Event venues in the Columbia Gorge, Part 1: West Gorge

The Columbia Gorge Hotel ballroom set with tables of white linen and golden plates and chairs.
The Columbia Gorge Hotel’s Benson Ballroom (from their website)

Hello folks! Today we are going to talk about event venues in the Columbia Gorge. The Columbia River Gorge is a canyon in the Cascade Mountains, running nearly eighty miles in length just east of Portland. It’s an area of unparalleled beauty, filled with epic vistas, tantalizing waterfalls, deep forests, vineyards and orchards, and lots of rock. It’s a playground to the Portland metro area and features numerous unique venues for weddings, meetings, family events, and more.

A view of the Columbia River with the forested cliffs in the foreground and the distance, and with a view of the historic Vista House.
Vista House at Crown Point, as seen from Women’s Forum

The Columbia River Gorge is a big place with lots to do and see, so we’ve divided up our round-up into two parts. This first part covers the western reach, from the end of the Portland metro area (Washougal, WA and Troutdale, OR) in the west to Hood River, OR and Bingen-White Salmon, WA in the east. This part of the Gorge features most of its famous attractions: Vista House/Crown Point, Cape Horn, Beacon Rock, Multnomah Falls. Part Two will feature the eastern reaches of the Gorge, from Hood River/Bingen-White Salmon eastward through The Dalles, OR to Maryhill, WA.

Venue Options

The Main Lodge building - a gray wooden building - at the Cape Horn Estate in Cape Horn, Washington State.
Cape Horn Estate (Main lodge building, or Greenhouse)
A view of a wedding dressing room featuring large mirrors with Hollywood-style makeup lights above, tufted furniture, and a sitting / dining area. At Cape Horn Estate.
Getting-Ready Suite
A view of a wooden building with cafe seating outside and decorated with cafe market lights above a concrete dance floor.
The Pour House at Cape Horn Estate
A view of an expansive lawn with a stone arch to mark a ceremony site, decorated with cafe lights above. Two wedding planners talk to each other in the background. An aisle path leads to the arch.
The grounds of Cape Horn Estate

Cape Horn Estate Right off WA 14, behind Skamania Store and a couple miles west of Beacon Rock, this venue is located in an old Grange hall. The interior of the hall can accommodate 150, the smaller Pour House can hold 70, and the beautifully groomed grounds can hold 300. And the Getting Ready Suite in the hall is something to behold! The best part? This property is owned and catered by the same people behind Hoda’s Lebanese Restaurant in SE Portland. You can have delicious Mediterranean food at your wedding!

Columbia Gorge Hotel (from their website)
Wah Gwin Gwin Falls

Columbia Gorge Hotel Up next on our list of event venues in the Columbia Gorge is this historic Mission style resort. Located just on the west side of Hood River, the hotel was built in 1921 to accommodate travelers on the then new (now Historic) Columbia River Highway. There are three outdoor lawns available for weddings, the largest can accommodate 250. The indoor Benson Ballroom can hold 150. There are 40 guest rooms located at the hotel, and catering, staffing, setup and breakdown that is all handled by their staff. While the building itself is impressive enough, the most impressive feature to me is the waterfall right on the property! Wah Gwin Gwin Falls drops 207 feet (63 m) from the back of the hotel to the Columbia River below. The area is renowned for its waterfalls, but this is the only one I know that’s adjacent to a hotel. If you have a wedding here, you don’t need to travel to another waterfall.

From Will and Erik’s wedding on Thunder Island.

Thunder Island How about a venue where the splendor of the Gorge serves as the backdrop? Just off the shore of Cascade Locks, Oregon, Thunder Island came into being in 1890 with the creation of the Cascade Lock and Canal. This lock/canal combo was built to get around the notorious Cascade Rapids, the last rapids of the Columbia River before the ocean. Bonneville Dam’s pool flooded the rapids, but the island remains. Now the island can be rented out for special events, including weddings. Island rental includes a wedding platform and 200 chairs. And destinations in Cascade Locks, like Thunder Island Brewing, are just a short walk away.

Skamania Lodge wedding planned by EJP Events. Photo credit: ©Evrim Icoz Photography

Skamania Lodge Want a spot where you can have a wedding or event and never need to leave the grounds? Across the river from Cascade Locks, this resort located outside of Stevenson, Washington features a hotel (including luxury treehouses), restaurants, a spa, and an adventure park complete with zip-lines. Weddings can be done in their amphitheater, and receptions can be held either in their Ballroom or the outdoor, covered Riverview Pavilion.

