We are all familiar with the opportunities for planners that abound in the major metropolitan centers of the Northwest; however, there are a great many interesting meeting and event opportunities in the smaller markets of the region. Small markets offer a variety of advantages for groups that make them attractive.
Since they don’t have as many venues as the larger markets, there are fewer events going on at the same time. You have less competition for the local hosts’ time and energy. Even small conferences will be welcomed with open arms. Often communities will roll out the red carpet for groups to make the experience really special.
Going to a smaller market doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice the quality of your event. The venues in smaller markets will provide all the amenities and services that facilities in larger areas provide. High quality cuisine, modern audiovisual equipment and internet connectivity are available in every market.
Another advantage of the smaller markets is that groups can stretch their budgets. Prices for hotel rooms and meeting spaces are often lower. Parking is often plentiful, and many times it is free. Since even small groups have a positive impact on the local economy, planners may be able to negotiate favorable terms and add-ons.
Smaller markets can offer a visitor experience that may not be available in a larger metropolitan area. Walkable downtowns and short distances to recreational opportunities make a planner’s life easy when trying to come up with stimulating activities for the group. Many small markets can offer local experts for presentations about the history or ecology of the area.
Here is a selection of small markets that you may want to consider as you plan your next meeting or event.
CANNON BEACH, OREGON
Pacific Ocean waves wash onto the sandy beach, and spectacular rock formations rise from the waters just offshore, enticing visitors to relax, enjoy the scenery and explore the community. Meandering pathways, flower-laden courtyards and diverse public art displays give Cannon Beach a unique coastal vibe. Groups will enjoy the opportunity for a fun post-meeting stroll through streets lined with art galleries, restaurants and specialty boutiques.
Group activities abound for fun and team building. Options include hiking, fishing charters, whale watching and cycling. The sandy shores of Cannon Beach are ideal for beachcombing, building sandcastles and surfing. Cannon Beach is located along the northern Oregon coast, a scenic 90-minute drive from Portland.
With stunning sunset views and modern event spaces, the Hallmark Resort & Spa is ideal for a business retreat or conference. Warm natural light flows into the Pacific Horizon Room, the resort’s largest function space. The 1,441-square-foot room holds up to 108 guests and can be divided in half for smaller events or to facilitate breakout sessions. The smaller Hospitality Room and the outdoor Lighthouse Landing are additional options.
The beachfront setting of the Tolovana Inn includes a variety of flexible meeting options. The 2,318-square-foot Conference Center can accommodate as many as 160 in a theater-style arrangement. The Center can be divided into two sections for smaller functions.
The Surfsand Resort has one of the largest meeting spaces in Cannon Beach. The 3,000-square-foot Oceanview Ballroom offers inviting views of both the Pacific Ocean and the Coast Mountain Range. The room holds up to 300 for a gathering. Additional smaller rooms offer space for board meetings and breakout sessions.
Located across the street from the Surfsand Resort, Haystack Gardens is a newly-renovated space offering a lush setting for any group activity. The Banquet Room can accommodate 65 guests. The private gardens surrounded by evergreens and flowers offer tented, year-round outdoor event space.
Conveniently located in the center of Cannon Beach, the Chamber of Commerce Community Hall has a Northwest-themed interior that is decorated with works by local artists. It is a versatile and functional space near many of the area’s hotels and resorts.
CENTRALIA AND CHEHALIS, WASHINGTON
Centrally located along I-5 between Portland, Oregon, and Olympia, Washington, Centralia and its adjoining sister city, Chehalis are often overlooked by meeting and event planners. The cities offer attractive downtown areas and an assortment of meeting venues. A rich history is displayed in the restored brick buildings that house antique shops, eclectic boutiques and an energetic dining scene.
The location, midway between the Cascade Mountains and the Washington coast, provides a wide variety of opportunities for recreation, team building and get-away-from-it-all activities. Walking tours of the historic downtown Chehalis provide a glimpse into the history of the region. The cities are less than 30 minutes from Olympia, Washington, and a little more than an hour from
The Vintage Grand Room at Hotel Washington has been carefully restored to reflect the late 19th century. Built in 1889, the venue’s original hardwood and brick provide a rich ambience for groups as large as 250.
The charm and exuberance of the 1920s invites groups to the Centralia Square Grand Ballroom and Hotel. The hotel’s Grand Ballroom can accommodate as many as 300 guests in a sophisticated setting. A second-floor terrace overlooks the town, and two downstairs Banquet Halls, accommodating up to 120 when joined, offer maximum flexibility.
