Old Mission Santa Barbara
Missions influence history, towns and wineries along California’s Central CoastLike the string of historic Spanish missions that parallel California’s Pacific Ocean boundary, luxury resorts offer respite and opportunity for reflection. Nowhere is that more true than California’s Central Coast, where expansive and boutique getaways accent an inspiring environment that is still nurturing to this day. Twenty-one California missions were built between 1769 and 1833, each about 30 miles apart, a day’s travel on horseback from one another. Many missions continue to serve as parish churches for their communities, and all offer a glance into a time gone by, before California was even a U.S. state. According to California Missions Resource Center, Franciscan padres helped develop the missions to convert Native Americans to the Catholic faith. Towns often sprung forth around the missions, and many of those pueblos have evolved into today’s gathering cities. Another key Franciscan contribution is the founding of California’s wine industry, which dates to 1769, when the first sustained vineyard was planted at the urging of Father Junipero Serra. Missions in Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo were major wine operators by 1800, not only producing wines for sacramental purposes, but also to support new missions being built farther north. Join us on a road trip up the coast from Santa Barbara to Santa Cruz, stopping along the way to experience California history and amazing resorts.
Santa Barbara: Queen of Central California Coast
Santa Barbara InnRegarded as “Queen of the Missions,” Old Mission Santa Barbara was founded in 1786 on a hilltop overlooking the city, with views that stretch all the way to the Pacific Ocean. The mission was patterned after an ancient Latin chapel in Rome, with twin bell towers and a Doric facade. The church was destroyed by an earthquake in 1925, but has been fully restored. This mission exudes a sense of strength because of its sheer size, which is coincidently what Santa Barbara brings to California’s Central Coast meetings and events industry. Santa Barbara has history, culture and plenty of luxury accommodations and venues to host memorable events. “Like Old Mission Santa Barbara, referred to as the Queen of Missions for its beautiful facade, Santa Barbara is known for its natural beauty and stunning Spanish-style architecture,” says Natalie Bovee, communications manager for Visit Santa Barbara. “Planners enjoy the manageable and pedestrian-friendly size of the destination, and the diversity of venues and activities that can be worked into programs.” While the Spanish missions were conceived to feed the soul, Santa Barbara is big on feeding attendees’ appetites for unique F&B experiences. The city’s urban wine trail, known as the Funk Zone, features more than 20 tasting rooms within walking distance of one another. It’s so popular that many visitors forego the drive out to wine country to do tasting in town. The Funk Zone’s latest addition is a new complex called Waterline, which has popular taproom Lama Dog and Nook, a globally inspired comfort-food eatery located inside a refurbished shipping container. Santa Barbara Inn, located along the city’s ocean-facing Cabrillo Boulevard, reopened Aug. 1 following an extensive multiyear renovation. It boasts a new eating experience, Convivo, which offers “nomad Italian” cuisine that draws from Santa Barbara’s bounty of seafood and wood-fire roasted meats. The restaurant and bar accommodate up to 170 people indoors and outdoors. The hotel has 70 deluxe guest rooms and suites, each with its own balcony, offering stunning ocean and mountain views. New event space seats up to 80 for banquets and conferences. Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara is the city’s only AAA Five Diamond resort. Built in classic Spanish Colonial style, it offers 207 guest rooms and 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including two ballrooms. The resort features its own version of a dine-around: Begin with cocktails at Coral Casino Beach and Cabana Club, catch the sunset over Butterfly Beach with appetizers at Tydes, enjoy dinner at Bella Vista and wrap up the evening with a drink and dessert at Ty Lounge. Canary Santa Barbara, A Kimpton Hotel is a downtown hideaway with 97 guest rooms and 7,300 sq. ft. of event space, including a sixth-floor rooftop bar and lounge with amazing views. A major gathering destination just north of Santa Barbara in Goleta is Bacara Resort & Spa. It features Angel Oak restaurant, which opened in June. The modern seafood and steakhouse features Old and New World wines housed inside the restaurant’s 12,000-bottle cellar. The expansive cellar doubles as a unique event space for up to 40. The Forbes Four Star beach resort offers 358 guest rooms, many with ocean views. There is 70,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including the Executive Conference Center, which is housed in a separate building for privacy. Bacara’s beachfront location and solitude create a get-away-from-it-all nuance that fosters brainstorming and outside-the-box thinking. From an outdoor yoga class that overlooks the Pacific to its own wine-tasting room, Bacara bottles up all that California’s Central Coast is known for in one neat package. “Santa Barbara combines small-town appeal with big-city amenities to provide a truly unique Central Coast meeting experience,” Bovee says. “Santa Barbara is the queen of California meeting destinations.”
