Few destinations offer the diverse experiences of sunny California, from the drama of San Francisco and the surrounding countryside to the glamour of Los Angeles to the desert elegance of Palm Springs.
At the heart of the Anaheim meeting scene is the Anaheim Campus, with four hotels and the convention center all within walking distance. For after-hours fun, there’s the Anaheim GardenWalk, which includes the largest local collection of public art in a single place, and dozens of restaurants. Its venues for group events range from the House of Blues, which can accommodate up to 3,300, to more intimate outdoor gardens for 200.
“The Anaheim Campus is unique in that it allows meeting professionals to maintain the energy and vibe of their attendees contained on the campus,” says Jay Burress, president & CEO, Visit Anaheim. “From concerts to yoga, the Anaheim Campus keeps the energy of the attendees centrally located right at the convention center.”
2021 and 2022 were game changers for the Anaheim hotel scene, with several major projects geared toward the group market. The 618-room Westin Anaheim opened in July of 2021 adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center, with 23 meeting venues. Last year, the Sheraton Park Hotel at the Anaheim Resort completed a renovation of its 490 guest rooms, featuring bespoke furnishings with a uniquely California feel. It has 30,000 sf of indoor and outdoor space to accommodate events of up to 1,100.
Set to break ground this year is what is sure to become Anaheim’s new epicenter, ocV!BE, a mixed-use community with the Honda Center and ARTIC Center as its anchors. It will include two new hotels, indoor and outdoor amphitheaters, a food hall and other dining and retail options, as well as a wellness park and sports complex. The first phase will open in 2026, with completion by 2028 in time to host the Men’s Volleyball Olympic games.
Groups visiting Los Angeles have unlimited venue options to play off the star-studded, glamorous vibe of this entertainment capital. The local DMCs are experts at creating awards–themed experiences in Hollywood, complete with the red carpet, using the Loews Hotel and Dolby Theater (which are located right across the street from each other)—as well as other entertainment industry-themed events.
Among these, the Academy Museum draws from its own collection of film-related objects and technology, as well as the unparalleled collection of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, which contains a vast range of works on paper and still and moving images covering the history of motion pictures. The GRAMMY Museum Los Angeles, located in the LA Live district, offers guided and self-guided tours, and can host receptions on its terrace for up to 400 attendees, with views of downtown L.A. and the Hollywood sign.
A neighborhood to watch is the Arts District, home to a treasure trove of museums and performing arts institutions: Frank Gehry’s Disney Concert Hall, The Broad, the Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA), The Music Center and the Colburn School, as well as Grand Park. Located near the Arts District is the new Conrad Los Angeles, which is inside The Grand—a $1 billion mixed-use complex also designed by Frank Gehry. The 305 sumptuous rooms at the Conrad have a subtle, elegant design inspired by the West Coast Modernist movement, with touches like oak floors and natural linen walls. There’s 8,800 sf of indoor meeting space, including a 4,800-sf ballroom, and outdoor space with drop-dead city views—including one of the Disney Concert Hall from the interior and outdoor terrace of Jose Andres’ San Laurel restaurant. This is the only location in the world where two Frank Gehry projects face one another.
“The Arts District is an urban oasis of creativity and exemplifies what makes Los Angeles such an alluring destination for group and meetings travel alike. The artistic expression and cultural diversity that define L.A. are displayed throughout the neighborhood, sparking inspiration for attendees across all industries,” says Darren Green, chief sales officer of the Los Angeles Tourism & Convention Board.
Proper Hotels has opened a second Southern California hotel at the downtown Los Angeles site of the former Case Hotel. The 13-story, 147-room property, which was built in 1924, has 148 rooms as well as a 5,000-sf rooftop venue. Among the other hotel additions in L.A. are two popular boutique brands in Hollywood: the 174-room Thompson Hollywood, which channels laid-back California cool and has 15,000 sf of meeting space, and the 220-room Art Deco–style Godfrey, with a curated art collection and rooftop venue with views of Hollywood, Century City and downtown L.A.
In Century City, Los Angeles’ luxury landmark, Fairmont Century Plaza, has been completely re-imagined by famed interior design firm Yabu Pushelberg, with 400 spacious guest rooms and 85 suites. Its Los Angeles Ballroom can accommodate 1,500 attendees and there are several other customizable spaces. All eyes are on the development of the Whisky Hotel Hollywood, a 7-story, 132-room boutique hotel with a whisky-themed lobby bar and restaurant and a rooftop lounge and bar.
There’s a lot of excitement in San Francisco, both on land and on sea—where the city views are especially spectacular. San Francisco’s flagship yacht, the California Hornblower (known as “The Cal”), has undergone a complete transformation and is ready to host groups on its three climate-controlled decks, open-air sundeck and multiple dance floors, with room for 550 attendees. The Cal’s dinner cruises are a group favorite, with chef-prepared meals, live music and unbeatable San Francisco views, including of the Golden Gate Bridge, Bay Bridge and Alcatraz.
