The following four regional destinations
offer affordable meetings options near major
metropolitan areas and plenty of fun and ex-
citement for attendees who bring the family.
These Northern California coastal destination lure meeting groups with their
distinctive flair and historic charm.
In Santa Cruz, 75 percent of its meeting
groups are drive-ins from the Bay Area,
which is located 74 miles from San Francisco, said Laura Manriquez, director of sales
and marketing for Visit Santa Cruz County.
“There is regular attendance of groups
from Google, Facebook, Uber, Adobe and
Apple at our full-service hotels, with the ideal
group size being 150 to 250,” Manriquez said.
New hotel projects in Santa Cruz include
Hyatt Place, with 106 rooms and 1,650
square feet of meeting space, and the Fair-
field Inn & Suites, with 82 rooms and 1,000
square feet of meeting space. Off-site venues
and experiences for groups include the
Downtown Farmers Market, zipline canopy
tours, themed sailing charters, kayaking,
stand-up paddleboarding and golf, as well
as the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk.
A new conference center, 1440 Multiversity, recently opened in Scotts Valley,
six miles north of Santa Cruz. Set amid the
forest, the facility offers quiet reflection,
classes, lectures, guest speakers, retreats
and healthy food, along with a healing arts
center and teaching kitchen.
Heading 43 miles south along Highway
1 to Monterey, the city’s main conference
center, which can draw upward of 3,000 attendees, is in the final throes of a $60 million
renovation. The center is located near the
major hotels with a total of 1,200 rooms, a
10-minute walk from Cannery Row and 300
steps from the waterfront.
Mark McMinn, vice president of sales for
the Monterey County CVB, said two of the
city’s best meetings properties have finished
some upgrade projects. At the Monterey
Plaza Hotel & Spa, located near the conference center, the outdoor patio was redone
along with a new fire pit, furnishings and
a glass railing, and a new rooftop sundeck
was constructed at the Vista Blue Spa. The
Portola Hotel & Spa adjacent to the center
has upgraded all its 379 rooms.
McMinn recommends several off-site
experiences for groups: whale watching,
corporate sailing regattas, wine blending
and a beachfront barbecue or clam bake at
the Monterey Beach House.
Four miles south of Monterey is quaint
Carmel-by-the-Sea, which is one square
mile in size and offers 80-plus art galleries,
12 wine-tasting rooms and a variety of
meeting venues for small groups.
Options include the Sunset Center, which
features four newly renovated meeting
rooms totaling around 4,000 square feet, an
outdoor plaza and terrace, and a 718-seat
state-of-the-art theater; and the Carmel
Valley Ranch, a 500-acre, 180-suite luxury
resort a few miles from downtown. The
property offers teambuilding activities such
as The Ranch Race (a la The Amazing Race
TV show), Back-Country Obstacle Course,
the Team Geocaching treasure hunt and the
Organic Garden Scavenger Hunt.
As drive-to meetings gain in popularity nationwide in response to rising airfares and excessive fees, certain destinations are taking vigorous advantage of being, well, local, and not fretting
to be acknowledged as second- or third-tier alternatives.
SANTA CRUZ, CALIF.
BY ROBERT CARLSEN
THE BRUTE GOLF COURSE, GRAND GENEVA
RESORT & SPA, LAKE GENEVA, WIS.
Four locales have groups revved and ready to hit the road