Company Picnic Planning – Photo of the Day

View of Willamette River, Portland Oregon with a dock and kayaks in the foreground for a company picnic
Company picnic planning is easier when you have fun activities such as kayak lessons and other water activities.

I bet that company picnic planning is not top of mind in January, but it’s actually the best time to start thinking about it. With Portland still a bit cold and dreary at this time of the year, it’s hard to believe we only have about six months to do your company event planning for summer. Above is a photo of a kayaking add-on that we planned for a tech company’s employee outing at a riverfront park on the Willamette. Just a few extra touches like this can make your event really special and make your employees feel so appreciated and re-energized.

What else goes into an event like this? First, you’ll need a great venue. Then most likely, you’ll need delicious food. Finally you’ll need to choose some entertainment, such as DJs and photo booths; or games like Capture the Flag or an obstacle course. This particular group also added treats like chocolate, beer, and wine tasting booths. There are tons of ideas out there for planning your company picnic, but if you get stuck, feel free to contact us at EJP Events – Portland Event Planning.

Revisiting Boise Event Venues

JUMP Center

In September 2022, the EJP Events team found ourselves in Boise, Idaho again, this time to take part in Connect Northwest. This was our second time in Boise for business, we were also there in September 2021. We wrote a blog post about Boise event venues back then, and it still has a lot of good information. Thinking about event locations in Boise, Idaho? Here are some more event venues we discovered!

JUMP Center

“JUMP” stands for “Jack’s Urban Meeting Place”, Jack being J. R. (Jack) Simplot, the founder of Idaho based potato processor Simplot Industries. Originally envisioned as a museum for his tractor collection after he passed away in 2008, JUMP evolved to a hybrid indoor/outdoor event space based around a park with: “an outdoor amphitheater, sweeping terraces, rooftop parks, meeting areas, play areas, and all with unique views of the city and the surrounding mountains.” (Oh yeah, there’s still vintage tractors!) JUMP will rent space for events that “create an environment for inspiring human potential”. This means it’s a perfect spot for non-profit conferences or meetings. A variety of indoor (their Pioneer Room is 3,790 sq. ft.) and outdoor (like their Loft deck) spaces can be rented. Oh yeah, they also have a giant five-foot slide! (Emee really wants to try it.)

The JUMP Slide (from their website)

Old Idaho Penitentiary

Most people do all that they can to stay out of jail. But what if it’s a fortress-like edifice that hasn’t been an active prison in years? The Old Idaho State Penitentiary was an active reformatory for a century, but it has not seen prisoners in almost fifty years. Instead, the grounds are now a museum and can be rented for events large and small. Interior spaces can hold 50-225, while the Main Yard and Grounds can comfortably accommodate up to 1,000 people! A wedding inside a jail will not be forgotten, that’s for sure.

Linen Building (from their website)

Linen Building

Housed in the former American Laundry Building built in 1910, the Linen Building is owned and operated by The Idaho Coalition Against Sexual & Domestic Violence (IDVSA). They moved into the Linen Building “with a vision to transform the commercial steam laundry building with a history of harmful, toxic working conditions for girls and women to a space that stands for what is possible when everyone is valued, safe, and can thrive.” The IDVSA has offered the Linen Building’s space at a discounted rate or free for organizations focused on social justice and/or uplifting marginalized communities, and any space rental helps a non-profit organization. The space rental includes the Main Room and Mezzanine (3,900 total sq. ft.), which can hold 328 standing or 190 seated.

Check out our original Boise post for information on places to stay and how to get around.

We hope that this gives you some good ideas on event locations in Boise, Idaho!

Boise skyline, Idaho Capitol Building (dome) in center

Dry January, and alcohol-free options for your event

Image: Illustration of Man in suit holding out hand to refuse an alcoholic drink
From an old Soviet anti-drinking poster.

There has been a “Dry January” trend over the last decade of either cutting out or dialing back alcohol consumption in January. It’s a reaction against the overindulgences of the holiday year and a way to have a fresh start for the new year. As alcohol consumption has increased over the last two years due to pandemic and other stresses, now is a good time to be questioning your alcohol intake.

The concept of a sober, or dry January, started in 2013 in London. It’s part of a broader campaign called “Mindful Drinking”, which aims to rethink our approach to alcohol without quitting it completely. Ruby Warrington, who wrote the book “Sober Curious: The Blissful Sleep, Greater Focus, Limitless Presence, and Deep Connection Awaiting Us All on the Other Side of Alcohol” said in a recent New York Times article that “interrogating one’s drinking habits often leads people to adopt more mindful drinking strategies.”

