its new spin-off, Meeting

Dimensions (see story page 47). If you want to do team-building, for

instance, you can arrange to play laser tag at a sports arena.

Meetings can also be held in museums, amphitheaters, planetariums,

parks, mansions, or health clubs, says Young. "The general rule

of thumb is that if it exists, an event can be produced there."

Even at the most rustic place the basics can be provided: cover,


a space that can be darkened for projection, drink, risers (so you

can see the speaker), electricity, restrooms, food and drink, and


Beyond the basics, you and your group can get creative — within

budget limits, of course. So the charitable groups like Affordable

Housing Network schedule their conferences with a religious


that seeks to help the poor — Vincentian Renewal Center on


Road at a cost of $65 per night including meals.

Meanwhile top level executives for Big 10 pharmaceutical and financial

firms flock to pay $425 a night for Laurie House, a private (and


converted farmhouse on the Chauncey Conference compound at Educational

Testing Service.

The central New Jersey conference and retreat destinations listed

below do not include the full-service hotels such as Novotel, the

Hyatt, Holiday Inn, Marriott, and the Nassau Inn — everyone knows

you can have a conference at a hotel. Here are some other choices

— unless specified, prices do not include tax and tip.

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At the Shore

Quaint hotels and B&Bs in shore locations can


small or medium sized groups in the off season at very reasonable

prices. You can rent an entire inn in Belmar for $700 on a weekend

night (less during the week).

The Inn at the Shore, 301 Fourth Avenue, Belmar, New


07719, 732-681-3762; fax, 732-280-1914. Rosemary & Tom Volker.

The Victorian-style house has a huge wrap-around porch with a view

of the ocean and cafe tables on the brick patio. In chillier weather,

meet in the living room with its stone fireplace, the dining room,

or the library. Full inn rental is $700 including breakfast or about

$34 per person, including tax, plus about $20 for a catered lunch.

Maximum capacity is 22 people. Of 17 rooms, three have private bath.

Ashling Cottage, 106 Sussex Avenue, Spring Lake. Goodi

and Jack Stewart. 732-449-3553; fax, 732-974-0831. E-mail:,

( Open through October. Ten queen bed

rooms rent off season for $124 to $134 with private bath, $99 with

sinks and shared bath, all including full breakfast buffet. Meeting

space is available on a screened-in porch and parlor that could hold

up to 20 people.

Normandy Inn, 21 Tuttle Avenue, Spring Lake, 732-449-7172.

Jeri Robertson, innkeeper. Small sales divisions of Merck, First


Chicago, AT&T, Continental frequent the Normandy Inn. Groups of 20

can rent the inn for midweek seminars for $88 each, including a full

breakfast, use of the meeting space, and coffee break with fruit.

Lunch can be catered for $13 or $14, and conferees go out to dinner,

which costs about $20 or $25 in town. "They take an afternoon

break and ride bikes or take beach chairs down to the beach,"

says Robertson. "We have set up an evening boat ride on a big

fishing boat or on the River Belle out of Manasquan for dinner. Our

big front porch can accommodate the meetings."

Spring Lake is just a 45-minute drive from Princeton.

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By the River

<B>The 1740 House, Lumberville PA 18933,


Robert John Vris, innkeeper. This unpretentious hideaway is right

on the canal and the river, five miles north of New Hope, and it is

frequently used for small corporate retreats. The 24 rooms rent for

$80 on weekdays, $118 on weekends and holidays, including a buffet

breakfast, ice and mixers. The innkeeper offers an assortment of menus

so you can reserve tables at any of the nearby excellent restaurants.

All rooms are air conditioned, have private baths and terraces or

balconies; the river is literally at your feet. Book ahead.

Evermay on-the-Delaware, River Road (Route 32), Erwinna.

610-294-9100; 610-294-8249. Built in

1867, this 18th century mansion is now a Victorian country house


very quiet, says Dawn Smigo, manager, because the nearest town is

1 1/2 miles away.

