Energize your meetings in Silicon Valley
Stepping inside Buck’s of Woodside is like venturing into your crazy uncle’s attic. In the restaurant entryway, a human-scale Statue of Liberty greets you, serving as the perfect coathook.
An authentic anaconda skin from the Amazon dangles from the open beam ceiling. So does an eight-foot helium blimp and an authentic monkey pod training module used by NASA. Below the aerial cacaphony, entrepreneurs and venture capitalists order hubcap-sized flapjacks while inking deals sealed on the backs of napkins.
Silicon Valley, the birthplace of the iPod, the laptop and the iconic Buck’s, is more than a thread of cities linking Santa Clara County, but rather an energizing force where creativity is infectious. Burgeoning with high-tech meeting spaces, international cuisine, shopping havens and unique excursions, the depth and variety of options is vast. Year after year, you’ll find dynamic new activities and places for your groups to stay.
Fortunately, weather in the South Bay is perennially pleasant with 300 days of sunshine. Temperatures
average in the 70s and dip in the 50s during the winter. Th e area’s climate is so mild, you can even barbecue in December. Plus, the Valley is easily accessible by Mineta San Jose International Airport, which is relatively easy to maneuver with just two terminals, 30 gates and three runways. It is approximately three miles from downtown San Jose.
SAN JOSE MEETING SPACES
Planning a meeting in San Jose in particular is easy through an organization called Team San Jose, which was incorporated fi ve years ago as an entity designed to serve as a onestop shop for meeting planners. When you want to book a hotel, arrange ground transportation, locate entertainment or cater an event in San Jose, you call Team San Jose (1-800-SAN JOSE) and deal with one company instead of several. According to Dan Fenton, chairman and CEO of Team San Jose, the concept is new among cities, as the organization is in charge of managing and booking the convention center and four performing arts theaters.
For conferences, turn to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center based in downtown San Jose. With 193,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, the area can accommodate up to 31 meeting room options. Th e center takes pride in its technical advances and services including: webcasting, satellite transmission and video streaming. Adjacent and nearby cultural facilities off er six additional venue options.
The convention center is also joined to underground parking and the Marriott and San Jose Hilton for an additional 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
The McEnery sits squarely in the center of the attractive and cosmopolitan downtown, and your attendees can walk to entertainment, restaurants and museums. If your attendees are traveling with families, they will enjoy places such as the Children’s Discovery Museum, the Tech Museum of Innovation and Plaza de César Chavez Park, all within a one-block radius.
Lisa Beverly, program manager at San Jose’s Adobe Systems, plans many of her meetings downtown. “There are more choices than ever, and it has gotten better over the years.” When she plans large events for more than 1,000 guests, she says downtown San Jose is ideal for the number of activities people can pursue within walking distance for dinner and entertainment. “You don’t want to be shuttling people all night long to get to places, so if we can get discount tickets to games or theater, that works best,” she says. For epic gatherings, the HP Pavilion San Jose is a major sports arena that can be booked throughout the year. With 20,000 seats and a ceiling that’s 117 feet high, the arena has been the site for everything from San Jose Sharks hockey games to Billy Graham crusades. With 450,000 sq. ft. at your disposal, the sky is truly the limit.
For smaller conventions, look to the Parkside Hall Auditorium with 30,000 sq. ft. and banquet facilities for up to 1,800. Nearby, the regal 20-story Fairmont San Jose, with 805 guest rooms and luxury suites, is spread across two grand towers. The hotel off ers a new spa with a full treatment menu, restaurants, bakery, Italian coffee bar, sushi bar, swimming pool and workout room. In the lobby, guests can look up their emails via wireless Internet service or enjoy afternoon tea. The property off ers 65,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Linda Brown, an executive assistant at Cisco Systems, San Jose, says the region is full of activities, but “it still takes a lot of creativity to pull off an event.” Which happened recently, when she had to turn on a dime and redirect a meeting from Texas, where a hurricane made the original meeting site impossible. She turned to the Fairmont San Jose management which, in two days, helped her house 600 conferees from around the world, set up dining menus and establish participants in meeting rooms for a six-day annual technology conference. “I could not say enough good things about them. I was most impressed,
and extremely happy it went well, and extremely relieved,” she says.
