Make Wellness an Action when Meeting in California

In fact, according to the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, California adults are among the nation’s most active.

When meeting here, you’re likely to include healthy menu options and wellness breaks, matching your attendees’ individual needs and interests with the improved engagement and ROI you need. It’s also possible to capitalize on each city’s wellness-oriented vibe and include activities in your event that satisfy both. Here’s a look at 10 destinations and what they’re well known for, and some properties that complement or can help you coordinate offsite events.

Greater Bay Area

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordBlazing Saddles riders in San Francisco

Biking and Walking

San Franciscans are serious about the food they put into their bodies. They’re also serious about keeping their bodies healthy and fit (No. 2 city in the country, according to Men’s Fitness magazine). Biking is tops here: You’ll see everyone from urban cyclists who use their bikes for transportation to road-racing 
riders, messengers and fixed-gear riders, all risking “hat hair” as they don helmets to commute, run errands, exercise and ride for the sheer joy of it. 
Your group can get into the scene here with a self-guided, half-day ride offered by Blazing Saddles (larger groups are divided into smaller groups of 20 or so, for maneuverability). The route follows a car-free path from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge and breezes downhill into Sausalito, where you can arrange a return by ferry after a leisurely lunch (not included)—The Spinnaker offers a glorious bay view. The outfitter has locations on Mason Street, near Union Square hotels such as The Westin St. Francis San Francisco on Union Square, and Grand Hyatt San Francisco, as well as six others in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. 
“Not only is cycling healthy for the rider and 
the environment, it’s also a fun way to get your bearings in a new city and get around like a local,” says Lauren Sailor, marketing and events
coordinator for the company.
San Jose Bicycle Club is one of the oldest, most successful amateur bicycle racing clubs in Northern California, beginning in 1939. It has produced four pro riders and eight members of the U.S. Junior National team. Masters (adult) racing is a key offering of the club, especially for those working at high-tech companies in Silicon Valley. 
In Berkeley, stroll in the footsteps of Nobel Prize winners or wander among some of the greatest food spots in the state. The 178-acre University of California, Berkeley campus, which boasts 22 Nobel laureates, is open to the public with beautifully landscaped grounds, historic architecture and tranquil, wooded walking paths that cross campus to connect the downtown Berkeley, North Shattuck/Gourmet Ghetto and Telegraph Avenue business districts. Walk under Cal’s famous Sather Gate, the historic symbol of many of the campus protests in the 1960s and ’70s.
In the Diablo Valley area, the multi-use Iron Horse Regional Trail provides a wealth of walking, hiking, biking and equestrian opportunities, and is a great way to see some history. The 32-mile trail runs between the cities of Concord and Pleasanton and follows the Southern Pacific Railroad right-of-way established in 1891 and abandoned in 1977. The 20-foot wide paved trail connects residential and commercial areas, business parks, schools, open space, parks and regional trails. It begins in Concord and runs south to the Contra Costa County line in San Ramon and then farther on to Shadow Cliffs Regional Recreation Area. In the future, the trail will extend to Livermore in Alameda County and cover more than 55 miles. The trail is also wheelchair accessible.


Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordTributary Whitewater Tours, American River


California’s capital is distinguished among rafting and paddling enthusiasts: The South Fork of the American River is ideal, and it’s only an hour’s drive to the first of many outfitters. Sacramentans begin checking river flows as spring approaches, as the melting Sierra Nevada snowpack makes the water level climb and rapids escalate, before the river settles into a more consistent, less intimidating flow in summer and fall. (A typical season is April to September or October, and able to be rafted even in drought years due to systematic releases from reservoirs.)
Whether your meeting is booked into Hyatt Regency Sacramento or Sheraton Grand Sacramento Hotel, your group can easily experience the same thrills as the locals, and other visitors. AlliedPRA, a Bay Area DMC that works with Sacramento meetings, can assist with transportation and outfitter arrangements. 
Or you can work directly with companies such as Tributary Whitewater Tours, with clients including Google, Facebook and Intel. Half-day and full-day trips are ideal for meeting groups of up to 70 (ask about midweek corporate discounts). 
“Rafting on the American River is an incredibly fun way of getting co-workers out of the workplace into an environment where they can learn and grow. It’s one of the most natural ‘team building’ experiences you can get,” says Lorraine Hall, business manager.