There are definite benefits to drinking less. Alcohol is expensive, so cutting down is a great way to save money. Less drinking can lead to better sleep, better overall health, and can help with anxiety and depression.

But if you are used to having a drink or two on most days of the week, it can feel daunting to give up alcohol for a period of time, even if the period is relatively short. Several organizations, like the one who started Dry January, Alcohol Exchange UK, offer apps and coaching emails to support the decision. And it’s best not to approach the challenge as an absolute: take it one day or week at a time. It’s OK if you end up enjoying an alcoholic beverage during the challenge.

And there are ways to make cutting back on drinking easier, like exchanging alcoholic drinks with a non-alcoholic equivalent.

A good place to start is with beer. If your only experience with NA Beer is O’Doul’s, you’ll be relieved to know that now there are more and tastier options out there. Athletic Brewing serves up a selection of craft beer styles like India Pale Ale (IPA.) Clausthaler has been brewing German style NA beers for fifty years.

If spirits are your thing, Zero Proof offers booze-free rum, gin, tequila, and whiskey alternatives. Spiritless has their own alcohol free take on bourbon. For lovers of fermented grapes, Surely has non-alcoholic wine.

Are these options not available to purchase in your area? Since these products either don’t contain alcohol or a negligible amount (under 0.5% alcohol by volume), they don’t suffer the same shipping restrictions that actual alcoholic beverages encounter. You can buy many of these drinks directly from their manufacturer, or find an online store that specializes in booze-free booze, like Sipple.

You can still accessorize your non-alcoholic beverages. Groovy Guy Gifts offers up personalized decanters for your spirits-free spirits, while their “sister” company Bridesmaid’s Gifts offer insulated stemless wine glasses for your alcohol-free pinot!

And alcohol-free options should not just be limited to one month! With the hopes of weddings and more in-person events returning this year (fingers crossed), one should think about options for their non-drinking participants. Emphasizing alcohol without giving options for those who aren’t imbibing can make people feel unwelcome. And being unwelcoming is no way to have an event! So consider some of the “dry” options listed above in addition to the normal alcoholic beverages. Your teetotaling guests will thank you!

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Unique Event Venues in San Diego

El Cortez

Winter is definitely here in the Pacific Northwest. I don’t mind it as much as some people do (it helps that I was raised in a colder and snowier climate), but there are times when damp and gloomy days can get to me. That’s when I think of places where summer seems to be all year long. These type of places make great meeting and event destinations in the dead of winter. And if this locale has a Mediterranean climate, it can be good any time of the year! So let’s head to sunny Southern California and explore unique event venues in and around San Diego.

Let’s start with a venue that’s in what was once San Diego’s tallest building and most prestigious hotel. The El Cortez* opened in 1927 and for years was “the place” where big names like presidents or The Beatles stayed while in town. After a period of neglect, the El Cortez is mostly condominiums, but retains some of that old luster in the Don Room at El Capitan. The 3,300 square foot octagonal shaped ballroom can accommodate 250 people seated or 300 standing. There is also an outdoor terrace with fireplace that can be rented separately or along with the Don Room.

The Don Room at El Cortez (from their website)

The Lodge at Torrey Pines is a resort designed in the classic “California Craftsman” style. The lodge boasts over 13,000 square feet of space for events from corporate retreats to weddings. Catering is provided by the in-house restaurants. Perks include a 36 hole golf course with epic views of the Pacific Ocean, a full-service spa, and the manicured grounds featuring the very rare Torrey Pine which only grows in the immediate area!

Lodge at Torrey Pines

It would be very remiss of us if we didn’t mention Raised By Wolves, a Gilded-Age influenced speakeasy located, of all places, inside a suburban mall! It might not be the best place for a meeting where things need to get done, but can be a great add-on for an after event. Reservations are pretty much required to get a spot at this amazing bar.

Raised By Wolves (from their website)

Ok, we’re in a beach town, so let’s go beachside! La Jolla Beach and Tennis Center is a “hacienda” styled private club with 90 guestrooms and of course a lovely beach and tennis facilities. The club features the Walnut Room with 1,300 square feet of space for up to 100 guests, and the La Sala Room with 2,000 square foot event space that can seat up to 150 guests. Events can also be held by the pool, next to the duck pond, and of course on the beach itself!

