Southern California in HD

A gallery of new meeting spaces awaits in Southern California

Have you seen the new Visit California commercial encouraging you to “Start Dreaming Now”? The waterfall of enticing photos teases with all the new things to discover: major investments in Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) to make getting to Southern California even easier; 7,500 new guest rooms statewide, including luxury digs in Anaheim, San Diego County and Greater Palm Springs; more theme park attractions for maximum bleisure opportunities; and an outpouring of al fresco dining options that are here to stay. The state has always been one of the top leisure travel destinations in the world, but now Visit California President and CEO Caroline Beteta is making a point of sharing updates with meeting professionals so they can “Meet What is Possible.”

“We have an important message for companies considering sending employees to the state,” Beteta said on a sunny day in October in L.A. “California is one of the safest places to gather because it had the most strict protocols. We know how to keep people safe. We are open for business.”

And hundreds of thousands of those square feet of meetings space at new and renovated properties are hybrid-ready. California leads the country in meeting space wired for video streaming.

Since a picture is worth a thousand likes, Smart Meetings asked local experts to share pics of their favorite spots for meeting, eating, dusking and toasting. Can you top them? Tag us in your favorite SoCal spot with #MeetSmart, and you could be our next featured expert.

Los Angeles

The second largest city in the country is preparing for the return of the Summer Olympics in 2028 with improved public transit and new venues, including the groundbreaking SoFi Stadium, with indoor and outdoor options that can hold as many as 100,000 people or cater to a handful of VIPs in 260 luxury suites and nearby outdoor covered plaza. One of the largest properties, JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE! is doubling in size with an additional 850 guest rooms and 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Reimagined landmark Fairmont Century Plaza brought luxury and glamour back to 400 guest rooms and almost 24,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Downtown LA Proper Hotel spent the last year refreshing its 148 guest rooms, nearly 7,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and dining options headed by James Beard Award-winning chef Suzanne Goin. For those looking for a little attitude, the all-new Pendry West Hollywood brings it with 149 modern-elegant guest rooms and almost 14,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including The Bowling Alley at The Briely Social Club, a Screening Room and lots of outdoor space. Next up for reimagining: L’Ermitage Beverly Hills Hotel, whose 116 suites were recently acquired by EOS investors.

Darren Green, chief sales officer, Discover Los Angeles:

Darren Green

Memorable Group Meal: Bavel DTLA—I just love to sit outside in this beautiful spot and order shared plates. Their hummus and baba ghanoush dishes with bread, now that’s to die for.

Sunset Spot: El Porto, Manhattan Beach is a great surfer spot popular with locals. I used to live there and going surfing was my reason to get home before dark.

Team Building: Scavenger Hunt DTLA (Downtown L.A.). This spot has so much to discover and every time I go, I learn something new about our great city.

New Hotel/Conference Space: Fairmont Century Plaza opened this September. Fairmont did an excellent job reimagining this iconic hotel and keeping the tradition while elevating to a Five Diamond level.

Classic Go-To Hotel/Conference Space: Loews Hollywood Hotel has great rooms and meeting space, and they always deliver stellar guest service.

Toast the End of a Meeting: The Mixing Room at JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE!

In-room dining at Loews Hollywood Hotel

Sepideh Eivazi, director of global accounts, Elevated Meeting Solutions

Memorable Group Meal: Gyu-Kaku is Japanese BBQ, authentic and perfect for a group to be able to interact to cook and enjoy a yummy meal. I do enjoy cooking meat and vegetables over a charcoal grill. My favorite is miso-marinated harami (skirt steak) and kalbi (short rib).

Sunset Spot: Griffith Observatory offers the view of downtown L.A. (as featured in the movie La La Land), the Pacific Ocean and the renowned Hollywood sign.

Team Building: The Skid Row Running Club is one of my favorites. Not only does it support physical movements, but also it allows the group to come together to support a cause and add value to the community.

Classic Go-To Hotel/Conference Space: Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills, a Hollywood favorite and urban oasis.

Toast the End of a Meeting: The hotel—InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown, an IHG Hotel; the bar—71 Above.

71Above, Los Angeles

Russell Edmond, founder, Russell of Hotels

Russel Edmond

Memorable Group Meal: Outside patio area of Sage Vegan Bistro, which is 100 percent plant-based and located in Culver City! (My two must orders—buffalo cauliflower and eggplant artichoke parmesan pizza—it’s #NonMeatEats!!