More than two decades in the making, the Presidio Tunnel Tops are built over the tops of the Presidio Parkway highway tunnels, creating 14 acres of new national parkland, adding to the Presidio’s existing 1,500 acres. Various areas can be rented for groups, with views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city.
On the hotel front, the former Villa Florence Union Square hotel reopened as The Barnes in December, following a revamp of its 189 rooms. Improvements to the lobby and restaurant are slated to be finished in 2023. Also new are The LINE SF, a 236-room, 12-story hotel in a historic Flatiron–inspired building, with more than 2,000 sf of event space; 1 Hotel San Francisco, part of 1 Hotels, a luxury lifestyle brand inspired by nature, with 5,074 sf of event space; and the 299-room LUMA Hotel San Francisco in the heart of the Mission Bay neighborhood, with 7,000 sf of meeting and event space.
Just steps from the Ferry Building, the Hyatt Regency San Francisco completed a $55 million renovation of its rooms, which now include floor-to-ceiling windows with views of the bay and Embarcadero district. The Hyatt Regency San Francisco Downtown SOMA, previously known as the Park Central Hotel, debuted last February following a $70+ million reimagining. Following a renovation and redesign of all public spaces and 418 rooms, Sir Francis Drake Hotel reopened its doors as the Beacon Grand last summer. The 155-room Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco at Embarcadero is also newly renovated, with an open-air Sky Deck with panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and marina. The St. Regis San Francisco unveiled a redesign of its 260 rooms and 15,000 sf of meeting space.
The Palm Springs area was known as the vacation hideaway of the Hollywood celebrities, and some of their estates can be leased for group events. The Dinah Shore Palm Springs Estate was designed by renowned architect Donald Wexler in 1964—a strong example of mid-century architecture in Southern California, the birthplace of the progressive design movement. The property is located within Old Las Palmas, which was home to other celebs, including Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Cary Grant, Dean Martin, Liberace and Elvis Presley. Twin Palms, Frank Sinatra’s former estate, located in the Movie Colony in Palm Springs, is also available to rent for corporate events.
On the hotel front, Tommy Bahama will launch its first resort concept later this year with a re-imagined Tommy Bahama Miramonte Resort & Spa in Indian Wells. It will have 215 rooms and 35,000 sf of event space—all with the Tommy Bahama design aesthetic.
The $15+ million resort-wide renovation at The Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort & Spa (formerly The Westin Mission Hills Golf Resort & Spa) is complete and includes The Backyard, designed to host groups, which includes a kitchen with a woodburning oven, outdoor smoker and open-air barbeque. Located in Cathedral City, the new Paloma Resort is a colorful, 66-room property with event facilities for small to mid-size events.
Set to open in 2023 in the heart of downtown is the 168-room Thompson Palm Springs, designed to embrace the history and spirit of Palm Springs. In summer 2023, La Quinta Resort & Club will begin a large-scale, $70 million renovation project on its 796 rooms in phases, set for completion in 2029.
“Greater Palm Springs continues to grow in offerings, from new hotel products and renovations, unique venues, culinary scene and, of course, our bountiful warm weather. But more important, it is the people that service our hospitality community, with their passion and warm welcoming, that continue to help create memorable experiences for attendees,” says Carolina Viazcan, VP of sales at Visit Greater Palm Springs.
Oxnard is a fresh destination choice along the California coast in Ventura County, and a popular day trip for Los Angeles-based corporate and incentive groups. The experts at Visit Oxnard have compiled a list of Oxnard–themed experiences for groups— everything from the Oxnard Taco Trail to the Low Riders, which have been a popular part of the area’s car culture since the ‘70s, to the Channel Islands, where Island Packers can customize excursions for teambuilding or just for fun, including hiking, kayaking and whale watching.
Southern California’s only all-suite, direct beachfront resort located between Malibu and Santa Barbara is the 250-suite Zachari Dunes on Mandalay Beach. The Spanish Hacienda-style resort has been reimagined as part of Hilton’s Curio Collection, and its 23,000 sf of elevated indoor and outdoor event space offers sweeping ocean views and is ideal for groups of up to 400.
For off-site events, a popular choice for groups of up to 200 attendees is the Mullin Automotive Museum, with a diverse collection that’s become known as a must-see among car enthusiasts since its grand opening 10 years ago.
visitanaheim.org/meetings; discoverlosangeles.com/meetla; sftravel.com/meetings; visitgreaterpalmsprings.com/meetings; visitoxnard.com/meetings-groups