Fishing in Bend, Near Mount BachelorOregon has made such rapid strides in the wine business that it now boasts 18 approved wine-growing regions, more than 600 wineries and more than 900 vineyards producing 72 varieties of grapes.
Variety is what Oregon is all about—from cities that are so hip they got their own TV parody show (Portlandia) to beer-bike-coffee university towns emblematic of the new urbanism and winery-rich valleys rivaling those in certain other West Coast states. In Oregon, variety doesn’t end with the meeting venue: It is only the beginning in a state that has plenty of places to explore, including the many wineries.
“There are wineries everywhere, even in central and eastern Oregon, and outdoor recreation is huge for us,” says Carole Astley, CMP, director of industry and visitor services for Travel Oregon. “We’ve broken the state into seven regions. Not only are they different from each other, but there is also tremendous variety within each region and within each city.”
In addition to geographical diversity, the great variety of people who live and work in Oregon’s cities and towns help to enrich and diversify meetings.
Here’s a look at four destinations chosen to demonstrate some of the possibilities Oregon offers. Multiply these by dozens of other meeting options and you’ll get some idea of the state’s dazzling diversity.
Eugene, Cascades & Coast: University, Tech & Outdoor Activities
Ropes Course, Eugene
Having a great educational institution such as University of Oregon in your midst has become a huge plus for meetings in Eugene, according to Janis Ross, CMP, vice president of convention and sports marketing for Travel Lane County, “We have such an amazing asset at the university because of the access to faculty members as speakers,” Ross says. “They have done a tremendous amount of scientific research, which is ideal for certain meetings. And because of the school, we are strong in sports and welcome sports scientists and doctors from around the world.
“Last summer, for instance, the Association Bone & Joint Surgeons, which usually meets in places like London and Paris, came to Eugene because of our athletic connection and our highly respected orthopedic facility, Slocum Center for Orthopedics and Sports Medicine.”
Not surprisingly, Eugene was recently named by Fast Company magazine as one of the Next Top 10 Cities for Tech Jobs. “We are known as Silicon Shire; we have really become a strong tech center, especially for the gaming industry,” Ross says.
This being Oregon, before or after a meeting, it’s time to head outdoors. “We have some of the best mountain biking in the country and we have the Pacific Tree Climbing Institute, which can actually take people up trees,” she says.
As for diversity, Ross says, “We have 4,600 sq. mi. in our area. You could be meeting at Hilton Eugene in the morning and by afternoon riding dune buggies in Oregon Dunes Recreation Area, an hour away. Or you could go an hour in the other direction to the Cascade Mountains for an afternoon of mountain biking.”
University of Oregon, Eugene
With all those attributes and the convenience of Eugene Airport (EUG), the city’s meeting infrastructure continues to grow. A half-dozen hotel projects are slated to be finished by 2017, and Rockbridge Capital recently purchased Hilton Eugene and Valley River Inn, both of which are expected to see extensive renovations. Also, a major renovation of the University of Oregon’s conference services space is slated to be completed in summer 2016.
Bend: Bikes, Beer & Mount Bachelor
Dubbed the “outdoor playground of the West,” Bend offers world-renowned rock climbing, hiking, biking, skiing, fly-fishing and trail running on the cutting-edge Bend Urban Trail System. For cerebral contrast, this is a hip, cosmopolitan mountain city attracting people from around the world who want to be inspired by its lifestyle. Bend has been named to many “top” lists, including Top 52 Destinations in the World to Visit in 2015 (The New York Times), Top 15 U.S. Cities with the Best Restaurant Scene (The Huffington Post) and Top Beer and Cycling Towns (USA Today).
In recent years, the city has been successful in attracting major sports events such as national bicycling championships, says Kevney Dugan, director of sales and sports development for Visit Bend.
“We are a world-class leisure destination, but when you look at The Riverhouse (The Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center), you see a world-class, LEED certified facility,” he says. “You can take a break from your meeting to walk a river trail or sit on a patio and drink a great craft beer.
“We offer incredible value relative to the quality of our overall experiences, especially for the growing number of groups looking for recreational activities.”
Mount Bachelor is just 20 miles west of Bend, and many meetings take advantage of that in winter by getting group lift tickets. In warmer seasons, they can do a naturalist hike, cave exploration or canoe tour of one of the lakes.
Bend’s reputation as one of America’s great beer towns will be recognized again when it hosts the annual meeting of the American Hop Growers Association in 2017; the city ranks at or near the top in craft breweries per capita and was a pioneer with its Bend Ale Trail.
Corvallis & Benton County: Small City, Big Welcome
This is a small city that packs a big-city wallop with its venue diversity. “I think that what makes Corvallis a great place for meetings is our wide selection of meeting spaces,” says Mary Pat Parker, executive director for Visit Corvallis. “We are a little city with many great locally owned restaurants, breweries, a cider house and several distilleries nearby. We have a historic downtown and a beautiful riverfront park—and Oregon State University makes the town vibrant.”
