It's one buzz-worthy destination
When a destination strikes a nerve, the first thing people want to do is talk about it. So it’s a good sign that, over the years, a whole lot of people have quipped about Northern California.
Famous poets, dramatists, athletes and entrepreneurs alike have buzzed about the area—and it’s easy to see why. The region is one of the most geographically diverse around, packed with beaches, lakes, vineyards, big cities, small towns and more. The cultural landscape is dynamic. The food scene is renowned. And it offers a host of convention centers, luxurious hotels and unique meeting properties.
So go ahead and bring your meeting attendees to NorCal. Chances are, they’ll end up waxing poetic about it as well.
SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA
“If you’re alive, you can’t be bored in San Francisco. If you’re not alive, San Francisco will bring you to life.” -William Saroyan
With these words, dramatist and author William Saroyan captured the essence of the City by the Bay. From the scent of fresh clam chowder along Fisherman’s Wharf to the ding-ding-ding of cable cars and the sight of gray fog over the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco truly brings the senses to life.
In other words, there’s a reason events booked in the city routinely lead to record attendee counts. The San Francisco Convention and Visitors Bureau uses a tagline that, like Saroyan’s quote, sums it up perfectly: “Only in San Francisco.”
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
San Francisco’s largest and most well-known venue is Moscone Center. The venue’s three buildings (North, South and West) collectively offer 700,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, up to 106 meeting rooms and 123,000 sq. ft. of prefunction lobbies.
The downtown area is also rife with large, luxurious hotel properties. The Four Seasons San Francisco is exactly what you’d expect from the renowned chain: a beautifully appointed venue with extensive fitness facilities, an indoor pool and a top-rated spa. It includes 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 277 of some of the largest guest rooms and suites in the city. Le Meridian San Francisco is another elegant option. Situated just steps away from the bustling Financial District, and connected via a pedestrian bridge to the historic Federal Reserve building, it epitomizes the importance of location, location, location. The 360-room hotel offers more than 13,000 sq. ft. of event space, with dazzling crystal chandeliers and lacewood paneling.
In the popular Union Square shopping district, the Four-Diamond Parc 55 Wyndham offers 1,010 newly renovated guest rooms. The property also includes several dining options and more than 30,000 sq. ft. of function space. Union Square is additionally home to the iconic Westin St. Francis, comprised of an original structure from the 1900s and a sleek new tower with high-speed elevators. It provides 1,196 guest rooms and more than 56,000 sq. ft. of event space.
In addition to being one of the most sophisticated meeting destinations in the country, San Francisco is also one of the trendiest. To experience this side of the metropolis, meeting planners can head to The Box SF. Owner Mark Sackett describes the property as “New York loft meets a European and Midwestern antique store,” with such touches as exposed wood and a table made from 325-year-old Chinese village gate doors. Plus—like San Francisco itself—the venue is both green and socially conscious; it only uses reusable and compostable products, for instance, and serves as a collection site for Project Night Night, which donates children’s books to homeless kids. Located a stone’s throw away from Moscone Center, it can host 20–200 attendees.
De Young Museum.
For a taste of San Francisco’s dynamic cultural scene, planners can also rent out space at the De Young Museum. The modern property houses an eclectic mix of Oceanic woodcarvings, textile arts and rotating exhibits, and offers such meeting spaces as an observation floor and outdoor sculpture garden.
“The greatest meeting of land and sea in the world.” -Francis McComas
Artist Francis McComas wasn’t being hyperbolic when he uttered these words about Point Lobos in the Monterey Bay area. As the crystal blue water of the Pacific crashes against cliffs and sand, it truly is a sight to behold.
For years, the natural beauty of the Monterey Bay has lured planners to the bayside towns of Monterey, on the southern tip, and Santa Cruz, on the northern tip. And the cities promise more than just physical wonder—they are also filled with world-class restaurants, golf courses, wineries, outdoor recreation opportunities and more. To plan an event, the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau and Santa Cruz Conference and Visitors Council can help. Just tell them you want to see for yourself why the area has been called the world’s greatest meeting of land and sea.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
In the heart of Monterey, the Monterey Conference Center, Monterey Marriott, Portola Hotel & Spa at Monterey Bay and Hotel Pacific together comprise the Monterey Meeting Connection. The collection of properties provides a one-stop shop for events, with a combined 800-plus rooms and 61,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. The Monterey Conference Center is also a good choice as a standalone property, with 41,000 sq. ft. of event and banquet space. Nearby, the new InterContinental the Clement Monterey offers a state-of-the-art fitness center, a spa and 15,000 sq. ft. of event space.
