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.
We recently were able to visit Tuscon for a recent event. We’re excited to share our favorite reasons to visit this amazing oasis, and produce your guide to meeting and event venues in Tuscon.
What’s So Great About Tucson?
Tucson is in the aptly named, Sun Corridor, and enjoys, on average, 350 days of sun every year. (If you are like us and live somewhere with more cloudy days than sunny ones this alone may convince you to visit.)
Tucson is also home to the University of Arizona which brings a youthful vibe to this city and enriches the cultural options it provides.
We also have to include the cacti in this list. They are everywhere you turn and possess the most amazingly beautiful contrast to the desert terrain. Hiking in this area is a treat! You can view these centurion giants along sandy paths that wind through the many impressive canyons. If you are lucky you may even come across a road runner or javelina (a small pig-like animal).
Tucson is a fantastic place to host an event with all of the unique activities offered there:
And don’t forget to make time for some fun with a group taco bike tour! Enjoying tacos together = team building in our book!
Where to host your event in Tucson?
Good Things Come in Small Packages at the Arizona Inn
If you are looking for an intimate venue for your next retreat, look no further than the Arizona Inn:
This historic boutique hotel is located in Midtown and offers a uniquely charming escape. With 5,000 square feet of meeting space and four meeting rooms to choose from, the team can gather comfortably and even step out onto the garden patio for breaks!
Guests will be refreshed and ready to go after a relaxing night in their well appointed casita-style rooms and some time by the pool. *Tip: Keep an eye out for the bunnies that hop about the grounds!
Casino del Sol Shows us that Bigger can be done Better
Looking for a property that you don’t ever have to leave? Casino del Sol is a four-star luxury resort and casino that is Native American-owned. This resort has something for everyone.
Casino del Sol hosts more than 100,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor/outdoor meeting space and even offers unique meeting settings like their conference center terrace or a picturesque pool deck and gazebo.
Immerse yourself in Pascua Yaqui Tribe’s history through original artwork and cultural expressions throughout the property.
Casino del Sol also has on site – 10 restaurants, 6 bars, 3 pools, a spa and golf course, 5 event venues (where you can catch acts like Patti LaBelle or even Smashing Pumpkins) and thousands of games to choose from in their state-of-the-art casino.
Break All the Rules at Culinary Dropout
Culinary Dropout is a great option for group dining out! Snack on their famous honey drizzled fried chicken or pretzel bites and provolone fondue while you sample from their extensive beer, wine and cocktail list.
With 5 different private venue options, it’s easy to find the right fit for your group here. There’s plenty of different options for smaller groups, but it can also hold up to 250! Plus, they also have bar games and live music most nights.
Do you need a guide to meeting and event venues in Tuscon?
We hope after reading your guide to meeting and event venues in Tuscon, you get a sense that this special place can handle a meeting, wedding, or event of any size — and that you’ll be as excited as we are to explore this beautiful and culture-rich area of the United States. Please contact us for more info.
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.
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!
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 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!
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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/
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 Stationis 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!
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 asVibiana. 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!
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.
Looking for a spot for a corporate party or even a wedding? Candela La Breais 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!
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.
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.
We recently traveled to Boise, Idaho for a couple days of work and fun. The capital of Idaho, Boise is located in a broad dry valley about 40 miles east of the Oregon border. Boise was established as a city in 1863, but spent the next century as a small outpost in a sparsely-settled region. Since the 1960’s Boise has rapidly expanded to become a mid-sized American city of 240,000 with a full selection of amenities and things to do.
Boise Centre.Boise’s convention center is located in the heart of downtown and right next to the Grove Hotel. With 80,000 feet of space, Boise Centre bills itself as a space for “conventions, corporate meetings and trade shows to banquets and video conferencing”. Their Grand Ballroom is 24,426 square feet and can be divided into three sections, and there are 31 individual meeting rooms. Boise Centre can accommodate groups from 10 to 2,000. Catering is exclusively provided by Front & Centre.
Boise Depot: Just across the Boise River from downtown, Union Pacific built this grand train station in 1925. It last saw train service in 1997, since then it has been used as an event venue. The station’s Great Hall, where one could once wait for trains like the Pioneer and City of Portland, now can be used to host your next event. This 77 foot by 46 foot, 3,542-square-foot multi-story atrium can hold 300 people in standing configuration or 165 seated. You can also rent the exterior for weddings and informal meetings.
Capital City Event Center: If you are looking for a smaller, more intimate venue, the Capital City Event Center may be suited for you. Located in the historic Adelmann Building just two blocks from the State Capitol, Capital City has two ballrooms (each with a capacity of 110) that can be rented separately or together. Bonus: Capital City has a full service, classic mahogany and brass bar that can serve up a variety of drinks!
Egyptian Theatre. Finally, if you are looking for a historic theater as a venue, the Egyptian Theatre could fit your bill. Originally opened in 1927, the Egyptian is Boise’s remaining classic cinema palace. The ornate theater with state-of-the-art sound can hold 740.
Staying there: There are a number of centrally located hotels. The Grove Hotel is in the Boise Centre superblock and right next to the convention center. The views from the building (fifth-tallest in the city) are grand. Across from Boise Centre is Hotel 43, named such due to its location in the 43rd state on the 43rd parallel. The Modern Hotel is located in a renovated motel about a ten minute walk from the Boise Centre. All three hotels provide rental bicycles.
Getting there: Boise is about 425 miles east (by car) from Portland, making for a doable but long one-day drive. It’s a quick one-hour flight from PDX to Boise, and Boise has direct flights to most West Coast cities. From the airport it’s a ten minute drive to downtown. Amtrak no longer serves Boise, as the Seattle-Portland-Salt Lake City-Chicago Pioneer was discontinued in 1997. We hope that taking the train to Boise will become an option again.
Getting around: Boise lacks any rail transit, though a streetcar has been proposed. Valley Transit, the regional bus operator, provides service to most major destinations. (A bus trip from the airport takes about a half hour.) Boise suspended its bike share service in 2020 with no definite plans for reinstatement, but many hotels provide free loaner bikes and bikes can be rented at Idaho Mountain Touring and George’s Cycles.