Although its coastal areas are more frequently in the spotlight, California’s vast and diverse interior, encompassing everything from alpine mountain peaks to rich agricultural valleys and desert canyons, is no less compelling. While the pace is a little slower away from the coast, there is still plenty happening on the meetings scene.
Plans were recently approved for an expansion and renovation of the Sacramento Convention Center that will not only give it 161,500 square feet of exhibit space, but create the sense of meeting in a whole new facility, according to Sarah Atilano, vice president of sales and business development for Visit Sacramento.
“We are adding meeting space to our third floor and new prefunction spaces and entrances that will make the building easier to navigate and give conference attendees a better experience,” she said. “We are also expecting the expansion will solidify a plan to add a new convention hotel near the east side of the building.”
At the same time, the city also approved renovations for two major venues near the convention center, Community Center Theater and Sacramento Memorial Auditorium. Other major developments for downtown include last year’s opening of Golden1Center (G1C), the new home of the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. The Sawyer Hotel, a 250-room Kimpton property with 20,000 square feet of meeting space, is opening next to G1C in November.
Redding, located two hours north of Sacramento and a gateway to such scenic recreation areas as Lassen Volcanic National Park and Shasta Lake, offers a wealth of outdoor teambuilding options for groups, according to Jennifer Fontana, industry relations and group coordinator for Visit Redding.
“Our priorities are in order—kayaking, hiking, boating and more,” she said.
Redding also offers group-friendly venues like the Holiday Inn Convention Center and Red Lion Hotel, and such attractions as the Sundial Bridge, a spectacular glass-decked pedestrian bridge designed by renowned architect Santiago Calatrava that spans the Sacramento River. The bridge is the centerpiece of Turtle Bay Exploration Park, which provides unique settings for events.
Resort properties on the California side of Lake Tahoe are adding new venues for groups that enable them to absorb the natural beauty and serenity of the area. Granlibakken Tahoe, a historic 190-room resort near Tahoe City with 24,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor meeting areas, recently unveiled Soul Shelter, a secluded space with views of pine groves ideal for meditation sessions and brainstorming.
The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, located at the Northstar California ski resort, is offering lake access for the first time. Its new Lake Club features multilevel dining areas with panoramic lake views, an expansive lawn extending to the water’s edge and access to an array of water sports.
Groups meeting in South Lake Tahoe will find a number of enhanced choices. Following a multimillion-dollar renovation and consolidation, 968 Park Hotel and the adjacent Park Tahoe relaunched earlier this year as a Joie de Vivre-managed property called Hotel Becket Lake Tahoe. The dog-friendly hotel offers 167 rooms, meeting space, a new lobby, a restaurant and an outdoor terrace with views of Heavenly Mountain Resort. Also new is Zalanta Resort at the Village, a 30-unit condominium property located in a mixed-use complex offering shopping and restaurants.
Thrill-seekers now have the option of taking the controls of a high-performance stunt plane to engage in aerial dog fights, spins and loops 6,000 feet above Lake Tahoe and the Sierra Nevada. Offered by Sky Combat Ace, participants undergo a 45-minute safety briefing and then perform their feats while an expert pilot supervises from the back seat with interconnected flight controls. The company can accommodate groups of six to 125 per day and also offers spectator flights.
A stunning region where snow-capped mountains watch over a palm-fringed desert terrain, Greater Palm Springs consists of nine distinctive communities set throughout the Coachella Valley. For meetings, the area offers a mix of stylish boutique properties and deluxe resorts with full golf and spa amenities.
Downtown Palm Springs is ushering in a new generation of chic boutique hotels, including the 155-room Kimpton Rowan Hotel, set to open in November with the city’s first rooftop pool.
The 150-room Andaz Palm Springs is on tap for next year, while the 150-room Virgin Hotels Palm Springs is set for 2019. In nearby Palm Desert, the Hotel Paseo, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, is opening this month.
East of Los Angeles, a diverse region encompassing the cities of Riverside, San Bernardino, Ontario and Temecula is known as the Inland Empire.
Temecula, one of California’s premier wine destinations, is home to Pechanga Resort & Casino, where a $285 million expansion that is adding 568 new guest rooms, 70,000 square feet of meeting space and a two-story spa is set for completion by the end of the year.