Lake Tahoe

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordHeavenly Mountain Resort, South Lake Tahoe

Skiing & Snowboarding

In the High Sierra, Lake Tahoe is a favorite winter playground for skiers, who flock to the 16 downhill and 10 cross-country ski resorts, with their 25,725 skiable acres and 183 chairlifts (the highest concentration of ski resorts in North America). According to Ski Lake Tahoe, the area has 300 days of sunshine each year while averaging more than 400 feet of snowfall, a combination that creates bluebird-powder days skiers revere.
If you have experienced skiers eager to get on the slopes, there are plenty of black diamond—and double black diamond—runs to challenge them. Or, if you’ve got a mixed group of skiers and non-skiers, consider offering snowmobile tours—an outdoor adventure for dedicated snow bunnies in which they’ll meander and climb to 9,000 feet. The tours feature incredible lake views— and are easily arranged through Zephyr Cove Resort.
South Shore meetings, whether at Grand Residences by Marriott in Heavenly Village or across the state line at the new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe (opening this month, formerly Horizon Resort Casino) put you within minutes of several resorts, including Heavenly Mountain Resort, the second-largest ski resort in the country. North Shore meetings at Squaw Valley Lodge and The Ritz-Carlton Lake Tahoe are virtually ski in/ski out.

Wine Country

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordHeavenly Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa


In Napa and Sonoma counties, sustainability is the watchword, not only in food produced and consumed here, but also, increasingly in wines and other elements of the Wine Country lifestyle. Not surprisingly, the region’s spas reflect the burgeoning movement, recognizing the “vital connections between personal well-being, resource sustainability and earth-friendly practices,” according to Green Spa Network (GSN), which has partners throughout the region. 
A number of eco-conscious Napa Valley spas offer exceptional experiences for small groups. At Auberge du Soleil in Rutherford, the Auberge Spa utilizes treatments with ingredients indigenous to the region, including house-infused oils as well as herbs cultivated in the spa’s garden. Spa at Bardessono, tucked into the five-year-old, same-named platinum LEED-certified resort in Yountville, recently received the Green Building Award from GSN. Its treatments are designed around the seasons and may include vinotherapy massages with organic Chardonnay grape seed oil.
In Sonoma, The Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa has been on the vanguard of sustainability for many years. It features the 40,000-square-foot Willow Stream Spa, which draws on its own geo-thermal springs to feed its pools. Private yoga and fitness boot camps (maximum of 30 guests) are easily accommodated, as are mini-receptions on the Spa Loggia, which include a cocktail reception; mini back-neck-shoulder, foot and hand massages; and refreshments. 

Monterey Peninsula

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordPebble Beach Golf


The vibe on the Monterey Peninsula is golf, golf and more golf. For golfers, nothing beats the joy of a good swing and an arcing drive straight down the fairway, although being in the outdoors with similar-minded people comes close. This area boasts some of the most renowned courses in the country, many with spectacular views of Monterey Bay and the coastal landscape.
The first that come to mind are the legendary courses at Pebble Beach: Pebble Beach Golf Links, Links at Spanish Bay and Spyglass Hill (can you say Robert Trent Jones Jr. and Sr., and Tom Watson?). Groups staying at Pebble Beach resorts already have a club up on private golf events.
Within the sheltered Carmel Valley wine country are a clutch of links and allied resorts, from Carmel Valley Ranch to Quail Lodge & Golf Club. Not to be outdone, the Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel & Spa is located on the Pebble Beach Company’s Del Monte Golf Course. And in nearby Pacific Grove is what might be the most beautiful public course in the country, Pacific Grove Golf Links, with a back nine overlooking the Pacific Ocean.

Yosemite National Park

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordYosemite Rock Climbing

Hiking & Climbing

The grandeur of Yosemite National Park is breathtaking—literally—with iconic Half Dome, Glacier Point and Bridal Veil Falls landmarks. Nearly 4 million people visited the park in 2013, and it’s a safe bet that many laced up their hiking boots to explore this gem on foot thanks to 800 miles of trails. Meeting-friendly properties under the Delaware North Companies umbrella (including The Ahwahnee, Yosemite Lodge at the Falls, Wawona Hotel and, just outside the park’s South Gate, Tenaya Lodge) can arrange guided hikes, including easy 1- to 2.5-mile hikes that will meet the scenery prerequisite without setting off the heart monitors.
If you’ve got an adventuresome group looking for something different, Tenaya Lodge offers a fun, 25-foot rock climbing wall. 
“It’s experiential by choice; not everybody has to take their feet off the ground,” says Pam Rudd, 
associate director of sales for Tenaya Lodge and 
Yosemite Hotels. “They can learn rope ties and 
other skills.”
For adrenaline junkies who’d like to put their climbing prowess into practice, Delaware North has its own mountaineering school with American Mountain Guides Association-certified guides (who are also wilderness first responders and EMTs), and can arrange guided rock-climbing trips. 

