by Maya Dollarhide | January 01, 2019
Long Beach encompasses the most iconic aspects of Southern California living, with 11 miles of stunning beaches, vibrant marinas and a blend of quintessential surfer vibe with chic California modernity. Its growing popularity among planners should come as no surprise. Hotels and meeting venues tend to be at a lower price point compared with larger cities in the region, but without sacrificing state-of-the-art amenities, relaxed surroundings and a swath of activities centered on a beautiful coastline.  
After a recent $60 million makeover, the 400,000-square-foot Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center has become a vital locus for attendees and tourists alike. "The center is modeled after the TED Conference, which it hosted for five years," notes Steve Goodling, president and CEO of the Long Beach Convention & Tourism Bureau. "With three unique 'turnkey' special-event spaces -- from Southern California food-truck parties to poolside dancing water fountains -- all planners are assured of significant savings." Planners could cut as much as $300,000 to $500,000 on rental costs, Goodling estimates, thanks to the infrastructure already in place. The center's modern, smart spaces feel intimate, yet they can accommodate large groups. Featured are 34 meeting rooms, three exhibition halls, the Terrace Theater, the Long Beach Arena and a 45,000-square-foot grand ballroom. In addition, there's lots of in-house furniture, so rentals are not needed. "We have a proven track record in creating those special events that become Instagrammable," Goodling notes.  

In addition to harbor views, strolls on the sand and exceptional seafood, Long Beach has lauded attractions such as the Queen Mary, a historic World War II troopship on permanent dock. The vessel offers a remarkable 80,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including an art deco--style hotel, all with 21st-century amenities. Take a grand group tour of the ship and then enjoy a private lunch at the on-site award-winning Sir Winston's Restaurant & Lounge.

Planners hosting events in Long Beach also can make arrangements for private tours of the Museum of Latin American Art or hold a reception at the city's famed Aquarium of the Pacific, home of a popular shark lagoon.

Dining options are abundant -- downtown Long Beach boasts more than 100 restaurants alone. Try the modern Latin cuisine at Panxa Cocina, or take in the stunning views from Parkers' Lighthouse, a winner of Wine Spectator's award of excellence, and enjoy fresh mesquite-grilled seafood while sampling vintages from its two-story wine cellar.


Recent Additions
Over the past two years, every major hotelier in Long Beach has invested money in renovating and rejuvenating their properties, according to the convention and visitors bureau. The 528-room Hyatt Regency, which recently completed a $30 million renovation, is adjacent to the convention center and has its own 20,000 square feet of meeting space. All guest rooms have water views and are just steps away from the aquarium.

The Courtyard Long Beach Downtown's multimillion-dollar renovation included a modern refresh of its public spaces and adding amenities such as Smart TVs; a design pivot gave a California-centric aesthetic to its 216 guest rooms.  

The Hotel Maya, a DoubleTree by Hilton, offers 199 guest rooms inspired by colorful Latin American art and culture. The hotel recently invested $4 million to refresh all rooms, plus create two new event spaces on the property -- the Vista del Mar Plaza and the Lagunita Pavilion. When the meetings wrap up, take advantage of the recently opened, largest man-made beach in Long Beach, the 6,500-square-foot "Playa at the Maya," with tons of real beach sand, two four-foot-diameter fire pits, and colorful umbrellas and chaise lounges.

Hilton Hotels & Resorts has opened a dual-branded 241-room property operating as both the Hampton Inn by Hilton Long Beach Airport and Homewood Suites by Hilton Long Beach. Guests of each can take advantage of spacious communal areas, state-of-the-art fitness centers, grilling areas, a swimming pool and a putting green.


Coming Soon
September 2018 marked the groundbreaking of a $30 million dual-branded expansion of the 13-story Holiday Inn near Long Beach Airport. The nearby Staybridge Suites will become a six-floor sister hotel, offering 75 additional rooms.   

Long Beach is a known hotspot for craft beer, but hard cider lovers will soon enjoy their favorites at Ficklewood Ciderworks. This new enterprise is the first of its kind in Long Beach and is slated to open in either the spring or summer. The space, a former post office in the East Village of downtown Long Beach, will house both a pure fermentation site and a taproom.