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:

  • Train: Amtrak’s Empire Builder stops in Bingen, Washington (across the river from Hood River) twice daily. The eastbound train (from Portland to Spokane, Minneapolis/St. Paul, and Chicago) calls on Bingen around 6:21 PM. The westbound train (from Chicago, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Spokane to Portland) calls on Bingen around 8:04 AM. (Times are subject to change)
  • Bus: There are multiple options that connect the Portland metro area to the Gorge, all of them have bike racks on the front and/or rear of the bus.
    • Oregon side: The Columbia Gorge Express travels from Gateway Transit Center in Portland to Hood River several times a day, making stops in Troutdale, Multnomah Falls, and Cascade Locks.
    • Washington side: Skamania County Transit travels from Fishers Landing Transit Center in Vancouver to Bingen several times a day (weekdays only), making stops in Washougal, Skamania (store), North Bonneville, Stevenson, and Carson.
  • Bike: Undeniably the Gorge is a great place to ride a bike, at least on the Oregon side. (Washington Route 14 has lots of traffic and often lacks a shoulder.) The Historic Columbia River Highway is the way to go. It’s a scenic route that winds its way from Troutdale, OR to Cascade Locks. You’ll share the western route (Troutdale east to Yeon State Park) with cars, east of there it’s a car-free path! (Note: There is one long staircase you will have to negotiate.) Bike maps for the route can be found here and here. East of Cascade Locks is tough, though, as parts of the old road are gone. Oregon Department of Transportation has been building back much of the disappeared route, including the legendary Mitchell Point Tunnel. However, this will take years to complete. Meanwhile, it is perfectly legal to ride the shoulder of I-84 here, but if you do not want to do this, you can take the Columbia Gorge Express bus (see above) for this segment.

One important note about driving through the Oregon side of the Gorge: Between May 24 and Sept. 5, 2022, a Timed Use Permit will be required for each personal vehicle accessing federal lands adjacent to the Waterfall Corridor between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. just east of the Bridal Veil off-ramp (Exit 28) to Ainsworth State Park (Exit 35). 

Waterfall Corridor permits will be available online for a $2 transaction fee and in person for a limited amount of same-day permits (no fee) at the Gateway to the Gorge Visitor Center in Troutdale and Cascade Locks Historical Museum. If you want to drive, Recreation.gov will release online permits approximately 2 weeks prior to the visit date. For more info, please see the website.

Hope this helps you find event venues in the Columbia Gorge!

Your guide to meeting and event venues in Tuscon, AZ

  • EJP Events coordinator Katherine O'Brien stands next to a desert cactus in Tuscon, Arizona.

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.

Tucson has a rich history steeped in Native American traditions and culture that is worth exploring!

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 Activities

Tucson is a fantastic place to host an event with all of the unique activities offered there:

Try adding a trip to the Tucson Botanical Gardens, the Pima Air and Space Museum, the DeGrazia Gallery in the Sun Museum or the Mission San Xavier del Bac.

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!

  • Entrance of the Arizona Inn, a meeting and event venue in Tuscon, AZ
  • Image of a table set in rustic desert color tones at the Arizona Inn in Tuscon.

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.

  • Aerial photos of the Casino Del Sol resort complex in Tuscon, Arizona

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.

Best Portland Wedding Planners – Featured on Katy Weaver Photography

We were recently featured on the popular Portland wedding photography blog by Katy Weaver in an article entitled “Best Portland Wedding Planners”. We were really flattered to be included; thanks so much, Katy! I’m reprinting my portion of the interview below, because it was so fun to answer these questions. I hope you find this background about our wedding planning services useful! And, included here are a few photos of some the fun weddings we’ve had the pleasure of working on with Katy.

Photo: Katy Weaver Photography

What makes EJP Events unique?

Our team approach with 3 planners on staff (employees not contractors); over 45 years of combined event and hospitality experience in the business; and a “heart and head” approach that speaks to both the data side and the emotional side of weddings helps everyone in your weddings mix feel included, comfortable, and secure that you’re making educated decisions.

Why should couples hire a wedding planner?

Simply because: it’s a lot of legwork that you do not have time to do. Of course you could create your own wedding design brief; write a wedding budget; and research the best vendor choices to fit that design and criteria. (This is just the first part of planning!) However. If you’ve never done this before, it’s a huge learning curve to figure out all the industry terms, conventions, and insider knowledge to get all your planning systems up and running. Why not work with a planner who has already created and tested and used successful systems over and over and over; that way you can focus on the fun things like picking colors, decor, and clothing — rather on trying to figure out in what order you should do your huge wedding planning to-do list.

What advice do you have for couples choosing a wedding planner?

