Come for the sparkly new convention center expansion, stay for the beer!
While that’s maybe not the most buttoned-down marketing slogan, it indeed rings true these days in Anaheim, Calif., an Orange County destination that just opened the new ACC North convention facility literally across the street from Disneyland, and which is also joining the ranks of the top microbrew cities in the nation with its assortment of local breweries and brewpubs.
Meetings Today seized the opportunity to experience all of the above and more during a Sept. 25-27 press trip to celebrate the ACC North opening—and the 50th anniversary of the Anaheim Convention Center—as well as drink in the other meeting facility and off-site options on tap in the city.
Anaheim officially opened the ACC North facility Sept. 26, the seventh expansion of its convention center, which adds 200,000 square feet to its standing as the largest convention facility on the West Coast, at 1.8 million square feet.
The expansion brings the Anaheim Convention Center’s total amount of exhibit space to over 1 million square feet, officially making it a member of the
“1 million-square-foot club,” as emphasized at the opening ceremony by Jay Burress, president and CEO of Visit Anaheim.
“Bigger is better, and biggest is definitely best,” added Charles Ahlers, past president of the Anaheim Orange County Visitor & Convention Bureau (now known as Visit Anaheim), joined by fellow civic leaders, past and present.
Highlights of the new facility include a 10,000-square-foot terrace off of its upper level that is across the street from Disneyland, and provides an events venue off the main ballroom that provides a free view of the nightly fireworks display at the “Happiest Place on Earth.”
ACC North has the capacity to host 22,000 people, with a 12,000-square-foot kitchen, 1,350 parking spots and a 6,000-person banquet capacity, with 100,000 square feet on the 100 level and an additional 100,000 square feet of space on the 200 level.
Hoist a Pint
By proclamation—or at least via an extreme amount of enthusiasm—from Mayor Tom Tait, Anaheim is bellying up to the bar to challenge top West Coast beer destinations such as Portland, Ore., and San Diego as a destination drawing fans of small-batch brew.
Unsung Brewing is located across the street from the historic Anaheim Packing House, a former Sunkist operation under a central atrium that offers two levels of foodie heaven, including a number of venues that are good fits for off-sites, such as a cozy “secret” speakeasy and event specialist Cooks Chapel.
Unsung brews a full lineup of traditional and specialty beers, and even published a comic book to accompany its super hero theme. Groups can take part in beer and cheese pairings and can also enjoy a blind-wine-tasting teambuilding competition next door at its MAKE Building neighbor, Pali Wine Co.
Towne Park Brewery and Taproom, the maiden voyage of local hospitality industry scion Brett Lawrence, is located in an industrial setting and boasts a 20,000-square-foot, 30-barrel brew house with a full taproom and a barrel room and outside space for private meetings.
While not a microbrewery, plenty of beers, cocktails and its signature down-home cuisine—accompanied by a healthy serving of live rock ’n’ roll—House of Blues Anaheim offers funky, art-filled expanses that are sure to please any off-site attendee, with its ornate, Eastern-inspired Foundation Room/VIP literally the crowning grace on the top floor of the facility. Its 2,200-capacity main hall offers an intimate concert setting.
The Hotel Scene
Our group stayed in two properties, both adjacent to the convention center in the Anaheim Resort district and designed to work in tandem for larger events that utilize both properties—there’s even a promenade between them that can be used for special events.
The 1,030-room Anaheim Marriott boasts all of its meeting space located on one level, including 100,000 square feet of event space, 44 separate meeting rooms and five ballrooms. The property’s nFuse bar and restaurant offered a stylish outdoor space overlooking the pool for the opening night event, which showed off its craft-cocktail and farm-fresh cuisine capabilities.
The 1,574-room Hilton Anaheim showed off one of its star players, Executive Chef Frederic Castan, a 30-year culinary veteran who has worked at some of the finest restaurants in America. Castan assembled his team to execute an amazing back-of-the-house breakfast in a demonstration room designed by HGTV’s John Gidding, followed by a briefing by Anaheim hospitality leaders in its more-formal conference room setting.
The big news on the hotel scene is the new 600-room Westin Anaheim Resort, which just broke ground next to the convention center and is set to open in 2019. The first new-build Westin in Southern California in 20 years, the four-diamond property will fill the needed luxury niche in the destination.
The last night dinner was held at Disney Resort, utilizing Disney’s Grand Californian Hotel & Spa’s Napa Rose restaurant, serving upscale California fare and fittingly offering an extensive wine list, with a private room perfect for small groups. Disneyland Resort news includes a massive renovation at the Grand Californian, with an entirely redesigned floor of guest rooms and an expansion of the outdoor lawn space at Disneyland Resort Hotel.