Team Building: Horseback riding and lunch at Sunset Ranch Hollywood! It’s different, and it’s probably the closest most people will get to the Hollywood Sign!

Best Classic Go-To Hotel/ Conference Space: A half hour drive to the Pacific, Hyatt Regency Long Beach is a AAA Four Diamond experience with a waterfront ballroom.

Toast to End of a Meeting: The Veranda at Georgian Hotel in Santa Monica. My drink of choice is an AP! (Arnold Palmer) or a locally brewed craft beer.

San Diego

“The Finest City” just keeps getting better. The city is home to 55,000 hotel rooms and San Diego Convention Center, 2.6 million sq. ft. of waterfront meeting space. Rady Shell at Jacobs Park is the big new performing arts space with a view to the future. This dramatic outdoor stage tucks 13,000 sq. ft. of performance space and facilities in an array of billowy white steps from the bay.

Erin Scholes, president of SD Meetings and Events

Memorable Group Meal: Liberty Station in Point Loma houses naval history and so much beauty as well. Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens there offers local beer and delicious food in a variety of private dining and event spaces. Their pretzels and beer cheese are a must order!

Sunset Spot: There are so many gorgeous locations to watch the sunset in San Diego, but my go-to is the patio of JRDN Restaurant in Tower23 Hotel. It is located next to the pier in Pacific Beach and hosts a yummy happy hour menu with plenty of people watching from the outside dining space. You’ll often hear people cheer and clap as the sun sets. It makes me smile every time!

Team Building: We recently held a guacamole-making team building at San Diego Mission Bay Resort. They have a stunning lawn that overlooks the bay, surrounded by palm trees. The team building was a blast, but the setting was the best part.

New Hotel/Conference Space: I love InterContinental San Diego. It has a wonderful ballroom and patio space, delicious dining options, as well as a beautiful view of San Diego Bay.

Classic Go-To Hotel: L’Auberge Del Mar has been around for many years, but it just went through an extravagant remodel that impresses the minute you step inside.

Toast the End of a Meeting: Is there a bad place to toast a meeting well done? Anywhere outside on a patio or with a view of the water is a best place for me! And a California red wine is a must when celebrating a successful San Diego event.

Yoga at San Diego Mission Bay Resort

Cheryl Rogers, MBA, corporate events manager, Palomar

Memorable Group Meal: The food is simply amazing at Addison Restaurant at the Fairmont Grand Del Mar, and the chef takes the group on a memorable culinary journey that is curated as you go. At the end of the meal you are presented with a personalized menu of everything you ate and a special dessert to take home with you. 😊

Sunset Spot: Hotel del Coronado (which is putting finishing touches on a $400 million renovation) affords beach sunset views that are everything.

Team Building: Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort is by far my favorite team-building destination. It is located in beautiful Solvang and offers a multitude of activities. As a planner, I love it because you can’t lose any of your attendees and it is an all-inclusive experience, which is budget-friendly with a luxury feel.

Horseback riding at Alisal Guest Ranch & Resort, Solvang

Anaheim

The city known to many as the home of Disneyland Resort is expanding its hotel portfolio with luxury offerings to serve the 1.15-million-square-foot Anaheim Convention Center (the largest exhibit space on the West Coast).

Allison Fazio, digital editor, Smart Meetings

Memorable Group Meal: Anaheim Packing District offers 30 restaurant choices ranging from a grilled cheese bar to a speakeasy. There is something for everyone.

Sunset Spot: Parkestry Rooftop Bar at JW Marriott affords sweeping views of nightly Disneyland firework shows.

Team Building: Honda Center’s 115-acre OC Vibe (part of Platinum Triangle), is a fun place to take in a game, a concert or stage your own competition.

New Hotel/Conference Space: The Westin Anaheim Resort added 618 guest rooms and more than 47,500 sq. ft. with spectacular views to the already robust Anaheim hotel inventory list. The Four-Diamond property is in the heart of Anaheim Resort District.

Classic Go-To Hotel/Conference Space: Sunny Anaheim Convention Center Grand Plaza has plenty of room for everyone to spread out.