Groups of 5 to 20 can schedule a mid-week conference at $120 per


per night including continental breakfast or about $200 including

three meals — lunch, four-course dinner, and morning and afternoon

breaks. There is a charge of $175 for the meeting room, which could

be the Garden Room with wall-to-wall glass windows.

Centre Bridge Inn, Routes 32 and 263, New Hope.


fax, 215-862-3244.

Stephen R. DuGan, innkeeper. At the colonial inn, dating to 1705,

private rooms are available for day meetings of up to 120, but only

about 10 rooms are available for overnight guests. The view of the

bridge from the Common Room is quite something, and the room has a

fireplace as well. All rooms have private baths, some have a terrace

or river view.

Inn to the Woods Bed & Breakfast Conference and Retreat

Center ,

150 Glenwood Drive, Washington Crossing PA 18977. 800-982-7619; fax,

215-493-7592. E-mail: Rosemary Rein, the owner

(and no relation to U.S. 1’s publisher), drew on her background as

a trainer and human resources consultant to design her retreat


For groups of six or more she offers a commuter package for $49 per

person. That includes continental breakfast, meeting facilities,


and afternoon breaks, and what she calls "lunch in the


Overnight retreats cost $179 per person including private baths, plus

breakfast, lunch, and afternoon tea, and a progressive dinner of


inn cuisine.

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Ivory Towers

Campuses are a cost effective yet pleasant place to

hold a seminar, because they can evoke fond memories of yesteryear.

Most are open for overnight conferences and training sessions only

during the summer but are happy to accumulate extra funds for daytime

meetings throughout the school year. Note that Rutgers does have its

own year-round conference center.

Princeton University, Center for Visitors and Conference

Services. 609-258-6115; fax, 609-258-4656. Cynthia S. Horr, director.


The Woodrow Wilson School is among the favorite spots for outside

groups to use for all-day events during the school year, as are the

traditional rooms of McCosh Hall. Eisenhart Lounge on the top of Fine

Towers has wall to wall windows and overlooks the new stadium. It

has space for 25 at a large oak conference table plus an area for

a reception.

During the school year, half of the 100 events are sponsored by


groups. In the summer the university opens its doors to about 60


organizations of varying sizes, ranging from Princeton Ballet School’s

summer program to a conference for financial analysts.

"Overnight accommodations in dormitories are available in summer

months, since we have no formal summer school," says Eric Hamblin,

assistant director of CVCS. Rooms range from $18 to $25 depending

on bath arrangements and air conditioning. Meals in student cafeterias

are about $28 per day. A meeting room could cost from $75 to 10 times

that. The Eisenhart Lounge costs from $150 to $400 plus food.

Rider University, 2083 Lawrenceville Road,


08648. Dave Keenan, director of student center. 609-896-5327. Home


University Inn and Conference Center at Rutgers, 178


Lane, New Brunswick 08901-8535. Deana Guden, conference and events

coordinator. 732-932-9148 or 732-932-9141; fax, 732-932-6952. E-mail: Home page:

Meeting rooms are available for up to 100 participants, and there

are 36 guest rooms (for a maximum of 72 people) with private baths.

Rooms are $90 for double occupancy, $70 single occupancy. Triples

are $95, Deluxe rooms, larger with king-size beds, are $99 single,

$110 for two people. Available year-round.

Georgian Court College, Lakewood. 732-364-2200, x 285.

Mary Cranwell, director of special events. E-mail:

Meeting space for up to 1,500 year-round with accommodations only

in the summer. This is the former estate of railroad and steel magnate

and polo fan George J. Gould.

Lehigh University, 63 University Drive, Bethlehem 18015,

610-758-5306; fax 609-758-3586. Mary Kay Baker, conference services.

E-mail: Meeting space for up to 500 and summer


for up to 1,110. It is one hour and 15 minutes driving time from


Lunches or dinners can be held in the Tower Room for up to 75 people.

It has a floor-to-ceiling windows with a 360-degree view of the


city of Bethlehem, lit at the holidays with millions of twinkling

white lights. Don’t plan a meeting here if you need audio visuals;

you can’t close any shades.

