Location: Center of Oregon’s Willamette Valley
Access: Interstate 5, Portland International Airport, Amtrak Cascades
Major Meeting Spaces: Salem Oregon Convention Center and the Grand Hotel
Hotel Rooms: 2,140
Off-Site Venues: Oregon Garden Resort, Chemeketa Cellars, Willamette Heritage Center, Pringle Creek Community Center, Salem Salvation Army Kroc Center
Salem, Oregon, lies between hipster havens Portland and Eugene, but it’s not trying to compete. The capital city has a walkable downtown area with a waterfront park and a vibrant arts and farmers market scene, and it’s located in Willamette Valley in the heart of Oregon wine country. Just an hour south of Portland, the city is easy to reach. A dynamic convention center is just one reason it works well for groups, not to mention a handful of unusual venues and attractions.
People don’t have to venture far from Salem to discover some of Oregon’s most scenic wilderness. Two state parks — Willamette Mission State Park and Silver Falls State Park — draw active visitors year-round with the state’s mild weather. Hiking, cycling, birding, fishing and kayaking are all popular recreational activities, but the downtown area has plenty to draw people, too. Shopping, Riverfront Park, and theater and cultural activities abound, plus there’s a vibrant dining scene focused on farm-to-table food, local wine and craft beer, and locally roasted coffee.
“Salem is an ideal location for small to midsize events and conventions,” said Debbie McCune, director of sales for Travel Salem. “It’s easily accessible off a major interstate, friendly and laid-back, along with beautiful scenery and lively cultural offerings. In addition, because we are a smaller market, we can offer the kind of personalized service that meeting planners will appreciate.”
Travel Salem, the city’s tourism board, has partnered with the convention center to arrange tours — both within and outside the city — for groups, whether their interests be tulip farms, state parks or wine country.
The Salem Convention Center hosts many of Salem’s meetings and events, from weddings and social events to workshops and expos. It offers planners 14 different meeting and conference rooms that can be configured in any way, from theater to banquet, for a total of 30,000 square feet. The award-winning complex has been LEED-certified since 2011 and includes the adjacent 193-room luxury Grand Hotel. The Willamette River Room can accommodate up to 1,500 guests, and the Pringle Creek Room, at 900 square feet, is for smaller groups of up to 80 people. On-site venues include private dining rooms inside Bentley’s, an upscale restaurant.
Unique Meeting Venues
The Willamette Heritage Center features 14 historic homes and buildings that offer multiple unique meeting spaces for groups of 50 to 400 people. Chemeketa Community College’s student-run winery, Chemeketa Cellars, has a modern design and majestic valley views, making it a popular venue for private events. The Salvation Army Kroc Corps Community Center has five meeting and banquet rooms that can be used separately or opened into one 4,000-square-foot space. In addition, there is a chapel/theater for 288 and an outdoor amphitheater that seats 250.
Major Meeting Hotels
The Salem Convention Center and the Grand Hotel host Salem’s large-group events; in addition, several other area hotels are suited for smaller groups. The Holiday Inn Salem has four meeting rooms with a total of 10,000 square feet that can be arranged for boardroom, classroom, banquet or theater-style setups. The Days Inn by Wyndham Black Bear features three meeting rooms and 3,000 square feet of meeting space that can accommodate up to 175 guests. Best Western Plus Mill Creek Inn, at the intersection of Interstate 5 and Highway 22, can accommodate up to 160 for a meeting.
Salem’s park system is interconnected, with more than 20 miles of off-street trails that comprise more acreage than New York City’s Central Park. On the Willamette University campus, the Hallie Ford Museum of Art features a permanent collection of more than 6,000 artifacts, as well as temporary exhibitions. Willamette Valley is one of the world’s premier wine destinations, and Salem is a perfect base to explore the area’s picturesque views and pinot noirs.