When Visit Tri-Cities President and CEO Kris Watkins first came to the Tri-Cities from Bellevue, Washington, to open a branch office for her then employer, she had only planned to stay six months. The lure of the Columbia River, abundant golf and romance (she met her now husband Clark during her initial visit) kept her put. Here are three reasons why meeting planners are also drawn to this southeast Washington hub:

1. The weather’s great. The Tri-Cities receives only 7 inches of rain a year.

2. There’s plenty of meeting space. The Tri-Cities community offers 39 hotels and 3,361 guest rooms, with more on the way in 2015. Twenty-one hotels offer conference facilities, and two convention centers have nearly 222,000 square feet of meeting space. The area’s largest conference facility—TRAC Center, at 120,000 square feet—can accommodate up to 7,000 attendees.

3. It’s the gateway to the nation’s newest national park. President Obama signed off on the Manhattan Project National Historic Park on Dec. 19, 2014, to recognize the individuals who contributed to the construction of the world’s first fullscale nuclear reactor.

In the early 1990s, Washington communities and activists had a vision of maintaining green wilderness and creating space where people could embrace the outdoors near urban cities like Seattle. “We’re all better and healthier when we’re connected to nature,” says Caroline Villanova, community and partnerships manager at Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust.

 

Originally from Oregon’s Rogue River Valley, Debbie McCune, director of sales for Travel Salem, relocated to her new hometown when her son was young. In fact, the city’s kid-friendliness is one of the things that attracted her.

 

This jewel of the Inland Northwest is full of charm.