SITUATED ON THE PUGET SOUND’S SCENIC COMMENCEMENT BAY, the port city of Tacoma, Wash., is flanked by generous views of wonders both natural and manmade. Chief in mind are the practically panoramic views of Mount Rainierand the 500-foot-long Bridge of Glass, a pedestrian walkway which connects the city’s Museum of Glass to downtown. And since Tacoma sits smack dab between Seattle and Washington’s state capital, Olympia, you can consider this gem the perfect destination for your next meeting or gathering.
You'll pick up quickly on the prevalence of blown-glass art in Tacoma. After all, it is the hometown of famed glass guru Dale Chihuly. In fact, you could create an entirely glass-centric getaway for your guests, starting with a gathering at the Museum of Glass, where you can host a seated soiree for 300 in the museum’s grand hall or a meeting for 20 seated in the boardroom. The museum offers a few other event spaces as well, including the Hot Shop Amphitheater, where up to 208 seated and 70 standing can watch glass artists in action. For something truly unique, treat a few special someones to a hands-on experience on the hot shop floor, where they join the pros in creating one-of-a-kind souvenirs. Up to 30 folks can participate, and many reserve this special experience for a select group of VIPs or a raffle prize for a few lucky guests. Whichever space you choose, all include private access to the museum’s galleries.
Just a short walk from the museum sits Hotel Murano, a boutique glass-themed beauty that features pieces by 45 local and international contemporary glass artists, with works by different glass masters on each of the guest room floors. "Tacoma is the epicenter of American glass art," says Kate Buska, director of public relations for Hotel Murano. "And we wanted to bring international glass art to the hotel."
Guest favorites include a trio of hanging Viking ships by Danish artist Vibeke Skov and Pianist’s Dress, a svelte statue by artist Karen LaMonte located in the hotel’s lobby. Relax in one of the hotel’s artfully decorated rooms-each of which comes with an iPod docking station and flat-screen television- work out in the state-of-the-art fitness center or just plain work in the 24-hour business center. Wanna celebrate where you sleep? Hotel Murano has 28,000 square feet of flexible meeting space, which can accommodate anything from a board meeting for 18 to a reception for 700-plus.
Other accommodation options include the 90-room Silver Cloud Inn (ideally located on the Tacoma waterfront) and the 162- room Courtyard Tacoma Downtown, both a short distance from restaurants, museums and Link light rail trams. The Courtyard offers 7,000 square feet of meeting space, as well as a business center, cocktail lounge, café, luxury spa and the independent restaurant Pacific Grill. "We also have six spa suites in the historic Waddell Building. Built in 1896, we restored it and it’s attached to the hotel," says Carol Pica, director of sales for the Courtyard.
If cars are more your speed, zip over to LeMay - America’s Car Museum (ACM), one of the world’s largest automobile museums and a popular venue since opening in 2012. The four-story museum can hold hundreds of cars, trucks and motorcycles, drawing partially from the collection of Tacomans Harold and Nancy LeMay, who landed in the Guinness Book of World Records for the largest privately owned collection in the mid-90s.
If you’re just looking for a pit stop, you can score a guided group tour, but if you’re envisioning something with a bit more mileage, ACM has 10 event spaces, including a boardroom for more intimate meetings and the Showcase Gallery, where up to 800 can enjoy a reception-style shindig amid the museum’s collection. "[Planners] love providing their guests with a visually stimulating experience that is not just a dinner at a hotel or standard event venue," says LeMay Sales Manager LeAna Reising. If you really want to rev up guests, try the Boone Speed Zone, where partygoers can hit the road in race car simulators. And don’t worry. You needn’t be car-crazed to enjoy this venue. "I’m not a huge car enthusiast," says Moira Davin, director of sales for the Tacoma Regional Convention and Visitor Bureau. "But going into that museum-it’s exciting."
Want something a bit more conventional? Try the Greater Tacoma Convention & Trade Center, where you can take in water and mountain views while taking care of business. The convention center boasts 119,000 square feet of flexible event space, including a ballroom, exhibit hall and 12 breakout rooms. And in true Tacoma style, it’s garnished with art, including a massive sculpture made of old growth timber, porcelain walls and two of Andy Warhol’s Flower for Tacoma Dome suggested designs. The artist submitted the designs in 1982 while the dome was under construction, proposing the dome be covered in a huge painting of a flower. His proposal was declined, but a grass-roots effort is underway to now move forward with the project, 30 years post-rejection.
From Chihuly to Warhol-regardless of where you choose to meet, stay or celebrate in Tacoma, chances are it will be an artful occasion.