With spectacular settings ranging from alpine peaks to desert oases and coastal bluffs, California offers an amazing array of resort meeting destinations just beyond the urban hubs.

Greater Palm Springs

A new generation of stylish resorts and boutique hotels are cropping up in downtown Palm Springs and throughout the surrounding desert communities. The latest addition to downtown is the 155-room Kimpton Rowan Hotel, which opened in December with the city’s first rooftop pool. The 150-room Andaz Palm Springs, 170-room Dream Hotel and 150-room Virgin Hotels Palm Springs are all on tap for next year.

“Both the Andaz and Dream hotels will be within walking distance of the convention center, giving us a wider berth for citywides,” said Mark Crabb, vice president of convention sales and services for the Greater Palm Springs CVB. “We can offer 2,000 rooms on peak nights, with no need for people to drive.”

 

In nearby Palm Desert, the Hotel Paseo, part of Marriott’s Autograph Collection, opened last year within walking distance of the El Paseo shopping district. Set to open by the end of the year on a 35-acre site in Coachella, the 250-room Hotel Indigo will offer such features as conference space in structures designed to evoke World War II-era Quonset huts and a 10,000-square-foot Las Vegas-style party pool filled with chilled salt water and flanked by a DJ stage.

“The Indigo will be very near where the Coachella [Valley] Music and Arts Festival takes place every year and will evoke the spirit of that event, with groups able to stage their own concerts there,” Crabb said.

He also noted that the region is benefitting from improved air lift into Palm Springs International Airport, including new or expanded service to New York; Calgary, Alberta; Atlanta; and Portland, Ore.

“Our message is that we’re a lot easier to get to than many people think,” Crabb said. “We have connections to all the major hubs. Plus, you can fly into Ontario, which is served by Southwest.”

Although the region’s hotel rates vary widely according to season, Crabb said meeting planners will find good value at any time of year, providing they come midweek.

“While weekends are full from leisure business, especially during winter, we have availability for meetings during the week,” he said.

Santa Barbara/Ventura

Often called the American Riviera, Santa Barbara County is celebrated for its wine region, culinary scene and coastal beauty within a two-hour drive north of Los Angeles. The county is looking better than ever these days, with new hotels and attractions as well as refreshed and rebranded older properties, according to Michelle Carlen, director of sales for Visit Santa Barbara.

Among the latter are Bacara Resort, which became a Ritz-Carlton property last fall and is slated for new enhancements in the coming months, and the former Fess Parker Hotel, which became the Hilton Santa Barbara Beachfront Resort following a property-wide renovation.

The city’s newest property is the 120-room Hotel California, which opened last fall near the waterfront with a rooftop pool deck, Moroccan-inspired spa, three dining venues and a 3,000-square-foot ballroom.

“The hotel is a great addition to our lower State Street area, which we call the Funk Zone,” Carlen said. “The new MOXI museum, a science center with interactive exhibits and great event space, is right across the street.”

In addition, the five-star Rosewood Miramar Beach Montecito is coming online next year on a waterfront setting with its own beach. The nearby Montecito Inn has recently added several new dining outlets, ranging from casual to fine dining, operated by Top Chef competitor Philip Franklin.

Santa Barbara’s wine and culinary scene is a major draw for groups, according to Carlen. With over 220 wineries within the county, wine-themed options abound, even within downtown Santa Barbara where the Urban Wine Trail links over three-dozen tasting rooms.