California, here we come! Straight out of the Saturday Night Live sketch, “The Californians,” take the 405 to the 73 to the 55 to the 1 and you’ll find yourself in Orange County, California. Or go for a leisurely drive with the convertible top down cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway with your hair blowing in the ocean breeze, listening to Beach Boys tunes.
Orange County is more than the setting of popular TV shows of today and yesterday. It is the perfect setting for an oceanfront meeting with plenty for attendees to see and do in their spare time. Take a squeeze out of the OC!
Sandwiched between Los Angeles and San Diego, Orange County has a diverse identity all its own. Thrill-seekers can find amusement parks, art enthusiasts and history buffs can find festivals and museums, sunbathers and surfers can find beaches and waves, shoppers can find malls, sports fans can find stadiums and, of course, meeting professionals can find a convention center, hotels, unique venues and team-building activities. And, out of town travelers can easily get there from all over. Orange County not only has its own airport, but also easy access to several area airports in neighboring counties and a train hub.
Are you looking for a blank canvas that allows your meeting planner imagination to run wild? The wide-open spaces at Anaheim Convention Center enable you to do just that. On Sept. 26, the center’s expansion project will be complete, in celebration of its 50th anniversary.
“With this seventh expansion of 200,000 sq. ft. of flex space, it’s going to put us over a million sq. ft. of space,” says Charles Harris, senior vice president of marketing for Visit Anaheim. “That keeps us as the largest convention center on the West Coast.”
Visitors can ooh and aah over the nightly Disneyland Resort fireworks (see pg. 22) from the convention center’s 10,000-square-foot balcony. The kitchen can serve 6,000 plated meals. Once construction is complete, parking and access will be improved.
House of Blues once resided in Downtown Disney, but it packed its bags and moved across from the convention center to Anaheim GardenWalk. It sets a high standard as the flagship for all future locations, and houses four stages for live music and a 2,200-person capacity main concert hall. All the rooms are soundproof, so multiple events can take place simultaneously without competing.
Guests can also choose from a wide range of dining, entertainment and shopping options at the 460,000-square-foot GardenWalk, which celebrated its grand re-opening in March after undergoing a massive transformation.
C’mon baby, do the locomotion! Anaheim Regional Transportation Intermodal Center connects Anaheim to San Diego, Los Angeles, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo via Amtrak’s Pacific Surfliner and Metrolink. The futuristic transportation hub is included as one of the nine stunningly designed transportation destinations in the world by Architectural Digest.
Anaheim Packing District also has a unique railway experience. BXCR Underground Wine Society is a speakeasy with a vintage 1920s train car. In all, the packing district has 20 restaurants, including Cooks Chapel, a community kitchen, and The Backyard, an outdoor space with a fireplace and an orange grove. Both are available for events.
If wine isn’t your thing, enjoy Anaheim’s booming brewery culture. Fourteen breweries are now open and growing. Golden Road Brewing is expanding by more than 56,000 sq. ft. “That makes it the size of Dodger Stadium,” Harris enthuses. Bottle Logic is doubling the size of its brewery and adding an outdoor area. Meanwhile, Noble Ale was named best small brewery last year in the World Beer Cup.
Get your groove on at City National Grove of Anaheim. Up to 4,000 guests can be treated like Hollywood VIPs at the venue’s various event spaces, including an art deco gallery, lounge and concert hall. Your attendees can party like the rock stars they are.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES IN ANAHEIMAnaheim Marriott
Located on Anaheim Campus; walking distance to convention center; 1,030 guest rooms; 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; five ballrooms on one level; 44 meeting rooms.
Anaheim White House
Iconic, historic landmark; grand reopening set for 2018; 1,799-square-foot West Wing Banquet Hall.
Disneyland’s largest convention hotel; four landscaped lawn areas for year-round outdoor events; more than 990 guest rooms; 136,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa
Upgrades to all 950 guest rooms will be complete by end of 2017; private entrances to Disney California Adventure Park and Downtown Disney District; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.