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Conference Centers

<B>ETS Chauncey Conference Center, Rosedale Road,

Box 6652, Princeton 08541-6652. 609-921-3600; fax, 609-683-4958.

E-mail: Home page:

Mary Janelle, acting general manager for Marenzana Conference


This conference center with capacity for 200 guests is available to

the public only for educational and research-related conferences.

Outside for-profit groups generally come from the pharmaceutical or

New York financial market. "The assumption is that there is


knowledge to be learned," says Jan Zak, director of global sales.

The main conference center rooms cost from $285 to $325 including

meals and tips.

"Our closest competition is Merrill Lynch and Forrestal, and both

are three times as big as we are," says Zak. She can book only

about 100 rooms, including a half dozen in Laurie House (formerly

a farm house, then the upscale home of Henry Chauncey, the ETS


When his wife, Laurie, died in 1975, Chauncey donated the house to

the conference center.

Executives use Laurie House when they need guaranteed privacy for

"senior senior" type meetings. "A lot goes on in Laurie

House that you read about in the Wall Street Journal two months


says Zak. With its own chef and helipad and a very high level of


and service, it costs about $425 per person per night inclusive.


it has only six bedrooms, 10 other rooms in the larger center are

dedicated to Laurie House use and have a separate entrance.

The Forrestal at Princeton Hotel and Conference Center,

100 College Road East, Princeton 08540. Neil Pompan, assistant general

manager. Rich Cimilluca, director of sales and marketing.


fax, 609-452-2523.

This conference center hotel with two restaurants and complete


facilities on 25 wooded acres was formerly known as Scanticon. It

has 33 conference rooms with 35,000 square feet on one level; they

range from 200 to nearly 5,000 square feet, including two board rooms,

22 breakout rooms, and nine conference rooms. The largest room can

seat 250 people. All are soundproof and have up-to-date AV equipment.

The 290 guest rooms (including 10 suites) have closed circuit TV and

large sliding windows overlooking the woods. Also here: a 61-foot

swimming pool, a whirlpool and sauna solarium, game room, exercise

room, tennis and sand volleyball courts, a Parcourse fitness cluster,

and jogging trails.

For groups ranging from two to 250 people, the meeting package rate

ranges from $310 to $325 per person including all meals and snacks,

although rates can be cheaper at certain times.

Merrill Lynch Conference Center, 900 Scudders Mill Road,

Plainsboro 08536. A.J. Panaia, general manager, John Murphy, director

of operations. 609-282-1000; fax, 609-282-2126.

This conference and training center connected to the corporate


on Scudders Mill Road is open to outside organizations and can take

groups of up to 400. It is run by Harrison Conference Services based

in Glen Cove, New York, which manages seven other centers including

those at Duke, Wellesley, and Vero Beach.

The published rate is $339 per person per night, inclusive, or $399

for a suite in the Executive Center. Depending on the month or week,

a groups might get a more preferential rate. Facilities include 34

meeting rooms, a 316-seat auditorium with a key-pad response system

for mini-polls, 343 guest rooms with closed circuit TV capabilities,

phone labs, an Olympic-sized lap pool, a 1.2 mile jogging trail,


courts, billiards lounge, a half court for racquetball and basketball,

and a lake-view dining room. A more private Executive Center for


of up to 50 has a separate entry, a private dining room, and a


Slightly more than half of the groups are from Merrill Lynch, and

the rest are from Fortune 500 companies, accounting firms, and law


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Day Rates

<B>Forsgate Country Club, Forsgate Drive,


08831. Tom Grant, general manager. 732-521-0070; fax, 732-521-0687.

Daytime conference center and private country club with two 18-hole

golf courses and two full-service public restaurants. A day meeting

package for at least 25 people costs $35 per person including snacks.

For $50 you get a "roll-in" lunch.

