Seattle has long been known for its uber-cool elements, each bringing a tantalizing smell to mind. The city is scented by the crisp freshness of rain, with a touch of ocean air. Its music evokes an energetic crowd, perspiring in a confined local music venue. And its food scene teases tourists with the fragrance of roasted coffee beans on every corner and just-off-the-boat seafood from the fish market. Few other places tempt the olfactory senses quite like Seattle does, or have made such an impact on the ever-growing trends in today’s pop culture.

By Jessie Fetterling

Smells like meetings spirit

Seattle has long been known for its uber-cool elements, each bringing a tantalizing smell to mind. The city is scented by the crisp freshness of rain, with a touch of ocean air. Its music evokes an energetic crowd, perspiring in a confined local music venue. And its food scene teases tourists with the fragrance of roasted coffee beans on every corner and just-off-the-boat seafood from the fish market. Few other places tempt the olfactory senses quite like Seattle does, or have made such an impact on the ever-growing trends in today’s pop culture.

From Jimi Hendrix to Nirvana, every modern era of music has been touched by Seattle natives who shape the sounds of the times. Local glass artist Dale Chihuly helped inspire the world of glassblowing. Seattle has even taken the food-truck trend and made it its own with food-truck caravans.

With all of these enticements, it’s easy to see why Seattle is a place that attracts the crowds. It’s almost guaranteed that attendees will leave with the scent of cool embedded in their clothes.

Small Incentive

Where to Book

Seattle’s mixture of urban and nature offerings gives every group a reason to book here. And its ever-so-hip boutique properties give them a reason to stay.

Walking into Hotel FIVE is like stepping into a sleek urban loft, decked out in vibrant reds and yellows and punctuated with black accents. Previously a Ramada, the hotel reopened in June after major renovations to its 120 guest rooms, including the addition of hardwood flooring and blackout blinds (for those late risers). Incentive groups—maybe a Silicon Valley-type company looking to escape the San Francisco Bay Area for a couple days—can throw out ideas in the boardroom seating up to 10 people, or they can mix and mingle in the onsite Max’s Café, which can host small, casual functions.

Luxury meets art at the Alexis Hotel, located in the inventive West Edge neighborhood. Like most Kimpton Hotels, this 121-room property tells a story: the Art of Living. In fact the hotel’s name comes from the Greek word alexios, which means “to help.” The hotel’s backstory is meant to encourage guests to appreciate artistic freedom and see life as a work of art. An onsite selection of antiques and fine art, enriched by the warm earth tones of the hotel’s décor, creates an inspirational environment. The cushy Library Bistro, appropriately complete with bookshelves, accommodates 30 in the Reading Room, or the entire restaurant can be rented to accommodate 150.

Hotel 1000, aka H1K, sports 120 guest rooms spread out through the 14-story building. The Outdoor Terrace, open year-round, can host a sit-down dinner for 70 featuring views of skyscrapers that accentuate and show off the downtown setting. The Studio, on the first floor, includes floor-to-ceiling windows that overlook First Avenue, as well as a free-floating fireplace set in the center of the room.

Pike Place Market


Within walking distance of all three hotels is Seattle’s famous Pike Place Market. Attendees can stroll to the open market and grab a bite to eat at Bacco Café & Bistro, an Italian eatery, with four kinds of eggs Benedict on the menu. Or they can grab a quick pick-me-up at Seattle’s Best Coffee—a city staple—as they peruse the fresh produce and colorful flowers for sale.

They can then gear up for a day in Woodinville Wine Country. With more than 80 wineries about 30 minutes outside of Seattle, groups can bond while sampling some of the area’s world-class wines. Barrel Wine Tours plans private tours for groups of eight to 54 people.


Your group can wake up leisurely and walk over to the Broderick Building at Second and Cherry streets to meet up with an instructor from Travel to Sketch at 9:30. Three- or six-hour walking tours are available for groups of two to 15 people. On the tour, attendees will learn the necessary artistic skills to sketch Seattle’s historical architecture. As groups stroll the neighborhoods, they will have the opportunity to draw some of their favorite sites in a provided sketchbook. Personalized tours are available, including a sketch and wine-tasting excursion to Cave B Inn & Spa, located in Quincy near the Columbia River. The property offers more than 4,800 sq. ft. for groups who want to toss around some ideas between activities.


Plan a day on the water by chartering the Schooner Mallory Todd. Half-day cruises are available for up to 36 guests. Board the sailboat in the morning at South Lake Union and then sail Lake Union through the Montlake Cut to Lake Washington, before returning to the downtown starting point.

