Southern California’s Pacific Coast Highway is a road map for memorable meetings
The convertible top is down. The vast sunshine is beaming bright. And the ocean breeze is blowing through your hair. There may not be a more quintessential California experience than a drive along miles of coastline down Highway 1—or Pacific Coast Highway, as it’s locally known.
Escape the traffic and congestion of Los Angeles with a visit to seaside cities and towns dotted along the West Coast. Not only do these picturesque destinations provide amazing outdoor activities, but they also offer inspiring meeting locations with Pacific Ocean views aplenty.
“Located in the heart of the Los Angeles coastline, we’re able to put traditional meetings on the back seat as we showcase the harbor with unique venues like luxury yachts, on-the-water activities and waterfront dining,” says Valerie Arias, communications manager for Marina del Rey Convention & Visitors Bureau.
The road trip begins 60 miles northwest of Los Angeles in Oxnard, and then meanders down to West L.A., Beverly Hills and Marina del Rey. With stopovers in Anaheim and Costa Mesa, the tour finally ends in the coastal cities of Carlsbad and Oceanside. Along the way, groups can detour to visit world-famous theme parks, participate in ocean expeditions, catch an award-winning performance or simply enjoy locally brewed beer with toes in the sand. These are some of the most memorable experiences sunny California has to offer.
Waterfront hotels and resorts are easy to come by in Ventura County’s biggest city. Beach enclaves encompass Oxnard’s 20 miles of scenic coastline. Steps from the sand is Embassy Suites Mandalay Beach Hotel & Resort, a AAA Four Diamond property. The Mediterranean-style resort offers 250 two-room suites and 16,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space. Its fantastic ocean views also come at a reasonable rate—the resort was recently named one of the 10 best budget beach resorts by Parents Magazine and TripAdvisor.
Just off Highway 1 is Residence Inn Oxnard River Ridge, which recently underwent a multimillion-dollar renovation of its 252 guest rooms and 12,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Guests can enjoy the hotel’s spectacular natural setting, which overlooks the Santa Clara River against Topa Topa mountain range in the distance. The property is located next to River Ridge Golf Club, which offers 36 holes of championship course spanning more than 450 acres. The property also provides meeting space in its 25,000-square-foot clubhouse. A banquet room offers an additional 2,000 sq. ft. with seating for up to 174 guests.
Channel Islands Harbor is the perfect jumping-off point for ocean exploration. Dive centers, boat charters and sport fishing excursions offer options to explore the coast throughout the year. Visit Channel Islands National Park and its five islands, located just 11 miles offshore. Kayak through the marine sanctuary, home to more than 2,000 animal and plant species. Blue whale sightings are common from December to April, when the giant mammals come to feed on thousands of pounds of krill per day.
West Los Angeles & Beverly Hills
Switch gears and head inland for a touch of Hollywood glam at W Los Angeles–West Beverly Hills hotel. Located minutes away from Sunset Boulevard and beaches in Santa Monica, the West Los Angeles property features a laid-back, contemporary vibe with hidden bungalows and new dining options.
“Our stunning new design and prime location allow guests to find a true escape within bustling Los Angeles,” says General Manager Mark Eberwein. In May, the hotel completed a $25 million renovation of its 297 guest rooms and nearly 5,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Meeting attendees can relax in the 7,000-square-foot Bliss Los Angeles Spa and dine in the new STK restaurant, a celebrity favorite.
West Lost Angeles offers a multitude of things to do, from scenic hikes to tourist attractions. Mingle with the stars, or at least their waxy look-alikes, at Madame Tussauds Hollywood. The wax museum displays more than 125 lifelike figures, from Denzel Washington to Lady Gaga. Groups can continue the Hollywood tour at Universal Studios amusement park with rides based on popular film and television productions. Take the tram through Jurassic Park or ride the Transformers 3-D roller coaster. The kid-friendly Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride also features a 3-D simulator.
For the athletically inclined, a scenic hike up Griffith Park in the Santa Monica Mountains yields a spectacular view above the iconic 45-foot-tall Hollywood sign. Hikers can also visit Griffith Observatory, which provides equally sweeping views of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the Pacific Ocean. Its planetarium and exhibit hall offer free-admission and are available for rentals.
Marina del Rey
Right at the water’s edge, the coastal community of Marina del Rey occupies just 1.5 sq. mi., and is tucked away from the rest of Los Angeles. Linked by a three-mile long segment to nearby Culver City, Marina del Rey is packed with many oceanside offerings suited for untraditional meetings.“No other location in Los Angeles has the harbor like the Marina does, which lends itself to unique meeting space,” Arias says.
