After careful consideration, discussion and campaigning, our readers have made their choices and voted for their favorite venues and service providers for 2017. Some of the winners are highly respected veterans that have won in their respective categories multiple times. Others are making an appearance on this treasured list for the very first time. All win accolades from our readers for their professionalism and expertise. And now, it’s time for the big reveal ...
BEST OF ALASKA
Alaska is a fabled land of exquisite natural beauty, with majestic peaks, imperial glaciers and unspoiled wilderness that provide truly stunning settings for this year’s readers’ choices for Best of Alaska.
The Hilton Anchorage wins for Best Convention/Conference Venue this year. Located in the heart of downtown Anchorage and dominating the skyline as the city's tallest hotel, the Hilton is only 5 miles from the airport and steps away from the Convention District’s shopping and dining. With 20,000 square feet of flexible event space and stylish guest rooms with spectacular views of the Chugach Mountains, Cook Inlet and the city, it’s the perfect place for a board meeting or convention.
For an inspirational mountain venue, “Alyeska Resort is the perfect base camp,” says Eric Fullerton Alyeska’s vice president and director of marketing. Alyeska Resort is this year’s winner for Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space. “It’s a year-round destination ski resort with powder-filled slopes, national parks and sport-fishing lodges nearby. And it’s easily accessible—only 35 miles from the Anchorage airport,” Fullerton says. More than 24,000 square feet of meeting and event space permit maximum flexibility for a conference, productive team-building session or an idyllic Alaskan wedding.
Legendary for sport fishing, accessible only by air or sea, Waterfall Resort Alaska is our readers’ choice for Best Resort. It’s a perfect option for the quintessential Alaskan escape. Visitors can take a floatplane from Ketchikan or a 90-minute flight from Seattle in the morning and be on the water fishing by the afternoon. Anglers from around the world are drawn here to catch wild king and silver salmon. And even those who don’t fish love the resort for its warm hospitality, natural beauty, hearty Alaskan dining and laughterfilled evenings in the saloon.
In our new category this year, Best Meeting/ Event Venue (not a hotel or convention/conference center), Alaska SeaLife Center and the Anchorage Museum are tied for the honor— and both are Alaskan treasures. A public aquarium and marine mammal rehabilitation center, Alaska Sealife Center is a wildly popular visitor attraction and a unique venue for cocktail receptions, intimate dinners, weddings and meetings. The Anchorage Museum is a placebased museum that explores the land, peoples, art and history of the north in an elegant and distinctive venue. The entire museum (which features 247,000 square feet of gallery and event space), as well as specific spaces, such as the Atrium, Thomas Planetarium and Chugach Gallery, can be rented.
Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler
BEST OF BRITISH COLUMBIA
When it comes to this year’s readers’ choices for Best of British Columbia, think spectacular scenery and indulgent elegance, high tea and pampering.
Located on Vancouver’s dynamic waterfront, the Fairmont Waterfront is a world-class luxury hotel and conference center—and this year’s readers’ choice for Best Convention/ Conference Venue. The entire hotel is newly renovated and boasts 24,000 square feet of elegant event space, custom menus, sustainable meeting options, state-of-the-art audio and visual technology, and a breathtaking setting, with sweeping ocean and majestic mountain views.
Moving from the lights of the city to the grandeur of the mountains, the stunning Four Seasons Resort and Residences Whistler is the winner for Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space. With more than 12,695 square feet of event space, a dazzling mountain setting and unrivaled service, memorable meetings are ensured. The property has one ballroom and four breakout rooms, and is available for buyouts. The extracurricular activities are breathtaking and include options such as glacier golf (participants arrive by helicopter) and whitewater rafting. Maola, an Alaskan malamute, is the resident resort dog.
Continuing the mountain theme, our readers chose Fairmont Chateau Whistler as the winner in the Best Resort category. This skiin ski-out hotel and golf resort is a longtime reader favorite because of its family-friendly orientation and its superb resort amenities. Whether the priority is a luxury golf escape, a sheer bliss and relaxation immersion at a spa, or high adventure on mountain trails, Fairmont Chateau Whistler has the amenities for an unforgettable getaway.
