In our March/April 2013 issue, explored three regions in California and learned what’s new for meetings and incentives in the Golden State. The following covers Central California.
The central California coast has a rugged visceral beauty that has inspired writers, poets and brain-storming execs since groups first began meeting here. With the fertile central valley mostly an expanse of agricultural fields, the real action is on the coast. From Monterey Bay in the north to San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara in the south, groups can truly get away to the vineyards, ranches and resorts for meetings free of distractions and full of inspiration.
Meetings in downtown Monterey have an urban feel all their own, complete with the scent of salt air and the sounds of sea lions barking in the distance. The small, intimate city is ideal for biking and walking, whether checking out shops and restaurants, strolling the coastal trail, exploring Fisherman’s Wharf for meeting a boat for a group excursion.
Historic Cannery Row is also here, where you’ll find meeting properties such as InterContinental’s The Clement Monterey, with 208 rooms and 15,000 sf of meeting space. The waterside Cape Cod-style property is the newest luxury hotel in town, features a sleek, modern interior with silvers, grays and natural wood tones.
Stand on a bluff along Monterey’s wind-swept shoreline, or even your hotel balcony, and the white spray you see pluming in the distance is from a humpback whale and its calf. Or better yet, get up close on a group excursion through one of several charter companies, such as Monterey Bay Whale Watch, with tours led by marine biologists. Or stay on dry land and explore the marine life at Monterey Bay Aquarium, one of the premier aquariums in the country featuring fish and other sea creatures found in the teeming waters of the bay.
Taking in the marine life is just one of many activities available for groups on the Monterey Peninsula and its sister cities of Monterey, Pacific Grove and Carmel.
“The options are unlimited,” says Tammy Blount, CEO of Monterey County CVB. “The aquarium can do events onsite and incorporate an educational aspect to your event. We do a lot of outdoor adventure activities, such as kayaking and golfing, which is a big deal for us here.”
When you have the number one course in the country in Pebble Beach, golfing is indeed big. The trio of elite properties run by Pebble Beach Resorts include: The Lodge at Pebble Beach (161 rooms, 10,200 sf of meeting space), The Inn at Spanish Bay (269 rooms; 13,300 sf) and Casa Palmero (24 rooms; 1,600 sf). All of them sit astride fairways and breakers, while offering classic luxury with an intimate, exclusive charm. The properties share a spa, fitness facilities, tennis and 13 restaurants.
For the golfers, groups have access to the world-famous golf course, a major thrill for even the most serious exec. From the 10th hole of Pebble Beach, a strong driver can almost put a ball on Ocean Avenue at Carmel-by-the-Sea. The quaint, tree-lined village is filled with upscale galleries, boutiques, wine bars and fine dining restaurants such as Aubergine. The highly-rated restaurant serves sophisticated California cuisine and also offers a range of culinary classes for private groups.
Monterey is proud of its wines, and the region here is blessed with excellent terroir, which you’ll find ample evidence of in the vineyards of Carmel Valley. A mere 20-minute drive from the peninsula—far enough for a secluded country feel but close enough for city excursions—the area has a number of sprawling estates and ranches for groups to take over.
The 400-acre Holman Ranch, with 10 rooms and 2,600 sf of meeting space, offers state-of-the-art meetings facilities with rustic-chic decor and plush-leather furnishings. Besides tours of its working vineyard and olive grove, groups can choose one of several themed meetings and retreats, including Ranch (roping clinic, square dance), Culinary (technical cooking and prep training), Wellness (hiking/yoga, nutrition workshops) and Sports (skeet shooting, mountain biking).
Monterey Bay Aquarium
SEAFOOD WATCH EVENTS
Hotels and restaurants that are members of the Seafood Watch Alliance serve food that is “abundant, well-managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways,” according to the Alliance’s “best choice” list. Member restaurants and hotels are required to serve seafood only from this and a “good alternatives” list.
Seafood Watch was founded by Monterey Bay Aquarium in 1999, and the Seafood Watch Alliance of restaurants in the Bay Area started in 2009.
“The Alliance restaurants are very committed to sustainable seafood,” says Maggie Ostdahl, sustainable initiatives manager for San Francisco’s Aquarium of the Bay. “Like many restaurants in the Bay Area, they were probably already doing it to some extent, but wanted to go further.”
There are currently 36 restaurants in the Bay Area that are members of the Alliance, including Hyatt Fisherman’s Wharf—the only hotel on the list. For the Hyatt to qualify, all its restaurants and F&B service had to comply with the standards.
“We serve only fish that we can verify where it comes from,” says Chef Jason Lavinsky. “It can be difficult and costly to do the right thing, and a lot of changes had to be made in our food service program. But it’s worth it because it gives people the opportunity to become more informed.”