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Reenergize on the Water

Seattle’s Puget Sound lends a lively energy and allure to meetings, events, and retreats

By Mary Subialka

Puget Sound
Lobby at Seattle’s Edgewater Hotel on Elliott Bay || Courtesy of Edgewater Hotel

Water draws us in. It inspired Leonardo da Vinci to say, “Water is the driving force of all nature.” And while being on the water galvanizes spiritual wonderment, it can also lend an unmistakable energy and excitement—plus unique venues and activities—to meetings and events held at water’s edge, such as those along Seattle’s Puget Sound.

“One of Seattle’s greatest assets is the natural beauty from nearly every spot in the city, especially the sweeping vistas of Elliott Bay,” says Kelly Saling, senior vice president and chief sales officer at Visit Seattle. “The views are just stunning and give you a distinctive sense of place. We want visitors to know they’ve experienced Seattle when they travel here for a business event—[and] one of the best ways to accomplish this is by integrating a venue, activity, or dinner along the waterfront.”

Elegance on Puget

A classic waterfront venue—and the city’s only over-the-water hotel—is The Edgewater Hotel. The property sits directly on Puget Sound with the city behind it and the Olympic Mountains to the west. Originally built for the 1962 Seattle World’s Fair, the luxury hotel features dining at its signature eatery, Six Seven Restaurant, perched atop Pier 67; 223 waterfront and city-view guest rooms and suites; and a storied history of hosting legendary musicians including The Beatles, Neil Young, and the Foo Fighters. The hotel has nearly 10,000 square feet of flexible event space across 10 rooms to accommodate both small- and large-scale meetings. The largest is the 3,563-square-foot Olympic Ballroom, which can host up to 220 people and features floor-to-ceiling windows that afford panoramic views of Elliott Bay, the Olympic Peninsula, and the islands of Puget Sound. Attendees will enjoy even more views of the city skyline, including the Space Needle, in the 600-square-foot Terrace Room, and the hotel dishes up a variety of food options from breakfast to dessert.

Adjacent to The Edgewater, Bell Harbor International Conference Center offers nearly 100,000 square feet of waterfront conference, meeting, and special event space for groups from 10 to 5,000. The 300-seat Bay Auditorium features over 5,000 square feet of space, and the Rooftop Plaza’s amenities include views of Seattle, the Olympic Mountains, and Mount Rainier. Breakthrough Energy, the Bill Gates-led effort to spark climate technology innovation, held its inaugural summit here last fall.

History Along the Shoreline

For more intimate events, check out Seattle’s first neighborhood, Pioneer Square, established in 1852. This trendy area is home to historic architecture, a thriving arts community, standout shops, top-rated restaurants, and lively nightlife—all within a square mile. In one of the neighborhood’s historic buildings is Feast Pioneer Square, an intimate event venue that can host seated dinners for 54 guests or standing receptions for 80—and all event-planning services from catering to tables and music are handled in-house. The space’s original hardwood floors complement the white walls with warm red accents for a charming setting.

Pioneer Square is also home to Damn The Weather bar and restaurant, which Bon Appétit described as having “unfussy cocktails and unbelievably good bar food.” Attendees can stop in for craft cocktails, wine, and beer, and order from a menu of delicacies ranging from local oysters served with a house hot sauce to steak frites and grass-fed beef burgers.

Just west of the Ballard neighborhood, about 14 minutes from downtown Seattle, is the Golden Gardens Bathhouse in the iconic Golden Gardens Park. Built in the 1930s, its waterfront location offers a memorable backdrop for meetings, events, seminars, or parties with Puget Sound’s sandy beaches and the Olympic Mountains in the distance. The Main Hall features a cathedral ceiling with skylights that flood the room with natural light, and can accommodate up to 140 seated meeting-goers and up to 295 standing. Attendees can enjoy a game of volleyball on the beach, stroll along the coastline, hike forest trails, or fish from the pier. There is also a boat launch at the south end of the park.

The Alki Beach Park Bathhouse, located along Alki Beach in West Seattle, also provides beachy ambience for events. The building affords views of the water and mountains, and the outdoor lawn space provides opportunity for a variety of activities. The Main Hall accommodates up to 84 people for a seated dinner and 100 standing, and the painting room can be included for additional space. The venue is also within walking distance of the many shops, restaurants, and activities along Alki Beach.

Puget Sound
The Resort at Port Ludlow on Puget Sound || Photo by Jeff Caven

A Scenic Getaway

Bordering Olympic National Park and a little under a two-hour drive (or a shorter ferry ride) from Seattle, The Resort at Port Ludlow is a retreat from the ordinary. “When meeting and event planners are searching for the perfect off-site venue, The Resort at Port Ludlow stands out for its scenic location at the gateway to the Olympic Peninsula,” says Jessie Short, marketing coordinator with the resort. The property features a 37-room boutique waterfront inn, inspired by New England’s classic coastal summer homes, and meeting spaces and room accommodations for groups up to 50. There is a 300-slip marina and an 18-hole championship golf course with rolling fairways and views of the Hood Canal, Ludlow Bay, and mountains. The Fireside Restaurant looks out on Ludlow Bay, and its daily menu features local farm-to-table Pacific Northwest cuisine.

For team-building activities, gather your group for cooking classes, including pasta making and an “Iron Chef”-style cook off. Adventure seekers can explore the bay and twin islands in a kayak or a stand-up paddleboard. On terra firma, play lawn games, hike or bike more than 30 miles of trails, or tour a nearby cidery or winery. Of course, guests can also simply relax in a chair on the beach, soak in the mesmerizing views, and enjoy the water’s energy to recharge.

With its workforce solely remote, Tune, a partner marketing company, brought together more than 40 people from all over the world to the resort in October 2022 for its annual retreat. Employees embraced their experience with kayaking, biking, golf, and a cidery tour.

“One takeaway is that there is no substitute for the time spent in between presentations, team meetings, and one-on-ones,” says Cameron Stewart, Tune general manager. “Relationships are built in the margins of what we do every day, and we were able to set aside time to allow those relationships to form and prosper.”