by Ron Engeldinger
Consider adding variety to liven up your next meeting or event by selecting a unique location. How about conducting your conference on board a ship or at a state park? How about holding your conference in an elegantly restored railroad depot? The Northwest offers an abundance of interesting venues that provide a different take on traditional meeting locations. These locales provide a stimulating alternative to the typical hotel or conference center meeting rooms. Here is a selection of one-of-a-kind Northwest venues that can host your next gathering.
USS TURNER JOY DD 951 NAVAL DESTROYER MUSEUM
If you are looking for an unusual space to hold a meeting or retreat, you may want to consider meeting on a Naval Destroyer. Launched in 1958, the USS Turner Joy provided support for missions off the coast of Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It has now been refurbished to its original condition and is a popular attraction on the Bremerton, Washington, waterfront.
Visitors can marvel at the formidable guns on the main deck of the ship and explore below deck to see how the crew of 275 enlisted men and 17 officers lived and worked. Survey the waterfront from the captain’s perch on the Bridge and inspect the powerful engines in the Boiler Room.
The ship offers three spaces for group meetings. The Crew’s Mess, the dining room for the sailors, can accommodate up to 60 for a meeting or banquet. The Wardroom, suitable for 13 persons, and the CPO (Chief Petty Officer) Mess that holds 16 are available for private meetings. The smaller rooms are ideal for a corporate board workshop or planning session. Groups meeting at the nearby Kitsap Conference Center will find that the USS Turner Joy can be an easy alternative for an off-site breakout session or after-conference activity.
The ship has WiFi access and audiovisual equipment available for presentations. Catering, from casual a la carte offerings to full sit-down dinners, is provided by the staff at the nearby Kitsap Conference Center. The ship’s location affords easy access to a large selection of dining, shopping and sight-seeing opportunities along the Bremerton waterfront. Several major hotels are located a few blocks from the venue.
The USS Turner Joy is located on the Bremerton Boardwalk, a short walk from the Seattle Ferry Terminal. The ferry across Puget Sound from Seattle takes about an hour.
THE HISTORIC BILLINGS DEPOT
Once the hub of all the action in Billings, the century-old Historic Billings Depot welcomed the city’s most important visitors from all over the world. Today, the soaring vaulted ceilings and luminous terrazzo floors have been carefully restored to create a backdrop for some of the region’s most memorable occasions.
The ambience of elegance makes the facility attractive for large gala events. However, the venue offers a variety of spaces that are ideal for conferences, seminars, training sessions and corporate retreats. Billings has gained fame as a premier destination for travelers. Outstanding natural beauty and an abundance of recreational activities. The convenient location in the center of Billings means the Historic Billings Depot can serve as the centerpiece for any meeting or event.
With more than 10,000 square feet of space, the building offers a variety of options for meeting planners. The 3,780 square-foot Baggage Room, with its high ceilings and original brick walls, was originally a storage area for baggage and freight. Today, it can accommodate 300 guests. Additional seating can spill out into the courtyard when the weather permits.
The arched ceilings, Roman columns and high-arched window of the 2,024 square-foot Passenger Station create a dramatic setting for a conference or seminar. The room can accommodate 150 theater-style. A smaller conference room is ideal for board retreats or planning sessions. Two outdoor spaces, the sizeable Trailhead Plaza, accommodating up to 450, and the smaller Gainan’s Courtyard, are available to host open-air events.
The facility has a high-quality sound system and WiFi. With no on-site caterer, groups are free to use any of Billings’ excellent catering services. Free parking is available. The location in the heart of the city means that a variety of lodging, dining and shopping options are only a few blocks away. If you are planning a conference or gathering at one Billings’ large hotels, the Historic Billings Depot is an ideal off-site alternative to add variety to your event.
Port Townsend, Washington
Bluffs overlooking the northern entrance to Puget Sound and beaches waiting to be explored, Fort Worden offers acres of natural beauty and more than 70 buildings that give a glimpse into the history the region. No longer on duty guarding the waters of Admiralty Inlet, the stately fort complex has become a prime destination for Northwest meeting and event planners.
The beautifully restored fort buildings now provide accommodations, restaurants and a wealth of meeting spaces. With 35 meeting rooms comprising more than 56,000 square feet, the facility can accommodate everything from a board retreat of 20 to a performance for 1,200.
Fort Worden Commons, also known as the Grand Ballroom, offers 18,000 square feet that can accommodate up to 700 theater-style or 550 for a banquet. Dividable into four separate spaces, the room offers maximum flexibility. Additional meeting and event options are available throughout the grounds. Building 204 has seven separate rooms and the newly-remodeled JFK Hall is ideal for lectures, workshops and receptions. McCurdy Pavilion, once a hangar for dirigibles, is a large-scale performance venue available during the summer months.
A team of local chefs and restaurateurs are ready to supply all the food service your group requires. Whether it is grabbing a coffee and a sandwich at one of the three on-site cafés or enjoying a catered meal with your group, the staff has you covered.
With 456 sleeping rooms, the venue is ideal for multi-day conferences. The wide variety of accommodations range from private accommodations in a historic house along Officer’s Row to dormitory housing. The Cottage Collection features one- and two-bedroom boutique cottages that come with views across Puget Sound to the Cascade Range.
The area abounds with opportunities for group activities. Play croquet, Frisbee or soccer on the parade grounds, have s’mores and a campfire along the beach, enjoy hiking and bike riding along the park’s 12 miles of trails or rent a kayak for an afternoon on the water. The historic Victorian Seaport of Port Townsend has a wide range of shops, restaurants, art galleries and unique architecture to explore.
