Time to head to a more creative state
No two meetings are alike. Luckily, the Golden State is unlike any other when it comes to venue variety. The diverse landscape ranges from beach and vineyard to mountain and city and everywhere in between. This robust event infrastructure is paired with a temperate climate that makes taking the meeting outdoors the preferred alternative most of the year.
The Golden State is also a pioneer in environmental and social initiatives that align with many organizations’ priorities. And, since it is the innovation capital of the world, creative technology solutions are at-the-ready to enhance gatherings of all sizes.
Smart Meetings looked at meeting hot spots all over the state to find inspirational ideas for your next convention, incentive or retreat.
From San Diego to San Luis Obispo, the south coast is brimming with cool spots for gatherings of all sizes. A mix of urban centers and resort areas with easy access to beaches and vineyards makes both the main-stage production and team-building execution as easy as falling off a surfboard.
Local Expert Tips
Anaheim: “ocV!BE, the adult playground for entertainment, dining and gathering scheduled for completion in Anaheim by 2028 will be ‘transformational.’”
– Jay Burress, CTA president and CEO of Visit Anaheim
Los Angeles: “The new LAX is a game changer. The renovation will really alleviate the traffic coming in and out of LAX. And the Delta expansion is out of this world.”
– Darren Green, senior vice president of sales, Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board
Greater Palm Springs: “Visit Greater Palm Springs can use its power and platform and influence to ensure that development is sustainable.”
– Lauren Bruggemans, director of sustainability and community engagement, Visit Greater Palm Springs
Ventura County Coast: “California is a magnet for dreamers, the heart of the California brand is the promise of dreaming big and being welcomed into a California lifestyle that celebrates abundance and diversity. Here in Ventura County Coast, our destination delivers on the California promise where all vibes, are always welcome.
For planners looking for new ways to host unique events, integrate the outdoors, incorporate health and wellness activities, or simply host their event somewhere other than a big metro center we are the perfect choice.
– Brian Tucker, Ventura County Coast (Camarillo, Oxnard, Ventura, Port Hueneme)
Q&A: with Kristin McGrath, Executive Director of Visit Pasadena
Pasadena is known for year-round gatherings. Rose Bowl Stadium just turned 100 years old. How does the history of the area, including its starring role in so many movies and television shows excite interest in registration for events that book the city?
With so much history, Pasadena offers a diverse range of exciting activities, including rich cultural heritage, culinary endeavors, arts and sciences, spectator sports and entertainment. The Rose Bowl Stadium has withstood the test of time and continues to be an incredible venue filled with exciting events, such as the flea market that attracts 20,000 visitors every second Sunday, the spectator sports, concerts and summer music festivals. Ice House Comedy is the oldest comedy club in the country, having seen some of the most acclaimed comedians, and is getting a grand unveil in 2023 with new renovations and an exciting new lineup of entertainment.
The Pasadena Playhouse is known as a star factory, due to the number of celebrities discovered on its stage. As the official state theater of California, the Pasadena Playhouse continues to be one of the most prolific theaters with a 6-month celebration of Sondheim in 2023, culminating in a concert featuring Bernadette Peters. Meeting planners should utilize some of the incredible information that Pasadena’s CVB has to curate impactful destination experiences that can also include architectural tours, film history walking tours, culinary tours and more.
What are the hot dining and catering trends?
Restaurants in Pasadena range from modest to opulent, innovative to comforting, and cover nearly every cuisine. With over 650 restaurants to choose from, restaurants and eateries continue to delight in this foodie town. New venues continue to pop up with Spanish tapas and paellas at Dos Besos, elevated dim sum in an historic building at Chef Tony, the incredibly Nashville hot chicken at Howlin’ Ray’s first full-service restaurant, and a chock-full line up of cafes featuring teas, bobas, coffees and pastries.
Head over to Burlington Arcade in the South Lake District for a phenomenal photo op while grabbing a cup of handcrafted coffee or herbal tea from the new Mandarin Coffee Stand. At Agnes in Old Pasadena, the charcuterie and cheese boards paired with tinned fish and wine serves as a delightful place for long conversations with new acquaintances. There’s never a dull moment when exploring the cuisines from around the world in Pasadena.
How does the robust STEM infrastructure in place help meeting professionals looking for inspiration and educational speakers?
Meeting professionals can take advantage of Pasadena’s renowned status in the STEM world and work with Pasadena Convention & Visitor Bureau to explore options for educational speakers among the many institutions. The CVB is a part of the fabric of the city and can provide important introductions and connections to Pasadena’s ArtCenter, Caltech, NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, the Huntington Library, Art Museum and Botanical Gardens, the USC Pacific Asia Museum, Pasadena Heritage, and more.