Toast the End of a Meeting: Trader Sam’s Enchanted Tiki Bar at The Disneyland Hotel is steps from 136,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, but a world apart.

JW Marriott Parkestry Rooftop

Temecula

A scenic hour-and-a-half from downtown L.A. is the burgeoning wine region of Temecula Valley, which is drawing groups for the outdoor spaces, fun spaces and one-of-a-kind activities.

Jon Chir, director of catering and banquets, Pechanga Resort Casino 

Memorable Group Meal: Yes, it’s here where I work, though the restaurant at Pechanga Resort Casino’s golf course is very hard to beat. Journey’s End proves the perfect spot for a business lunch, a delectable breakfast with friends or family, an afternoon appetizer on the large, rustic-chic outdoor patio. And the service is always excellent.

Sunset Spot: Meritage at Callaway is an open-air venue at a picturesque winery. You can have a glass of wine, a great dinner and enjoy Temecula Valley Wine Country scenery.

New Hotel/Conference Space: Temecula Creek Inn recently remodeled all hotel rooms and suites, and they look fantastic. They really complement the rest of the resort in its upscale yet laid-back boutique resort setting. Their conference space spans several indoor options, the gorgeous Stonehouse and Meadows venues, or the courtyard steps past the on-site restaurant.

Classic Go-To Hotel Space: It’s relatively small, but for a great, local getaway, it’s a treat to spend a night or two at Carter Estate Winery & Resort. There’s a great spa across the street at their sister property, plus nice rooms and a great setting among the vineyards.

Toast the End of a Meeting: I love bringing guests or my team to Temecula Creek Inn’s Cork Fire Kitchen. You can see the resort’s on-site vegetable garden right from the restaurant, and that really gives you a feeling the chef cares about using the freshest ingredients as much as possible. Their menu is excellent without being too exclusive, and I love how they change the menu seasonally, and incorporate those seasonal choices from the garden into their cocktail lineups.

Temecula Creek Inn

Palm Springs

This oasis is blooming with new things to see and do. New to the scene: the adults-only, relaxation-focused Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis and its natural geothermal heated mineral spring water and highly anticipated Agua Caliente cultural plaza art gallery, spa and garden. And it is all even more accessible as Southwest Airlines has added new nonstop service from easy Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS).

Gary Diedrichs, senior editor, Smart Meetings

This oasis is blooming with new things to see and do. New to the scene: the adults-only, relaxation-focused Azure Palm Hot Springs Resort & Day Spa Oasis and its natural geothermal heated mineral spring water and highly anticipated Agua Caliente cultural plaza art gallery, spa and garden. And it is all even more accessible as Southwest Airlines has added new nonstop service from easy Palm Springs International Airport (PSP) to Las Vegas McCarran International Airport (LAS).

Memorable Group Meal: With sourcing from small local farms, Barn Kitchen at Sparrow Lodge in South Palm Springs feels like an intimate garden dinner party at cool friend’s getaway retreat. Try the mole on a half local hen.

Sunset Spot: From the rooftop of one of the tallest hotels, Kimpton Rowan Palm Springs, with gob-smacking views of San Jacinto Mountains and a chill bar scene.

Team Building: The San Andreas Fault exploration of geological cuts and canyons with Red Jeep Tours by Desert Adventures, followed by team-building activities. Ask for Morgan to lead.

New Hotel/Conference Space: Palm Desert’s Hotel Paseo, an Autograph Collection new build that debuted in 2018, has a fresh, modern vibe in 150 guest rooms (with Carrera marble bathrooms) and a retro touch with a ‘50s Airstream as one of nine suites. Plus, there’s a 3,200-square-foot ballroom and 2,000-square-foot event lawn.

Classic Go-To Hotel/Conference Space: Iconic Hyatt Regency Indian Wells dates to 1986, but after a $20 million reno, it’s sparkly and new.

Toast the End of a Meeting: 1970s Mex classic Las Casuelas in P.S. Order the blood orange margarita with sides of house-made guac and live music.

Sparrows Lodge, Palm Springs

Resources

  • Discover Los Angeles
  • San Diego Tourism
  • Visit Anaheim
  • Visit California
  • Visit Greater Palm Springs
  • Visit Temecula Valley

Featured image: Outdoor pool at JW Marriott Los Angeles L.A. LIVE

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