WHERE TO MEET, STAY, AND PLAY
Meet at The Allison Inn & Spa
Just a 45-minute drive from downtown Portland, in the heart of Oregon's Willamette Valley wine country, this luxurious, LEED Gold-certified 85-room property is an accessible, relaxing retreat for smaller meetings and groups, with 12,000 square feet of meeting space and a 15,000-square-foot eco spa. More than 200 wineries are within a 20-minute drive of the property, as is the nearby 18-hole Chehalem Glenn golf course.
Stay at The Nines Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel, Portland
This 331-room, atrium-style, LEED-Silver property in the heart of downtown Portland occupies the top nine floors of the city's historic Meier & Frank building, with plenty of natural light throughout the hotel. The property also has 419 specially commissioned pieces of contemporary art, as well as a restaurant, Urban Farmer, that specializes in using local ingredients.
Play at Forktown Food Tours
Smaller groups of 12 to 14 can sample some of the city's finest foods and drinks, as well as do a bit of sightseeing, on these three-hour tours of Portland's most popular neighborhoods -- Downtown & Pearl; North Mississippi Avenue; and Alphabet District. Custom group tours are also available.
When John Rubsamen, director of meetings and events for Washington, D.C.-based Americans for the Arts (AFTA), looks for meeting destinations, he pays close attention to cities that make it easy for attendees to simply explore. "We want our attendees to really experience the city we're meeting in, so we look at cities that have great restaurants, great local attractions, a wonderful art scene, and are walkable and accessible to people," he explains. "Portland, OR, for one, always exceeds our requirements."
In November 2013, AFTA hosted its annual three-day National Arts Marketing Project Conference (NAMPC) in Portland for 661 attendees -- the conference's second-largest attendance ever --and Portland, says Rubsamen, proved to be an ideal meeting destination.
"Portland repeatedly has been a great advocate for the arts and our organization, so it was a natural fit for our group," he says.
Michael Smith, vice president of convention sales for Travel Portland, names the city's museums, symphony, and nightlife as just a few of the attractions that make it a good fit for groups. Not only that, but "We've got great hotels, and an excellent convention center," he adds.
Rubsamen's conference was hosted at the Hilton Portland & Executive Tower in the heart of downtown Portland, and a mere block away from the city's efficient MAX Light Rail transit system. "The city is very accessible through MAX Light Rail, taxis, and walking," says Rubsamen. In September 2015, the city expects to open a brand-new bridge solely for bike and pedestrian traffic.
Last month, Portland also welcomed its first Pearl District hotel, the 223-room Residence Inn Portland Downtown/Pearl District, which has approximately 2,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and is conveniently located near the Portland Streetcar and Amtrak's Union Station.
In March, the Oregon Convention Center, the largest convention facility in the Pacific Northwest, also received LEED Platinum certification. The center, which first opened in 1990, was expanded in 2003 and, in 2013, underwent approximately $75,000 in upgrades. It hosts an average of 400 events and more than 500,000 attendees annually.
Portland, says Smith, is also a very affordable meetings destination, making it easier for planners to keep within their meeting budgets. "When you talk about Portland, one thing that planners are always surprised about is how doggone affordable we are," he says. "There is no sales, beverage, or food tax. We're saving planners and organizations anywhere from 15 to 20 percent right off the top because of that. It's a very affordable destination."
Variety and Accessibility
Another notable distinction about Portland is its easy accessibility to a variety of different landscapes and experiences, says Smith. "Portland, like every city in the Pacific Northwest, is all about the outdoors. Within an hour from here, we can get you to the Pacific. In 45 minutes, you can be on top of Mount Hood."
In recent years, Portland's food-and-drink scene has gained international acclaim. One of the city's most popular nicknames is "Beervana," a nod to Portland's position as the beer capital of the world, with some 53 breweries within its city limits alone. In 2010, the city topped Budget Travel's list for the "World's Best Street Food," thanks to the more than 600 food carts parked throughout the city, often in "pods" of multiple vendors. The City of Roses is also home to a coffee scene that rivals Seattle's and is the birthplace of Stumptown Coffee.
"We're probably best known for restaurants," says Smith. "We started the food-cart craze, and we have more James Beard Foundation award-winning chefs, per capita, than any other city in America. Our food scene is just phenomenal."
For AFTA's conference, the city's excellent dining scene was a major draw for attendees, says Rubsamen. "We do a lot of dine arounds during our conference," he notes. Some of the attendees' favorites, he added, included 23Hoyt, Bar Avignon, Irving Street Kitchen, and Paragon Restaurant & Bar, to name a few.
Noting another reputation which the city holds, Rubsamen says planners need not worry about the weather. "One thing that people always get nervous about is the rain in the Pacific Northwest," he says. "But we've had gloriously sunny days there and, even in the rain, you're never prevented from going to where you need to be. Portland is a great city to be in, no matter what the weather is. There's a bit of something for everybody."
Smith encourages planners to visit Portland to see all that the city has to offer, and to let Travel Portland assist them in any way possible. "Please contact us. That's why we're here. Our services are complimentary; we have no vested interest in what hotel you go to. We just want you to be in Portland. Let us help you. Once you get here, you'll fall in love with it."