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A Bright Future for the Pacific Northwest

By Teresa Bergen

New hotels and other venues with meeting spaces, expanded conference centers, and team-building opportunities—from playing laser tag to relaxing in a 12-person rooftop hot tub—are all on the agenda for the new year. Many sites and developers have spent their pandemic downtime plotting out improved meeting spaces and experiences. Here are a few worth looking into for your 2023 events.

Big Sites on Seattle’s Horizon

The Seattle Convention Center’s massive new Summit building opens in January 2023. The expansion will double their capacity, adding 248,450 square feet of exhibit space, a 58,000-square-foot ballroom, and 62 meeting rooms. The project is going for LEED Gold certification with a long list of eco features, including reclaimed wood, plant-based ceiling tiles, and dehydration machines to reduce food waste and turn it into fertilizer.

The Olympic Peninsula will open the Field Arts & Events Hall in Port Angeles in 2023. The 41,000-square-foot waterfront facility with a 500-seat auditorium is within walking distance of the town’s top hotels. “In addition to creating new opportunities for year-round vibrancy and economic growth, the Field Hall campus will transform a vacant property in downtown Port Angeles into a campus full of arts, culture, sciences, and environmental stewardship,” says Nathan West, Port Angeles city manager and a Field Arts & Events Hall board member. “This transformational downtown development will make a long-term positive impact for generations to come.”

Fresh on the Scene

For food and wine enthusiasts, a meeting held at the new Amaterra Winery in Portland, Oregon, is a dream come true. Opened in January 2022, the 12-acre vineyard features a chef-driven restaurant and can accommodate 175 to 300 guests—and the outdoor event lawn offers gorgeous valley views.

Across the river from Portland in Vancouver, Washington, two new hotels are taking advantage of the city’s revitalized Columbia riverfront. The AC Hotel Vancouver Waterfront, which opened in June 2022, has 11,500 square feet of meeting space and features striking floor-to-ceiling windows. Hotel Indigo, Vancouver’s first boutique hotel, has 8,551 square feet of adjustable meeting space and 138 guest rooms. Both hotels are a short walk from the Vancouver Convention Centre.

Seattle’s new Astra Hotel features 5,000 square feet of meeting space. In keeping with the high-tech reputation of the Astra’s neighborhood, an on-site expert is available for audiovisual needs. A gorgeous rooftop space can host private events and features in-house catering from a professional culinary staff.

Victoria, British Columbia, has some new draws for the meetings crowd—already a darling city home to tea shops and views of colorful gardens. Inspired by Japanese architecture, the Esquimalt Gorge Park Pavilion boasts 6,000 square feet of meeting space on two levels. The second-floor reception hall offers panoramic views of the Gorge Waterway. The Craigflower Community Centre is slated to open in 2023 with 10,000 square feet of event space, a performing arts hall, meeting rooms, and a catering kitchen. As a community center, the space will host an array of events and activities.

For meetings further north, the 146-room Aloft Anchorage can accommodate up to 240 people in 3,000 square feet of event space—and its free airport shuttle is a plus for planners.

Get Out and Get Curious

In 2023, meetings and events will begin extending beyond conventional places and into some unexpected venues. Issaquah, Washington, will host the Washington Festivals and Events Association in fall 2023 and hold breakout sessions in small businesses and meeting spaces in its historic downtown. “Too many times when we go to conferences we’re locked in a hotel for meetings, and we never get to experience the city that we’re in,” says Bruce Skinner, executive director of Washington Festivals and Events Association. “By scheduling breakout sessions around town, people get out of the typical hotel meeting room and are able to enjoy the amenities of the host city.”

Participants might find themselves playing laser tag at the new Arena Sports Family Entertainment Center or planning strategy in the Pickering Barn, a venue that was once a part of Issaquah’s largest dairy farm.

Secure your small event by hosting it at the recently opened Museum of North Vancouver, which documents the history of regional indigenous populations. The coolest space is the Streetcar 153 Lobby, where guests can check out the immaculately restored—down to period advertisements—1912 electric streetcar that served North Vancouver until 1947.

For a more casual vibe, host an event at the new CRAFT Victoria Harbour on Vancouver Island. Guests will enjoy an all-season patio, waterfront views, games area, and an outdoor fireplace while they choose between 110 draft beers on tap.

A Little Something Extra

Sometimes it’s the special touches that make a meeting memorable. The new Humbird boutique hotel, part of Idaho’s Schweitzer resort, will soon open a rooftop hot tub for 12 people. A full-service spa is also coming to Schweitzer soon.

In Seattle, new restaurant Lakeside South Lake Union offers waterfront private dining and events for groups up to 150, with a new 200-guest banquet facility coming in 2023. To make the evening legendary, pair your group’s dinner with a private charter on one of Waterways Cruises’ luxurious yachts.

At Alyeska Resort, 40 miles south of Anchorage, guests can alternate between the hot and cold pools in Alaska’s only Nordic spa, while surrounded by the northernmost rainforest.

Make the Most of Winter’s Snowy Scene

In Wallace, Idaho, you can hold a confer- ence at the Wallace Inn, then shuttle guests in the hotel’s 15-passenger van to Lookout Pass, where the skiable terrain will nearly double in size this winter.

The iconic Lake Quinault Lodge on the Olympic Peninsula has introduced Rainforest Renewal, which is a team-building activity in the lush rainforest surrounding the lodge. Or, attendees can participate in a guided snowshoe trek at nearby Hurricane Ridge.

“Walking in nature helps to revitalize our guests,” says Chehale Alexander, an interpretive guide at Lake Quinault Lodge. “Instead of traditional spa treatments, a meditative walk within the dense rainforest or along trails among moss-draped maple trees allows our meeting planners and guests to detox in an environment that is disconnected from the modern world.”

As Pacific Northwesterners know, winter can be challenging. The Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in Vancouver, British Columbia provides remedy in its 2,000-capacity meeting space with light therapy. Light shows—including Canyon Lights—brightened the clouds in winter 2022 and Love Lights will shine in February 2023, showcasing stunning light arrangements among the trees.

Several meeting venues offer excellent guided programs. At Fairmont Chateau Whistler, the Whistler Experience guides lead attendees on local outings like snowshoeing, ice skating, or ski tours.

The Pacific Northwest has much on the horizon for 2023, and many properties encourage groups to take advantage of the snow-filled backdrops and frosty streetscapes for events that will go the extra mile. Whether it’s experiencing a brand-new venue or relaxing in a Nordic spa, attendees are sure to warm up and welcome the new year this winter.