Willamette River, Corvallis
Groups meeting in the summer can take advantage of kayaking and rafting tours offered by Cascadia Expeditions on the Willamette River. “These tours can also include local beer or wine tastings along the way,” Parker says. “Cascadia Expeditions or Visit Corvallis can plan every detail, including lunches and dinners, unique experiences like wild honey tastings and custom chocolates as souvenirs. We also offer Segway tours of the downtown area that are sure to shake the dust off after a long meeting or conference.”
The name Corvallis is actually from the Latin phrase cor vallis, meaning “in the heart of the valley,” which perfectly describes the location of this city with its rolling hills, farmlands, pine forest and vineyards dotted all over Benton County. William L. Finley National Wildlife Refuge comprises 5,325 acres of protected land and 12 miles of trails.
Talk about variety. Visitors to Corvallis can choose from tours of wineries, breweries or distilleries; historical and educational tours; agri-tours; organic and sustainable farm tours; hiking and biking trails through the backcountry; and trips to the vital historic downtown, right on the Willamette River, with many shops, art galleries, restaurants and cafes. Groups can take a tour of Starker Forests to learn about forestry management or spend an evening at a show at the 800-seat Majestic Theater, which opened in 1913 as a vaudeville house.
Portland: Verb City
Coopers Hall, Portland
Portland is known as the Rose City, but according to Jeff Miller, president of Travel Portland, the city could also be called “verb city” because of all the options for activity. “Portland can curate the perfect experience for delegates from all conferences and meetings, regardless of industry,” Miller says. “They can shop, eat, taste, hike, read, play—the list is endless. With every boutique visit, every brewery tasting, every hike taken in our urban parks, every trip to Powell’s City of Books, it’s truly possible to discover a new side of Portland that suits any group or industry.”
The verbs “eat” and “taste” are central to Portland’s appeal, according to Miller.
“We have more than 600 food carts, not to mention just as many national-award-winning brick and mortar restaurants, and numerous local breweries, distilleries and urban wineries,” he says. “The food scene alone is enough to keep visitors busy for days.” In fact, The Washington Post recently named Portland Best Food City in America, which speaks to its quality and sheer variety of dining experiences.
With Oregon-based brands such as Nike, Keen and Columbia Sportswear, Portland has also become a shopping haven. “There is a nationally known ‘maker’ community that crafts unique artisan goods you won’t find anywhere else in the world,” Miller says. ”And with no food, beverage or sales tax, a dollar goes so much further in Portland.”
There is also the outdoors. More than 200 parks within the city’s lush borders provide trails and spaces to explore, Miller says. Also, Portland is an easy drive from Mount Hood, the ocean and Columbia Gorge.
Oregon Convention Center, Portland
“Aside from the extensive delegates experience to be had, there are so many reasons meeting planners should consider Portland as a repeat destination.” Miller says. “With 175 hotels and more than 20,000 hotel rooms—and 250,000 sq. ft. of conference space at Oregon Convention Center alone—there is always an opportunity to plan a new meeting experience in Portland.”
Portland's Newest Hot NeighborhoodPortland’s Central Eastside Industrial District, a short walk or transit ride from Oregon Convention Center, has everything from craft brews to fine dining and pingpong. Here are a few highlights, according to Visit Portland. Renata: The Oregonian’s 2015 Restaurant of the Year, Renata features contemporary Italian seasonal fare inspired by the diverse regional cuisines of Italy and the bounty of the Pacific Northwest. Coopers Hall: This is the city’s newest urban winery, with a twist: It is dedicated to keg production, making it the first winery of its kind in Oregon. It also offers 44 taps of wine, beer and cider—including more wine taps than any other winery in the region. Pips & Bounce: It started as a pingpong pop-up, doing parties across Portland, and now has a brick and mortar space that can accommodate 225 for private parties. Holocene: (pictured) Located in the old Best Auto Parts warehouse, this is a unique music and arts venue, nightclub and events space.
Foodies to Converge in PortlandFoodies from throughout the world will be gathering in Portland this month for 2016 FoodWorx: The Future of Food Conference, an annual forum that explores the unexpected and significant impact of food and drink on our everyday lives.
The event, which is expected to attract more than 300 attendees, will be held Feb. 20 at Smith Memorial Union building at Portland State University. The World Food Travel Association (WFTA), a nonprofit, nongovernmental organization and one of the world’s leading authorities on food and drink tourism, is sponsoring the conference.
Portland serves as a great host city, especially considering its bent toward farm-to-table restaurants, urban craft beer and wine production, and food truck blocks, which can be found in many neighborhoods.
“The fame that Portland has garnered in the past few years regarding its food and beverage experiences puts this city in somewhat of a class by itself for FoodWorx delegates,” says Erik Wolf, executive director of WFTA. “Even destinations without the playland of food and drink experiences that Portland offers can capitalize on food and beverage as attractions for meeting delegates, by accentuating locally sourced food and drink as part of the event’s offerings.”