La Jolla Beach and Tennis Center (from their website)

Would you like both “beachside” and luxury that comes out of a different era? The Hotel del Coronado is a rare surviving example of a wooden Victorian-era beach resort. Upon opening in 1888, it was the single largest resort hotel in the world. A space this big (second largest wooden structure in the US after the Tillamook Air Museum!) has a lot of meeting space, about 96,000 square feet to be exact. The selection of spaces runs the gamut: indoor ballrooms and meeting rooms, outdoor gardens and lawns, and of course the beach itself.

Hotel del Coronado

Forget the beach, how about something on the water itself? Flagship Cruises runs the popular ferry service from Coronado to downtown San Diego and also offers private cruises on its fleet of both modern and vintage vessels. A cruise could be the event itself, or it can augment another event held elsewhere.

Perhaps you want something with more of an urban flavor. Deck 655 incorporates 8,500 sq. ft. versatile indoor outdoor party venue that can be customized for social or corporate events. Deck 655 features a 125 foot long outdoor deck with fireplace and a capacity for 350 guests in both the indoor and outdoor spaces. Centrally located downtown at the corner of W Broadway and Kettner Blvd, Deck 655 is across the street from the historic Santa Fe Depot.

Deck655 (from their website)

And we’ll end our tour at Santa Fe Depot. Opened in 1915, this historic train station built in the Spanish Colonial Revival style still serves as a major transit center. Amtrak runs its popular Pacific Surfliner service several times a day between San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara, and San Luis Obispo. One can also catch the Coaster commuter rail service north to Oceanside every weekday. And the depot serves as a hub for the San Diego Trolley, an extensive light-rail system that serves many destinations around the metro area.

San Diego’s Santa Fe Depot, serviced by Amtrak and local commuter rail

We hope this gives you a snapshot of what’s available for events in San Diego. If you’re interested in setting up an event here, please contact us.

* The El Cortez Hotel is named after the conquistador, mutineer, and adulterer, Hernan Cortés, who was responsible for the deaths of thousands of Aztec Indigenous peoples. 

It is sadly common that in our regular event planning activities, planners and attendees will encounter venues and points of interest that honor historical figures who committed atrocities against Black, Indigenous, and Peoples of Color. As we all become more aware of our shared history, we can do our part to educate ourselves about the history surrounding the names of event venues and tourism points of interest, and to study the history of colonization and genocide that has led to many of the problems of systemic racism that Indigenous people suffer today; and to prevent future harm. 

In addition, we urge event leaders to provide written or verbal acknowledgement of original peoples and history within the context of hosting an event, and to reinforce verbal statements with actions such as paying voluntary land tax in support of Indigenous peoples.

We ourselves acknowledge that our events and our tourism-related activities with groups and meetings take place on land that was forcibly taken from the original peoples. We endeavor to go beyond mere land acknowledgement and instead, work proactively to prevent harm to Indigenous and Native peoples, and to return land and resources to them. To learn more, here are some resources for starting your journey: https://nativegov.org/news/a-self-assessment/

Planning events in Seaside: From Family Reunions to Conventions

Image via flickr user Robert Rynerson. Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic license.

If you’ve been following this blog for a bit, you’ll know that we love both visiting and facilitating events on the Oregon and Washington Coasts. We’ve talked about the Long Beach Peninsula in Washington and Astoria, Oregon. Now it’s time to give attention to Seaside, Oregon. Seaside is the closest beach city to Portland, which means it’s a very popular destination. It’s got a wealth of venues for hosting small gatherings, business meetings, and weddings. It also hosts the only true convention center on the North Oregon Coast! So let’s take a visit and see what this bustling town can offer.

Let’s start the tour with the Seaside Civic and Convention Center. This newly renovated convention center overlooking the Necanicum River has 24,600 square feet of usable meeting and event space, with an additional 8,900 square feet in the Prefunction and Mezzanine areas. Catering is exclusively provided by Oregon Fine Foods.

Seaside Civic and Convention Center

Planning on staying near the Convention Center? There are several hotels nearby. The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Seaside-Convention Center is just on the other side of the Necanicum River from the Convention Center, just requiring a short walk across a bridge. The Inn at Seaside is just across the street. Another block away is The SaltLine, a freshly built hotel with a saltwater pool and 600 feet of meeting space for small events.

Mural on the side of SaltLine Hotel, Seaside OR

Looking for something smaller than a convention center? The Beacon on Broadway events venue is in a hundred year old building a half block west of US 101 and just four blocks from the beach. The Beacon can hold up to 150 people. This makes it a great spot for a retreat, meeting, or small wedding.

