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Orange County Is a Healthy Haven for Groups

With more than 12,000 acres of open expanse in Irvine and 42 miles of uninterrupted coastline, Orange County has plenty of space for attendees to move around in, making it ideal for groups that want to add health and wellness components to their meetings.

“Southern California is the mecca for wellness,” said Junior Tauvaa, senior vice president of sales and services for Visit Anaheim, which represents Anaheim and the 34 cities that make up Orange County.

“Orange County’s outdoor lifestyle and nearly 300 days of sunshine give planners a flexible environment to seamlessly incorporate health and wellness into their program,” he added.

Greater Anaheim

Anaheim is also home to vast function space at the Anaheim Convention Center & Arena, which recently underwent an expansion that brings its total square footage to 1.8 million, making it the largest convention center on the West Coast. But it’s not just trekking through its new halls that will help attendees stay healthy.

“Planners can organize a networking activity like yoga on the Grand Plaza or a fun run on a nearby trail,” Tauvaa said.

The focus on providing healthy options also includes food and beverage. The Anaheim Convention Center has made health and wellness part of its overall mission for each event.

As part of this mission, the convention center and its catering partner, Aramark, implemented “world healthy” practices that are used in their purchasing—using local vendors, farmers and products—as well as in creating the recipes. They also eliminated processed sugar from the catering menus and started offering water by the gallon flavored with herbs from the center’s rooftop garden.

The closest hotels to the convention center provide their own health and wellness programs. These include a 25,000-square-foot health club and healthy menus at the Hilton Anaheim and a vertical hydroponic garden at the Anaheim Marriott that is cultivated by “executive farmologist” Dave Dulkis, and which provides materials that can be incorporated into everything from food to cocktails to event decor.

Groups holding meetings at the hotels that are part of The Disneyland Resort can take advantage of the Get Up & Go Power Walk, which takes guests each morning at 6 a.m. on a two-mile route through Disney California Adventure Park. Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa offers morning stretching and mat Pilates classes. In nearby Garden Grove, the Great Wolf Lodge offers an indoor waterpark in addition to its 21,000-square-foot conference center.

The Orange County area can also provide speakers for sessions on issues relating to health, wellness and mindfulness.

“Planners can use local leaders in the health space for speaking opportunities, teambuilding or educational sessions,” Tauvaa said. “Locally inspired examples include a national chef demoing the latest culinary trend, a guru to conduct a mindful meditation before a session and a pro-surfer or sailing champion leading a teambuilding activity on the water.”


The city of Irvine has long been a leader in balancing business interests and the kind of natural open spaces that lend themselves to a healthy lifestyle.

“Irvine’s founders truly thought ahead and master planned the area’s growth,” said Demea Metcalf, director of sales for Destination Irvine, noting that the city boasts the most open space in Orange County. “Irvine’s biggest pastime is taking advantage of the outdoors. Sunshine is the best remedy to maintain your group’s well-being.”

The Hilton Irvine implemented Hilton’s Meet with Purpose initiative last year (as did the Hilton Anaheim). The initiative focuses on incorporating healthy eating, exercise and sustainability into meetings, with some groups adding yoga or a walk to their afternoon break.

At the Hotel Irvine, the new Commit to Be Fit program allows attendees to sign up for exercise equipment to be delivered to their room, and the hotel’s new banquet menus emphasize vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options as well as lowering the emphasis on carbs.

The new Marriott Irvine Spectrum features a two-story fitness center with CrossFit equipment and state-of-the-art sound systems. The hotel also offers the Heirloom Farmhouse Kitchen, which partners with local farms to provide fresh ingredients and, at lunch, provides plant-focused meals that are under 600 calories.

Part of Irvine’s 12,000 acres of preserved natural land include 54 miles of off-street bikeways and hiking trails that include the 22-mile Mountains to Sea Trail, which starts in Weir Canyon and ends at the Pacific Ocean.

Orange County Coastline

Meetings with views of the Pacific Ocean are always popular and lend themselves particularly well to healthy activities. Although Huntington Beach boasts 10 miles of coastline, its four oceanfront hotels and resorts are all located within an easily walkable half-mile strip that also includes new restaurants and shops, and are being marketed as the HB Collection.

They offer a total of 1,400 guest rooms and 185,000 square feet of meeting space.

“Our unique walkable downtown footprint offers public spaces between our meeting hotels, unique restaurants, boutique shopping and proximity to the iconic Huntington Beach Pier,” said John Ehlenfeldt, executive vice president of sales and administration for Visit Huntington Beach.

According to Ehlenfeldt, popular wellness additions for groups include smoothie breaks, beach cruiser bike rentals, yoga sessions on an event lawn and rock climbing at an on-property 24-hour fitness center.

“Recent Huntington Beach trends revolve around out-of-the-box experiences and our outdoor spaces,” Ehlenfeldt said. “Unique health and wellness offerings can be catered to any group.”

In Newport Beach, the Fashion Island Hotel has added a Grab ’n’ Go Juice Bar to its banquet menu, which is also offering more plant-based, gluten-free and dairy-free options. Or groups can book a cooking class with Executive Chef David Man, who can illustrate how to concoct easy-to-make-at-home smoothies, power bars and other healthy snacks on the run.

New wellness offerings for groups at the Montage Laguna Beach include yoga classes by Ritual Yoga; a blending bar where attendees can customize their own aromatherapy bath salts and oils; and hikes, bike rides and other outdoor excursions through Compass Sports.

