By Jennifer N. Dienst, Contributing Editor
New sights in California’s most charming convention destination.
In the heart of Southern California, Long Beach is the laid-back neighbor of Los Angeles and Orange County, famous for its sparkling waterfront and seemingly endless list of attractions. Long Beach is also the ultimate year-round destination, with 345 days of sunshine and temperatures averaging in the 70s for most of the year. Combine these assets with a compact convention campus, plenty of airport connectivity, and an evolving collection of attractions and hotels, and meeting planners have a convention destination that checks off all of their must-have boxes.
Overlooking the waterfront with sweeping harbor views, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center has more than 400,000 square feet of flexible meeting and exhibit space, all in the center of downtown. The facility recently underwent a $35-million renovation and modernization with the goal of giving meeting planners and their attendees a stylish yet welcoming experience. Designed with their needs in mind, the center’s lobbies, hallways, and public spaces now feature new furniture, carpeting, plants, and artwork, as well as new social hubs where guests can relax, network, and socialize. Even the restrooms have been transformed into sophisticated lounges, with warm woods and contemporary fixtures. The venue’s Terrace Theatre Plaza also received new landscaping, turning the outdoor space into a palmtree– studded tropical garden, and the Green and VIP rooms have been updated with new carpeting, lighting, and marble countertops.
Next door, the Long Beach Arena is set to debut a new look in 2013 as well. The revamp will give the facility the ability to transform its arena floor into a loft-style, 45,000-squarefoot ballroom space. The ballroom, formed using the arena floor space and curtains dropped from the ceiling to block views of the upper-deck seating, will feature a grid of truss systems complete with sound systems and LED and stage lighting. This intimate environment will be able to accommodate dinners and concerts for up to 5,500 people, doubling the arena’s current capacity for such events.
One of the best parts about meeting in Long Beach is that the destination’s waterfront entertainment district - including hotels, shopping, nightlife, and 100-plus restaurants - is just steps away from the convention center. This walkable, compact campus encourages after-hours networking and group activities that help keep the ideas and conversations flowing long after the meetings of the day have concluded. Attendees will also find that downtown Long Beach sets the standard for walkability. Recognized by Walkscore.com as one of the most “Walkable Cities in America,” downtown contains most of the city’s 4,500 hotel rooms, and in February 2013, the city will launch one of the largest bike-share programs in the state.
Accommodations in Long Beach are being freshened up, too. The 469-room Westin Long Beach will finish a $12-million revamp by the end of 2012, while renovations of its guest rooms have already been completed. Earlier this year, the 528-room Hyatt Regency Long Beach debuted a $30-million renovation of all of its guest rooms and public spaces, and the 310-room Long Beach Marriott has invested $10 million in renovating its meeting and public spaces. The property also added a new, 1,700-square-foot outdoor event space, and revamped Corrigan’s Sports Bar into the Tex-Mex Kitchen & Sports Bar.
Long Beach’s list of things to see and do is constantly growing with new exhibits, attractions, and activities. The Aquarium of the Pacific, Southern California’s largest aquarium and the fourth-largest in the country, just opened the new June Keyes Penguin Habitat, which lets visitors get up close with Magellanic Penguins. The Queen Mary, the famous Cunard cruise liner that now operates as a permanently docked hotel, museum, and event venue, recently opened The Princess Diana exhibit, with more than 2,000 items relating to the Windsor family. Nearby, the shops, restaurants, and entertainment of The Pike At Rainbow Harbor, aquatic activities at the Shoreline Village, plus four museums, two historic ranchos, and 5.5 miles of sandy beach offer plenty of options for group events and leisure diversions.
Getting to Long Beach has never been easier, with service at three major nearby airports. Both Los Angeles International Airport (LAX) and Orange County Airport are less than 30 minutes away, and Long Beach Airport is just seven minutes from downtown. Currently undergoing a $140-million modernization set for completion next month, Long Beach Airport will include a new parking structure, ramp improvements, gates, and concourse with a central garden.
For more information: Long Beach Convention & Visitors Bureau - Steve Goodling, President & CEO; 562.495.8350; firstname.lastname@example.org; visitlongbeach.com