Disney’s Paradise Pier Hotel
AAA Three Diamond property; celebrates California beach culture; 480 guest rooms; 24,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; ballroom, breakout rooms, boardrooms and outdoor pavilion for events.
Great Wolf Lodge
California’s first and only indoor water park resort; opened in March 2016; 603 guest rooms; 21,000-square-foot conference center
Located on Anaheim Campus; 1,572 guest rooms; 150,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; twin 19,000–square-foot sun decks; 73 meeting rooms.
Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort
Located on Anaheim Campus; 490 guest rooms; 28,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 11,000-square-foot ballroom; 14 meeting rooms on first floor.
Hang on to your booty! Buena Park is home to dinner theater, including Pirate’s Dinner Adventure. Get ready to walk the plank at Teatro Martini, the restaurant’s 18 and over show, which is well-suited for corporate groups of up to 200 people. It features world-class magic, acrobats, a five-course meal and aerial acts.
Sleeping Beauty isn’t the only one with a castle in Orange County. The knights at Medieval Times battle it out on horseback each night to a stadium full of cheering fans chowing down on chicken drumsticks.
Pucker up for a night out at Rock & Brews, owned by Kiss’ Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley. Open since 2016, Buena Park is the restaurant’s first Orange County location. The 6,800-square-foot, rock-themed establishment has craft beers on tap. “It’s a super- cool concept and great for corporate after-parties,” suggests Sara Copping, executive director of Visit Buena Park. “They have an outside full-beach volleyball court and cornhole. Indoors, there is plenty of space for a buyout or a private section.”
Your life will be forever changed after biting into a potato ball from Porto’s Bakery & Cafe. It is a mashed potato ball filled with ground beef. This Los Angeles favorite opened its first Orange County location in spring 2017 in Buena Park. The 25,000-square-foot eatery offers affordable lunch boxes for meeting professionals to keep in mind. This will be the first Porto’s location to add breakfast to the menu.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES IN BUENA PARKHoliday Inn Hotel & Conference Center Buena Park
Major renovation in 2016; largest outdoor heated pool and whirlpool in area; 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; largest of four ballrooms provides 5,200 sq. ft.; 14 breakout rooms; 249 guest rooms.
Knott’s Berry Farm Hotel
Largest meeting and convention facility in area; Snoopy-themed wing; group discounts available to Knott’s Berry Farm and Knott’s Soak City Water Park; 2,000-seat theater; more than 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 320 guest rooms
Monarch Beach Resort recently underwent a massive $40 million renovation, and meeting-goers will reap the benefits. The new Miraval Life in Balance Spa offers wellness and fitness classes for groups, such as yogilates and Bogafit, a core workout on a mat floating on water.
Guests can tee up for breakout sessions and team-building activities at the resort’s golf course, Monarch Beach Golf Links. GolfBoards to “surf the greens,” a cocktail caddy and abbreviated rounds are available. Monarch Beach also has 30,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space, 60,000 sq. ft. of outdoor event space and 400 guest rooms and suites.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES IN DANA POINTLaguna Cliffs Marriott Resort & Spa at Dana Point
Pacific Ocean views from outdoor lawn event areas; 50,000 sq. ft. of event space; 378 guest rooms.
The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel
Sits atop oceanfront bluff; team-building activities and eco-adventures; guests receive preferred tee times at Monarch Beach Golf Links; 80,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space; 396 guest rooms.
Irvine has been named America’s Safest Big City for nine consecutive years by the FBI. Hotel Irvine received the Smart Meetings Platinum Choice Award in 2015 and remains a great locale for meetings in SoCal. It has one of the largest ballrooms in Orange County, with more than 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and over 20,000 sq. ft. of lawn space. Attendees can stay in one of 536 guest rooms. Other amenities include a text message concierge and charging pods throughout the lobby and bar.
