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Planning an event in Eugene, Oregon

A person looks down from a balcony into a large event space with people standing and mingling around cocktail tables, a stage, and a bar. Perfect for planning an event in Eugene, Oregon.
The Grand Hall at Venue 252. Photo from their website.

Planning an event in Eugene, Oregon? We recently had the opportunity to visit Eugene, Oregon, the state’s second-largest city for a trade show so we have several fresh ideas for you. Sitting at the southern end of the Willamette Valley, Eugene is about 120 miles (195 km) south of Portland, an easy two hour drive, that is if traffic on Interstate 5 isn’t bad. But you don’t have to sit in traffic if you don’t want to–there is convenient Amtrak train and bus service, with several trips daily. That is how we traveled for this recent trip! And because Eugene is a city known for its numerous cultural activities, brewpubs, and bikeability, it’s a good place to hold an event. Here is a selection of Eugene Oregon event venues for you to peruse.

Venue 252. Operated by local natural grocery chain Market of Choice, this venue bills itself as “your event venue for weddings, fundraisers, trade shows and more.” Located just outside of downtown and close to Eugene’s Amtrak station, this 20,000 sq. ft. venue can accommodate up to 770 seated guests or 1,285 standing.

The Barrow. This community-minded venue is also located close to Eugene’s Amtrak station and consists of two buildings adjacent to each other. The Mahonia and Stellaria Community Rooms can hold up to 50 people, while the Stellaria Board Room can seat 25. Each building (Mahonia and Stellaria) have rentable common kitchens. We can see The Barrow as being perfect for planning an event in Eugene, Oregon for small gatherings, workshops, meetings, and the like.

A person walks through a hotel lobby at the Graduate Hotel in Eugene, Oregon. There are trade show booths set up on either side of the lobby.
The lobby at Graduate Eugene, set up for a trade show

Graduate Eugene. The Graduate is a chain of hotels that operate properties in many college towns across the US. (We visited their Berkeley location in 2019.) Conveniently located just two blocks from Eugene’s Amtrak station, The Graduate boasts its own Conference Center. The Center has spaces such as the Playwright’s Hall (11,620 sq. ft./capacity 1,400), the lobby which can hold 800 people, a suite of smaller event rooms that can hold 125 to 350 people, breakout rooms, and board rooms. To top it off (pardon the pun), there is the 3,700 sq. ft. Vista Ballroom and Rooftop space which according to The Graduate is perfect for “small weddings, company retreats, and family reunions.”

Barrel Room at Hop Valley Brewing. Eugene is renowned for their beer scene. There are numerous brewpubs and tasting rooms in town, many located in the Whiteaker neighborhood to the west of downtown. This is where you’ll find Hop Valley’s Barrel Room. This private room can accommodate 10 to 100 people, with additional patio space reservable if needed. Hop Valley bills this space as appropriate for “birthday parties and company events to non-profit fundraisers and monthly meetings for your club or organization”. And you’ll be able to sample Hop Valley’s tasty beers and food from their pub menu!

Image of chairs and tables set up in a wood-floored, high-ceilinged ballroom at the University of Oregon. If you're planning an event in Eugene, Oregon, you can't skip the University of Oregon!
Here is U of O's Ballroom at Erb Memorial Union, Photo from their website.
If you’re planning an event in Eugene, Oregon, you can’t skip the University of Oregon!
Here is U of O’s Ballroom at Erb Memorial Union, Photo from their website.

University of Oregon. Lastly, we could not forget to mention the place that Eugene is most known for! The University of Oregon has numerous spaces available, large and small. This would be a perfect venue for a planning an event in Eugene, Oregon; especially a very large one.

We hope that you found this post to be informative and hope it helps you find the right Eugene, Oregon event venue for you!

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-story 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

Weddings and events in Oregon’s Wine Country

Eola Hills Winery.

There are many types of locations that people gravitate towards when they plan a wedding: places like houses of worship, hotels, banquet halls, and parks. But for some, the idea of having their wedding at a vineyard tops the list. Not only do you have a scenic locale, but you can sample the wines grown and fermented there! And vineyards are great for other events, like corporate retreats or a family reunion. Let’s explore some of the options for weddings and events in Oregon’s Wine Country.

Oregon Wine Country Venues

Domaine Roy and fils. Located in the hills above Dundee, this winery gives impressive views of the Willamette Valley, especially on a clear day when you can see Mount Hood. Domaine Roy can accommodate up to 60 guests for intimate dinners to corporate getaways. Full venue rental includes full access to the Tasting Room, Patio, and Olive Grove. (Please note: Domaine Roy no longer accommodates weddings, but they do handle corporate and other types of events.)

