Blame the caffeine from all that locally brewed coffee, but the Pacific Northwest is constantly on the move. Oregon and Washington are brimming with opportunities to take in the great outdoors via planes, trains, automobiles and everything in between, as well as group-friendly venues dedicated to various modes of transport.

Pacific Northwest: 'Moving' Experiences'

by Kelsey Farabee
Blame the caffeine from all that locally brewed coffee, but the Pacific Northwest is constantly on the move. Oregon and Washington are brimming with opportunities to take in the great outdoors via planes, trains, automobiles and everything in between, as well as group-friendly venues dedicated to various modes of transport.

Groups can get their blood pumping by racing hydroplanes at the nation’s only museum dedicated to the sport, relax and admire breathtaking views on a railroad journey or get a bird’s-eye view of Seattle and the San Juan Islands in a low-flying seaplane.

The following transportation-themed sites and activities are sure to provide memorable experiences and keep attendees on the go.

Groups can set sail and learn to “pull together” with the Historical Seaport Tall Ships as they travel onboard the Lady Washington or the Hawaiian Chieftain with a captain, engineer, first mate and support crew.

Though their home port is in Aberdeen, Wash., roughly one hour west of Olympia, both boats travel 10 months out of the year along the Pacific coast and inland rivers, docking at various places along the way, including Coos Bay and Portland, Ore., and Puget Sound, San Juan Islands and Vancouver, Wash.

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Out on the water, team building is all but guaranteed, as passengers are encouraged to take part in crewing the ships.

“These tall ships can’t function if people don’t work together,” says Joe Follansbee, communications director for Historical Seaport Tall Ships. “Groups will be raising a sail together singing a sea shanty.”

On overnight passages, guests are assigned a bunk and given watch responsibilities.

“It’s not all serious work,” Follansbee says. “Our mission is to create an educational, hands-on experience and leave passengers with a strong sense of 18th century maritime history. Visitors really get a feeling of what the period was like.”

Just as sailors on these ships did as they explored the Pacific coast decades ago, modern-day passengers work together to raise and lower sails, take hold of the wheel or tiller to steer the vessel, and fire cannons loaded with real gun powder. Sea battles, where a naval skirmish is recreated, are the most popular group outing option and can be arranged when the two ships are in the same port.

The ships and battles may be historical, but the food onboard is contemporary and prepared with care.

“We don’t feed the passengers hard tack and salt pork,” Follansbee says. “The food is modern fare and we use local ingredients when possible.”

The Lady Washington can accommodate 45 passengers, and the Hawaiian Chieftain has space for 43. Trips of varying durations can be booked, from a three-hour day sail to a multiday passage between ports.

The company encourages planners to book far in advance.

Seattle Seaplanes gives groups a chance to partake in unique adventures, enjoying aerial views of the Pacific Northwest and landing on the water.

The small company, which has been owned and operated by Jim Chrysler for more than 30 years, employs highly experienced and knowledgeable pilots. It operates two airplanes that seat five passengers each and another airplane that seats three passengers.

Seattle Seaplanes is flexible and accommodating with charter tours and recently welcomed a group of 30 people, flying them in shifts and keeping those on the dock below comfortable with snacks and beverages.

From its home dock on Lake Union, Seattle Seaplanes takes groups soaring over the Olympic mountain range, out to the San Juan Islands for scenic fishing adventures, south to the serene Alderbrook Resort on the glacial-carved Hood Canal or north to Friday Harbor.

The 20-minute Seattle Scenic Tour is the most popular excursion, providing stunning aerial views of Seattle’s distinctive floating bridges and the iconic Space Needle.

Paying homage to the nation’s love affair with the automobile, the LeMay–America’s Car Museum is scheduled to open in Tacoma in June, though it has already begun hosting group events.

The campus includes the 165,000-square-foot museum, a cafe, car storage and a 3.5-acre show field for car shows, expositions, concerts and large private events.

The museum has 10 spaces available for groups that allow them to dine around the cars. The venue has already hosted everything from a sit-down gala for 650 to smaller private events.

The famous LeMay Collection was named the world’s largest car collection by the Guinness Book of World Records in 1997 and at its peak included more than 3,400 vehicles. Approximately 300 cars will be on display at the museum, and exhibits will detail America’s unique automotive story.

Skiers, snowboarders and foot passengers alike can now visit the 6,872-foot summit of Crystal Mountain and dine at Summit House restaurant, the highest-elevation restaurant in Washington.

Opened in January 2011, the $8 million Crystal Mountain Gondola transports passengers more than 2,500 vertical feet and a mile in distance to the mountain peak, where they are greeted by stunning views of neighboring Mt. Rainier.

With 23 eight-passenger cabins, the gondola has an uphill capacity of 600 people per hour. More gondola cabins will be added in the future.

Crystal Mountain can be enjoyed year-round for skiing, snowshoeing, horseback riding, sightseeing, dining, disc golfing, hiking and mountain biking.

