From the blossoming desert of Greater Palm Springs to the snow-capped mountains that surround Lake Tahoe—and everywhere in between—California is a year-round destination. Whether your group chooses to meet in spring, summer, fall, or winter, there is sure to be something for every preference and budget. While a given region may shine a bit brighter in a certain season, each place will offer memorable backdrops for events any time of the year.
Springtime might just be the perfect time of year for a group visit to California’s southern deserts. The weather during the daytime is comfortably warm and sunny with temperatures in the 70s and 80s, followed by cool, breezy evenings. The Greater Palm Springs area offers a stunning backdrop that event attendees are sure to remember. “Our nine distinct resort cities—Palm Springs, Desert Hot Springs, Cathedral City, Rancho Mirage, Palm Desert, Indian Wells, La Quinta, Indio, and Coachella—come together to create one meeting oasis, offering more than 185 hotels, 17,000 rooms, outstanding amenities, unmatched outdoor experiences, and world-renowned events,” says Carolina Viazcan, vice president of sales at Visit Greater Palm Springs.
Greater Palm Springs is accessible with flights into Palm Springs International Airport and is just under a two-hour drive from Los Angeles. “The desert landscape [comes] to life in the spring,” Viazcan adds. “With the recent rains, the wildflowers will be blooming in abundance [next spring].” And when it comes to desert-style activities, planners have several options to choose from—like a Red Jeep Tour to the San Andreas Fault as a team-building activity post-meeting. The company offers group experiences for 15-plus attendees, as well as options for smaller groups. Other Red Jeep Tours options include sightseeing tours of Cahuilla Indian villages, Palm Springs Indian Canyons, scavenger hunts, and more. Give attendees a sky-high view of the desert with a trip on the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway, or give the thrill-seekers in your group an event with speed by hosting an interactive meeting at Palm Springs’ BMW Performance Center. Other activities to offer your group include The Living Desert Zoo and Gardens, the Palm Springs Air Museum, and midcentury-modern tours with The Modern Tour of iconic celebrity homes like Elvis’ Honeymoon Hideaway and Frank Sinatra’s Twin Palms Estate.
For larger events, JW Marriott Desert Springs Resort & Spa in Palm Desert, La Quinta Resort & Club in La Quinta, The Westin Rancho Mirage Golf Resort & Spa in Rancho Mirage, and the Renaissance Esmerelda Resort & Spa, Indian Wells, stand out as top options. Add a pop of color to the event backdrop by hosting at The Saguaro with its bright color scheme displayed throughout the property.
If planners are interested in an event that embodies the Golden State, head down to SoCal for a gathering along the sunny coastline. San Diego is a water lover’s dream, with sunshine and warm weather year-round and access to 70 miles of sandy beaches. Consider hosting your group at notable hotels including The Fairmont Manchester Hotel located across from the renowned USS Midway Museum, the recently refreshed Marriott Marquis San Diego, or the highly rated Fairmont Grand Del Mar. The San Diego Zoo will soon be welcoming a refreshed elephant habitat, Denny Sanford Elephant Valley, that groups can explore as part of a safari experience. Other activities to get attendees up and moving include golfing, mountain biking, paragliding, and more. There are also thousands of culinary options to choose from when eventgoers get hungry, including more than 100 wineries nearby.
North of San Diego in western Los Angeles County, Santa Monica is a hot spot in the summer. Located only 8 miles from Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), attendees and planners will appreciate its accessibility. The city offers more than 120,000 square feet of function space across notable venues, exclusive office space for intimate gatherings, fully equipped event centers, and stunning outdoor spaces. “Many of our venues are close to the beach and several other fun activities, like the Third Street Promenade and Santa Monica Pier,” says Ozzie Otero, director of sales for Santa Monica Travel & Tourism. “So, you don’t have to look far when you need a break from the conference room or a place to host an inspiring and engaging team-building experience while soaking in views of the iconic California coast.” Add a group bike tour to the itinerary through Blazing Saddles Beach Rentals and Tours or Santa Monica Bike Center. Offer attendees surf lessons, yoga on the beach, beach volleyball, or a picturesque picnic arranged by Santa Monica Picnic Co. Host at the 267-room Santa Monica Proper Hotel’s 7,727-square-foot Calabra Rooftop for panoramic views of the city. The Le Méridien Delfina Santa Monica Hotel offers on-site planning professionals to assist with events and features upscale meeting spaces alongside 310 guest rooms. The outdoor Pacific Terrace at the Hilton Santa Monica Hotel & Suites offers a stunning backdrop for waterfront gatherings. Take cooking classes at The Gourmandise School, and experience fine dining and wine pairing at Wally’s Wine & Spirits.
Neighboring Santa Monica, Marina del Rey is nestled between LAX, Venice Beach, and SoFi Stadium, boasting 100,000 square feet of event space. Consider hosting at one of The Ritz-Carlton, Marina del Rey’s 20 function spaces, from the 8,190-square-foot The Ritz-Carlton Ballroom to the Garden Veranda for 80 attendees. Additional lodging and venue options include the Marina del Rey Marriott Hotel, Marina del Rey Hotel, Hilton Garden Inn Los Angeles Marina del Rey, Jamaica Bay Inn, Tapestry Collection by Hilton, and more. Take advantage of the beachfront locale with a gathering at one of Marina del Rey’s yacht clubs, including the California Yacht Club or Marina City Club. Encourage team bonding with a bike tour through Daniel’s Bicycle Rentals, a private sunset cruise on the water, sailing lessons
or parasailing excursions, and for the attendees with great balance: try Yogaqua, yoga on a stand-up paddleboard.