The Butchart Gardens, this year’s readers' choice for Best Meeting/Event Venue (not a hotel or convention/conference center), are world-famous and one of the top attractions on Vancouver Island, with more than 1 million visitors annually. Incredible floral displays and distinctive intimate gardens are set on 135 acres, 55 of which are cultivated. The meeting rooms have views of the gardens and an abundance of natural light, creating a serene setting for any event, including weddings, birthdays and family gatherings. Adding to the magic, the culinary team presents an elegant high tea and offers seasonal menus with locally sourced ingredients.
Once the place is chosen, the hard work begins: planning the event. No worries. This year we’ve added a new category, Best Meeting & Event Planning Company. Those in the know chose BC Event Management as the winner. The range of services offered—from design and décor to event pavilion construction and production management—is impressive. The entertainment options are comprehensive. From trade shows and galas to fan fests and receptions, BC Event Management does it all. Founder David Clark’s ongoing goal is “to continue to exceed our clients’ expectations with our trademark attention to detail, technical expertise and creative flair.”
BEST OF IDAHO
Idaho is known for its laid-back vibe, golf, skiing and lakeside retreats.
The Coeur d’Alene Resort wins in two categories this year—Best Convention/Conference Venue and Best Resort—and that’s no surprise. Both the resort’s spa and golf course are consistently ranked as tops in the nation. Combine other attributes such as the irresistible lakeside setting, superb accommodations, outstanding culinary options, and the ability to hold large-scale conventions and conferences at the full-service Hagadone Event Center in this idyllic setting, and it’s easy to understand why The Coeur d’Alene Resort is an annual winner in Best of the Northwest.
A quintessential lakeside mountain retreat located on Payette Lake, Shore Lodge is readers’ choice for Best Hotel with Meeting/ Event Space, and is run by president and general manager Dan Scott, an avid pilot and Starbucks alum. Many give Scott and his team, which has had a long association with the McCall area, credit for Shore Lodge’s successful growth and transformation over the past several years. Scott has overseen this development with an eye to maintaining Shore Lodge’s original charm, while adding all the modern conveniences expected at a world-class property. Today, the lodge has 10 private venues totaling more than 19,000 square feet, with state-of-the-art technology, amenities that rival the best resorts, and a well-trained and dedicated staff. The Cove is an award-winning spa and is a destination in its own right.
Chateau des Fleurs makes its debut this year in the Best of the Northwest as readers’ choice for Best Meeting/Event Venue (not a hotel or convention/conference center). The design of the chateau was heavily influenced by the grandeur of the Palace of Versailles in France and the beauty of the Barnsley House Gardens in England. There are two large ballrooms—one lavishly decorated in gold tones, and the other in platinum—plus two private dining rooms. Lush furniture, ornate mirrors, chandeliers and art are found throughout the venue. The bridal suite is elegant, with velvet couches, chairs and a claw-foot tub. Le Coq d’Or, the venue’s European-inspired restaurant, has been well-received since opening, and high tea on Wednesdays is a guest favorite.
The Heathman Hotel
BEST OF OREGON
Sophisticated charm, a love of historic buildings, an affinity for the arts and bold individuality characterize this year’s Best of Oregon winners.
Spirit Mountain Casino wins the Best Casino category for the third consecutive year, and has been our readers’ choice since this category was first introduced. It is the state’s largest nonsmoking casino and has all the popular table games and slots. Based on guest reviews, the dining and live entertainment exceed expectations, and it’s family-friendly and conveniently located (60 miles south of Portland and 30 minutes from the Oregon Coast). “Our goal,” says Cory Bobb, casino marketing manager, “is to create a great guest experience with each encounter.”
