Seattle is young and ever evolving, a dynamic city where newness is an integral part of the culture. And it has a long, proud history of hospitality.
In the early 1850s, Chief Seattle welcomed strangers to the banks of Puget Sound. Because of his kindness, they named their new settlement on Elliott Bay after him. “Seattle is a new city with an ancient culture,” notes Ken Workman, Chief Seattle’s great, great, great, great grandson. “It’s less than two grandmas old, as we like to say.”
Seattle’s tourism and meetings industry is back. Once the clouds lifted, new offerings sprouted, according to Troy Anderson, director of sales for Visit Seattle. “Seattle shows no signs of slowing down,” he says. “With several new additions, such as the new International Arrivals Facility at the airport, Climate Pledge Arena next to the Space Needle, and The Summit [an addition to the Seattle Convention Center] downtown, our city is poised well for groups coming in from all corners of the world. Investment in the city continues, as seen by new hotels like the Lotte Hotel Seattle, Level Seattle, and Astra Hotel Seattle.”
Sprinkle one of the hottest food and beverage scenes in the country into an epic landscape of indoor and outdoor group activities, and Seattle becomes a prime locale for national and international group events.
SEA Airport Gets Upgraded to First Class
Seattle’s gateway to the world has undergone stunning upgrades. International arrivals will now be greeted with a revamped experience at the airport formerly known as Sea-Tac. The new facility greatly improves the passenger experience, with an 85-foot-high aerial walkway connecting arrivals to the 450,000-square-foot grand hall.
The modern design offers gorgeous views of Mount Rainier and complements a wealth of new flights to and from Istanbul, Doha, Belize, Dublin, Helsinki, and more. Increased and resumed service to London, Paris, and Singapore further speaks to the volume and global appeal.
The Convention Center: Relaunched and Rebranded
As of April, the Washington State Convention Center is now the Seattle Convention Center. The name change was inspired by the desire to serve the destination it promotes. The newest building, The Summit, continues to progress toward its 2023 grand opening. The Summit will add 250,000 square feet of exhibition space and 160,000 square feet of meeting space, including a 60,000-square-foot ballroom. Using authentic design elements like Pacific Northwest timber and incorporating panoramic views of the city in every direction highlights the urban nature of the facility.
“The convention center’s newest addition, The Summit, is the first purposely built urban convention center,” says Jeff Blosser, president and CEO of the Seattle Convention Center. “It sets the tone to experience Seattle by foot, mere steps away from hotels, food, iconic places, and sights. This way the heart of Seattle is on display, showcased for all meeting visitors.” The stacked layout maximizes efficiency and melds interior and exterior spaces seamlessly. Skylights will bathe event spaces in daylight and minimize environmental impact, with 100% of the air recirculated from outside and a goal of LEED Gold certification.
New Directions for Iconic Landmarks
The Space Needle turned 60 this year, and its famous roof got a refresh—painted in the original Galaxy Gold. Guests will gasp when they step out on The Loupe, the world’s first and only revolving glass floor. Take advantage of the on-site event planners to help curate group gatherings with breathtaking, panoramic views 520 feet above Seattle.
State-of-the-art Climate Pledge Arena has risen like a phoenix from the ashes of Key Arena. Seattle is a hockey town now, in case you haven’t heard, and Kraken merchandise is the fashion trend of the year in the city. Groups can book a suite for a game or a concert—and frequent visitors should consider an exclusive Verizon Lounge Music Membership.
The rock arena The Crocodile has hosted such seminal acts as Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Yoko Ono, Billie Eilish, and more. This year, The Crocodile reopened in a new location with a multiuse space and an 18-room hotel—and the ghosts of bands past are always on the guest list.
Brand New Hotels: More Than Just a Bed
One classy new arrival made a splash by reimagining Seattle’s oldest church. Lotte Hotel Seattle boasts 15 event spaces, including the glamourous Sanctuary Ballroom, an iconic beaux-arts-style former chapel with original stained-glass windows and a full-wall pipe organ. With 189 luxury guest rooms and 23,350 square feet of meeting and event space, this is Seattle’s most acclaimed new luxury hotel.
The transformation of Seattle’s waterfront now extends to Pioneer Square, along one of the city’s most vibrant yet overlooked neighborhoods. The new boutique hotel RailSpur, just a block from the train station, opens in early 2023, but the event spaces are available for use now. Think bespoke art and food-centric experiences, taking place in renovated, historic buildings.