If you want to go outside the downtown area, the Santana Row shopping and dining district has proved to be a hit among locals and out-of-towners for medium-sized and small gatherings. Located at the intersection of Stevens Creek and Winchester Boulevards, this European multipurpose neighborhood with loft apartments is, hands-down, the most charming spot in Silicon Valley.
With dozens of retail and designer shops, more than 20 restaurants, 10 spas and salons, a bookstore and a six-screen movie theater, Santana Row is a top-notch hangout where you can throw a festive party or intimate dinner. In Santana Row Park, local musicians play light jazz and retro tunes for whoever wants to stop by and listen. Cushioned outdoor seating, a giant chess set and a fire pit make this a cozy setting.
In the center of Santana Row is the modern, 212-room Hotel Valencia with 4,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The hotel includes the well-appointed Ayoma Lifespa for India-inspired body treatments, a rooftop pool, a gym, a large outdoor patio with fi re pits and a restaurant and lounge.
MEETING SPACES UP THE PENINSULA
Farther north from San Jose, you can opt for the Santa Clara Convention Center, a flexible meeting space with 262,000 sq. ft., connected to the Hyatt Regency Santa Clara. Also adjacent to the convention center is the TechMart building, where you’ll find the Network Meeting Center on the first floor with 17 meeting rooms, hosting up to 500 people; it features 18,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space. Day use with a minimum of 10 people is also supported. The facility sits across from the Great America theme park.
For all of your Santa Clara requirements, contact the Santa Clara Convention and Visitors Bureau, which will point you to hotels, meeting spaces and destinations. In Mountain View, you’ll find the Shoreline Amphitheater, a 60-acre facility that can fi t up to 22,000 people. Perfect for company carnivals or staged concerts, it is the region’s largest outdoor meeting place.
Not far is the Four Seasons Silicon Valley in East Palo Alto. The newest hotel in the area, this cushy pad boasts every high-tech amenity you can think of. A popular meeting space for local companies, the hotel off ers wireless Internet throughout, three meeting rooms and 200 guest rooms. You can even borrow an iPod loaded with music of your liking from classical to rock to jazz.
The hotel shines with comforts such as original art, a rooftop pool and cabanas equipped with flat-screen TVs, a spa and Quattro restaurant, featuring fresh California cuisine.
UNIQUE MEETING VENUES
For groups relishing a unique atmosphere, the Tech Museum of Innovation can host evening events after museum hours with more than 38,000 sq. ft. of exhilarating space. While in the galleries, try a jet-pack simulation or manipulate a robotic hand.
The Tech Museum also operates the Hackworth IMAX theater, so you can book the 295-seat room to watch one of its current movies in the eightstory dome.
Want more technological inspiration? In nearby Mountain View, the Computer History Museum is a venue where your groups can learn all about the transistor, microprocessor and the history of the Internet.
Culture lovers will enjoy the San Jose Museum of Art, famous for its collection of Dale Chihuly hand-blown glass chandeliers. The museum off ers three main meeting spaces for luncheons or dinner events, and food can be catered from the museum café. Within a stone’s throw of downtown is the San Jose Center for Performing Arts, a large theater with 2,665 seats. You can enjoy the latest in national plays or use the stage to celebrate a product launch or company anniversary.
Local wineries are also anxious to grab your meeting business, and each off ers particular features that will make for a memorable soiree. Fogerty Winery, for example, hosts groups of up to 220 in its wine room and on its outdoor patio. Located in Woodside, the hilltop winery features outstanding bay views and several hiking trails nearby.
If you want to see how Silicon Valley got started, go no further than historic Stanford University. This brain lab launched the careers of Bill Hewlett, founder of Hewlett Packard; Scott McNealy, founder of Sun Microsystems; and Jerry Yang, founder of Yahoo!