Check out their websites and social media! Do you see your wedding or the possibility of your wedding style, in what they offer? Do you see people like you having weddings like yours in their portfolio? Is there a variety of work and clientele, or do they pretty much do just one type of design and look? The latter is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you have non-traditional ideas, or want to work with someone who is flexible with a wide experience of various cultures, traditions, and styles — make sure to look for that int the planner’s work. If so, it’s a good sign that you might want to meet with them and do that interview next step!

Photo: Katy Weaver Photography

What type of weddings and couples are the best fit for you and your business?

We love to work with people who are willing to invest time and thoughtfulness into the process. Most of our wedding clients are working with us starting 6-18 months before the wedding, envisioning everything from the best location to the emotions they want themselves and their guests to feel at different timepoints of the wedding experience.

What do you love most about your job as a coordinator/planner?

I love standing in the back of the room when the party is in full swing, knowing that the crowd is joyfully celebrating, and that they are completely unaware of what went into producing the day. They are only present in the moment.

What’s the best way to contact you?

We have a contact page on our website: https://ejpevents.com/contact-a-portland-event-planner/ or of course you can always call us at (503) 284-6756 or email emee@ejpevents.com

Anything else you’d like to add?

Remember WHY you’re having your wedding and the love will guide you. Also – we travel!

An Indian Wedding Weekend at Roehr Park and The Foundry at Oswego Pointe

The “Boatraat” or Baraat, Groom’s arrival.
The “Lookback” Series of blog posts features weddings that happened more than a year ago. Some are repeats, some totally new to this blog! We hope you enjoy looking back with us on these wonderful weddings.

{ From the archives } This two-day Indian Wedding Weekend kicked off at the World Forestry Center in Portland. This featured a casual, combination-mehndi-and-sangeet party. They invited some of Portland’s favorite food carts, Nong’s Khao Man Gai and Pips Original, to dish out treats to their 200 guests.  Also provided was catering by India Connection and Nicholas Restaurant. Ice cream was provided by Scoop! and bartending and service by Vibrant Table. There was plenty to keep guests noshing and sipping! Mehndi was provided by Amrapali Salon, and dance party by DJ Kapil.

On Saturday everything went up a notch in formality as the crowd reconvened for a formal, traditional Hindu ceremony. This was located on the Willamette riverfront at the Roehr Park Amphitheater. The solemnities were supervised by Portland Pandit. Scovare Yachts delivered the wedding party in a spectacular “Boatraat”. Cocktail hour was held on the Foundry at Oswego Pointe‘s promenade. Finally, guests went in to the Foundry’s Great Hall for dinner and dancing.

Full Planning: EJP Events | Priest: Portland Pandit | Photography: Evrim Icoz | Videography: Hybrid Moon | Floral: Gifford’s Flowers | Cake: Market of Choice | Mandap and draping: Paradym Events | Rentals: The Party Place | Catering Support: Vibrant Table | Indian Catering: Indian Connection | AV: Focal Audio | Beauty: Event Cosmetics | Dhol drummer: Kulveer Sangha | Photobooth: Apogee

For more photos of this Indian wedding weekend, go to our gallery here.

Long Beach, Washington Peninsula Weddings and Events

Beards Hollow, Cape Disappointment

Thinking about a wedding by the sea? Consider a Long Beach Peninsula Wedding in Washington State! Located in the far southwestern corner of the state, the peninsula is across the Columbia River from Astoria. It’s about a 2 1/2 hour drive from Portland. Close enough that a weekend can be made out of it, far enough to feel like a getaway.

The exterior of the Adrift Hotel, showing the Pickled Fish restaurant in its top-floor setting. It’s a great place to view the ocean!

Adrift and Shelburne Hotels

The Adrift Hotel in the town of Long Beach is a good landing spot. Many rooms have a view of the ocean. And the view and proximity to beach are not the only selling factors here. A guest can borrow a free balloon-tire bike to cruise the beach and the Discovery Trail path that runs parallel to it. The Adrift also contains a modest spa facility as well as the Pickled Fish Restaurant. The dining room sits on the top floor of their west building, with an expansive view of the beach and the ocean. Pickled Fish offers a variety of locally-sourced Pacific Northwest starters and entrées. But our favorite are their New Haven-style pizzas –thin crusts with just the right amount of char.

Event space at Adrift, from their website.

Because they have both an indoor and outdoor gathering space that can fit about 100 people, The Adrift Hotel would be a great spot for a small beach wedding! Pickled Fish would cater, a delicious choice. And best of all, it’s less than five minutes to walk to the beach. The “sister” hotel to Adrift, the Shelburne Hotel, can also host weddings. The late-Victorian era Shelburne was built in 1896, making it the longest continually operating hotel in Washington State.