Basketball fans will love the new Level Hotels & Furnished Suites. The property’s indoor basketball court and climbing wall promise fun group competition—sign up now for the company-wide horse tournament. With over 70,000 square feet dedicated to group fun—three pools, karaoke and game rooms, and a full chef’s kitchen—planners can create a stunning event.
The Fairmont Olympic completed its $25 million renovation last year. This year, it unveiled The George: a high-ceilinged, light-filled, glamorous dining space featuring Pacific Northwest delicacies. Inquire about the progressive experience for groups, starting at The George and ending with a nightcap at the Founders Club speakeasy, with its extensive menu of Prohibition-era cocktails.
The Lodge at St. Edward State Park is an event planner’s dream—wow-factor architecture, intriguing history, art-filled hallways, 9,000 square feet of indoor meeting space, and a state park as its playground. The library, game room, spa, restaurants, and bars are all perfectly thought-out perks for group amusement.
Metal, Music, Curling & More
Seattle is known for rain, but its curious and adventurous spirit shines every day. The best team-building events leave people saying, “I just did that.”
Learn to be a “blacksmith for a day” at Lawless Forge. Create functional works of take-home art: barbecue forks, knives, bottle openers, and the latest offering, ax forging. There’s something about pounding molten metal that really bonds a group.
Planners can give budding chanteurs their spotlight with Airscream—mobile karaoke in a vintage airstream. New to Seattle last year, this is the sought-after musical addition to any event for spontaneous group fun.
Now groups can test their skills at everyone’s favorite Winter Olympic sport: curling. Team up at Motif Seattle to enjoy their award-winning rooftop restaurant Frolik Kitchen + Cocktails followed by a curling game in their heated patio pavilion. One of the largest rooftops in Seattle, the space is easily customizable for group entertainment and activities.
Five Iron Golf opened this year to give duffers that indoor simulator fix. It can host 50-plus events with a golf professional to teach mini-lessons, plus casual contests and games. The space has flexible event arenas, a full bar, food service, pingpong,
a pool, shuffleboard, and more.
Event planners should reserve the Swiftsure, the new vessel from family-owned Puget Sound Express. Gaze at the majestic orcas of the Pacific Northwest with Seattle’s only guaranteed whale-watching tour. It can hold up to 145 passengers and features a galley that serves its famous warm Blueberry Buckles.
The Museum of Flight, about 10 miles south of downtown Seattle within King County International Airport, has 12 event spaces with space for between 10 and 1,200-plus people. Some of the spaces are among or below vintage airplanes, and McCormick & Schmick’s caters the museum’s private events.
A Bite (and a Sip) of the Northwest
One of the biggest draws for meeting planners to Seattle is the food and beverage scene. Seattle is known for its star chefs, local ingredients, ethnic infusion, and culinary flair. There are new openings daily it seems, but here are some notable options for groups.
Consider a bite of everything. Eat Seattle feeds groups with culinary and history tours of Pike Place Market and South Lake Union. Eat Seattle tours run about two hours, and the company supports small businesses and can customize for private groups.
Métier Brewing, the first Black-owned brewery in Seattle, opened its flagship taproom in the Central District. The brewery has 1,500 square feet of event space for up to 50 guests with an audiovisual system and picnic tables, along with thirst-quenching suds.
Cafe Flora, Seattle’s premiere, vegetarian dining option, just opened a beautiful year-round outdoor patio. “Our guests love to sit outside and experience Northwest vegetarian dining in a lovely environment,” notes owner Nat Stratton-Clarke. “Now we can accommodate 40-plus guests in every season.” Planners can ask for group tastings from a farmers’ market or curate a customized experience through the management.
For Seattle’s sparkling water views, groups can now book at two new venues. Lakeside offers upscale prix fixe, brunch, or a la carte menu options, with views of the water and skyline. Its Waterways dining cruises are available for group sails. Hyatt Regency Lake Washington opened Dock & Drink with views of Lake Washington. Event planners can be superheroes by booking the space in conjunction with team-building activities such as seaplane private charter tours or cruises boarded directly from the dock after lunch.
Whether visitors spend one day or many weeks in Seattle, they all come away with the same feeling of inclusivity, diversity, and cultural richness. “My grandfather saw a vision of an integrated society,” muses Workman. “The Duwamish people are a part of the parks, buildings, and streets of this place.” Seattle welcomes everyone now, just as it did in the past.