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Convene in the Gorge

With a renovated conference center and abundant access to the great outdoors, the Hood River Inn makes for a memorable venue for events.

By Amanda Christensen

Situated an hour east of Portland and just 30 minutes from the looming Mount Hood in the Columbia River Gorge National Scenic Area is the 194-room riverside Best Western Plus Hood River Inn. With a multitude of floor-to-ceiling windows for abundant natural light, Susan Lutton, the business director for the hotel says, “The decor reflects the feeling of the Northwest.”

Experience riverside views with outdoor dining CREDIT Michael Hanson

Meeting planners have 15,000 square feet of space across nine meeting rooms to choose from when hosting an event, from the intimate Shoreline Room, Deck, and Patio for up to 54 people theater style, the modern Columbia Room for up to 240 people, to the remodeled Columbia Gorge Conference Center, which finished up major renovations mid-2020 and recently welcomed larger groups back for gatherings.

“The conference center itself has been a dream of mine for a really long time since I arrived at the hotel,” Lutton notes, referencing her 30-year anniversary with the property last year. “We had a large meeting room, but we didn’t really have adequate space for vendors—which so often are responsible for the financial success of [a] conference.”

The updated conference center is home to the Atrium Lobby, which is good for registration, exhibit tables, or additional reception space; the new Trillium Room, boasting 1,890 square feet and a capacity of 179 guests along with the ability to be broken down into two smaller breakout rooms; and the main Gorge Room, which can host up to 325 attendees theater style.

The Atrium Lobby CREDIT Josh Partee for Yost Grube Hall Architecture

“The renovation itself is gorgeous … soaring ceilings and really nice natural light, but I think the other thing that groups enjoy is that they can have that entire space to themselves,” Lutton adds.

The on-site Riverside Restaurant and Lounge offers two patios for endless views of the river gorge and easy access to a delicious menu of Italian cuisine and an “amazing wine program,” Lutton says, noting that wine tastings are a regular occurrence for visitors.

When attendees find themselves with free time, the property has a heated pool on the riverbank that is open year-round to experience the natural ambiance of the gorge with Mount Hood in sight. There is also a walkable riverside path that guests can take down to the local marina, a nearby waterfront recreation area, and downtown Hood River which is home to six blocks of fun shops, breweries, and group activities.

Take a dip in the year-round heated shoreline pool CREDIT Rountree Rouse

“We are also one of the nation’s largest exporter of pears—lots of apples and cherries, too,” Lutton adds. “Hood River began as an orchard town, so there’s a tour called the Fruit Loop … that includes wineries, breweries [and fruit stands]. I find that people come from [all over the] United States to see the gorge, so if you can do that and get some business done in a meeting at the same time, that’s a good thing.”