Coming up with fresh destinations can give meeting planners an enormous headache. While the requirements are reasonable, they usually make the task seem like spinning straw into gold.
Convenient to the airport. Easy on the budget. Close to lodging. Easily accessible points of interest. Great food. A safe, clean environment for leisure-time exploring. And on and on.
Savvy planners often narrow the choices to relatively small cities close to a major metro area because they usually satisfy at least some of those requirements. Tacoma, Washington, is a destination that meets all of them. The city is located about 40 minutes south of Seattle and 20 minutes from Sea-Tac International Airport. Lodging rates are a fraction of what meeting planners typically negotiate in Seattle and most top hotels are conveniently located downtown, which is served by free light rail.
Tacoma is one of the most scenic and historic cities in the Northwest – with 40 miles of Puget Sound shoreline within the city limits, 14,410-foot Mt. Rainier in its backyard, a revitalized downtown where historic preservation is valued, and a new downtown convention center next to the Museum District and University of Washington. Both fine and casual dining can be found virtually everywhere, including the acclaimed Pacific Grill, a few steps from major hotels and the convention center.
The Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center is a state-of-the-art facility that accommodates everything from conventions and trade shows to large and small conferences. The ultramodern 2004 structure capitalizes on the city’s fabulous views and is adjacent to some of the city’s best hotels, including the award-winning Hotel Murano, ranking number six on the 2009 Condé Nast U.S.A. Gold List.
The city’s moniker is “Where Art Plus Nature Meet,” an apt slogan that describes both the natural beauty and the city’s revitalization as an important Pacific Rim cultural center. Former Mayor, Bill Baarsma, reflects on this revitalization with pride. “In the past decade,” he says, “Tacoma has undergone a transformation unlike any city of its size anywhere.”
“Tacoma has an extraordinarily active arts community,” adds Ryan Petty, director of the city’s Department of Community and Economic Development, “from painters, sculptors, and glass artists to writers, actors, and musicians.”
The Museum District houses the Tacoma Art Museum, a modern steel and glass structure encircling a “wave” courtyard made from 500-year-old stone pavers from China. The museum presents ten to fifteen world-class exhibits a year featuring Northwest, national, and international artists. The Museum of Glass and the Washington State History Museum are within a few-block radius. The stunning pedestrian Bridge of Glass, with its barrage of color featuring Chihuly masterworks, connects the Museum of Glass to the two other museums, and the district is dotted with some of the city’s finest galleries.
Few cities are a meeting planners dream come true, but the city where art plus nature meet is a definite contender.
Tacoma Regional Convention & Visitor’s Bureau: www.traveltacoma.com
Greater Tacoma Convention and Trade Center: www.tacomaconventioncenter.com