Huntington Beach

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordSurfing at Huntington Beach

Board Sports

Surf’s up! Religiously checking beach webcams on the Huntington Beach pier, surfers know whether the waves are gnarly, ankle biters or flat. When they’re good, boarders show up in droves, even more so now that the popularity of the sport has surged. Huntington Beach (aka Surf City USA) has glitzed up since 1957, when Jack’s Surfboards opened its original location on Main Street, but the ocean is timeless. At the oceanfront Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa, onsite partner Toes on the Nose offers private, semi-private and group surf lessons and parties (for 10-plus guests). They’ll provide water safety instruction, wetsuits, boards, leashes and more during the two-hour lessons. Only 100 yards from the pier, the Shorebreak Hotel (a Joie de Vivre property) features surfing-inspired decor and a surfing crash course for groups.

Los Angeles

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordWestwood Pilates, Los Angeles

Yoga & Pilates

Feeling good might come up a tie with looking good in this glam city, which is awash with spin classes, CrossFit gyms, yoga retreats, Pilates sessions and just about every other form of exercise that rejuvenates, re-energizes and tones the body. Devotees practice their moves early and late in the day, to beat traffic.
There are stand-alone options, such as the highly regarded Westwood Pilates, but planners will find it easy to schedule group wellness programs and activities at host properties, where fitness centers, spas, rooftop pools and helipads (this is L.A. after all) offer the latest techniques and trends. At the Loews Hollywood Hotel and Fairmont Miramar Hotel & Bungalows in Santa Monica, Exhale Spa can provide core fusion yoga, a practice that fuses flow yoga with intense core work, that’s open to all levels.
At the Hollywood location, helipad yoga is available with a private instructor for up to 12 people. At Hotel Wilshire and its sister property, Hotel Palomar Los Angeles-Westwood, groups can do fitness classes, yoga classes and aqua yoga under the sun at the hotel’s rooftop pool. VIP groups staying at Malibu Beach Inn can take their private fitness classes along millionaire’s row on Carbon Beach.

San Diego

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordSan Diego Bike & Kayak tour through a sea cave

Water Sports

In San Diego, it’s all about the water. And why not? The area enjoys 70 miles of coastline and an abundance of sunshine. On any given day, you’ll see kayaks, yachts, sailboats, personal watercraft—even the 80-foot America’s Cup Stars & Stripes USA 11—ride the waves. 
Resorts such as Hilton San Diego Bayfront and San Diego Marriott Marquis in downtown, Paradise Point Resort on Mission Bay and La Jolla Shores Resort in tony, seaside La Jolla, can assist in getting your group on the water.
Given the terrific upper body workout and the scenic rewards, kayaking is popular. At Paradise Point, the marina coordinates kayaking excursions for groups of up to 40 (broken into smaller groups) with dedicated instructors. These could be as short as a 20-minute paddle to SeaWorld or a longer one- to two-hour paddle around the island on an excursion to local marshlands for bird watching or out into the channel that leads to the Pacific Ocean, according to Hilary Townsend, spokesperson for the resort.
A local outfitter, San Diego Bike and Kayak Tours, Inc. offers a two-hour Kayak Tour of the 7 Caves in La Jolla aboard two-person, sit-top kayaks for groups of up to 75. Guests explore cliffs and caves as they glide through La Jolla Ecological Reserve and paddle to a clutch of sandstone caves. For a more relaxed trip, the company launches in Coronado for a two-hour bay paddle, with views of the city skyline and a glide under Coronado Bridge.

Greater Palm Springs

Society Room of Hartford; Connecticut Convention Center, HartfordBNP Paribas Open in Palm Springs


The reverberating whack of a tennis ball slammed by a racket has been part of the area’s soundtrack for decades. In fact, it was this sport, not golf, which first put Palm Springs on the map, with some of the best courts and playing weather in the country.
Ranked as one of the top 10 tennis resorts in the country, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert offers meeting groups several typical programs, as well as the Grand Slam Round 
Robin, where doubles (a maximum of 32 participants) play on hard, clay and grass courts, giving them a chance to feel what it’s like to play at the U.S. Open (hard), French Open (the famous red clay) and Wimbledon (lawn courts).
“The round-robin allows you to play with and against different partners and opponents, so it’s a great social mixer,” says Jim Leupold, USPTA elite professional and PBI director of tennis for 
the resort. “Just like groups book massages for their attendees, they can also promote health and fitness by providing [tennis opportunities] for their attendees.”
So, when you’re looking for a healthy offsite option for your meeting, it’s easy to tap into the wellness vibe of California’s various destinations and get your group moving. 
Wellness should be a priority for every group when meeting in California. 
Carolyn Koenig is the former editorial director of Smart Meetings and is a frequent contributor.