Irvine's Much-Awaited Orange County Great Park
New 194-acre Sports Park
Phase 1 opened in August
2,500-seat soccer stadium
25 tennis courts
Five sand volleyball courts
Phase 2 includes basketball, baseball and softball venues
Coming in 2018: 280,000-square-foot ice skating facility with four rinks
MAJOR MEETING VENUES IN IRVINEAtrium Hotel
Close to John Wayne Airport; airport shuttle; 13,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 208 guest rooms.
Hilton Irvine/Orange County Airport
20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, renovated in February 2016; 23 meeting rooms; 7,020-square-foot grand ballroom; 306 guest rooms.
FedEx Kinkos and Starbucks; fitness studio; outdoor pool; more than 38,000 sq. ft. of attractive meeting space; 12,000-square-foot ballroom; 20 breakout rooms; 487 guest rooms.
Marriott Irvine Spectrum
Opens in December; panoramic views from rooftop terrace; 18,754 sq. ft. of meeting space; three breakout rooms; 271 guest rooms.
MTV cameras left Laguna Beach long ago, but more than 6 million visitors flock to this arts community annually. The small coastal town welcomes more tourists than the Grand Canyon each year. You can become part of that statistic by holding a meeting there. Laguna Beach has 22,000 acres of protected land, including Laguna Wilderness Park, referred to as the “greenbelt.” There are more dolphins per capita in Laguna than in Hawaii and Florida combined.
Seven-Degrees, a 25,000-square-foot exclusive event space with well-equipped technology and catering, is nestled in a canyon and covered in sycamore trees. “There’s [probably] nowhere that’s like it in Southern California,” says Anne-Marie Schiefer, digital marketing manager for Visit Laguna Beach.
The Rooftop Lounge on top of Casa Del Camino is one of the most popular rooftops in Laguna Beach. It is rumored that author Ernest Hemingway used to party there with Hollywood A-listers. The rooftop has full ocean views and is known for its mojitos.
Mozambique Steakhouse, another restaurant offering a large rooftop, has private dining rooms and full buyouts. It boasts six event spaces, including a perfect spot for live music. As an added treat, Mozambique offers complimentary limo service for attendees. Large groups can be chauffeured in a Mercedes van and guests of honor can ride in a Bentley.
A hot new restaurant with a view, Skyloft, has opened in the downtown area across from Main Beach. It, too, has a rooftop and live music venue. Chef Arthur Ortiz is happy to customize event offerings to include ribs, shared plates, passed hors d’oeuvres and a secret menu.
Moving from skate blades to steak knives, retired Anaheim Ducks player Teemu Selanne—who recently was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame—opened a phenomenal steakhouse with private dining rooms on the PCH in Laguna Beach. Selanne Steak Tavern has enlisted executive chef Joshua Severson, formerly of St. Regis Monarch Beach Resort & Spa. The 5,100-square-foot restaurant can accommodate up to 134 guests for a complete buy-out.
Laguna Beach is also a great destination for team building activities. Fun is First “can plan any type of event or team-building excursion in the Laguna Beach area,” Schiefer says. This includes an art class at the Sawdust Festival, glassblowing and jewelry making. La Vida Laguna pumps up your endorphins with outdoorsy group activities ranging from escaping from a deserted island after being shipwrecked to participating in a drum circle, to beach Olympics.
The Ranch at Laguna Beach is on an elite list of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, only one of six in the United States to make the cut. After several years of renovation, this eco-friendly hotel has extra-large rooms and stellar service. It’s the only golf course in Laguna Beach, with nine holes nestled in a canyon.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES IN LAGUNA BEACHMontage Laguna Beach
On coastal bluff overlooking Pacific Ocean; 30 acres; 7,500-square-foot grand ballroom; three oceanfront event lawns; 250 guest rooms.
Surf & Sand Resort
Stand-alone conference center with oceanfront terrace; 20,000 sq. ft. of combined indoor and outdoor meeting space; pool located on sand; 167 guest rooms; free rides on Laguna Beach Trolley; special promo for September and November 2017 meetings includes free wine and cheese reception, and waived resort fee.