These unique opportunities provide attendees access to leading experts in science, technology, engineering, math and space, providing insight into some of the most cutting-edge work today. Meeting professionals can also work with the CVB to curate experiences for attendees, such as tours of these landmark Pasadena institutions that have consistently produced innovation to spark creativity and drive lasting impact on various industries.
destinationirvine.com // discovercoronado.com // discoverlosangeles.com // sandiego.org // santabarbara.com // surfcity.com // travelpaso.com // travelsantaana.com // venturacoast.com // visitanaheim.org visitcamarillo.com // visitgreaterpalmsprings.com // visitlagunabeach.com // visitmdr.com // visitoxnard.com // visitpasadena.com // visitslo.com // visittemecularvalley.com // visitwesthollywood.com
Innovative, renovated and green all over
The western frontier has long been the destination of dreamers, pioneers willing to risk it all in pursuit of a vision. From The Gold Rush to the Summer of Love and Sand Hill Road that fueled tech innovations, tomorrow started in Northern California. Leverage the creative vibe in the San Francisco Bay Area cities to the north (Wine Country), South (San Jose and San Mateo counties) and East (Oakland, Berkeley, Walnut Creek and Concord).
The Central Coast of Santa Cruz and Monterey offers a nature-inspired relaxed approach to gathering. Sacramento is the capital of farm-to-fork abundance and a few more hours east, Lake Tahoe beckons with year-round recreational charms.
“Sacramento really has everything you could want in a West Coast convention location—great weather, award-winning restaurants, comfortable hotels, countless outdoor activities and so much more. And the SAFE Credit Union Convention Center is the perfect modern, sustainable center in the heart of our bustling metropolis to host your meeting. But the magic is in the community.
“Even though we are a thriving city with all the amenities you need for a top-tier event, Sacramento has managed to remain approachable, warm and welcoming. You can still meet a restaurant owner, winemaker or farmer when you’re out exploring. Delegates will feel more like locals than visitors in no time at all.”
– Mike Testa, President & CEO of Visit Sacramento
“The secret sauce or magic of Oakland is the diversity of The Town. With over 125 languages spoken in Oakland, diversity is celebrated in our culture, in the mix of outstanding event venues, and the experiences offered throughout our city. It’s found in our vibrant art districts, local ‘Only-in-Oakland’ shops, and our award-winning culinary scene.
“Our inclusive community creates a warm, authentic environment for companies and associations to enjoy as they meet and collaborate. Oakland’s heart, soul and spirit are inspired by diversity. This is one of the many things we proudly share with everyone we welcome to our beautiful destination.”
– Carole Manning-Kim, Director of Sales, Visit Oakland
4 Reasons Meeting Profs Love Northern California
- A Sustainable Ethos: When surrounded by nature, meeting green comes naturally. Palisades Tahoe (formerly Resort at Squaw Creek), a AAA Four Diamond resort with 33,000 sq. ft. of indoor venue space and 14,750 sq. ft. in the great outdoors, dramatically cut back on plastic usage at the resort and launched mountain-wide revegetation projects at the former Olympic venue. In the tranquil bay of Monterey County, Monterey Bay Aquarium is the authority for sustainable, educational research and education. Dining with the sharks is a dramatic way to punctuate a conference with corporate social responsibility that resonates.
- The Wine Country: Almost every state of the union now has their own “wine country” but Napa and Sonoma counties are the undisputed founts of the laid-back vibe that comes with meeting in the vines. And the options for meetings grow every year. Meritage Resort and Spa almost doubled in size with the addition of The Grand Reserve at The Meritage and the rustic Vintner’s Room brick-and-glass meeting space. The property now counts 467 guest rooms and 80,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Five-star Montage Healdsburg brought extreme rustic chic to northern Sonoma County with 130 bungalow-style guest rooms on the oak-studded property.
- Table Culture: Whether it is farm-, ocean-, forest floor- or vine-to-table, the local food movement born in Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse in Berkeley has taken root. Visit Berkeley now counts more than 350 restaurants in the city, with plenty of plant-based options to fit any palette. At Dream Inn in the Central Coast city of Santa Cruz, a Beach Feast capitalizes on the bounty of the ocean with a side of fun. In the state capital of Sacramento, the city leverages its farm-to-fork reputation as a foodie city with a local celebrity-chef-driven dinner on the bridge fundraiser to combat hunger each year.
- Good Disruption: When the agenda calls for thinking differently, the birthplace of The Sierra Club and the internet is fertile ground for corporate breakthroughs. At San Jose McEnery Convention Center, tech conferences regularly buzz around the Idea Tree interactive public art installation after a $130 million renovation. And in San Francisco, Viceroy Hotels & Resorts’ Hotel Zetta and sister properties mix ultra-modern guest rooms with retro fun like Atari pong tables and virtual reality booths.
sanjose.org // santacruz.org // seemonterey.com // sftravel.com // sonomavalley.com // thesanfranciscopeninsula.com // visitberkeley.com // visitconcordca.com // visitlaketahoe.com // visitnapavalley.com // visitoakland.com // visitsacramento.com