Perhaps one of the more notable things planners can appreciate about hosting an event in San Francisco is that more than two-thirds of the city’s 34,000 hotel rooms are within walking distance of the Moscone Center—home to 500,000 square feet of contiguous space for functions and meetings. And with fall temperatures in the area staying around the 60s and 70s (down to the 50s come evening), strolling by foot and with a favorite jacket is a must. For a memorable meeting, host at the iconic Argonaut Hotel. The property features nearly 9,000 square feet of function space, including a Constellation Meeting Room for up to 60 attendees. Additional properties to consider include 111 Minna Gallery for up to 500 attendees; AIA San Francisco in the historic Hallidie Building; the American Conservatory Theater; The Ritz-Carlton, San Francisco; and more. Noteworthy activities for groups include exploring the greenery and cultural institutions dotting Golden Gate Park, touring the Conservatory of Flowers, and getting a photo op for attendees with a visit to the Painted Ladies at Alamo Square—as seen in the opening credits of the sitcom “Full House.”
On the northern end of San Francisco Bay, Berkeley has a meetings and events scene that thrives in the cooler months. “Fall maybe is my favorite season here,” says Shelbi Walker, director of sales for Visit Berkeley. “Locals say that Berkeley summers start three months late, around mid-September, and then just like that the leaves turn, evenings get cozy, and there are pumpkin spice lattes in the cafes.” And with the University of California, Berkeley (UC Berkeley), in session now, she notes, the energy of the city only gets livelier as students roam the streets and college football tailgating begins.
Standout hotels include The DoubleTree by Hilton Berkeley Marina with stunning views of San Francisco Bay, Hotel Shattuck Plaza for a historic backdrop, or Graduate Berkeley for some school spirit with its UC Berkeley-inspired decor. For a more avant-garde venue, consider Sway, the UC Botanical Garden at Berkeley, the Lawrence Hall of Science, or the David Brower Center. Get groups out and about with a guided food tour in Berkeley’s North Shattuck district, ax throwing at AxeVentures, or group culinary classes at Kitchen on Fire.
Located both in Northern California wine country and within the urban sprawl of Silicon Valley, San Jose boasts several opportunities for planners to incorporate Halloween into their fall itineraries and get the most out of the city’s autumnal weather. “San Jose has one of the best climates in the country,” says Matthew Martinucci, vice president of sales and destination services for Visit San Jose. “You will find outdoor activities such as alfresco dining on Santana Row, wine tasting at Alamitos Vineyards (and our three surrounding wine regions), and hiking and running trails in natural habitats.”
He also recommends attendees explore fall-focused activities as the season takes hold, from local Día de Los Muertos (“Day of the Dead” in Spanish) festivals, Halloween tours at the Winchester Mystery House, and seasonal fall menus at restaurants and bars. “Our San Jose arts community, such as San Jose Taiko and San Jose Jazz, works with event planners to incorporate performances and live art into conventions and meetings,” Martinucci adds. The venue and lodging scene in the city is also vast and approachable. For larger groups, gather and host at the Signia by Hilton San Jose or the Hilton San Jose. Other properties include the San Jose Marriott and the Westin San Jose. Most of these hotels are also in proximity to the San Jose McEnery Convention Center, which features 400,000 square feet of space.
To the south of San Jose, Monterey is a nature-lover’s dream in the fall, with access to 99 miles of stunning coastal shoreline and wildlife viewing, both at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and in the waters of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, a protected area along the California coast stretching from San Francisco to Cambria. Host a waterfront event at the Asilomar Conference Grounds, which partners with three hotels to offer a total of more than 700 rooms. Additional options for large-scale gatherings include Embassy Suites Monterey Bay-Seaside, Hyatt Regency Monterey Hotel and Spa on Del Monte Golf Course, and the Monterey Conference Center.
Add a guided tour in Monterey to the itinerary through organizations like Ag Venture Tours (wine tasting) or Big Sur Adventures Inc. (bike tours). The Monterey County area offers 25 golf courses for attendees to explore, 125 vineyards for a post-meeting tasting, access to 19 state parks for the hikers in your group, 10 major museums for art or history lovers, and much more.
While the Lake Tahoe area flourishes year-round, it shines particularly bright in the winter. “North Lake Tahoe is a winter wonderland,” says Bart Peterson, director of sales for Travel North Tahoe Nevada. “Popular winter group activities include skiing [and] snowboarding, snowshoeing, ice skating, snowmobile tours, horse-drawn sleigh rides on the snow-covered beaches, and even disco inner tubing.” He notes that while the area does receive frequent snowstorms, they pass quickly and leave sunny skies in their wake.
The North Lake Tahoe area spans from Sand Harbor and Incline Village on the Nevada side of the lake to Truckee, Olympic Valley, and Tahoe City in California. The area boasts more than 30 meeting sites with 200,000-plus square feet of function space between them. For larger groups, consider gathering at Incline Village’s Hyatt Regency Lake Tahoe Resort, Spa and Casino; Olympic Valley’s Everline Resort & Spa; or The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe, in Truckee. The Hyatt in Incline Village sits right on the lakeshore and offers stunning access to waterfront dining at Lone Eagle Grille (which features a delicious salmon dish), and Everline boasts 405 guest rooms alongside 33,000 square feet of event space. Additional properties around North Lake Tahoe include Palisades Tahoe in Olympic Valley and Granlibakken Tahoe, just five minutes south of Tahoe City and home to 240 guest rooms.
To get to North Lake Tahoe, attendees might fly into Reno-Tahoe International Airport in Reno, Nevada. “The North Tahoe Express runs multiple times a day to and from [the airport],” Peterson adds. “Once in North Lake Tahoe, the TART Connect is a free app-based curbside pickup service. For groups, Tahoe Elite has a fleet of various-size vehicles perfect for transfers to off-site activities and meals.”