After a vigorous morning on the lake, attendees can take the afternoon to unwind at the Spaahh at Hotel 1000, with a menu of facials, massages and even a Salt Illuminate package to exfoliate and hydrate the skin. Next, go out on the town to Dimitriou’s Jazz Alley. Guests can dine on steamed Manila clams, pan-seared salmon and Mediterranean lamb curry, while watching jazz musicians perform. Tower of Power and Brian Culbertson are just a couple of acts that have graced the stage so far this year. Shows sell out fast, so make early reservations to ensure your guests can all sit together.

Midsize Corporate

Where to Book

“Downtown is vibrant and healthy. It provides excellent retail and food and beverage options for meeting delegates all within a close proximity to [Washington State Convention Center]. Seattle is unique in its walkability, big-city flavor and non-cookie-cutter-type businesses. It has a very special urban character,” says Tom Norwalk, president and CEO of Seattle’s Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Offering that same Seattle character, the three-year-old Hyatt at Olive 8 was the first LEED certified hotel in the city and has a variety of energy- and water-saving features. It has everything to offer a midsize corporate group in its 346 guest rooms and 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The onsite Urbane restaurant incorporates a farm-to-table concept in its menu, including sausages from Uli’s Sausage just blocks away at Pike Place Market.

Across the street from the Seattle Art Museum, the 147-room Four Seasons Hotel Seattle overlooks a 48-foot-tall statue of a “Hammering Man” who pounds his hammer silently more than 3,600 times a day. Greeting guests at the hotel’s entrance is a 300-pound “Thunderbolt” sculpture. Needless to say, the property is largely influenced by the arts. In the lobby are a variety of works by regional artists that reflect the area’s natural elements, including Guy Anderson’s “Northwest Totem with Waterfall” and Gaylen Hansen’s “Night.” Up to 500 guests can meet in the property’s ballroom, with sweeping views of Elliott Bay and Puget Sound in the distance.

As part of the 2200 Westlake Plaza, Pan Pacific Hotel Seattle features 152 guest rooms, a 16,000-square-foot landscaped plaza and 39,000 sq. ft. of retail shops, as well as a Whole Foods Market. The Seastar Restaurant & Raw Bar brings the local seafood catch straight to the table, with sushi, sashimi, ceviche and freshly shucked oysters on the menu.

Chihuly Garden and Glass


Visiting Chihuly Garden and Glass, which opens this spring, is a perfect way to start any group’s morning. Built on Seattle Center’s 74-acre campus, the exhibition will house one of the world’s most comprehensive collections of local artist Dale Chihuly’s glass sculptures. Attendees can tour the grounds, including a 16,000-square-foot outdoor garden with the 16-foot diameter “Sun” sculpture. After the tour, private event space is available in the 43-foot-tall, 4,500-square-foot Glass House.

Seattle Center, once the 1962 World’s Fair grounds, is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the World’s Fair from April through October, with several concerts, cultural displays and history exhibits available for guests’ perusal. The urban park and entertainment complex also features the famous Space Needle, Experience Music Project Museum/Science Fiction Hall of Fame and Pacific Science Center, which will house the “Tutankhamun: The Golden King and the Great Pharaohs” exhibition from May 24, 2012–Jan. 6, 2013. This is the largest King Tut exhibit ever to be shown on the West Coast, with more than 100 objects from the tombs of King Tut and other important rulers who lived throughout Ancient Egypt’s 2,000-year history. After a heavy dose of culture, attendees can hop on the Monorail (linking the center to downtown) and go back to the hotel boardroom for an afternoon session of meetings.

Top off the day at The Triple Door, a live music venue that has private suites available for rental during performances, as well as the Musicquarium Lounge for up to 200 standing—complete with a 1,900-gallon aquarium. The entire venue is available for up to 500 people.


After a morning of meetings, take your group to Tillicum Village, eight miles outside Seattle. Groups can step aboard one of Argosy Cruises’ vessels and ride over to Blake Island, where the village resides; there they’ll experience the rich history and culture—salmon bakes, tribal dances and wooden carvings—of the Coast Salish tribes, who used the island as a summer camping ground for thousands of years. The island was also an ancestral campground of the Suquamish and Duwamish Indian tribes during the 1800s, and is even believed to be the birthplace of Chief Seattle, whom the city is named for. Event space is available for 60 people in the Heritage Room and more than 600 in the Longhouse main dining room. The Northwest Garden also offers totem-pole-decorated outdoor space amid the landscaped gardens.