Salem Convention Center is a repeat winner in the Best Convention/Conference Venue category. It’s flexible, with 14 meeting rooms and more than 30,000 square feet of event space (plus 10,000 square feet of pre-function and trade show space). The center can expertly manage events ranging from 15-1,500 attendees. Its recipe for success includes attentive staff, delicious culinary options, affordable pricing and the historic Grand Hotel in Salem, located right next door. The center, with its stunning architecture and art-filled spaces, is also one of the most beautiful buildings in the state.
Readers’ choice for Best Hotel with Meeting/ Event Space (More than 200 Guest Rooms) is downtown Portland’s The Benson, a Coast Hotel. Steeped in history, this landmark hotel has welcomed every U.S. president since William H. Taft. and other VIPs. The Benson’s 290 guest rooms and suites were recently refreshed (with suite renovations continuing into early 2018), and its 18,000 square feet of function space includes two ultraluxurious ballrooms and 19 breakout rooms.
For Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (Less than 200 Guest Rooms), our readers selected The Heathman Hotel. This boutique hotel may be smaller in scale, but is no less grand in terms of amenities and service. Built in 1927, this high-end landmark hotel is located in the Cultural District, next to the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall (a private entrance connects the two). The Heathman is a favorite of those who appreciate the arts: Its library has 2,700 volumes signed by the authors, and a world-class art collection adorns the walls. Meeting attendees are delighted with unique touches, such as the beefeater doorman and formal Russian tea service.
Leftbank Annex and Urban Studio tied for Best Meeting/Event Venue (not a hotel or convention/conference center). An inspiring blend of industrial chic and simple elegance, Leftbank Annex is located near the Pearl District and across the street from the Rose Garden. It’s an upscale, contemporary urban venue with more than 14,000 square feet of meeting space on two floors, and features soaring beamed ceilings, large windows and partial city views. Nearby Urban Studio is located in the Pearl District and is also a contemporary event space, located in the historic former Denby Motor Truck Company building. In addition to large windows, exposed ceilings and an open floor plan, a garage door opens to the sidewalk on NW 10th.
Sunriver Resort is a repeat winner in the Best Resort/Lodge with Meeting/Event Space category, and that is no surprise to anyone who has visited the resort. Located on 3,300 acres along the Deschutes River and only 20 minutes from Mount Bachelor, Sunriver is a world-famous vacation destination resort, with superb meeting facilities and staff—and 300 days of sunshine each year. The resort has a wide range of accommodations (from casual to luxurious), upscale dining, premier golf and an incredible spa. The resort is family-friendly, with a plethora of activities for toddlers, kids, teens and adults (swimming, hiking, biking, kayaking, horseback riding, etc.). It’s also petfriendly, and the picturesque setting is absolutely stunning.
We’ve added a new category this year, Best Winery/Brewery/Distillery with Event Space—and Willamette Valley Vineyards is readers’ choice for 2017. This award-winning winery was once named one of America’s leading Pinot Noir producers by Wine Enthusiast magazine. Guests rave about the peaceful vineyard setting, the hospitality of the winery’s staff and the beautiful facilities. Multiple spaces, such as the Founders’ Room and the Pinot Room, are available for private events of all sizes. Nothing beats an outdoor event on The Lawns with views of the vineyard and the rolling hills of the Willamette Valley.
The venues may be grand, but it’s often the services and the people who provide them that make each event special.
When it comes to Best Audio-Visual/ Visual Presentation Provider, our readers chose Allied Video Productions. Allied is considered the best in the business for single and multicamera video production and postproduction editing, and has built a solid reputation in live event production. The company also does the basics, such as providing A/V services and rentals for events—and gets high marks from customers for its “personal touch” in customer service.
Elephants Catering gets high marks, too— in food—and is the 2017 readers’ choice for Best Catering Company. Of course, Elephants has great menu options, delicious food and outstanding customer service, but its secret ingredient for success is its staff, according to founder Elaine Rhine Tanzer.
Guests like to be entertained, and Best Entertainment Provider Portland Photobooth spices up events with portable photo booths. In addition to the traditional sit-down booth, a fun open-air option is available. Guests pose in front of a backdrop and are visible for all to see—and cheer on—the action.
