SUCCESSFUL MEETINGS August 2006 Appreciating the desert's WORK-AND-PLAY charms is anything but difficult, what with posh hotels, a stylish new convention center, abundant restaurants and shopping, and a warm, dry climate, perfectly suited to year-round GOLF. Groups can pack a full schedule into a fairly leisurely day-meet in the morning, enjoy a patio lunch, indulge in some CASINO play or a spa session, then sip umbrella drinks POOLSIDE as the sun slips behind the mountains. Moreover, this swank desert escape remains quite accessible, a quick coach ride from major airports in Los Angeles and Ontario, or via direct flight-there's an increasing number-to and from Palm Springs International Airport.
ESSENTIAL TOOL BOX
Palm Springs Convention Center, 120,000 sf of dedicated exhibit space; 14 meeting rooms, largest accommodates 460 theater-style.
Total Hotel Rooms: 7,902
Hotel Rooms Within .25 Miles of the Convention Center: 1,748 rooms
Dedicated Convention Center Hotel: The 410-room Wyndham Palm Springs
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For More Info: Palm Springs Desert Resorts CVA www.palmspringsusa.com
THE BIG NEWS You can't blame those who mistake Palm Springs' spiffy new convention center for a theater, arts center, or an exotic museum. Style points abound in the center's award-winning revamp, from the sweeping, fieldstone-and-waterfall entrance to the glass-walled lobby and its stunning views of the San Jacinto Mountains.
"The concept is uncommon in a convention center, and plays into the rest of the things going on in Palm Springs, from the hotels to the shops and restaurants," says GM Jim Dunn. "This building is the centerpiece of all that. We get people who just want to use the lobby because it's so attractive."
And yet what makes planners and attendees even happier is this very sexy venue's practicality. "The end result is even better than any of us ever thought it would be," says Dunn, citing the redo's marriage of form and convenience. "Planners love the new entrance, which is where they spend a good deal of their time during registration," he says. And attendees love both the new ballroom and reception areas. "We can now handle larger groups, but more importantly, we have options for different types of meetings and social events," adds Dunn. "Groups can do exactly what they need to do, and their comments make us realize that the architects did a terrific job."
The 163-room Hotel Zoso, downtown Palm Springs' swank remake of the Marquis Resort, features 42,000 sf of flexible function space.
* The 410-room Wyndham Palm Springs, adjacent to the convention center, recently wrapped up a $5-million overall refurbishment while adding the new Calabrese Lounge.
* The $95-million makeover at downtown Palm Springs' 228-room Spa Resort Casino includes a new spa and fitness center and upgraded guest rooms.
* In Rancho Mirage, the Westin Mission Hills Resort and Spa has renovated its 512 guest rooms and the Gary Player Course clubhouse, and opened the 14,000-sf Ambassador ballroom.
* Desert Springs, a JW Marriott Resort and Spa, Palm Desert, is undergoing a $25-million renovation of its entrance and lobby area (by fall 2006) and health spa (for spring 2007).
* A pair of gaming hotels now flank the Coachella Valley. Cabazon, 20 miles west of Palm Springs, is home to the 310-room Morongo Casino, Resort & Spa and its 12,000-sf ballroom. East of Palm Springs, Indio's Fantasy Springs Casino Resort features 250 guest rooms and a 100,000-sf meetings and special events center.
* The Palm Springs Aerial Tramway has hired ARAMARK Sports and Entertainment Services to reinvigorate (e.g., new menus using local products) and run its food services, including event catering, 8,500 feet up Mount San Jacinto.
* Smoke Tree Ranch, once Walt Disney's rustic, mid-20th-century hideaway, is now open for group business from Nov thru Apr, with 56 guest cottages, an Olympic-size pool, and a pine-plank, western-style dining hall.
* Major resort plans on the drawing board for Palm Springs include a W aloft, Hard Rock Hotel, and The Palms Hotel.
* La Quinta Resort and Club has transformed the former Morgan's into the American-cuisine Twenty 6, while overhauling AZUR, its French restaurant.
* The Palm Springs Riviera Resort and Racquet Club has finished an $8-million renovation of its public areas, restaurants, meeting space, and 476 guest rooms.
* The 144-room Parker Palm Springs has opened a new, 6,000-sf meeting facility.
* Construction continues on Cathedral City's new Sheraton Desert Cove Resort, which will open in 2007 with 300 guest rooms and 10,000 sf of meeting space.
* The Palm Mountain Resort & Spa has wrapped up a $1-million upgrade of its 119 guest rooms and function space.
* The 250-room Doral Desert Princess Resort has finished renovating its public spaces and guest room foyers.
WELCOME TO THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Palm Springs may be the focal point of the Coachella Valley, but it's not the only stop along this rambling, 35-mile oasis. The desert community comprises eight towns, each offering good reasons to drop by.
Shopping, of course, is serious business. La Quinta, hugging the valley's eastern edge a half-hour east of Palm Springs, remains a celebrity and golf getaway, with a burgeoning "Old Town" full of galleries, craft stores, and restaurants, notably Clint Eastwood's Hog's Breath Inn. Plastic also comes in handy along Palm Desert's El Paseo, home to high-end boutiques and the impulse-buy shops that attendees adore. For mall lovers, it's The River in Rancho Mirage; for bargain hunters, the Cabazon outlets on I-10.
No trip is complete without a back-to-nature experience. Desert Adventures guides groups through the region's rugged, remote hill country, while Big Horn Bicycles provides two-wheelers for a more leisurely roll through the Movie Colony and other P.S. hot spots. Desert Balloon Charters covers the view from above, with a Champagne toast. And with its new, 360-degree cable cars, the Palm Springs Aerial Tram provides great views, albeit a tamer ride, up the side of Mount San Jacinto.
In search of more offbeat pursuits? Consider a windmill tour (mid-to-late afternoon, when the wind tends to kick up) or a matinee at the Palm Springs Follies, a daffy, age-defying display of acting and dancing. Need to blow off a little steam and a bit of cash? Several Native American casinos await, their slots and card tables ready. And for celebrity sightings of various Hollywood vintages, grab a banquette, order a martini, and soak up happy hour at Melvyn's.-MB
RECOMMENDED FOR GROUP DINING The following restaurants have group facilities and were selected from the Zagat Survey: La Vallauris, Cuistot, Jillian's, Bellini, Wally's Desert Turtle, Roy's, Sirocco, and Le St. Germain.
GROUPS SHOULD CONSIDER Groups should consider these recommendations from Successful Meetings' Home Team* experts. Top choices include the 144-room Parker Palm Springs, the 68-room Viceroy, and the 215-room Miramonte.
*Home Team contributors who informed this section include Candy Adams, CMP, CMM; Cheryl Balolong; and Melissa Biele. Contact them at [email protected]
Our subscribers gave Pinnacle Awards to the following:
Desert Springs, a JW Marriott Resort
Hyatt Grand Champions Resort & Spa
Westin Mission Hills Resort & Spa
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