A pantheon of rental hubs at Stanford include its myriad auditoriums, labs, classrooms and the Cantor Arts Center museum. You can also book a university tour for your group.
WHEN SECLUSION IS NECESSARY
For overnight sleeps with all the amenities onsite, several resorts in Silicon Valley can provide the privacy and seclusion your company needs to keep everyone united in a single place, away from distractions.
In Los Gatos, there’s the Presentation Center, formerly a Catholic retreat, located high in the Los Gatos hills. An ideal place for quiet planning and contemplation, the center boasts having the valley’s first green cafeteria, which opened last year, and is the first LEED Gold Certifi ed building in Santa Clara County. Featuring a living roof with local plantings, the dining commons is made with straw bale walls, recycled blue jeans for insulation, solar panels and energy-saving lighting.
The site off ers cottages and rooms for up to 120 overnight guests and meeting spaces for groups up to 200 people (keep in mind that this is a historic retreat center with simple furnishings). Past groups have included those from the education, high-tech and legal communities.
South San Jose is the home of the Dolce Hayes Mansion and Conference Center, a 214-room site with a spa, two restaurants, workout room and swimming pool. It has 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. With a plantation-style setting, the mansion is on the National Register of Historic Places and is over 100 years old. It is less than 30 minutes away from San Jose Airport.
And over in San Martin, south of San Jose, the exquisite golfing and spa retreat known as CordeValle is a five-star, upscale resort sitting on 1,700 acres of protected rolling hills and valleys. Unique to the property are its 45 oversized rooms with hardwood floors, flat-screen TVs, high-end bedding and furnishings and large bathrooms. The resort offers 6,608 sq. ft. of meeting space, featuring three boardrooms and a ballroom. It can comfortably accommodate up to 200 people for gala events. The buildings surround an 18-hole golf course, and many of the guest suites have sweeping views of the greens.
When you want to get your attendees moving and bonding, this high-tech region that works hard also knows how to have extreme fun. Silicon Valley is brimming with action for all age groups and preferences. For clean hilarity, ComedySportz is a nationwide comedy troupe that will make the harshest curmudgeon in your group crack a smile. The venue in downtown San Jose off ers weekend shows. However, the organization also specializes in team building, so a ComedySportz crew can come to your site to teach your staff how to be funny. It also can perform a show at sales or quarterly meetings and tailor its act to meet your specifications. Its customer list is among the corporate elite, including folks from Mattel, Apple and Kaiser-Permanente.
Believe it or not, Lisa Beverly of Adobe Systems says one of the hottest activities today is bowling. “One of the best things about bowling is that you can rent out the entire alley and do your own thing. If people don’t want to bowl, they can always play pool or eat,” she explains. Of late, hip locales such as 300 San Jose and Strike Cupertino serve up a fresh twist to an old game. These new-wave bowling alleys have become bowling and entertainment ultra-lounges, with full bars, large-screen TVs, video games and billiards. Servers bring food to you while you bowl, and you can select delectable international dishes, such as asparagus wraps or chicken satay, from the menus.
For bone-chilling excitement, charter a bus to iFly, Union City, the region’s only indoor skydiving facility, where you are actually being air lifted from the ground, not plummeting from above. You step into a chamber, lean forward and allow the current of air to blow you upwards. All this is done with a skilled trainer next to you, and the activity is completely safe.
BOOK IT NOW
Silicon Valley is Nerd Central no more. The same entrepreneurial spirit that produced hightech products now brings quality and innovation to hotels, entertainment and meeting venues. Dan Fenton of Team San Jose stresses that San Jose and Silicon Valley are tops in terms of safety, and as a central Bay Area location, the region’s wineries, theme parks and beaches are easily accessible.
“Other cities have places with violent crime or pockets where people don’t want to walk into,” he says. “We don’t have that. We are in a strategic regional piece of northern California, and people who want to travel with their families can extend their stay because we are close to so many things.”
Mineta San Jose International Airport serves 13 domestic and international airlines. It is only a few minutes from downtown San Jose and Santa Clara.