FoodWorx, which was first offered in 2013, brings together a wide variety of thought leaders to discuss current issues in food and drink, and how they will impact the future and intersecting industries such as medicine, food packaging and distribution, service, climate and interior design. The 2016 event will feature 24 presentations by experts hailing from many different professions and geographical areas.
Participants also will be able to try samples from and meet with a wide variety of food and drink producers and related businesses. The event will conclude with the Taste of Cascadia Reception, featuring food and beverages from local providers.
Laster this year, WFTA is expected to release the largest worldwide food tourism study ever conducted. Designed by research specialists in food and drink, it is the first multinational research study about food and drink travelers, and the first food tourism research study that also measures interest in beverages, including beer, wine, distilled spirits and cider. Results of the study will expand on WFTA’s PsychoCulinary profiling methodology first developed in 2010. Destinations will be analyzed in the context of their PsychoCulinary profile.
Major Meeting Venues
Sits on 1,800 acres just east of Bend; eight suites and 67 cabins provide rustic elegance; two restaurants; 18-hole golf course; equestrian center and a poolside deck; 12,500 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Mount Bachelor Village Resort
Located near downtown Bend and the Old Mill District; 120 guest rooms; new conference center offers 8,000 sq. ft. of meeting and event space indoors and out.
World-class resort 15 miles south of Bend, in Sunriver; 25 guest rooms; four golf courses; tennis courts; kayak and canoe rentals; observatory and nature center; 44,600 sq. ft. of meeting space.
The Riverhouse Hotel & Convention Center
Located along the Deschutes River; 220 guest rooms and suites; championship golf course; 29,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor space; 2,000-square-foot outdoor deck.
Corvallis & Benton County
Corvallis Country Club
2,800-square-foot ballroom features vaulted ceilings and floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the golf course; the room is divisible into three smaller sections; new outdoor Fairway Terrace holds up to 400.
Oregon State University
LaSells Stewart Center features 1,200-seat auditorium; CH2M Hill Alumni Center has 40,000-square-foot meeting facility.
Eugene, Cascades & Coast
Driftwood Shores Resort & Conference Center
Located on the coast in Florence, close to the famed Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area; 136 guest rooms; 3,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Centrally located hotel adjacent to Hult Center for Performing Arts; two blocks from the Amtrak station; 269 guest rooms; more than 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Inn at the 5th
Boutique downtown hotel in Eugene; 70 guest rooms; near public market; 3,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 1,400-square-foot Maple Room.
University of Oregon Erb Memorial Student Union
Set to open July 2016; will feature 23,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; ballroom will accommodate up to 800, multifunction space for up to 300; open-air market; pub; catering.
Valley River Inn
Located on the Willamette River in Eugene; 257 guest rooms, with private balconies and patios; 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; near 12 miles of paved trails for walking, running and biking.
Courtyard by Marriott Portland City Center
Boutique downtown hotel; 256 guest rooms; 8,283 sq. ft. of meeting space; complimentary Wi-Fi in guest rooms; LEED Gold certified.
Hilton Portland & Executive Tower
A short light-rail ride from Oregon Convention Center; largest convention hotel in the state, with 66,000 sq. ft. of meeting space divided among two buildings; 782 guest rooms; indoor lap pool; 24-hour fitness center.
Located in the Lloyd District; 3,600-square-foot Cosmopolitan Grand Ballroom offers sweeping view of the city through floor-to-ceiling windows; ballroom can be broken into small salons.
Set in a 1909 landmark building; 127 guest rooms; fitness center features new equipment with cable TV on each machine; 3,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Oregon Convention Center
Largest convention center in the Pacific Northwest; one of two convention centers in the United States with LEED Platinum certification; 255,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibition space.
Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront
On the banks of the Willamette River; views of Mount Hood; 506 guest rooms; 44,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including pillar-less ballroom; 15,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space; near public transportation.
Residence Inn by Marriott/Pearl District
223-room property that opened in 2014; first hotel in the vibrant Pearl District; one block from Portland Streetcar and near Amtrak’s Union Station; 4,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including Everett Ballroom for up to 200 guests.
Formerly Washington High School; reborn as a mixed-use and performing arts center; offers an extensive rooftop deck with 360-degree views of the city; deck, auxiliary rooms, halls and auditorium can be rented for a wide range of private events.
30-acre sports and entertainment district; 20,000-seat Moda Center is home to NBA Portland Trail Blazers; Veterans Memorial Coliseum has 12,000-seat arena and 40,000 sq. ft. of exhibition space.
Historic property reopened in March; comprised of two buildings, dating to 1909 and 1932; 23,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; popular Jackknife Bar; local products featured throughout the hotel.
The Allison Inn & Spa
In Newberg, a 45-minute drive from Portland; LEED Gold certified; 85 guest rooms and suites; 12,000 sq. ft. of function space; Jory restaurant features an 800-label wine list.