Anyone who bikes sees Portland, Ore., as the promised land. The city has the highest percentage of bike commuters in the country, about eight times the national average. Bikers have options there: 320 miles of developed bikeways 235 miles of off-street trails and more than 600 miles of street routes in the greater Portland area.
Still, a meeting attendee might wonder, “What do all these bikes mean to me?”
The question is one with multiple answers, because in Portland, bikes do some surprising work. For example, morning or evening brews can be delivered to meetings by bike. Trailhead Coffee Roasters uses a bike to haul its mobile coffee brewer to sites. Hopworks Urban Brewery will deliver beer by bike.
And, visitors who want to rent and ride can easily do so with tour companies Pedal Bike Tours and Portland Bicycle Tours. Down on the Williamette River waterfront, Kerr Bikes rents surreys so meeting goers can pedal as a pack. For those who’d rather leave the work to someone else, PDX Pedicabs are the way to travel. Drivers share their knowledge of breweries, distilleries and Portland history as they pedal. For cool evenings, there are warm Pendleton blankets for passengers.
With all the pedaling possibilities, it is a blessing that food is never far away. Downtown parking lots are packed with food carts—Portland has more than 500 of them—and they serve everything from gourmet grilled cheese and Chinese to escargot and bone marrow. A lunch stop at the food carts makes for an invigorating mid-day meeting break.
Like the rest of Portland, venues and hotels tend to have an edge. The Left Bank Annex is a pre-World War II warehouse-like space with an industrial vibe. Big spaces dressed with timber, concrete, brick and steel can be transformed or used as is. At Portland’s Ace Hotel, part of a chain of boutique properties, a private meeting space called the Cleaners is in demand.
The Jupiter Hotel is close to downtown, but on the opposite side of the river in the East Burnside neighborhood. The green hotel’s 4,000 square feet of meeting space is fun—for example, its 1,000-square-foot DreamBOX, has a blackboard the size of a wall. Its DreamTENT is a center court outdoor pavilion with a full state, crystal chandeliers and lush bamboo.
For a meeting destination sure to stoke entrepreneurial fires, Asheville, N.C., where 98 percent of businesses are classified as “small,” is a good choice. Supporting evidence? The town of 70,000 — metro population of 400,000 — is packed with more than 250 local restaurants.
At the foot of the Smoky Mountains, Asheville has many nicknames: the Paris of the South, the Santa Fe of the East and Beer City USA. The nod to Paris comes from prolific sidewalk cafes and a passion for pooches. The comparison to Santa Fe comes from Asheville’s artistic and holistic leanings. There are some 30 galleries downtown, 110 studios of working artists in the River Arts District, and more than 600 massage therapists, ready to knead the needy. Ten craft breweries bring forth barrels of local beer.
Asheville is also home to some new digs for small meetings. The 100-room Hotel Indigo, enlivened by local art, is in the middle of Asheville’s highly active downtown. The 104-room Grand Bohemian Hotel Asheville is in Biltmore Village at the gates to the Biltmore Estate, a five-minute drive from downtown. On Biltmore Avenue, at the edge of downtown, The Orange Peel is a music club named one of America’s best music venues by Rolling Stone in its 2008 “Best of Rock” issue. The club can be booked for special events; its wide-open space can seat 250 for dinners with dancing on a well-worn hardwood floor.