Take in the views of Lake Union and the Cascade Mountains in the Penthouse at Canlis Restaurant, which can accommodate up to 100 attendees. Open for more than 60 years, the restaurant offers innovative dishes that are decorated so colorfully, they turn dining into an art form. Steak tartare and Muscovy duck are just a few of the menu’s highlights.


Start off the later part of the day with network-enhancing adventure. EverGreen Escapes offers Seattle tourists a long list of team-building itineraries to choose from: Rock climbing, hiking and kayaking are just a few. Each group will have a nine-to-one, guest-to-guide ratio no matter what their number. Attendees can also split up to go on a walking tour or hit the rapids by kayak.

Following a long day, give attendees time to freshen up before heading over to the Seattle Center again for a closing reception at the Space Needle. The SkyLine Level is set 100 feet above the city and features a 360-degree view of downtown and its vast natural surroundings. Groups of 360 can meet here and will receive free access to the landmark’s 520-foot Observation Deck.

Large Association

Where to Book

For even the biggest association groups, the 344,000-square-foot Washington State Convention Center is sure to meet a convention’s needs. A glass-enclosed lobby sets the backdrop, incorporating the natural elements of the state into a setting highlighted by greenery and water fountains. The center received LEED Silver certification for The Conference Center (TCC) event space, which opened in 2010 and connects to the rest of the building. Totaling 71,000 sq. ft., TCC offers catering menus that feature fresh local cuisine, exceeding the bounds of most convention-center fare. The convention center announced a $20 million renovation in January, to be completed in multiple phases throughout 2012 and 2013.

Mega-groups can stay at the 1,258-room Sheraton Seattle Hotel, which features 75,000 sq. ft. of its own meeting space. The 15,000 sq. ft. of pre-function space, complete with floor-to-ceiling windows, provides natural light, as well as sweeping views that showcase the heart of downtown.

The Westin Seattle is another large property, ideal for association groups looking to stay under one roof. The 891-room property is just steps from the Washington State Convention Center and has its own 18,030-square-foot ballroom. The onsite Coldwater Bar and Grill is also available for dinner, except on Sundays.

On a very slightly smaller scale, The Fairmont Olympic Hotel has 450 guest rooms and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The hotel features the Four-Diamond Georgian restaurant, with French-inspired cuisine, as well as Shuckers, one of Seattle’s oldest oyster bars. For meetings, the property has 25,010 sq. ft. of function space divided between 13 meeting rooms. The Spanish Ballroom makes a memorable impression with its 20-foot ceilings adorned with glistening chandeliers.

Nirvana exhibit at Experience Music Project Museum


Book an opening reception at the Experience Music Project Museum for a glimpse into Seattle’s music scene. The exhibit, “Nirvana: Taking Punk to the Masses,” will be on display through April 22, 2013, and will feature the world’s most extensive exhibit of grunge memorabilia. Two hundred pieces of memorabilia linked to the band will tell the story of the Seattle natives and their rise to stardom. Groups of up to 3,000 can meet amid the rockin’ history, while noshing on cuisine from Wolfgang Puck Catering services.


For off-site escapades, attendees can explore the Museum of History and Industry. A collection of nearly 4 million artifacts, archives and photographs attract more than 60,000 visitors annually and detail the history of the Pacific Northwest. The museum will close in June and reopen at a new location in Lake Union Park in November 2012. A $10 million donation from Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos will go toward the new 50,000-square-foot location.

The Seattle Art Museum, in the heart of downtown, is currently hosting “Gauguin and Polynesia: An Elusive Paradise” through April 29. It is the only museum in the U.S. to get the Paul Gauguin exhibit, which features about 60 paintings, sculptures and works on paper by the European artist who moved to Polynesia in 1891. Event space is available to book a reception for up to 1,000 guests.

Venture to Seattle Southside to check out The Museum of Flight, which has the most comprehensive air and space collections in the U.S., including the Air Force One 707 jet that Presidents Eisenhower, Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon used. Other highlights include the new Apollo 17 mission models in the “Space: Exploring the New Frontier” exhibit, which honors the 38th anniversary of the last manned mission to the moon.


End the convention with a bang at AQUA by El Gaucho. Located on the edge of Pier 70, it offers an expansive outdoor deck to take in views of Elliott Bay. Fresh seafood, with dishes such as roasted black cod and Seafood Bacchanalia, make the menu stand out. Available for daytime banquets, the main dining room can accommodate 500 guests.


Seattle Southside Visitor Services:
Seattle's Convention and Visitors Bureau:


Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is about 14 miles south of downtown Seattle and is linked to the city by a light-rail train.