Marina del Rey Hotel re-opened in January after a $25 million renovation. The waterfront lodging offers 164 updated guest rooms and 9,700 sq. ft. of meeting space, including a ballroom with almost 3,000 sq. ft. Fashion shows and high-profile functions are regularly held at this iconic hotel.
Across the harbor, Marina del Rey Marriott is situated a few blocks away from Venice Beach. With 370 guest rooms, the larger hotel provides around 18,000 sq. ft. of flexible space, including a rooftop ballroom with panoramic views that can hold up to 700. Guests can wind down afterward at Sinder Lounge, which displays eclectic water and fire features. Both properties are located only 4 miles north of Los Angeles International Airport (LAX).
Meeting attendees need not leave Marina del Rey for choice outdoor entertainment. With the charm and feel of a New England seaside town, Fisherman’s Village and its brightly painted wooden buildings offer a number of draws, including the world’s largest man-made small-craft harbor. The port is home to approximately 6,500 commercial vessels, sailboats and luxury yachts that can be rented for group outings. Attendees can also participate in ocean-inspired team building, such as mini-sailing regattas, kayaking, paddleboarding and deep-sea fishing.
The next stop on the map is Anaheim, one of Orange County’s premier meeting destinations. The big news in town is the buzz surrounding Anaheim Convention Center (ACC), one of the largest LEED certified convention centers in the United States, with 1.6 million sq. ft. ACC is in the midst of its seventh expansion, which calls for a new glass building with 200,000 sq. ft. of event space, 100,000 sq. ft. of column-free space, 1,350 new parking spaces, a new main entrance and a new climate-controlled pedestrian bridge that will connect to the current facility. Construction will be complete by summer 2017.
Anaheim/Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau has also undergone some major changes. In June, the CVB announced its new name as Visit Anaheim. After more than 20 years, the Anaheim CVB is rebranding its image to appeal to a broader business-travel audience. “Anaheim’s personality is truly distinct from other destinations in Southern California, and we set out to capture the emotional core of what makes this place so special,” says Chris Davidson, executive vice president of global marketing firm MMGY Global.
For attendees who prefer to fly in, John Wayne Airport (SNA) in Anaheim is close to Orange County’s top attractions. Take advantage of the Anaheim Resort Transit, which provides low-cost transportation to Anaheim Convention Center and Disneyland Park, the city’s most famous destination.
Each year, more than 16.2 million visitors flock to 500-acre Disneyland Park, which has more than 60 adventures and roller coasters across its eight themed areas. This year, Disney unveiled new attractions based on the Academy Award-winning animated Frozen film. Old classics such as the Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean and Matterhorn are also receiving new animatronic technology updates over the course of this year.
Sports fans will find plenty of entertainment in Anaheim. Watch MLB’s Anaheim Angels play at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, located a few miles from the convention center. The Angels and the NHL Anaheim Ducks hockey team have both won championships in the last decade. The Ducks begin playing the 2015–16 hockey season in October a few blocks away at Honda Center. Both stadiums offer group ticket sales and venue space for rentals.
The heart of Orange County is Costa Mesa, an affluent suburb nestled between Huntington Beach and Newport Beach. Take Route 55 south toward the coast to reach this shopping-centric and arts-oriented hub.
“Costa Mesa offers world-class amenities while being close to Los Angeles, just 38 miles south,” says Linda Ta, director of marketing at Travel Costa Mesa. This Southern California city has many upscale, stylish hotels, including The Westin South Coast Plaza, a 392-room property with a location convenient to distinctive shopping and performing art centers.
The hotel completed renovations in May, and offers plenty of meeting accommodations. With more than 26 meeting rooms, there is 29,000 sq. ft. of flexible space. Westin’s Tangent program also offers hourly, flexible workspaces with intuitive and streamlined technology. Small groups can collaborate on floor-to-ceiling whiteboards and advanced videoconferencing, among other high-tech amenities.
South Coast Plaza is the largest luxury shopping mall on the West Coast. This shopper’s paradise, with a federal trademark as the “Ultimate Shopping Resort,” is visited by more than 24 million people annually. The 2.8 million-square-foot complex boasts more than 280 upscale stores, including Christian Dior, Hermes, Chanel, Gucci and Prada.
Costa Mesa’s other high-end venues pay tribute to the arts. The $73.8 million Segerstrom Center for the Arts is noted as one of the best performing art centers in California. Housed in curved glass walls and a Portuguese limestone facade, its concert halls and theaters regularly feature award-winning Broadway productions, jazz and cabaret artists.