Head north to Santa Cruz, and the stunning ocean comes with a famous boardwalk and a funky vibe. One of the most popular meeting spots in the area is the Chaminade Resort & Spa. The Smart Meetings Platinum Choice Award-winning property includes a spa with views of the Santa Cruz Mountains and Pacific Ocean, and 12,000 sq. ft. of newly renovated meeting space.
The two most exciting and well-known attractions, on either end of Monterey Bay, also happen to provide unique event space: the Monterey Bay Aquarium and Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. The huge aquarium, which has nearly 200 galleries and more than 35,000 animals and plants, can be rented out entirely, or planners can utilize specific wings or its on-site restaurant. The world-famous Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, with its roller coasters, carousel and other attractions, also has various spaces available for groups, including a bay-view room, terrace and beach deck.
NAPA AND SONOMA
“Making good wine is a skill. Fine wine is an art.” -Robert Mondavi
Winemaker Robert Mondavi helped turn Napa into one of the most famous wine regions in the world thanks to his development of artful fine wines—and like Napa, Sonoma has also earned a reputation for its top-of-the-line varietals.
With the assistance of the Napa Valley Conference and Visitors Bureau and the Sonoma County Tourism Bureau, planners can also discover everything the regions have to offer outside their wineries, including some of the most famous spas and restaurants around, and outdoor excursions including hot-air ballooning and hiking. In fact, it’s safe to say Napa and Sonoma are also skilled in the art of a
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
As you might expect, many of the properties in Napa and Sonoma include on-site wineries and tasting rooms. Take, for instance, The Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa. Wine from its Trinitas Cellars can be sampled in the unique Estate Cave, an underground space that took 18 months to bore out. The cave can also be used for a subterranean meeting, as can a grand salon and vineyard terrace that help comprise 22,000 sq. ft. of event space. Also in the region is the Gaia Napa Valley Hotel & Spa, a space that lives up to its name; in Greek, Gaia means Mother Earth, and the property was the first hotel in the world to earn LEED Gold-certification. The property includes 6,841 sq. ft. of elegant event space.
In Sonoma, MacArthur Place is a historic property that emphasizes the region’s famous outdoor beauty. It was converted from a 300-acre vineyard and working ranch, and includes a lush garden filled with paintings, sculptures and 100 species of trees. For planners, the hotel provides 64 guest rooms and 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Estate vineyard at The Meritage Resort & Spa in Napa.
While Napa and Sonoma are most well-known for their wineries, they also have a reputation for being two of the best foodie spots in the country. For an experience that emphasizes the dining scene, try the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in Napa Valley’s St. Helena. Surrounded by cathedral ceilings and views of the vineyards, attendees can dine from a menu designed by the property’s executive chef and sip wines specially picked to complement the food. In Healdsburg, a quaint town in Sonoma, an appealing option for food-lovers is the Dry Creek Kitchen. The property belongs to the portfolio of renowned restaurateur Charlie Palmer, and serves up regional dishes and more than 600 Sonoma wines, some reaching back as far as 1985. The kitchen and its neighboring Hotel Healdsburg can be utilized for private events with a culinary focus.
“I think maybe L.A. or San Francisco could be rushed, but Sacramento is just laid back!” -Nick Johnson
When Nick Johnson said this about Sacramento, he was speaking from experience; the New York Yankees heavy hitter was born there. And he’s not the only one who will tell you the city is one of the most easygoing and welcoming around. “We’re a very friendly city,” says Paul Miller, director of convention sales for the Sacramento Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Programs get undivided attention from hotels and merchants and the CVB, all the way up to the mayor’s office.”