Solvang: Mission & Native American History
Hotel Corque, SolvangFounded in 1804, Mission Santa Ines, located in what is now Solvang, was a late-comer to the Franciscan collection, but now stands out as one of the best-preserved Spanish mission complexes in the United States. The mission provides insights into the cultural heritage of the area, which was controlled by Spain, then Mexico and ultimately became a United States territory in 1848 and state in 1850. In the early 1900s, the Danish town of Solvang was built up around the mission and now adds another interesting component to local tourism. But long before the Spanish and Danes, Chumash Indians called the Santa Ynez Valley area of Santa Barbara County home. The mission complex still features archeological remains of a Native American village, two mission wings and a portion of the convent. The Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Indians owns the boutique Hotel Corque. The AAA Four Diamond property in downtown Solvang has 122 guest rooms and 7,500 sq. ft. of event space. Chumash Casino Resort, located in Santa Ynez, northeast of Solvang, has 375 guest rooms and suites. The Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, also located in Santa Ynez Valley, is a 10,000-acre, working cattle ranch that dates to 1843. It became a dude ranch in 1943 and has hosted celebs such as Clark Gable and Doris Day. Featuring Western decor, it offers 73 guest rooms, 6,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and two 18-hole golf courses.
San Luis Obispo: Wine LegacyThe first vineyard in San Luis Obispo County was planted at Mission San Luis Obispo de Tolosa in what is now the Edna Valley Appellation. Father Luis Antonio Martinez, who managed the mission for 34 years, was a renowned winegrower and oversaw a large vineyard. Some wine was sent to other California missions that were unable to grow their own, and the mission exported wine to England and as far away as Russia. Today, the namesake Tolosa Winery & Vineyards produces award-winning chardonnay, pinot noir and syrah, allowing nature to define the character of each vintage, thus emulating the area’s early winemaking heritage. One of its wine labels even depicts the mission. Tolosa employs comprehensive sustainability practices, including the production of solar energy since 2009. The impressive array of special-event options includes sit-down dinners amid vineyard rows; a covered, outdoor tasting bar; and lawn space for up to 150. Historic Sycamore Mineral Springs Resort & Spa features naturally heated mineral water. The natural hot-sulphur mineral water has been an attraction since 1886, and its visitors have included Hollywood celebrities en route to the late William Randolph Hearst’s mansion in nearby San Simeon. The resort offers 72 guest rooms and suites and a three-bedroom guest house. Meeting space has dramatic vaulted ceilings and room for up to 100 attendees. Madonna Inn has been an iconic property in the region for 50 years. Colorful and creative, the San Luis Obispo property has 110 guest rooms. The expo center has 20,000 sq. ft. of space, with room for up to 1,000 for receptions and 2,200 for concerts. There’s a 23-acre meadow, which is used for events such as car shows, and there are five banquet halls. The Cliffs Resort in Pismo Beach has 10,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space, including a 6,750-square-foot terrace. The 160-room resort has a spa, fitness center and oceanfront pool. The 98-room Inn at Morro Bay is surrounded by an 18-hole golf course and Morrow Bay State Park. Among the six rooms for private events are a 2,500-square-foot meeting room and a 4,860-square-foot deck.
