Midsize City, Maximum Appeal: Portland

It’s not just Portland natives, hipsters, cyclers, foodies, and fans of the TV show Portlandia who love Portland. Meeting planners and their groups do, too. Backed by majestic Mount Hood, the city holds more than 37,000 acres of public parks, including the nation’s largest urban wilderness at 5,000 acres. More than 70 miles of nature trails, sparkling waterways, and commuter bike paths stitch the fertile landscape together.

Meanwhile, a local bumper sticker urges Portlanders to Keep Portland Weird, in reference to nurturing homegrown favorites like Powell’s (the largest book store in the country), the Voodoo Doughnut shops, and the Velveteria Museum of Velvet Paintings. Proudly independent in everything from commerce to cutting-edge green policies, the city also welcomes visitors with open arms.

In fact, Portland boasts the largest convention center in the Pacific Northwest. Set at the heart of town, the Oregon Convention Center hosts up to 10,000 people in 255,000 square feet of exhibit space, two grand ballrooms, 50 meeting rooms, and a 30,000-square-foot plaza. The first in the country to receive LEED certification, the center draws more than half its energy from renewable sources and practices recycling and composting as a matter of course.

p2Also, as of October 2013, attendees receive free passes to Portland’s light rail and bus system. This not only contributes to a cleaner environment,it also saves planners the cost of transportation between the airport, the center, and more than 160 hotels around town. No tax on sales or food and beverage benefits the bottom line as well.

Visitors can easily bike or stroll to see several globally renowned gardens downtown, the Portland Art and Children’s Museums, the Oregon Zoo and Museum of Science and Industry, and much, much more. The mix of big-city culture, off-the-wall fun, and environmental commitment makes Portland a model city for the future—and, understandably, a favorite meeting spot for groups like the U.S. Green Building Council, American Solar Energy Society, and National Wildlife Federation.


Foodies can feast on line-caught salmon and heirloom tomatoes at Portland’s finest restaurants—or they can dine simply and affordably on the same fresh bounty of local ingredients at more than 600 food carts around town. Food Carts Portland specializes in tours of the burgeoning food cart “movement,” led by local critic and food cart expert Brett Burmeister.

p3Along with hundreds of hands-on exhibits and displays, the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry offers multiple sites for events and stylish, sustainable food service for groups of 12 to 2,500. One favorite venue, Turbine Hall, takes its name from the generator at its heart—surrounded by exhibits like Nanotechnology, Earthquake House, and Innovation Station

It’s not easy being green. But in just two and a half hours, Portland Walking Tours gives groups an insight into how one of America’s greenest cities does it. Stops at the LEED Gold–certified Jean Vollum Natural Capital Center, the recently renovated Platinum-certified Gerding Theater, a real-life eco-roof, and the Bureau of Development and Sustainability connect the dots.

Population: 583,776
Airport: Portland International Airport (PDX)
Rooms in Town: 12,842 (metro 21,373)
Gold Certified: The Benson Hotel, 287 rooms, 18,000 square feet of meeting space; Hilton Portland & Executive Tower, 782 rooms, 66,000 square feet of meeting space;  Portland Marriott Downtown Waterfront, 497 rooms, 40,000 square feet of meeting space
Civic Venue: Oregon Convention Center
CVB: Travel Portland, 800.962.3700    www.travelportland.com

Annette Burden

Annette Burden

Annette Burden has written and edited for Elite Meetings International since 2007. In addition to writing on travel for other publications, she founded and edited Meeting Traveler, Resorts & Great Hotels, and Destination Weddings & Honeymoons magazines.

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