At the same time, the city is an exciting hub for nightlife, fine dining and everything that comes with being the capital city of the country’s most-populous state. Lauren Richardson, a meeting and conference specialist who brought more than 400 attendees to the city in May, says “Sacramento falls between small-town friendliness and a growing metropolitan city setting”—another quote that aptly describes the place.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
The prime spot for big meetings is the Sacramento Convention Center, located directly across the street from the capitol building and Capitol Park. The sprawling venue offers 12 meeting rooms that range between 300–9,550 sq. ft.; a 24,000-square-foot ballroom; and 134,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit hall space. Adjacent to the center are the city’s two biggest hotels—the Hyatt Regency Sacramento and Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel. Each venue has 503 guest rooms, and they collectively provide 48,000 sq. ft. of event space. Sacramento is also home to two new boutique properties with lots of personality. The Citizen Hotel, a Joie de Vivre property, defines urban elegance with its vaulted ceilings, Italian marble and refined woodwork touches, and provides 198 guest rooms and 11,000 sq. ft. of event space. Another distinctive new hotel is the Le Rivage Hotel. Situated along the Sacramento River, the 100-room property offers adjacent boat slips, as well as a bocce ball court, spa and event space for up to 200.
Two historic Sacramento properties are available for private events. The 975-seat Crest Theater is an Art Deco beauty located on a site that previously hosted vaudeville shows, while the 3,849-capacity Memorial Auditorium includes imposing exterior columns and gold-plated interior arches, and is listed on the National Historic Register. For a fun event, meanwhile, a good option is Raley Field, home of the Triple-A River Cats baseball team. Planners can utilize a concourse, patio, party suite or the entire field for a memorable meeting.
“I believe that Silicon Valley is truly a place of excellence, and the impact of this tiny community on the world is completely disproportionate to its size.” -Jeff Skoll
Silicon Valley, of course, is best known for the dot-com boom of the 1990s, when businesspeople like former eBay president Jeff Skoll helped turn the area into the technology nucleus of the country. Today, the valley continues to serve as an important business hub, with such powerhouses as Google, Intel, Apple and Yahoo headquartered there. It’s also served by some major convention bureaus, including Team San Jose , the Santa Clara Convention and Visitor’s Bureau and the San Mateo/Silicon Valley Convention and Visitor’s Bureau.
Yet Skoll was right that San Jose’s power doesn’t match its size. While its biggest city, San Jose, has a population of nearly a million, the valley is also home to smaller towns such as Mountain View and Sunnyvale, as well as Palo Alto, home of Stanford University. This makes it the ideal spot to host an event that, like the valley, truly excels.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
San Jose and Santa Clara, two of the largest cities in the area, house convention centers that can accommodate most any event. The stats for the San Jose McEnery Convention Center are impressive: It offers 143,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, a 22,000-square-foot ballroom and up to 31 meeting rooms. At the Santa Clara Convention Center, there’s 302,000 sq. ft. of event space, 31 breakout rooms, a 607-capacity theater and a newly expanded, 22,400-square-foot ballroom.
On the hotel side of things, a luxurious option is The Fairmont San Jose. Its 731 guest rooms and 74 suites reside in an elegant two-story tower reaching 20 stories into the sky. Meeting attendees can lounge by a rooftop pool on the fourth floor or unwind in an on-site day spa. Venturing out, they can also visit 30 wineries within driving distance or tee up at nearby golf courses. For planners, the property offers 65,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
It’s only fitting that in the tech capital of the country, you can bring meeting attendees to The Tech Museum. The IQ-enhancing venue features more than 250 interactive exhibits that explore biotechnology, clean energy, genetics and more. It is also a meetings mecca, with 1,000–3,500 sq. ft. of space for events and up to 132,000 sq. ft. on three levels for evening receptions. Emma Sanchez, event manager for the space, says the museum is “a one-of-a-kind institution that captures the spirit of Silicon Valley by inspiring people.”
For a great team-building event, meanwhile, there’s Strike Cupertino, which offers 32 glow-in-the-dark bowling lanes, gourmet catering, a sports bar and an arcade.
“It is absolute country...without a taint of suburbia...yet only three-quarters of an hour motor ride from Frisco.” -Eugene O’Neill
Dramatist and Nobel laureate Eugene O’Neill could have lived just about anywhere, but he chose Danville in the Tri-Valley area. And in a series of letters with quotes like the one above, he poetically explained why.