Sou’wester Lodge

The Sou’wester Lodge is a lodging facility featuring a mix of cabins, vintage travel trailers (like Airstream) and campsites. They are located in Seaview, a community between Long Beach and Ilwaco. The Sou’wester can lodge 70 to 100 people, and accommodate 250 guests for a ceremony. It’s a good spot for a unique wedding! Plus, They offer extras, like a wellness package and a beach bonfire package.

Cape Disappointment State Park

Cape Disappointment State Park, a state park located south of Long Beach, is a great destination in itself. Located on a peninsula where the Columbia River meets the Pacific, the park features beaches, hiking trails through coastal rainforests, and a wide variety of camping options, including yurts and cabins. The North Head Lighthouse* and surrounding grounds are available for wedding ceremonies only. You must hold receptions elsewhere. The North Head Lighthouse Keepers’ Residence is available nearby for honeymoon or other overnight rental.

Keepers Residence at North Head Lighthouse
Oysterville Church
Oysterville School

Oysterville on the Peninsula’s North End

We also want to give a quick mention to the picture-perfect village of Oysterville, located on the north end of the peninsula. Founded in the nineteenth century when this area was dominated by (what else!) oyster fishing, Oysterville consists of a couple dozen Victorian houses on the edge of Willapa Bay. There is one cute (but small) venue available if you want something different for a wedding: The Oysterville Church. This historic church, can hold around 100 people. The nearby Oysterville School can be used for the reception. There are no lodging options in Oysterville itself, however there are in the community of Ocean Shores, just a ten-minute drive away. (The city of Long Beach is about a half-hour drive from Oysterville.)

The Long Beach Peninsula is filled with nice vistas, abundant nature, good food, and a great beach. Maybe you’ll consider a Long Beach Peninsula Wedding or holding your small meeting or conference there?

Bonfire on the beach.

*The other lighthouse at the park, simply named “Cape Disappointment Lighthouse”, does not allow weddings.

Wedding venues in The Dalles, Oregon

Image ID: Photo of the front facade of the Balch Hotel, one of many wedding venues in The Dalles, Oregon.
One of many wedding venues in The Dalles, Oregon: Balch Hotel, Dufur Oregon. From their website.

The west side of the Cascade Mountains is lush and wet, giving Oregon our reputation as a damp place. But east of the Cascades? The high mountains cause a rain shadow, leaving the area drier and sunnier.  How much drier? The Dalles, 60 miles east of Portland, only receives 15 inches (40 cm) of rain a year. Compare that to Portland’s 35 inches (90 cm)!

The area around The Dalles (Wasco County in Oregon, Klickitat County in Washington) is in the heart of the “dry side”. The dry rolling landscape with mountains as a backdrop makes a good setting for a wedding (or event retreat), especially an outdoor one! Plus, you’ll have a greater chance of a rain-free wedding on any given date. (Though it will most likely be windier!)

Things to do around The Dalles

The area has a number of attractions that make having a wedding there more attractive. Rowena Crest is the east-most spectacular viewpoint on the Historic Columbia River Highway, featuring a set of photogenic hairpin turns. The Maryhill Museum a former estate built overlooking the river, is now a museum featuring more than 80 works by Auguste Rodin. Maryhill Stonehenge is a full scale replica of the British original, built as a memorial to World War I veterans. And the region is filled with wineries, though the craft beer scene is starting to expand with breweries like Freebridge. (Try the pizza if you go!)

Wedding venues around The Dalles

  • Sunshine Mill in The Dalles. This 100 year old mill building in downtown The Dalles is home to Quenett and Capa di Vino wines. Weddings take place in the foundation of the old mill.
  • Balch Hotel in Dufur. Billing itself as the “Sunniest Wedding Location in the Gorge”, the Balch is a good safe bet if you want an outdoor wedding not afflicted with sprinkles. Plus, there’s 20 guest rooms on site that exude an early 20th Century vibe.
  • Imperial River Lodge in Maupin. Located right on the Deschutes River (a popular rafting spot), the lodge provides 25 guest rooms and the options of indoor or outdoor wedding venues.
  • Maryhill Museum. Want a wedding with a stunning backdrop of mountains and the Columbia Gorge? The grounds at Maryhill are perfect for that!
  • Celilo Inn. We are very excited about this new wedding venue coming online expected in 2023. The artist rendition shows the incredible view of the Columbia River Gorge, city of The Dalles, and Mt. Hood. Weddings will also receive room blocks and a suite; while all overnight guests receive a glass of wine and a passport to complimentary Columbia Gorge wine tastings. 

Looking for a wedding or event venue that is near Portland but has a different flavor than the Willamette Valley? Then consider a wedding in The Dalles, Oregon. Feel free to contact us if you would like assistance!

This blog post was updated 2/24/2022 by Emee Pumarega.