New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, 12

Center Drive, Jamesburg 08831-1564. JoAnn D. Bartoletti, executive

director. 609-860-1200; fax, 609-860-2999. E-mail:

Home page:

This daytime conference center for up to 130 people can accommodate

overnights by arrangement with a nearby hotel. Corporate rentals range

from $250 (at a 10-person table or in a computer training room) to

$500 for 22 to 24 people. Nonprofit fees are slashed to less than

half that. Food service is about $5 per person for snacks and $11

for lunch plus a waitress fee of $75. It is a state-approved vendor.

New Jersey Hospital Association Conference Center, 760

Alexander Road. 609-275-4035; fax, 609-275-4058. Steve Krebs, director

of conferences and facilities. The center can handle up to 300 guests

with room rentals ranging from $150 to $600 per day without food


from $100 to $600 if a meal is served.

New Jersey Housing & Mortgage Finance Agency, Roebling

Center at 637 South Clinton, Trenton 08650. 609-278-7401;


Ann Applebaum Merlino, director of administration.

As a community service NJHMFA allows nonprofits to use the atrium

gallery in its Roebling Center building, designed by Michael Farewell

of Ford Farewell Mills & Gatsch. Light floods in the four-story atrium

windows by day, and at night with the lights shining outside, it is

bright and airy. Trade groups and government agencies have staged

conferences here. A kitchen adjoins the board room and atrium, and

up to 150 people can have a sit-down meal. From 300 to 400 people

can be seated classroom style or, for a reception, traffic can flow

through two rooms. One caveat; the walls of glass and the slate floor

can be detrimental to acoustics, but that is being worked on. NJHMFA

can provide the tables and chairs but charges a fee for after hours


Top Of Page
Tapping the Past

<B>Lambertville House, 32 Bridge Street, Box 349,

Lambertville, 609-397-0200; fax, 609-397-0511,

Traci Ambrose, conference coordinator.

Newly restored, this former stagecoach stop can handle groups of 25

people overnight. Midweek corporate rates range from $149 to $199

per luxury room, some with jetted tubs, fireplace, and/or balcony.

Meal costs would be $35 for lunch and snacks plus $33 or $39 for


A conference room for 24 people might run $400.

Brick Hotel and Restaurant, South State Street &


Avenue, Newtown, PA. 215-860-8313. 215-860-8084.

. John Mueller, director sales of marketing. Built by a brickyard

owner in 1764, this house did indeed entertain George Washington.

It fronts a busy street but a glass-walled conference room overlooks

a lovely garden. All 14 rooms can be booked for a conference, all

with private bath, telephone, and television, for from $70 to $110

including breakfast, plus $20 for lunch.

"But most of the conferences we do are during the day," says

Mueller. The daytime charge of $20 per person covers breaks and lunch,

and the room rent ranges from $100 to $250. As with most places, a

sufficient food and beverage bill is reason to waive the room tab.

Top Of Page
For Soul Searching

Programs with a spiritual tinge — the holistic


programs and creativity-tapping sessions — have been used by those

in the creative industries, but now they are spreading even to the

finance community, says Sandra Kimbrough of the Kimbrough Company,

a public relations, marketing, and special events firm with offices

in New York and Ewing. "Now they are getting to the hard core,

to the stockbrokers."

She sees corporations starting to provide information to their


about how to balance life and work, unleash creative power, help with

time management, improve concentration through meditation, increase

mental acuity, develop positive conflict resolution skills, manage

stress, and improve decision making ability. "It’s all to balance

the wellness of individuals to improve mind body fitness within the

new corporate culture, still while looking to increase corporate


and the bottom line," she suggests.

Your group doesn’t have to talk religion when you book space at a

religious center, but you may need to specify some sort of topic


to inner growth. A caveat: be sure that no one in your group is going

to object to religious symbols. These camps and centers range from

the very liberal (at Kirkridge, Daniel Berrigan is a frequent guest

speaker) to the opposite (Twin Pines Camp in Stroudsburg, run by

the Evangelical Congregational Church, requires groups to subscribe

to a conservative Christian credo).