Royce Mason, proprietor of Royce’s Prop Shop, understands the importance of the setting in creating spectacular events. His company brings award-winning scenic design, prop fabrication and 20,000 square feet of unique inventory to the party, and is this year’s readers’ choice for Best Event/Floral Décor.
Best Meeting & Event Planning Company for 2017 is Viva! Events, a company that specializes in destination management services, corporate event management and incentive programs for Oregon-bound visitors. “We live, work and play in Oregon,” says Denise Ker Waldron, CMP, president and CEO. “We are the local experts.”
When setting up an event, our readers need someone who can deliver—literally. In Oregon, that would be The Party Place, a family-owned and -operated event rental business since 1968, and readers’ choice for Best Rental Service. The Party Place has the largest inventory in Oregon, and some experienced staff members have been with the company for more than 10 years.
With everything all set for the party, it’s time to get guests to the event. Double Decker PDX, the winner for Best Transportation Provider/ Valet Service, provides a comfortable and innovative ride. It has renovated an antique double decker, installed a sound system for blasting tunes and added minifridges to both levels.
Four Seasons Hotel Seattle
BEST OF WASHINGTON
Best of Washington 2017 is a perfect blend of well-established veterans and awesome new winners, reflecting historic elegance, urban contemporary choices and a walk on the fun side.
A repeat winner in this category, Tulalip Resort Casino is readers’ choice for Best Casino. It’s not just about the gaming at Tulalip (although it's exceptional). The 370 renovated guest rooms are lovely, the restaurants are excellent, the entertainment’s first class, and the 600-square-foot bridal lounge at the spa is a delight. At Tulalip, it’s also about heart, paying homage to the history and culture of the Tulalip Tribes through the art, design and decoration of the guest rooms and public spaces.
The Washington State Convention Center wins for Best Convention/Conference Venue. The staff knows how to do things right and provides a lot of assistance in all the right ways. While the center is well known for large events, it also has One-Stop, a program to provide “big service for smaller meetings.” Given its location, beautifully designed facilities, flexible spaces and first-class service, this center's one of the top places in the state for events, both large and small.
Built in 1924, the Fairmont Olympic Hotel has defined classic elegance in Seattle for almost a century, and is the winner for Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (More than 200 Guest Rooms). A favorite of brides because of the sheer elegance of its Italian Renaissance style and the beauty of its public spaces, the Fairmont Olympic has a dedicated director of celebrations, whose only job is to create dream weddings, celebrations and special events. Located in the center of Seattle’s arts and financial hub, the Fairmont is also a prominent place for power, board and shareholder meetings. Business deals even get done during high tea at The Georgian, an elegant classic restaurant.
Four Seasons Hotel Seattle wins Best Hotel with Meeting/Event Space (Less than 200 Guest Rooms). This 147-room property defines urban sophistication and has stunning views of Elliott Bay, Puget Sound and the Seattle Great Wheel. The hotel’s amenities include nice touches, such as babysitting, a 24-hour fitness center, and a rooftop pool with sweeping views of the city and the Sound. With more than 10,000 square feet of meeting and event space, it’s an excellent choice for planners.
Fremont Foundry is readers’ choice for Best Meeting/Event Venue (not a hotel or convention/conference center). Located in the heart of Fremont, the Foundry is a renovated metalworking foundry with expansive glass windows, 20-foot skylights, and a blend of metals, wood and cement accents. Think chicindustrial ambiance with artful design, flexible space and sweeping north Seattle views from a spectacular rooftop terrace. It’s a beautiful contemporary space.
Suncadia Resort is a year-round destination resort that includes 6,000 acres of forested mountain landscape, 40 miles of hiking and biking trails, three championship golf courses, a world-class spa and excellent dining. Given that list of amenities, it’s no surprise that Suncadia has been named Best Resort/Lodge with Meeting/Event Space. The meeting staff claims that the clean mountain air and breathtaking mountain views enhance meeting productivity. Some visitors love the area so much, they end up buying one of the vacation home rentals that are part of the community.