South Coast Repertory is a Tony-award winning performance facility dedicated to resident theater productions during its September–June play season. Its upcoming fall program will include productions based on abstract impressionist Mark Rothko and Italian playwright Carlo Goldoni’s 1746 comedy, Servant of Two Masters.
Carlsbad & Oceanside
Referred to as the “Village by the Sea,” Carlsbad is a resort city nestled along 7 miles of prime beachside real estate. Where Interstate 5 and Highway 1 converge, the coastal territory is considered a gateway between metropolitan San Diego and Los Angeles.
Positioned directly across from Carlsbad State Beach, Cape Rey Carlsbad, A Hilton Resort is an AAA Four Diamond luxury property. It was recently rebranded to reflect a laid-back beach theme in its 215 guest rooms and 25,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space. Cape Rey provides an ideal location for exploring the rest of Southern California, including nearby Legoland. The 128-acre complex features more than 60 rides, attractions and shows based on the Lego toy brand. It’s the perfect place to bring the family along.
For groups wanting a taste of authentic beach culture, Oceanside is “SoCal cool” personified. This surfer city boasts many beaches, like Oceanside Pier, Tyson Street Beach and Buccaneer Beach, where locals go to bask in the sun and ride the waves. Oceanside also enjoys strong ties with the U.S. military, as it borders the remote training base of Camp Pendleton.
The Marine Corps facilities are available for group tours and offer unique team-building activities. The “Hero For a Day” experience includes a simulated fire emergency and hands-on activities on how to manage and approach incidents. A physical component tests a team’s strength by requiring members to suit up in gear and ride in a fire engine to put out a burning building. “It’s an intense experience that is life changing for many participants,” says Darryl Hebert, Oceanside fire chief.
An ice-cold reward after a challenging team-building activity is one of Oceanside’s notable craft brews. In the last year, nearly a dozen new microbreweries and gastropubs have put Oceanside on the craft beer map. Among the newly opened venues is Bagby Beer Company, a brewing facility with two stories of drinking and dining space, including outdoor gardens and special tasting areas.
Oceanside marks the final destination on a whirlwind tour of Southern California. The drive-to destination market continues to draw groups in search of a perfect combination of coastal leisure and premier meeting venues. By the end of their journey, meeting attendees will be California dreamin’ until the next road trip beckons.
Southern California Island MeetingsJust off the coast of Southern California, Santa Catalina Island is a paradise for outdoor activities, offering everything from snorkeling, scuba diving, jet skiing and fishing to plenty of hiking, walking and ziplining. This island paradise also makes for a unique meeting destination, with several world-class venues that feature stunning views.
Santa Catalina Island Company continues to improve Descanso Beach Club, with an ongoing $8 million renovation. Earlier this year, a 13,000-square-foot clubhouse was completed, offering multiple meeting spaces with spectacular ocean views and indoor seating for up to 200 people. There’s a 2,000-square-foot outdoor deck for receptions and a lawn with space for 1,200.
Descanso Beach Club also acts as the adventure hub of the island, with the Zipline Eco Tour, Sea Trek Undersea Adventure and a variety of water activities available.
Catalina Canyon Resort & Spa is a tranquil and sophisticated location for business retreats, with 75 guest rooms, each with a private balcony or patio, and 3,000 sq. ft. of meeting space across six rooms. The resort also features a 150-seat theater and is within a mile of Catalina Island Golf Course.
Fairgrounds, Entertainment and Beyond
In the Los Angeles suburb of Pomona lies a fun-filled mega-complex attracting millions of visitors each year. Sheraton Fairplex Hotel & Conference Center provides an abundance of meeting space against the backdrop of the San Gabriel Mountains.
With more than 300,000 sq. ft. of column-free space, the 543-acre venue hosts more than 500 events annually. From Sept. 4 to 27, the annual Los Angeles County Fair takes over the grounds with on-stage entertainment, multicultural shows and deep-fried fare.
The Fairplex also offers a new IACC-certified conference center with 85,000 sq. ft. of space equipped with the latest technology. Air-conditioned exhibit halls range from 33,600 to 105,000 sq. ft. Outdoor event space extends to a 10,000-seat grandstand overlooking a grassy oval horse racetrack that can be used for concerts and festivals.
Within the 244-room hotel there is an additional 11,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Ontario International Airport (ONT) is only 10 miles away from the conference center.