The northwest region of the U.S. is bristling with new group-friendly hotels set among spectacular scenery, such as the northern lights as viewed in Fairbanks, Alaska (above). Among myriad activities, there are whales to be watched in Juneau, Alaska, and rapids to ride in Boise, Idaho.
Evergreen State Gaming
At the beginning of this year at the 370-room Tulalip Resort Casino, about 30 minutes north of Seattle, all 30,000 square feet of meeting space was closed for a renovation that was completed in March. The property's event facilities include a 15,000-square-foot ballroom, a 4,800-square-foot junior ballroom and 6,000 square feet of pre- and post-function space.
The meeting-space revamp was designed to complement last year's guest-room renovation at the Native American-run property. That work added new furnishings and USB power outlets to the rooms, along with Bluetooth-enabled media hubs, 55-inch smart TVs and instant-access high-speed WiFi. For downtime, the casino resort offers an indoor pool and the T Spa with 16 treatment rooms.
A new 150-room hotel is being added to the resort's ancillary casino space about a mile south of the main facility. The gaming area is being redone to be in harmony with the new property, which is scheduled to debut in January 2020 with about 10,000 square feet of additional meeting space.
Good to Know
CONVENTION CENTER: Boise Centre
; exhibit space, 25,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 29. (208) 336-8900; boisecentre.comTAXES:
Room tax, 7%; sales tax, 6%; total tax on hotel rooms, 13% CVB: Boise Convention and Visitors Bureau
, (208) 344-7777 or (800) 635-5240
The Residence Inn Boise Downtown City Center opened last December with 180 apartment-style suites. The property features 4,748 square feet of meeting space, the Lobby Bar & Grill and a third-floor roof deck that can be used for cocktail events.
The Boise Centre's original West building is getting soft upgrades, including new carpeting. Boise Centre East opened in summer 2017, adding 36,000 square feet of space, including eight breakout rooms.
For spillovers from the Boise Center's full-service hotels, the city has welcomed the 150-room Hyatt Place Boise Downtown, with a coffee bar/cocktail lounge, an outdoor pool and 2,400 square feet of meeting space.
Properties with meeting space include the 303-room Riverside Hotel, 252-room Grove Hotel, 180-room Residence Inn Boise Downtown City Center, 112-room Hotel 43 and 110-room Inn at 500 Capitol.
At Seattle's Center
Ground was broken in August on a long-awaited expansion to Seattle's Washington State Convention Center
, whose space will be doubled when the new Summit building opens in 2022.
A headquarters hotel for the WSCC will open this December. The 1,260-room Hyatt Regency Seattle
will have 103,000 square feet of its own meeting space, and the property will seek LEED Gold certification.
The area offers some exciting white-water rafting, most notably on the Payette River, with everything from glassy smooth spots to class IV rapids. Cascade Rafting, founded in 1985 and still run by the Long family, welcomes groups of up to 400 to ride the river (usually tackling the class II and III rollers), followed by a first-class barbecue back at home base. Kayaking, a ropes course, zip lines and team-building activities also are available. (208) 793-2221
One of the country's top facilities for rehabilitating raptors is the World Center for Birds of Prey, run by the Peregrine Fund. A quick drive outside of town, the center is near the Snake River Canyon, perched on a hilltop overlooking the high-desert plains. When M&C recently visited the place, a six-month-old milky eagle owl, the largest owl of Africa, was a big draw, along with condors, bateleur eagles and a resident bald eagle. Call for event and demonstration details for groups. (208) 362-8687
Getting Here and There
Boise Airport, approximately six miles from the city's downtown; transfer cost by taxi, $15; many area hotels offer complimentary shuttle service
Good to Know
CONVENTION CENTER: Carlson Center
; exhibit space, 47,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 12. (907) 451-7800TAXES:
Room tax, 8%; sales tax, 0%; total tax on hotel rooms, 8%CVB:Explore Fairbanks
, (907) 456-5774
Viewing the aurora borealis (northern lights) is a favorite pastime in Fairbanks, which is under the "auroral oval," a ring-shaped zone where the activity is concentrated. The season runs from Aug. 21 to April 21.
Options include the 400-room Westmark Fairbanks Hotel & Conference Center, 305-room Wedgewood Resort, 208-room Pike's Waterfront Lodge and 113-room La Quinta Inn & Suites Fairbanks Airport.
The Chena River runs through the city and past the Morris Thompson Cultural and Visitors Center, where the history and stories of interior Alaska's native populations are celebrated. Groups of up to 200 are hosted with local music, dance, "Taste of Alaska" meals and more. (907) 459-3700
The 600-room Hyatt Regency Portland
, opening in early 2020 across the plaza from the Oregon Convention Center, will feature 32,000 square feet of meeting space, a restaurant and a bar.
Fine dining in Fairbanks can be found by stepping into Lavelle's Bistro. Local Angus beef and fresh catch highlight the menu, and the equally impressive wine list features 13 champagnes alone. The restaurant offers buyouts for up to 150 people. (907)-450-0555
Getting Here and There
Fairbanks International Airport, 5 miles from downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, Lyft and Uber, about $14.
Good to Know
CONVENTION CENTER:Juneau Arts and Culture Center's Centennial Hall
; exhibit space, 14,285 square feet; meeting rooms, 7. (907) 586-5283
Room tax, 7%; city sales tax, 5%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12%CONTACT:
Travel Juneau, (888) 586-2201 or (907) 586-2201
A $102 million project rebuilt the Father Andrew P. Kashevaroff Library, Archives and Museum Building, the state's main library, from the ground up. The first floor of the facility features galleries that hold up to 350 standing, a 120-seat lecture hall and an open clerestory atrium that hosts up to 240 for a reception.
The Goldbelt Hotel is now the 106-room Four Points by Sheraton Juneau. While the property has no meeting space, the hotel, which was renovated in 2017, is across the street from Centennial Hall, part of the Juneau Arts and Culture Center, which serves as the city's convention center.
The 200-room Westmark Baranof Hotel is undergoing an extensive renovation. The top-to-bottom project is touching all guest rooms, with the dining area already completed. The property has more than 5,000 square feet of meeting room space.
Alaska Airlines is the city's regular carrier; Delta has service to Juneau between May and August.
Properties include the 200-room Westmark Baranof, 106-room Four Points by Sheraton and 64-room Prospector Hotel.
When the afternoon doldrums strike, pick up attendees' spirits with delights from Boise's Stil Ice Cream Shop
. The choices are custom-crafted and include some "booze-infused" flavors, all made with local ingredients. Book the full-service ice-cream cart or order liquor and ice-cream tastings for an event. (208) 953-7007
Hangar on the Wharf, sitting on the Gastineau Channel of the Gulf of Alaska, is a cozy place to relax and enjoy the view after a long (or very short, depending on the time of year) day of sessions. There's usually a selection of more than 20 beers on tap and fresh fish on the menu. The restaurant's ballroom seats up to 64 people for dinner and holds 100 for a reception. (907) 586-5018
Several captains keep their boats idling in the Gastineau Channel, waiting to take groups of 15 to 80 people out whale watching. To head out onto the water, contact Juneau Whale Watch, Allen Marine Tours, Dolphin Jet Boat Tours or Jayleen's Alaska to arrange an opportunity to see humpback whales (the species seen most often), as well as orcas, minke whales, seals and porpoises.
Getting Here and There
Juneau International Airport, about 5 miles from downtown. Travel cost by taxi, Lyft and Uber, about $15