Beacon on Broadway (from their website)

Renting a house in or near Seaside is a great idea if you want a whole place to yourself for a family reunion or special occasion. You can find many choices through Airbnb and Vacasa. You can also check out listings from some rental agencies specific to the North Oregon Coast like Beachhouse Vacation Rentals, Seaside Vacation Homes, and Oregon Beach Vacations.

Do you need help with feeding your guests? Niblack Events catering can help. They can do both buffet and plated style meals. And they don’t even need a venue! They can drop off prepared food where you need to be, even if it’s a picnic!

We hope this gives you a snapshot of what’s available for events in Seaside, Oregon. If you’re interested in setting up an event here, want to plan a wedding on the coast, or need help with a gathering, please contact us.

Unique Event Venues in Los Angeles

Los Angeles City Hall

As event planners, we’re always looking for unique and interesting venue options for our clients. Our recent trip to Southern California gave us the opportunity to explore what Los Angeles has in store. L.A. is a humongous city, with just about four million people within its city limits and a further ten million people in the surrounding metro area, so we barely scratched the surface of what is available. Hopefully these four options will give you something to start your search with!

We love train stations! They make great event venues. And LA is is the home of what is considered to be the “Last of the Great Railway Stations” built in the United States! Opened in 1939, Los Angeles Union Station is a mix of Art Deco, Mission Revival, and Streamline Moderne architectural styles. You can rent out the gorgeous Ticket Concourse for an indoor event, or either the South or North Patios for outdoor events. The various event spaces in the station can accommodate anywhere from 100 to 1,000 people. Pricing can range from $6,000 – $20,000 depending on the size and scope of the event. The best part? Union Station is still an active train station and transportation hub, serving over 110,000 passengers a day! Metro Rail, L.A.s local rail-transit system and Metrolink, the region’s commuter rail service serve Union Station. And several Amtrak lines, both California regional (Pacific Surfliner), and long-distance (Coast Starlight, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Sunset Limited) call on the depot. And you know we are definitely fans of Amtrak. So your guests can get there without driving!

Los Angeles Union Station

How about an event in a former Catholic cathedral? Built in 1876, The Cathedral of Saint Vibiana served as Los Angeles’s main Roman Catholic Church until the 1994 Northridge Earthquake severely damaged the structure. After a battle with preservationists, the Church built a new cathedral, leaving St. Vibiana to the city. It eventually got sold and transformed into the event space now known as Vibiana. In 2012 Chef Neal Fraser and Amy Knoll Fraser, who own the adjacent Redbird Restaurant, took over operations. They can accommodate corporate gatherings in the 18,000 square foot Main Hall, and/or the 15,000 square feet outdoor courtyard. Food and beverage service is provided in-house. And Vibiana also offers full-service weddings!

Vibiana (from their website)

Getting out of downtown, LA River Studios is located in the growing LA River Arts Corridor. This building was a former toy truck factory built in 1931 that was abandoned for decades until it was restored as a premier event space. LA River Studios has 15,000 feet of flexible space (including outdoor space) and can fit up to 400 people. The space is supported by on-site VOX Productions.

LA River Studios (from their website)

Looking for a spot for a corporate party or even a wedding? Candela La Brea is located in a historic 1920’s building in the Miracle Mile neighborhood. They feature a Mexican restaurant, bar, and a flexible16,000 foot space that could be great for your next event!

Candela La Brea. (from their website)

And finally we’ll end with a grand and historic event venue that is also a place you can stay! When opened in 1923, the Millennium Biltmore Hotel was the largest hotel west of Chicago. This storied hostelry, located downtown across from Pershing Square, had hosted the annual Academy Awards eight times in the early part of the twentieth century. (It is rumored that the design of the “Oscar” statue was sketched on a napkin during the founding ceremony in 1927!) Now the Biltmore has 70,000 square feet of meeting and banquet space and 683 guest rooms. You can have an event in the main Crystal Ballroom (6,300 sq. ft., up to 800 people), the same room where those early Academy Awards were hosted, or in one of the other four ballrooms. The charm of the Golden Age of Cinema can still be found at the Biltmore, yet with modern amenities.

Millennium Biltmore’s Crystal Ballroom (from their website)

We hope this gives you a snapshot of what’s available for events in Los Angeles. If you’re interested in setting up an event in LA, please contact us.