Formerly Fairmont Newport Beach, The Duke Hotel Newport Beach took on a temporary identity. After undergoing a multimillion-dollar renovation project, it will be renamed Renaissance Newport Beach in early 2018. The new space will offer 444 guest rooms and 42,000 sq. ft. for events, including 27,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space.
MAJOR MEETING VENUES IN NEWPORT BEACHBalboa Bay Resort
Luxury yacht available to rent for private events; 7,000–square-foot grand ballroom; 6,000 sq. ft. of outdoor event space; 159 guest rooms and 10 suites.
Hyatt Regency Newport Beach
Nine-hole golf course; tennis courts; recreational activities include shuffleboard, pingpong, sand volleyball, giant outdoor chess board and lawn games; 22,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 20 breakout rooms; 407 guest rooms.
Island Hotel Newport Beach
Located near Pelican Hill Golf Club and Oak Creek Golf Club; largest ballroom in Newport Beach; 23,000 sq. ft. of event space; 292 guest rooms and suites.
The Resort at Pelican Hill
AAA Five Diamond Award recipient for eight straight years; renowned golf course with 3D swing evaluation; circular pool with mosaic tiles; assortment of gelato flavors made daily; 23,200 sq. ft. of meeting space; 204 guest rooms and 128 villas.
Hot Spots of Orange County
Anaheim: The happiest place on earth hosts meeting venues at two theme parks, three hotels and Downtown Disney.
Buena Park: Knott’s Berry Farm, a 160-acre amusement park, is home to Snoopy and lots of meetings.
Dana Point: This stunning city offers year-round whale-watching and dolphin-watching cruises.
Huntington Beach: Surf City USA has 10 miles of uninterrupted coastline and four luxury oceanfront conference resorts.
Irvine: The Great Park Balloon gives 30 passengers a 360-degree view of up to 40 miles from 400 feet in the air.
Laguna Beach: Bring your binoculars to Pageant of the Masters at Festival of the Arts, where actors re-enact famous works of art.
Newport Beach: Fashion Island mastered the art of shopping malls with a wide range of high-end stores and restaurants.
San Juan Capistrano: Serra Plaza accommodates up to 450 guests in this city, the birthplace of Orange County.
Santa Ana: A 30,000–square-foot hangar at Lyon Air Museum on the west side of John Wayne Airport makes aviation history the backdrop for meetings.
MAJOR MEETING VENUESCosta MesaAvenue of the Arts Costa Mesa, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel
Located in the Theater and Arts District, near South Coast Plaza shopping mall; more than 15,000 sq. ft. of event space; 238 guest rooms.
Ayres Hotels and Suites, Costa Mesa-Newport Beach
Pool area and cobblestone fountain courtyard available for outdoor events; 12,200 sq. ft. of meeting space; 284 guest rooms.
Hilton Orange County/Costa Mesa
Located five minutes from John Wayne Airport; free airport shuttle; 50,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space; 486 guest rooms.
The Westin South Coast Plaza, Costa Mesa
Pedestrian bridge connects hotel to South Coast Plaza shopping mall; renovated in 2015; nearly 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 394 guest rooms; complimentary airport shuttle.
Huntington BeachHyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort & Spa
Toes on the Nose team-building activities, such as surf lessons; overlooks Pacific Ocean; lagoon-style pool; 110,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 517 guest rooms.
Pasea Hotel & Spa
The Blue Room features built-in bar, terrace and fire pits; more than 34,600 sq. ft. of event space; 11 meeting rooms; 8,400–square-foot ballroom; large event lawn; 250 guest rooms.
Shorebreak, a Kimpton Hotel
Surf and ocean photography by Aaron Chang on display; 3,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 157 guest rooms.
The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel
AAA Four Diamond-rated resort; ocean views; 21,500 sq. ft. of meeting space; 5,850-square-foot grand ballroom; 290 guest rooms.