The Aerie Ballroom is a sophisticated venue that has a large event room and several distinctive spaces that are more intimate. Owned by the same family who owns the Centralia Square Grand Ballroom and Hotel, the venue can be the location for a memorable conference, retreat or special event.
McMenamins Olympic Club & Hotel offers the modern resurrection of a locally significant venue that has been updated in the McMenamins’ eclectic style. Three meeting and event rooms in addition to a movie theater and billiards hall welcome groups. Meeting spaces include the Historic Centralia Train Depot that holds up to 72 guests and the Olympic Club Theater accommodating up to 120.
Best Western Park Place inn & Suites is conveniently located near I-5 offering a modern conference space that is near all the area attractions. The Holiday Inn and Suites Chehalis-Centralia has three meeting rooms and can accommodate as many as 100 attendees.
The new TransAlta Commons at Centralia College sits on the campus of the oldest community college in Washington state. It features state-of-the art services, a large banquet space and bright, cheerful breakout rooms.
LEWISTON, IDAHO, AND CLARKSTON, WASHINGTON
The confluence of the Clearwater and Snake Rivers has been a meeting place for centuries. It was a place for groups to come together to trade, connect and have fun. That history sets the stage for a modern community that welcomes visitors from all over the world. Straddling the Idaho-Washington border, the communities of Lewiston and Clarkston are an appealing destination for groups.
Walkable downtown areas filled with historic buildings, local microbreweries, quaint boutiques and fine restaurants make after-conference hours a pleasant diversion. Recreational opportunities are endless – from jet boating and rafting in Hells Canyon to golfing and cycling. The mild winter climate provides year-round opportunities for recreation and relaxation.
The Red Lion Hotel Lewiston is a full-service conference facility. It can accommodate a small group for an intimate retreat or an 800-person conference or banquet. With more than 24,000 square feet of space, it is the largest hotel venue in Lewiston.
The Quality Inn Suites and Conference Center can accommodate more than 300 guests for a meeting or event. It is located in the center of Clarkston, with easy access to all the area’s amenities and attractions.
The Clarkston Event Center is a convenient, yet private, venue with exotic animal-print décor. It can accommodate up to 180. The Clearwater River Casino and Event Center, located along the scenic Clearwater River, can accommodate large performances and events.
Located on a sun-drenched ridge above the Snake and Clearwater Rivers, Lindsay Creek Vineyard is surrounded by wheat fields. The quiet, rural setting is close to Lewiston but enjoys solitude. The production space serves as an event space with a capacity of 400 guests.
LONGVIEW AND KELSO, WASHINGTON
Lying along the banks of the Columbia River and in the shadow of Mount St. Helens, the cities of Longview and Kelso adjoin to form an attractive destination for planners. Located along I-5, only 50 miles From Portland, and less than 100 miles from Seattle, the area is a convenient central destination for groups from western Washington and Oregon.
Vibrant downtown areas offer small-town atmosphere with all the big-city amenities. The region beckons groups to remain and explore the area. Whether it is exploring the natural wonders of Mount St. Helens National Volcanic Monument to the east or the Pacific Coast to the west, the Longview-Kelso area offers unlimited opportunities recreation and exploration. Longview’s quaint downtown has fascinating shops, galleries and restaurants.
The Red Lion Hotel Kelso-Longview is a full-service conference hotel located along I-5. With a variety of meeting and event rooms, the venue can accommodate up to 550 for a conference. Smaller groups will appreciate the GuestHouse Inn & Suites in Kelso. The meeting room accommodates up to 30 for a private retreat or business meeting.
The modern Cowlitz County Event Center is located in the heart of Longview. Whether it is a large trade show, a 1,000-person conference or an intimate meeting, the Event Center offers an attractive space with first-class amenities.
Lower Columbia College has several facilities available for meetings, conferences, seminars, lectures or performances. In addition to indoor classrooms, conference rooms and performance halls, the college has a large covered pavilion for outdoor events.
Whether you have a large group that wants something different or a small group looking for a special environment, the four markets we mentioned above can be attractive options for your group.
Matthew Weintraub, chamber marketing specialist
City of Centralia
Rob Hill, city manager
City of Chehalis
Jill Anderson, city manager
Cowlitz County Tourism
Dawn Smith, tourism coordinator
Visit Lewis Clark Valley
Michelle Peters, president