Convention Centers in the Spotlight

Several major California convention centers are entering new competitive arenas with expansions and renovations. Here’s a look at several that are underway, completed or on the horizon.
  • Anaheim Convention Center is already the largest facility of its type on the West Coast (1.6 million sq. ft.). The center will begin construction this year on an additional 200,000 sq. ft. of flexible space. This expansion, targeted for completion in 2017, is complemented by renovations and improvements to its partners in the Anaheim Convention Campus—Hilton Anaheim, Anaheim Marriott and Sheraton Park Hotel. 
  • Los Angeles Convention Center is undergoing $10 million in upgrades and renovations in a plan designed to enhance its functionality and appearance. A long-anticipated expansion of the center could be part of a new stadium, if developer AEG lands an NFL team for the spot. A decision is expected by spring 2015.
  • Ontario Convention Center is contemporary in design and equipped with the latest in technology. This breathtaking venue is used more and more by filmmakers as a location for movies and commercials. The center boasts more than 225,000 sq. ft. of flexible function space and provides a full range of technology services.
  • Pasadena Civic Auditorium Exhibition Hall will reopen on Feb. 9 after a $900,000 renovation. The historic 17,000-square-foot hall joins the Pasadena Convention Center Campus’ existing 55,000-square-foot Exhibition Hall, 25,000-square-foot Grand Ballroom, 3,000-seat Civic Auditorium and 29 meeting rooms.
  • Riverside Convention Center reopened in March 2014 after a $43.6 million renovation, with 66,000 sq. ft. of indoor event space, plus 20,000 sq. ft. of useable outdoor space.
  • Moscone Center in San Francisco is undergoing a $350 million expansion to enlarge the venue from 1.2 million sq. ft. to 1.5 million sq. ft. (the project is focused on Moscone North and South). Construction is slated for completion in 2018. 
  • San Jose McEnery Convention Center completed a $130 million renovation and expansion project in 2013. The project included adding 125,000 sq. ft., which increased the facility’s space to 550,000 sq. ft. Among the changes are a revamped lobby. The plaza, which faces downtown, makes a great outdoor venue.

Major Meeting Venues

Northern California

DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina
378 guest rooms; 5,088-square-foot ballroom; 15,000 sq. ft. of event space indoors and outdoors.
Golden Gate Fields
Horse track available for private events; approximately 300,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor/outdoor space. 
Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Lake Tahoe
New property offers 539 rooms and suites with memorabilia in decor; more than 14,300 sq. ft. of meeting and convention space.
Marriott San Ramon 
Hotel near regional preserve; 368 guest rooms; 
fitness center; 16,500 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Parkside Hall
Adjacent to San Jose’s Tech Museum; 30,000 sq. ft. of flexible, column-free space.
Sacramento Convention Center
384,000-square-foot flexible space center; 12 meeting rooms range in size from 300 to 9,550 sq. ft.
San Jose McEnery Convention Center
Downtown location, with 143,000 sq. ft. of column-free exhibit space; 550,000 sq. ft. combined space.

Central California

Hotel Corque
Solvang boutique property; 7,500 sq. ft. of meeting space; spa; newly renovated pool area.
Intercontinental The Clement Monterey
In the heart of John Steinbeck’s historic Cannery Row; 208 guest rooms; 12 meeting spaces.
Monterey County Conference Center
Includes Monterey Marriott, Portola Hotel & Spa and Monterey Conference Center; waterfront properties collectively offer 61,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space, 700 hotel rooms.
Portola Hotel & Spa
372 guest rooms; 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; spa; plunge pool; fitness center; Peters B’s Brewpub onsite.
fitness center; 16,500 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Southern California

Crowne Plaza Ventura Beach
Ventura’s only beachfront hotel; 258 guest rooms; restaurant on 12th floor; 16,000 sq. ft. of meeting space includes Top of the Harbor Rooftop Event.
Marriott Ventura Beach
Direct access to the beach; 285 guest rooms with 16 suites; concierge floor; 16,000 sq. ft. of meeting space including 12 meeting rooms; full-service restaurant and Atrium Bar; heated outdoor pool.
Sheraton Los Angeles Downtown Hotel
In the heart of the financial district; 485 guest rooms; 21 meeting rooms, largest is 10,000 sq. ft.; easy walk to convention center, Staples Center.


Anaheim-Orange County Visitors & Convention Bureau
Diablo Valley Tourism Business Improvement District
Greater Palm Springs Convention & Visitors Bureau
Lake Tahoe Visitors Authority
Los Angeles Tourism and Convention Board
Marina del Rey Convention & Visitors Bureau
Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau
Ontario Convention Center & Visitors Bureau
Sacramento Convention & Visitors Bureau
San Diego Tourism Authority
San Francisco Travel Association
Sonoma County Tourism Bureau
Sonoma Valley Visitors Bureau
Team San Jose
Ventura County West
Visit Berkeley
Visit Huntington Beach
Visit Napa Valley
Yosemite National Park