But the most popular group wellness activity remains the hotel’s Thalassic Beach Walks, which are said to help relieve stress and boost daytime energy.

In the south Orange County city of Dana Point, the Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel features a fitness center with spectacular views of the Pacific Ocean along with daily yoga and Pilates.

Attendees who want to take advantage of the hotel’s oceanfront location can try surfing or stand-up paddleboarding or one of the sea hikes offered through the Eco-Adventure Center.


The addition of healthy menus and alternative food options for attendees is one of the biggest wellness trends, according to Junior Tauvaa, senior vice president of sales and services for Visit Anaheim.

“Orange County’s focus on fresh food, farm-to-table and alternative healthy options is a way to make a positive and impactful experience for attendees,” Tauvaa said.

Providing healthy snacks can also provide a much-needed energy boost, especially in the afternoon. Here are just a few of the new offerings at meeting venues in Orange County:

Anaheim Convention Center: Instead of pre-packaged and processed chips and cookies, the center now features roasted coconut chips, vegetable chips, Kashi, Clif, Kind and Think Thin bars and Greek yogurt.

Hilton Anaheim and Hilton Irvine: As part of Hilton’s Meet with Purpose concept, afternoon break menus include items such as avocado toast, local honey-kissed melons and berries, roasted carrot and quinoa salad, veggie and fruit smoothies or a citrus basil salad.

Hotel Irvine: A new break menu at the Hotel Irvine is called Sport and features blended smoothies, fresh juices, power bars, fresh fruit and oatmeal raisin and peanut butter cookies.

The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel: The most popular of the hotel’s healthy break options is called the Laguna Beach Break and includes mini frozen fruit bars, individual bowls of cubed pineapple, melon and strawberries with a honey and Greek yogurt dip, agua fresca and Kind granola bars.

Fashion Island Hotel: In addition to the new Grab ’n’ Go Juice Bar available each weekday morning in the Aqua Lounge, a new Juice Bar pop-up can be added for meeting breaks anytime during the day.



The 200,000-square-foot expansion of the Anaheim Convention Center & Arena officially opened last fall, bringing the total square footage to 1.8 million. Highlights of the new space include a 10,000-square-foot balcony with views of The Disneyland Resort and its nightly fireworks display.

Two new hotels are under construction in Anaheim. The seven-story Westin Anaheim Resort is expected to feature 613 guest rooms and 11 meeting rooms totaling 42,000 square feet of space when it opens in 2020.

The 12-story JW Marriott is expected to offer 466 guest rooms and meeting space when it opens adjacent to the Anaheim GardenWalk in late 2019 or early 2020.

The Disneyland Resort has two new lands under construction: Pixar Pier is expected to open in June in Disney California Adventure Park, while Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is scheduled to open in Disneyland in 2019. Also at The Disneyland Resort, construction is expected to begin this summer on a new 700-room hotel that will transform the west end of the Downtown Disney District when it opens in 2021.


The Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Irvine-Orange County Airport opened in March 2018 in Irvine near the Orange County airport. The 164-room hotel features meeting space for up to 120 people.

Also near the Orange County airport in Irvine, the Hyatt House Irvine/John Wayne Airport opened in November 2017 with 149 guest rooms, a variety of social spaces and 1,000 square feet of private meeting space.

The Marriott Irvine Spectrum opened in December 2017. The hotel features 271 guest rooms, a restaurant, a rooftop bar and lounge and 13,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting and event space.

Huntington Beach

The Waterfront Beach Resort, a Hilton Hotel, in Huntington Beach opened its second tower—the Twin Dolphin Tower—in February. The expansion brings the total number of guest rooms to 437 and the total square footage of meeting space to 48,000. Also included in the new tower is the Offshore 9 Rooftop Lounge that overlooks the Pacific Ocean. Still under construction as part of the hotel’s extensive expansion project is a new series of adult and family-friendly pools scheduled to open this summer.

The Hyatt Regency Huntington Beach Resort and Spa is undergoing a guest room renovation that is expected to be completed in June and will include new 46-inch flat-screen TVs in each room plus new lighting, beds and furniture.


The city of Irvine’s more than 12,000 acres of open space—the most in Orange County—lends itself to unique teambuilding (or pre- and post-meeting) adventures with added health and wellness benefits.

Within those 12,000 acres is the 5,200-acre Irvine Open Space Preserve, located on the site of the former Irvine Ranch. The preserve includes parks, greenbelts, trails and wildlife preservation and has been designated as a Natural Landmark by the State of California and by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

Scientists have identified the region as one of the world’s biodiversity hot spots as it is home to hundreds of species of plants and animals, including eagles, badgers, mountain lions, Tecate cypress trees and rare species of birds, reptiles, amphibians and plants.

Hikes through the preserve’s Bommer Canyon and Shady Canyon offer scenery that includes ancient oak and sycamore groves and rock outcroppings. In Bommer Canyon, groups can add yoga on a meadow to their hike.

For those looking for an easier hike, there’s the 2.8-mile Quail Hill Trail. It’s also the only trail that allows dogs. Or, for the more intrepid, the 22-mile Mountains to Sea Trail starts in Weir Canyon and traverses through the Cleveland National Forest out to the Pacific Ocean.

Birdwatchers might prefer visiting the San Joaquin Marsh and Wildlife Sanctuary, which comprises more than 300 acres of restored freshwater wetlands that include 12 miles of trails and a home for more than 200 different species of birds.


Destination Irvine

Visit Anaheim

Visit Huntington
Beach - Surf City USA


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About the author
Ann Shepphird