Domaine Roy (from their website)

Eola Hills Winery. Located in the hills just to the west of Salem, this winery’s rambling and scenic vineyard is a great wedding locale. The Legacy Estate Vineyard can host up to 300 folks in its outdoor setting next to a small pond. Want something inside? Their Wine Cellar location, located a few miles to the west in Rickreall, can host a wedding of 200 within its barrel room. Eola Hills allows you to choose your own catering.

Eola Hills Winery. (from their website)

The Allison Inn and Spa. The only full service hotel and spa in Oregon’s Wine Country, The Allison offers a variety of indoor and outdoor venues on its 35 acre estate north of Newberg. Weddings of up to 250 guests can be accommodated here, and the guests can stay on property.

Allison Inn. (from their website)

The Bindery. For a change of pace, here’s a non-winery venue in Wine Country. Located right in downtown McMinnville, The Bindery (no relation to the similarly-named Portland business) is an open industrial style space that used to be home to the community newspaper. The space has capacity for 150 people for a seated event, or 200 for standing. It’s a good spot for a wedding, rehearsal dinner, or corporate event. And since it’s in downtown McMinnville, you can easily walk to all the attractions this charming town offers.

The Bindery (from their website)

Places to Stay

While it is close enough to Portland that one can easily stay in the Rose City, staying in the Wine Country means one can better immerse themselves in the experience. (And if “immersing yourself in the experience” means enjoying wine, staying here means not having to get back to Portland after a day of wine tasting!) There are many hotels in the area, we’ve selected a few of them below.

  • Atticus Hotel. Located in downtown McMinnville, this hotel offers a lovely fleet of Gazelle bikes to borrow.
  • McMenamins Hotel Oregon. Also in downtown McMinnville, check out the rooftop bar for great views.
  • Tributary Hotel. Another downtown McMinnville hotel! This one emphasizes luxury.
  • The Vintages Trailer Resort. Located in Dayton, here you can stay in a vintage Airstream instead of a hotel.
  • Abbey Road Farm. Instead of a trailer, you can stay in a converted farm silo on this working farm located west of Newberg.
Bikes at the Atticus Hotel

Places to eat

There’s a lot of great food in Wine Country. We’ve highlighted a few of our favorites below.

  • ōkta. Located in the Tributary Hotel and helmed by Michelin-Starred Chef Matthew Lightner, ōkta features a hyperlocally sourced, ten- to twelve-course meal, that Portland Monthly describes as “smart, tender, understated…as if Ziggy Stardust returned and put out a poetry album.” Reservations required.
  • Red Hills Kitchen. Located in the Atticus Hotel, Red Hills Kitchen is “a celebration of the local bounty in the Oregon Wine Country.” You can eat in, take it to go, or shop the small market attached to the restaurant. Red Hills Kitchen is also a preferred caterer for The Bindery, located just across the street.
  • Wooden Heart. A food truck parked at Furioso Vineyard (next door to Domaine Roy), they make great pizzas using their brick oven. The truck can also travel to your destination for catering.
Pizza from Wooden Heart, wine from Furioso Vineyard

Transportation to Oregon’s Wine Country

Most people arrive to the wine country via car. Nevertheless, there are other options!

  • Train: Amtrak stops in Salem, which is on the south side of wine country. Both the Cascades service (Vancouver BC-Seattle-Portland-Eugene) and Coast Starlight train (Seattle-Portland-Oakland-Los Angeles) call on Salem’s historic depot.
  • Bus/Transit: Yamhill County Transit serves much of the Wine Country. Connections to Trimet (Portland’s metro area transit) can be made via transfers in Hillsboro, Forest Grove, and Tualatin. Yamhill County Transit also runs a bus from McMinnville to Salem. (Please note: Most of Yamhill County Transit’s service is weekday only.) Salem’s transit provider Cherriots also accesses some destinations on the south and east side of Wine Country.
  • Bike: Riding around Wine Country can be both rewarding and challenging. Rewarding because of the spectacular scenery and all the wine that can be tasted. Challenging due to the numerous, sometimes steep hills and busy, narrow roads. The best all around info for cycling can be found via Visit McMinnville. Ellee Thalheimer’s Cycling Sojourner Oregon guidebook has a great Wine Country bike tour, but as far as I know it’s only available in print.
  • Shuttle: We definitely recommend you to have someone else drive if you plan on doing a lot of wine tasting. There are many options for shuttle service and wine tours. We suggest Lucky Limo and Aspen Limo.

We hope this post helps you find the right venue for weddings and events in Oregon’s Wine Country.

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!

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!