Paso Robles: Treasure Trove
Allegretto Vineyard Resort, Paso RoblesPaso Robles is a treasure, starting with Mission San Miguel, less than 10 miles north of downtown. Here you will find California’s best preserved Native American murals, which were painted on mission walls and ceilings in the early 1800s. Mission-era fermentation vats are on display, as well. With an adobe building more than 200 years old, the mission is a State and National Historic Landmark. Native Salinan Indians introduced Spanish padres to thermal springs and their healing powers. By 1891, a bathhouse was built over a sulphur spring, in addition to a three-story hotel. Today, downtown Paso Robles Inn is a member of Historic Hotels of America and it features 18 deluxe mineral spa rooms, plus 98 guest rooms and a 3,600-square-foot ballroom that accommodates 350 for receptions. “Paso Robles is known for its welcoming environment, inviting visitors to live like locals and leave feeling like old friends,” says Lauren Tognazzini, destination manager for Travel Paso Robles Alliance. “This sentiment is felt throughout the city and is echoed in tasting rooms, at farmers markets and at front desks as guests check in for their stay. The personalities of Paso will share their passions and show guests what truly makes this a unique and memorable destination.” Allegretto Vineyard Resort is a 171-room Mediterranean-inspired refuge surrounded by vineyards and orchards. It offers 35,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, including a ballroom and conference center for up to 375. The tasting room features the resort’s own private wine label and space for up to 40. The property also has a spa, pool, manicured gardens, walking paths, French-inspired Abbey and hundreds of antiques, art and artifacts from around the world. “This resort was built to magnify all of the wonderful things that Paso Robles is already about: history, family, food, wine, beauty and community,” says Anna Olson, general manager for Allegretto Vineyard Resort. “We want the Allegretto to be a touchstone in Paso Robles, hailing back to the days when the local inn was a central social place for a community.”
Monterey & Carmel: Crown Jewels
Monterey waterfrontThe second of the 21 Spanish missions built in California was originally going to be located in Monterey, but in 1771 was moved to Carmel to be close to a fresh-water supply and prime land for agriculture. Just as Monterey and Carmel form a key meeting destination on the central coast, San Carlos Borromeo de Carmelo Mission was headquarters for mission work up and down California. Four museum galleries provide insight into the history of the California missions, including interpretive displays at Convento Museum. The museum includes the cell where Father Serra lived and died; he is buried at the mission site. San Carlos Cathedral in Monterey marks the site where the mission was going to be built before it was ultimately moved to Carmel. The present sandstone church, which dates to 1794, was maintained as a royal chapel for Spanish soldiers guarding the mouth of Monterey Bay. It is the state’s oldest continuously functioning church and first stone building. The stone facade and Moorish influence make the chapel an architectural jewel that is unmatched at any other California mission property. A National Historic Landmark, the church is within walking distance of Fisherman’s Wharf and welcomes pilgrims from around the world.
Casa Munras Garden Hotel & Spa, MontereyCasa Munras Garden Hotel & Spa dates to 1824, when the ranch was developed by Spanish diplomat Don Esteban Munras. The 32-inch-thick, handmade adobe walls are displayed in the meeting space. The conversion from ranch to garden lodge began in 1941, making Casa Munras Monterey’s first hotel. Located in downtown Monterey, the 163-room hotel offers 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a 2,240-square-foot ballroom. If Santa Barbara is queen of California’s Central Coast, then downtown Monterey ranks as the meeting king of the region. Monterey Conference Center is undergoing a $60 million renovation that will wrap up in spring 2017. Expected to achieve LEED certification, the facility will offer more than 40,000 sq. ft. and have an event capacity of 3,200. “The conference center provides an incredibly inspiring venue to go with an incredibly inspiring destination,” says Tammy Blount, CEO and president of Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau. “The renovation is a critical project in building our tourism economy. It has a bright future.” Adjacent to the conference center is LEED certified Portola Hotel & Spa, a AAA Four Diamond property with 379 guest rooms and 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Monterey Plaza Hotel & Spa has 290 guest rooms and 17,000 sq. ft. of event space. Carmel Valley Ranch, about 8 miles east of the mission, features innovative guest experiences. There’s beekeeping at the onsite apiary, landscape photography classes with a renowned photographer and equine-based communication exercises. A spa and golf course provide traditional resort opportunities. The 500-acre all-suite property has 181 units and more than 46,500 sq. ft. of event space.