If the only glimpse youâ€™ve gotten of Newport Beach is through theÂ glitzy lens of The Real Housewives of Orange County, you may not realize how much substance and style the affluent Orange County city offers meeting planners.
The substance comes from the cityâ€™s compact, easy-to-navigate geography, its variety of meeting-friendly venues and a breezy, scenic oceanfront location that sports ideal weatherÂ most of the year. As for style, Newport Beach is home to the largest pleasure boat harbor inÂ the world, and this nautical culture providesÂ a deep layer of event possibilities. And, yes,Â there is glitz, too-yachts, top-tier restaurantsÂ and Fashion Island, the famed outdoor shoppingÂ plaza.
(Photo Credit: That Girl Productions)
“Weâ€™re a smaller, boutique destination forÂ meetings,” says Michelle Donahue, senior viceÂ president of sales for Visit Newport Beach. “Itâ€™sÂ a nice condensed, neat little city, manicured andÂ beautiful, and an ideal fit for meetings from 50Â to 500.” Although Newport Beach doesnâ€™t haveÂ a convention center, its high-end hotels cater toÂ corporate and group business, serving meetingÂ needs of any size and various budgets. TheÂ prominent hotels in the central part of NewportÂ Beach include the Island Hotel Newport Beach,Â Hyatt Regency Newport Beach, the FairmontÂ Newport Beach, Newport Beach Marriott HotelÂ & Spa and the waterfront Balboa Bay Resort.Â Just a few miles south on the Pacific CoastÂ Highway is the luxurious and secluded 504-acreÂ Resort at Pelican Hill, with 20,000 square feet ofÂ indoor and outdoor meeting space.
Beth Hoffman, director of global accountsÂ at ConferenceDirect, appreciates that NewportÂ Beachâ€™s hotels are constantly updating andÂ refreshing, providing a competitive advantageÂ for the upscale city. “As a resort-style destinationÂ in Southern California, Newport BeachÂ has both charm and the water experience,Â combined with the sophistication of any majorÂ city,” she says. Another advantage is the cityâ€™sÂ proximity to two major airports. John WayneÂ Airport (SNA) is only 10 minutes away; LosÂ Angeles International Airport (LAX) approximatelyÂ an hour. Hoffman recently bookedÂ a 20-person executive board meeting for anÂ Irvine-based firm; half the delegates flew intoÂ LAX from Singapore to attend the event atÂ the Hyatt Regency. And with Newport BeachÂ midway between Los Angeles and San Diego,Â itâ€™s accessible by a scenic drive, too.
(Photo Credit: Balboa Bay Resort)
Temperate weather means that gatheringsÂ can take full advantage of outdoor space.Â The Hyatt Regency Newport Beachâ€™s updatedÂ landscaping optimizes this outdoor/indoorÂ flow. “Moving between breakouts to generalÂ sessions becomes a really relaxing SouthernÂ California stroll around the property,” saysÂ Daniel Kuperschmid, general manager of theÂ 403-room, 23-acre hotel, which has 26,000Â square feet of function space. The Oasis CourtÂ is an outdoor venue for 300 with tropicalÂ landscaping and excellent lighting for eveningÂ occasions. At a June event, a dine-around heldÂ in the garden space featured a deconstructedÂ Cobb salad on butcher paper as part of a farm-to-table-style buffet. With lanterns hangingÂ in the trees, the vibe was “pretty mystical,”Â Kuperschmid says.
(Photo Credit: Hyatt Regency Newport Beach)
If mystical isnâ€™t the vibe youâ€™re after, theÂ Hyattâ€™s nine-hole golf course provides a sportyÂ alternative. During a six-day brainstormingÂ meeting, a Northwest-based firm held oneÂ evening reception at the top of the golf course.Â Activities included night golf illuminated byÂ glow sticks.
Newportâ€™s harbor offers a wide range ofÂ year-round activities, from a ferry ride toÂ Balboa Island or an electric Duffy boat thatÂ cruises the calm waters to a yacht party thatÂ never leaves the dock. “The harbor is a blankÂ canvas for meeting and event planners,” saysÂ Kevin Lorton, vice president and general managerÂ for Hornblower Cruises & Events in LosÂ Angeles and Orange County. The companyÂ has a fleet of vessels on call (capacity tops outÂ at 450) and “each boat has its own story to tell,”Â says Lorton. Event planners can choose theÂ boat style, size and character to fit the occasion,Â including sleek contemporary MonteÂ Carlo-style yachts and the historic Wild Goose,Â legendary actor John Wayneâ€™s former yacht.
(Photo Credit: Island Hotel Newport Beach)
Landlubbers can rest easy, however-withÂ the harbor waters punctuated by barely a ripple,Â seasickness is never an issue. A boat can be anÂ off-site facility for a lunch session, but sunsetÂ cruises are the most popular choice, and canÂ easily be customized. A medical company hostedÂ a Western-themed event on the Wild Goose,Â complete with western dÃ©cor, music and menu,Â and a John Wayne look-alike who came alongÂ for the ride. The Dukeâ€™s movies even played onÂ the boatâ€™s multiple video screens.
(Photo Credit: Hyatt Regency Newport Beach)
Candace Bisconte, a partner at ACCESSÂ Destination Services, personalized a corporateÂ groupâ€™s cruising event by docking at TheÂ Cannery for a midday sushi-making demonstrationÂ and lunch for 40 on the restaurantâ€™sÂ outdoor patio. “The great mix of activitiesÂ that are centered on the water is one reasonÂ so many planners enjoy Newport Beach,” sheÂ says. Donahue agrees. “Because of the water,Â a meeting here feels like experiencing theÂ good life,” he says. “And weâ€™re also surprisinglyÂ affordable.” Plus, you never know when youâ€™llÂ spot one of those real housewives!