Looking to venture off the beaten path of the I-5 corridor? Head to the high desert of Central Oregon, where you’ll find all of the views and activities—plus 300 days of sunshine—to delight your meeting and event attendees. From the 1880s Western-town atmosphere of Sisters to the lava fields where Apollo astronauts suited up to practice the moonwalk, Central Oregon is a place where you can let your imagination run wild.
“Central Oregon has some superb locations for meetings and corporate retreats of any size, but it’s the after-hours offerings that make this a truly exceptional place to rally your team,” says Ted Taylor, communications and content development director for the Central Oregon Visitors Association. “Everything outside of your meeting is amazing here. You can be done with your meeting at 4:30 and be up at a high alpine lake before 5.”
The area encompasses the communities of Bend, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Redmond, Sisters and Sunriver.
Getting Down to Business
For accommodations, check out Tetherow in Bend, Oregon. The boutique resort offers 50 guest rooms, seven five-bedroom vacation homes, two on-site restaurants, a popular pub, a seasonal swimming pool and an 18-hole golf course. The resort’s Pavilion was completed in 2016 and offers nearly 4,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and floor-to-ceiling retractable windows that open onto a large terrace. It also includes an event lawn with fire pits and fire tables, all overlooking the golf course and Cascade Range.
“We can do a whiskey tasting out by the fire pit or a mixology challenge, where guests are broken out into teams, given a set of ingredients and challenged to create their own cocktails,” says Kristi DiTullio, Tetherow’s director of sales.
The 18-hole golf course was designed by the award-winning golf course architect David McLay Kidd and has garnered national praise for its striking design and layout. But even nongolfers can enjoy the course thanks to the resort’s fleet of 30 GolfBoards. “They’re a cross between a surfboard and a motorized skateboard,” DiTullio explains. “We can set up a tour of the golf course for nongolfers who want to see the course, because it’s so beautiful.” DiTullio’s team can even set up a slalom GolfBoard course for timed race competitions.
When it’s time to venture outside of the resort, Deschutes National Forest is across the street, and downtown Bend, with shops, restaurants and breweries, is seven minutes away by car. DiTullio says that, while the property can accommodate 150–300 individuals, it’s a perfect size for an event with 50–150 guests.
If you’re planning something larger, the Riverhouse on the Deschutes, also in Bend, offers 30,000 square feet of flexible indoor meeting space and an additional 11,000 square feet of outdoor event space. Riverhouse completed a $10 million renovation of its meetings spaces and 221 guest rooms in May 2016, says Marketing Manager Sarah Romish. She notes that the new look is “very modern Northwesty but not over the top.”
Head southwest approximately 20 minutes to Sunriver, Oregon, and you’ll find Sunriver Resort, with more than 44,000 square feet of flexible indoor and outdoor meeting space. Resort accommodations include 212 Lodge Village guest rooms and suites with stone gas fireplaces and private decks, and 33 River Lodge guest rooms, along with rental homes and condominiums. The resort sprawls across 3,300 acres, and includes four golf courses and a ropes course. The resort also offers a marina, where guests can rent a variety of craft to float on the river, bike rentals to explore 40 miles of paved trails, and stables with guided horseback tours and riding lessons.
If your event requires even more meeting space, the Deschutes Fairgrounds and Expo Center in Redmond is hard to beat. Less than 1 mile from the Redmond Municipal Airport—which is served by several major carriers, including Alaska Airlines, United, Delta and American Airlines—the Expo Center has more than 200,000 square feet of flexible meeting space and an additional 279,000 square feet of arena space. “Our motto is that we really can do it all,” says Roxia Thornton Todoroff, director of sales and marketing. The Expo Center has on-site catering services capable of handling everything from a continental breakfast to a black-tie dinner. Centrally located, the beautifully landscaped fairgrounds have nearly 6,000 hotel rooms within a 20-mile radius.
Turning Up the Fun
Of course, destination meetings should include more than business on the agenda. Guests will want to venture out, and when they do, they’ll find plenty to keep themselves busy.
Wanderlust Tours in Bend offers everything from moonlight canoe trips to caving trips to brewery tours, says marketing manager Casey Lamont. “We can do pretty much anything that groups are interested in. And all of our tours are naturalist-guided, so you’re going to get information along the way about the natural and cultural history.” Group size is limited only by transportation. Wanderlust can accommodate as many as 100 passengers in its own vehicles, but will work with larger groups that rent charter buses.
Sun Country Tours boasts four different whitewater rafting tours on three rivers. Operations manager Chris Smith says the company offers as many as 12 departures daily (at the height of the season) for whitewater trips on the region’s major rivers. It also operates a kiosk to rent float tubes and stand-up paddleboards at Riverbend Park in Bend, where adventurers can either dive into the thrills of the man-made Bend Whitewater Park or take a more leisurely, sedate floating trip along the Deschutes River. Sun Country has a partnership with the Mt. Bachelor Ski Resort, which offers skiing and snowboarding in the winter, and scenic lift rides and sunset dinners in the summer months, along with mountain biking, hiking and disc golf.
And if the area’s hiking, biking, skiing, paddling, canoeing, cave exploring, golfing, fly-fishing and snowshoeing don’t appeal to your group, not to worry. You can always opt for a self-guided craft-beer tasting tour of the Bend Ale Trail—the largest beer trail in the West. We’ll drink to that!