The winner for Best Winery/Brewery/ Distillery with Event Space is Washington’s oldest—and arguably most renowned—winery, Chateau Ste. Michelle. Famous for its award-winning wines, Chateau Ste. Michelle also has the distinction of turning summer concerts into an art form and books high-end talent such as Diana Krall, Lyle Lovett and Chicago. From the chateau’s stately banquet and gracious Manor House to the sweeping back lawn and corporate concert suites or private concert tents, the spaces are suitable for groups large and small (no weddings or receptions). The historic setting and access to unparalleled wine and food guarantee that any occasion will be an unforgettable experience.
Lisa Dupar Catering
Blue Danube Productions, the company known for 12th Man lighting and Macklemore’s "Heist" world tour, has won the Best Audio-Visual/Visual Presentation Provider category. Founder Niki McKay is a legend in this industry. The company’s keys to success are the ability to meld creative ideas with flawless production, and orchestrating video, audio and lighting to realize clients’ goals. Blue Danube has also become an expert in the latest trend, experiential marketing, using light, sound and action to create an immersive experience for guests.
Readers’ choice for Best Catering Company is Lisa Dupar Catering, a repeat winner in this category. Lisa Dupar has been a top caterer in the Seattle area for almost 30 years. Clients rave, describing the service and presentation as flawless and Dupar’s cuisine as the best wedding food ever. Innovative menus include mouthwatering choices like slow-cooked petite tenderloin with thyme and carmelized onions and Guinness stout cake with crème anglaise.
When it comes to crowd-pleasers, magician Nash Fung and Animate Objects Physical Theater are tops and tie in the Best Entertainment Provider category. Fung is funny. He’s mesmerizing. His magic is stunning. His routines have impressed stars like Penn & Teller on their show “Fool Us.” And he knows how to work an event. Beyond the magic and stage presentations, he’s also reportedly a really nice guy and community volunteer.
Ileigh Reynolds is owner and creative director of Animate, an aerial group that has performed internationally in more than 50 cities. “We dance on sides of buildings, suspend from theater rafters and delight guests with engaging performances,” notes Reynolds. Each performance is unique, and in-house resources include a costume shop, prop fabrication and professional rigging services.
Established in 1988, Fena Flowers is known for exquisite flower arrangements and is this year’s readers’ choice for Best Event/Floral Décor. It is lauded for creating superb designs and providing terrific customer service. One of the elements that makes Fena special is that mums, carnations, baby’s breath and other fillers are never used in its distinctive designs.
If we decided to announce our readers’ choice for event planner in a tweet, it might read like this, in keeping with the personality of the winner: “Yo! Kelli Bielema, chief creative officer/owner and hilarious ‘evil genius’ of Shindig Events—your company is Best Meeting & Event Planning Company for 2017.” The stuff it does includes “a whole bunch of things” like hootenannies, soirees, “partayyys” and funraisers (you raise the money, they raise the “ROOF!”). Bielema’s secret to her success? “Our mamas taught us to work hard and be nice to people.”
CORT Party Rental and Pedersen’s Event Rentals tie for the winning spot in the Best Rental Service category. Recently, CORT merged its two rental brands (AA Party Rentals and ABC Special Event Rentals) to create one powerhouse rental company, providing a true one-stop service for event planners. CORT has everything imaginable for party rentals.
Pedersen’s, a family-owned company, calls itself the “Celebration Experts” and has been serving the needs of event planners for more than 65 years. The Pedersens have been pioneers in the party rental industry, have an amazing inventory with more than 500,000 items in stock and have a reputation for customer service. “I’ve used them often and they’ve never let me down,” says Lainie Colburn, director of events at Inglewood Golf Club.
Raise a glass to Stuart and Jeremy Butler, principals of Butler Seattle, whose full-service company has been chosen Best Transportation Provider/Valet Service. Both are passionate about the company, and deeply involved in the tourism industry and their respective communities. They have always insisted on the highest level of professionalism, service and excellence in the business, and have won this award every year since the category was introduced.