Unique venues in the Columbia Gorge, Part 2: East Gorge

Interior hallway with tables set up for wedding or event, in front of big glass window with view of Columbia Gorge
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center (from their website)

Hello, folks. Last time we explored unique venues on the west side of the Columbia Gorge–the area from Troutdale OR and Washougal WA to the west to Hood River OR and Bingen/White Salmon WA on the east, the “wet side” of the Gorge. Today we head further east, where damp Cascadia transitions into High Desert. We’ll explore event venues in the Columbia Gorge east of Hood River and Bingen/White River to the east end of the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area in Biggs Junction OR and Maryhill WA. Many venues can be found in The Dalles, Oregon, the largest city in the area.

Interior hall space with machinery and lighting hanging from ceiling
Sunshine Mill
Grassy amphitheater on the side of a grain silo
Sunshine Mill

Sunshine Mill Sitting at the east edge of downtown The Dalles, this unique venue occupies what is the tallest building in all of the Gorge. This former mill was owned by Sunshine Baking Company and the wheat milled within was used to make Cheez-Its! Nowadays it is home to two wineries, Quenett and Copa Di Vino. The interior still has some of the industrial remains of the mill. The exterior has a sunken amphitheater. You can rent their indoor or outdoor spaces for weddings and other special events.

Place-set, draped tables outdoor, with a view of the Columbia Gorge
Maryhill Museum of Art (from their website)

Maryhill Museum of Art At the very east end of the Gorge and just west of the community of Maryhill, Washington, this grand museum was initially constructed as a residence for businessman Samuel Hill. When his family didn’t want to live “in the middle of nowhere”, it became a museum instead. The museum features an eclectic collection, including a collection donated by Queen Marie of Romania, sculptures by Rodin, and indigenous art. And it’s also a great place to have an event. The M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust Education Center features a meeting room that holds up to 75 seated and 100 standing. The exterior is also available for events, with the splendor of the Gorge as backdrop. Be warned, however, it can get quite windy outside…

Interior hallway with chairs set up for wedding or event, in front of big glass window with view of Columbia Gorge
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center
Exterior of Discovery Center, as seen from across a small pond
Columbia Gorge Discovery Center

Columbia Gorge Discovery Center Lastly but not leastly, we head to the eastern Gorge’s premier history museum. Located just west of The Dalles, the Columbia Gorge Discovery Center offers a variety of options for events for personal and business use, from 25 to 400 people. The River Gallery features an impressive view of the Gorge outside without having to face the wind. Don’t forget that the museum features a Raptor Center with 7 different birds-of-prey. You can set up a private raptor demonstration and meet with Josephine the Owl!

A woman stands on a rocky cliff and looks at the Columbia River and farmlands below
Looking down at the Columbia River from Maryhill Stonehenge

Places to Stay

There are many lodging options in the Gorge. We’ve highlighted a few below:

Transportation to the Columbia Gorge

Most people arrive to the Gorge via car. Nevertheless, there are other options! Please see the Part One of event venues in the Columbia Gorge for details on getting from Portland to Hood River, as the info below mostly covers how to get east from Hood River to The Dalles.

  • Train: Amtrak’s Empire Builder’s nearest stop to The Dalles is in Wishram, Washington, with twice daily service. However, there doesn’t appear to be any rideshare service that serves the station, whether Uber/Lyft or traditional taxi. There is bus service from Goldendale, WA to The Dalles via Wishram. But there are only four trips a day and on weekdays only, so you may have to wait several hours in Wishram until the next bus. And there is very little to do in Wishram. (There is no store but there is a bar.) The better option would be to use the station in Bingen, Washington. There are more options to get from the station, and if you do have to wait for a bus there are things to do in Bingen and neighboring White Salmon.
  • Bus: There are multiple options, all of them have bike racks on the front and/or rear of the bus.
    • Oregon side: First, use the Columbia Gorge Express which travels from Gateway Transit Center in Portland to Hood River several times a day. In Hood River, connect to The Dalles bus.
    • Washington side: There is currently no bus service running on the SR 14 corridor between Bingen and Dallesport, Washington (just across the river from The Dalles.) Mt. Adams Transportation District runs a weekday bus between The Dalles and Goldendale, Washington via Dallesport and Wishram (Amtrak connection).
  • Bike: Biking east from Hood River, the Historic Columbia River Hwy has two segments: the car-free one that runs between Hood River and Mosier (which includes the Mosier Tunnels) and on US 30 from Mosier to The Dalles. US 30 is fairly quiet here, as most through traffic sticks to I-84. On the Washington side Route 14 is less busy than the section west of here, though there will still be areas of no shoulders. Be warned, this area is windy. In the summer the wind will be out of the west, which makes for easy riding eastbound, and possibly miserable riding westbound.

We hope this post helps you find unique event venues in the Columbia Gorge!

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