Need we add that the religious centers are among the least expensive?

Vincentian Renewal Center, 75 Mapleton Road, Box 351,

Plainsboro 08536. Charles P. Strollo CM, director. 609-520-9626; fax,

609-520-0593. E-mail:

The tree-shaded grounds are a quiet haven from the everyday bustle,

yet this former boys’ school — St. Joseph’s Seminary — is just

two minutes off Route 1. In 1988 the 90-year old building was


to accommodate individuals and groups from all faiths. Princeton


Library’s board held a retreat here.

Now Father Strollo is trying to book group with a stronger emphasis

on the Vincentian mission for "faith sharing, healing, and


for all who come, especially the poor, clergy, vowed religious, the

Vincentian family and all those who expend their energies in the


of the least among us," he says.

Facilities include the renewal center chapel, a meeting lounge for

smaller groups, a 65-person dining hall, 14 bedrooms with private

bath and shower and individual room controls (double and triple


and use of the basketball/tennis/racquet ball court or indoor gym.

Plus, of course, the grounds that are an oasis of quiet and


Day groups pay $10 per person plus meal costs. Rooms are $40, $65

with three meals, $105 for two days with five meals.

San Alphonso Retreat Center, 755 Ocean Avenue, Long Branch

07740. 732-222-2731, extension 40; fax, 732-870-8892. Father John

Murray C.S.s.R., rector.

The Redemptorist Fathers and Brothers run this retreat center that

has nine acres right on the ocean in Long Branch. Any group, religious

or not, can book space here midweek, and a group of Rutgers University

is the latest to reserve space. The cost is about $80 per person per

day including overnight stay, three meals, and use of meeting


United Methodist Camps and Conferences: Camp Aldersgate,

Swartswood, Sussex County, 973-383-5978; 973-383-4428. Declan


executive director. At this camp, 15 minutes from Blairstown, a group

of 20 people would pay about $49 per person for carpeted rooms with

four people sharing a bath. Hiking trails range from "a pleasant

stroll to a breathtaker" on site, and there are three state parks

within a 15-minute drive. Though 85 percent of the traffic here comes

from Methodist churches, it does have retreats from such corporations

as M&M Mars and some nonprofits.

Presbytery of Philadelphia USA: Kirkwood Camp and Conference

Center, located near Stroudsburg, off Route 611. 215-732-1842.

Carolyn Jeffrie. This Poconos-based camp costs $35 to $37 per night

including meals and bunk bed accommodations.

Kirkridge Retreat Center, 2495 Fox Gap Road, Bangor PA

18013-6028, 610-588-1793. fax 610-588-8510. Janet Lewis, registrar.

Cynthia Crowner, director.

Enjoy extraordinary views on Kittatinny Ridge near Delaware Water

Gap with healthy food for $75 per person overnight with three meals

including linens. Facilities for group of 16 to 100 include a lodge

with a stone fireplace, a house with an octagonal meeting room, and

an 1815 farmhouse with wide plank floors and a stone hearth. "Pray

and picket" is the motto here, where the approved list of causes

includes peacemaking, gay community rights, and victims of sexual


Top Of Page
Pitching In

Pendle Hill Center for Study and Contemplation, 338 Plush

Mill Road, Wallingford PA. 610-566-4507 or 800-742-3150. Heather


This Quaker refuge and resource for peace education can take corporate

groups of up to 35 people. It is popular for board meetings and


and "community-building" retreats. Costs are $63 to $65 per

person in a rental group for bed and breakfast, plus $6.75 for lunch

and $9.75 for dinner. Day groups pay $95 to $120 for meeting space

(including basic visual aids) plus meals.

The Quaker ideals show: Everyone who attends an event at Pendle Hill

during the summer, even for the day, must do a chore. You will see

people in business suits washing dishes. "The way we justify this

is that we couldn’t accommodate the people without extra hands.


who lives here has a weekly chore and a daily chore, and the others

need the spiritual exercise of work," says Snediker-Morcheck.

"Some do object very strenuously."

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