Located on the Olympic Peninsula, Fort Worden is easily accessible. Shuttle and private car services provide direct access from Sea-Tac International Airport, while a scenic drive along highway 101 brings drivers from Olympia or Tacoma, Washington. Regular ferry service provides access from the Seattle area.
PORTLAND SPIRIT AND COLUMBIA GORGE STERNWHEELER
For a special setting, consider conducting your next meeting or special event while cruising on the Willamette or Columbia River. The Portland Spirit fleet of ships offers a variety of river cruise options that will make your next meeting or banquet a special occasion. A variety of options are available depending on the size of your gathering, from a private function on one of the decks to reserving the entire ship.
Cruising along the Willamette River from Portland’s waterfront, the Portland Spirit is ideally suited for a breakfast conference, a lunch gathering, or a dinner business meeting. Corporate celebrations take on a special ambience when you celebrate while cruising the Willamette.
With a total capacity of 250 theater-style or 499 for a reception, the Portland Spirit is the largest member of the fleet. The two decks, the Willamette Deck, accommodating up to 160 for a reception and the Columbia Deck, holding up to 240, can each be rented separately. For a refreshing break, your group members will want to venture up to the Starlight deck and watch the scenery float by. For smaller functions, the Willamette Star and the Crystal Dolphin are available for full-boat charter trips.
Cruising into the Columbia River Gorge from Cascade Locks, Oregon, the Columbia Gorge Sternwheeler provides a unique setting for your meeting or event. With a capacity from 170 to 499 depending on the set-up, the vessel departs from Cascade Locks, Oregon, in the heart of the Columbia Gorge about a one-hour drive from Portland.
On-site catering is available for receptions or meal cruises and some ships offer a full-service bar. Modern audiovisual equipment provides everything you need for a productive meeting or presentation.
The downtown boarding locations of the Portland-based fleet are convenient to parking and MAX light rail stops. The central location offers access to all the hotels, restaurants and shopping in Portland’s central core. A cruise on one of the ships would be a wonderful add-on for groups holding a gathering at one of Portland’s many hotels or conference venues.
SILVER FALLS LODGE AND CONFERENCE CENTER
Tucked into the verdant green forest of the Western Cascades, Silver Falls State Park enthralls visitors with a relaxed atmosphere and stunning scenery. The park’s ten waterfalls are the stars here. Visitors can watch from a viewpoint as stately South Falls plunges into the canyon below or follow the loop trail to pass by the elegant curtain of water flowing over Middle North Falls. Each waterfall seems to have its own personality.
In one corner of the 9,000-acre park, the Silver Falls Lodge and Conference Center offers a relaxing and inspiring location for a conference, retreat or event. With meeting spaces, dining options and meeting spaces, the lodge can accommodate any gathering from an afternoon meeting to a multi-day conference.
The lodge has three meeting rooms encompassing 2,000 square feet of space. The 1,120 square-foot Smith Creek Hall accommodates 120 guests with WiFi access, a 60-inch smart screen and a rustic forest-lodge ambience. Upper Smith Creek Hall provides a more intimate atmosphere with room for 49. The Big Leaf Dining Hall, designed for meals and suitable for breakout sessions can seat up to 140.
The on-site culinary team can provide meal service for your group with Oregon-inspired fare and locally-sourced ingredients. The lodge has a variety of rustic, yet comfortable overnight accommodations tucked into the old-growth forest. Four lodge buildings and several cabins house the venue’s 36 guest rooms.
The trails throughout the park are ideal for outdoor activities. The lawn areas at the lodge inspire group team building activities, and the Big Leaf Dining Hall supports indoor activities. The state park is full of opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, swimming and simply relaxing in the natural surroundings.
Silver Falls State Park is about 45 minutes by car from Salem, Oregon, and an hour and a half from Portland and Portland International Airport. On their way to or from the park, drivers should schedule time to stop at the charming town of Silverton. About 20 minutes from the park, Silverton offers a variety of quaint boutiques, nice restaurants, galleries and public art.
Lauren Atkin, event coordinator
The graceful Spanish-style architecture of the Boise depot has been an attraction in the city since 1925. Once the center of railroad activity for the region, the facility was restored in the 1990s and accommodates groups for special occasions.
Wooden benches, remnants of the Depot’s original waiting room, line the walls of the Great Hall and high-arched windows provide natural light. The ceiling is lined with Spanish trusses, each imprinted with images of antique locomotives. On one end of the room, the original newsstand adds to the historical ambience.
The early 20th-century sophistication makes the venue ideal for a special banquet or event. Meeting planners looking for a unique space to conduct a business meeting, conference or seminar should also consider the Boise Deport for their event. The 3,542-square-foot multi-story hall can accommodate 165 seated guests or up to 300 for a reception. A graceful stairway leads to a smaller room above the newsstand that overlooks the Great Hall.
With panoramic views across the city, the 96-foot high Bell Tower adds a dramatic highlight to your meeting or event. The North Plaza, adjacent to the building is suitable for a large outdoor event. The facility features a full-service kitchen, located behind the newsstand, allowing your caterer to provide whatever meal service you require. A full sound system and WiFi are available.
The Boise Deport is close to the campus of Boise State University. Several major hotels and restaurants are nearby and downtown Boise is just across the river. The Boise Depot will add a dramatic touch to any Boise meeting or event.