“The beautiful outdoor setting is a big attraction for groups. It really feels like you are escaping into the mountains when you come to Crystal Mountain,” says Judas Hyatt, Crystal Mountain Resort’s group sales manager and marketing and communications coordinator. “It is a special experience summer or winter. We get a lot of corporate ski groups in the winter, and in the summer the area is vibrant, clean and full of wildlife. Visitors almost always see elk and sometimes marmots and foxes.”

For an upscale fine-dining experience, groups can rent out the Summit House restaurant, which has a 96-person capacity, and during the summer two plazas are available at the base of the mountain. Each plaza can accommodate up to 350 people for various events.

“The gondola has really opened up business for the summit restaurant and in the summer season,” Hyatt says.

The resort is hoping to add more dedicated meeting space over the next several years as development continues.

Groups are on the right track when they hop onboard the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad (OCSR). OCSR trains cruise over tracks laid 100 years ago by Southern Pacific Railroad, travelling along 13 miles of picturesque coastline from Garibaldi to Wheeler.

The route provides views of Tillamook Bay, the Pacific Ocean and Nehalem Bay, and passengers often glimpse fishing boats coming in and waves crashing over the jetty.

“There is nothing between the train and the bay,” says Kim Wickert, spokeswoman for OCSR, “You get unimpeded views.”

The railroad is a volunteer-run nonprofit organization and has been operating train trips since 2004. Today, the railroad draws more than 13,000 riders annually.

Groups can buy discounted ticket packages on the regularly scheduled rides or book private charters for a minimum of two hours.

“Some groups stay out all day, stopping in the towns to shop and play, while others just want the scenery,” Wickert says.

On chartered trips, planners can choose between a diesel or a steam locomotive. A basic train with three cars holds 180 passengers. Open-air cars hold approximately 50 people each, a dining car holds 60 and an indoor coach car holds 85.

A gourmet four-course meal is served onboard dinner trains.

For private events, food options are flexible; groups can bring their own food onboard or work with OCSR caterers to prepare meals ranging from simple box lunches to elaborate dinners.

At the Museum of Flight in Seattle Southside, attendees can dine underneath the wings of a historic Blackbird spy plane or maneuver an aircraft through barrel rolls and chase down enemy fighters on a simulator ride. A team can work together to guide a simulated space shuttle into Mission Control and view 150-plus aircraft on display.

Drawing more than 400,000 visitors annually, the Museum of Flight brings years of aviation history and space exploration to life.

This spring will mark the opening of the new Space Gallery, the future home of a permanent exhibit on astronaut training, showcasing the NASA fuselage trainer. Until the fuselage arrives in June, the gallery will house a temporary exhibit exploring the future of human space flight.

Docents give tours of the Red Barn, the original Boeing manufacturing facility, located at the property.

Discounted admission is available for groups larger than 10, and 141,000 square feet of meeting space is designed to offer an atmosphere of invention and discovery. With 14 different event areas, a capacity of up to 4,000 guests and catering by McCormick & Schmick’s, the Museum of Flight is fully equipped to help groups take off.

Constructed in 1959 for Oregon’s statehood centennial celebration, the Washington Park Zoo Railroad travels on a mile loop around the zoo as well as on a longer 4.5-mile, 35-minute trip making stops at the Washington Park International Rose Garden and the Portland Japanese garden. Groups can enjoy a leisurely ride on one of three narrow-gauge trains before taking advantage of the many meeting facilities and team-building activities the zoo offers.

The route was surveyed by Southern Pacific Railroad, and the train is the last operating U.S. railroad to offer mail service. The Washington Park train station hand-cancellation stamp has become a postal service collector’s item.

The zoo features space for business meetings, conferences and receptions and offers full-service catering for social gatherings and corporate events. Facilities can accommodate up to 450 for receptions and banquets and up to 5,000 for outdoor events.

Groups can also arrange to see the zoo on a private night safari or ZooSnooze, and participate in team-building scavenger hunts and various group volunteer projects.

For attendees that like to move at high speeds, the Hydroplane & Raceboat Museum offers a day-long team-building workshop where groups build mini hydroplanes and race them on a nearby lake.

It is the only public museum in the nation dedicated to powerboat and hydroplane racing and houses a collection of vintage hydroplanes spanning 70 years. The museum provides a thorough history of the sport, and visitors can even watch vintage boats being refurbished.

Wanderlust Tours embodies the adventurous spirit of the Northwest and can bring an active, outdoorsy vibe to your next group outing or team-building program.

Led by professional naturalists, tour options range from kayaking and canoeing to snowshoeing and caving.

“These tours give people a strong sense of place,” says James Jaggard, general manager of the company. “We make a point to include the natural and cultural history of the region.”

On outdoor tours, backcountry catering is available and a GPS eco-challenge tour offers valuable team-building opportunities.

If a group’s wanderlust is pulling them indoors, the company’s newest tour offering, the Bend Brew Bus ( stops at four local craft breweries and includes tastings and appetizers.

“We take beer almost as seriously as California takes wine,” Jaggard says. “Bend has 10 breweries and that number is growing.”

Wanderlust Tours places emphasis on the educational aspect of their programs.

“When a guest goes out with us, they always learn something,” Jaggard says. “Our trips create lasting memories—not just an adrenaline spike. We connect them to Bend and Central Oregon and they want to come back here.”