Amy Blaschka, president and CEO of the Tri-Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, says the region’s appeal is wide-reaching. “Each of the five cities in the area is different, with different things to offer,” she says. “We have wine country, a historic downtown, golf and shopping. When they come out here, most people are pleasantly surprised. They didn’t realize how much there was to do.” Plus, she says, the area is affordable and accessible.
If O’Neill’s letters don’t paint a clear-enough picture of why the valley is ideal, Blaschka’s words should do the trick.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
In Pleasanton, one of the largest cities in the valley, the CarrAmerica Conference Center is a hard-to-ignore meeting option. The property can accommodate between 20–700 attendees, in spaces ranging from an atrium to an auditorium and foyer. Nearby to the property is the Marriott Pleasanton. The hotel is filled with brightly colored touches, and offers such high-tech amenities as Wi-Fi access and flat screen TVs where you can plug in your laptop or iPod. For a taste of the area, its restaurant offers fine cuisine coupled with wine from the surrounding region, and it also has a beautiful new lobby with plush seating. Planners can utilize its 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a newly renovated, 3,200-square-foot ballroom.
To quote Blaschka, “You can meet in a hotel anywhere—why not be in wine country?” The Tri-Valley region provides several wine-tasting venues to hold events, at prices you’d be hard-pressed to find anywhere else. At Concannon Vineyard in Livermore, the new Underdog Wine Bar features hidden treasure wines from around the world and delicious tapas; it has a capacity of 64, plus an additional 50 outside on the patio. For a more traditional meeting, the property also offers a barrel room that can host 95.
Another great winery choice is Wente Vineyards, an award-winning spot that can accommodate more than a thousand on its outdoor lawn, or up to 100 in historic wine caves. The venue also provides one of the most famous golf courses in Northern California, co-designed by golfing legend Greg Norman.
“...the water was not merely transparent, but dazzlingly, brilliantly so.” - Mark Twain
Leave it to one of the most-quoted public figures in history to perfectly capture Lake Tahoe’s appeal. Its crystal blue water is indeed a stunning sight, and the woods and snow-capped mountains surrounding it add even more visual oomph. Its north and south shores, which are served by the North Lake Tahoe Visitors’ Bureaus and Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority, are filled with both small and large-scale meeting options—many with views of the dazzling blue water that memorably caught Twain’s attention.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES
One of the largest properties on the North Shore is the Resort at Squaw Creek. The resort recently completed a $53-million renovation, and provides 33,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space and 14,750 sq. ft. of outdoor space with views of the Sierra Nevada mountains. It also offers a spa with 10 treatment rooms and a brand-new championship golf course on-site, as well as myriad outdoor activities such as hiking, biking and skiing. Another great meetings choice on the North Shore is the Granlibakken Conference Center & Lodge. Its five conference rooms total 16,000 sq. ft. and can accommodate groups of up to 400, and it offers four conference rooms at an executive lodge with a combined 3,100 sq. ft. of space. On the South Shore, meanwhile, there’s Embassy Suites Lake Tahoe Hotel & Ski Resort, situated at the base of the world-famous Heavenly Ski Resort. It includes three garden atriums, 400 suites and 10,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space.
The Cedar House Sport Hotel wears its eco-awareness on its sleeve. The property is constructed of cedar culled from a reforestation project, and includes fiberglass insulation and a retention pond in front to catch water run-off. The exceptionally green venue, located in the North Shore railroad town of Truckee, also offers a main meeting room for 30–80 people and a conference room for 10–12 (made with native rock and reclaimed lumber, naturally). For an event peppered with local history, there’s also the Tahoe Maritime Museum in North Shore, which honors the region’s water-baring roots with its collection of historic boats, aquaplanes, water skis and the largest assemblage of outboard motors on the West Coast. The venue can accommodate groups of 25–100 in either a community gathering area or library. On the South Shore, a unique option is the Tallac Historic Site, a collection of grand summer estates built in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The site includes the Valhalla Grand Hall, a venue with a 20-foot tall stone fireplace, walk-in hearth and French doors that can accommodate up to 100.
For more information on properties, venues and attractions in the Northerna California area, visit smartmeetings.com/event-planning/northern-california.