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September 2014

Locals' Take

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Meetings Focus asked DMC executives in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Barbara and Lake Tahoe to reveal their picks for unique and exclusive experiences that define the scene in their respective locales.


Trevor Hanks, CEO, Partner, 360 Destination Group

It can be tough to keep up with the ever-changing venue scene in Los Angeles. From pop-up restaurants to venues that are transformed with just a bit of elbow grease, the city offers the most awe-inspiring event spaces in the world.

Located in L.A.’s historic downtown core, the landmark Vibiana Cathedral is no longer just a traditional wedding venue. Celebrity chef Neil Frasier is changing the face of this renovated space with his world-class food. The blank white canvas and gorgeous dark wood floors beg to be lit with bright color and linens that pop. With its wide-open pillared space, transformable doesn’t even begin to cover it.

With its brand new Herscher Hall and Guerin Pavilion, the Skirball Cultural Center has added more than 17,000 square feet of spectacular space to its 15-acre property. With an unmatched technology package built right into the ballroom, free parking (unheard of in the City of Angels) and a neutral color palette that can be dressed up for galas and corporate business gatherings alike, the Skirball has capitalized on what every planner looks for in an event venue.

An oldie but goodie, beautiful Paramount Studios in the heart of Los Angeles is home to more than just celebrities. With VIP truffle popcorn snacks offered on behind-the-scenes studio tours, backlot dinners under the stars and working street sets to fill with food trucks, flying acrobats and unparalleled musical talent, what isn’t there to love about a studio?


Gordon Thompson, President, Cappa & Graham

Combining three distinct architectural styles dating back to 1900, One Kearny is an atmospheric choice for meetings, networking and intimate dinners of up to 100 guests. The penthouse floor boasts a pristine boutique event space and handsome modern wing designed by noted San Francisco architect Charles Bloszies. Connected to a mansard-roofed “skyscraper” from 1902, the open-space component of One Kearny offers a gorgeous shrub-lined terrace featuring crystal clear views of the San Francisco skyline, Bay Bridge and Twin Peaks.

At one time, no less than 120 wineries and commercial cellars called San Francisco’s SOMA district home. Sadly, the 1906 earthquake, followed by Prohibition, ended this golden era. Reviving this legacy, Bluxome Street Winery is a modern working winery located in the heart of SOMA that effortlessly transforms into a striking event venue. From intimate affairs to corporate celebrations, Bluxome Street Winery’s chic and sophisticated space offers all the requisite creature comforts and then some, accommodating dinners for up to 120 and receptions for 200-plus guests.

Still San Francisco’s tallest and most recognizable skyscraper, the Transamerica Pyramid is more than a stylistic statement. Representing an early example of environmentally sensitive planning, its unconventional tapered design casts a smaller shadow allowing more natural light to filter to the streets below. Beyond exclusive is access to the 48th floor (off-limits to the public, as is the building itself) for events. On clear nights especially, offering unparalleled 360-degree views of the cityscape and bay, it’s a perfect option (we are the preferred planner) for 40-person dinners or receptions for 80.


Kris Penick, Managing Director, Reserve Events & Destinations

The farm-to-table movement has become almost cliche, yet it’s hard to experience California’s lifestyle any other way. With its perfect year-round climate, California’s thriving Central Coast is home to more than 30 sub-wine appellations and numerous passionate artisan food producers. With olive oil mills, artisan cheese dairies, oyster and abalone farms, and oceans of seafood with sustainable practices, groups have many diverse flavors to explore.

Live Earth Farm is a pretty Community Sustainable Agriculture (CSA) farm in Watsonville offering learning for all ages. Covering such topics as sustainable living practices, watersheds and sources, their Live Earth Farm Discovery Program is supplemented with holistic meals and local wine led by farm and culinary professionals. The opportunity to harvest your meal is a bonus.

Centered on a historic hacienda surrounded by vineyards and a micro-winery carved into a hillside, Holman Ranch is an amazing Carmel Valley experience that combines the romance of the ranch with a stunning setting. Lavish multicourse meals or family-style farm tables are among the possibilities for exploring the flavors of California.

At their biodynamic Wind Rose Farms in Paso Robles, Bill and Barbara Spencer have been supplying chefs with heirloom varieties for decades. Meals created from produce harvested from their fields and from local ranches in their special little valley are an amazing way to connect to nature. After visiting this farm, there’s no going back.


Christina Stevens, Director of Client Services, Destination Services Corporation

One of the best ways to experience Lake Tahoe is a boat ride on its majestic waters, followed by a dockside dinner fit for royalty. With the mountains providing a stunning backdrop, groups of up to 40 enjoy a one-hour cocktail cruise aboard a private yacht, followed by a two-hour dinner at a beautifully set king’s table on a private pier.

What guest doesn’t want to have a beach to themselves? For a true Lake Tahoe VIP experience, another exclusive program is a beach day at a private Lake Tahoe estate. Guests can explore the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe in kayaks or on stand-up paddleboards, or play lawn games on the shorelines. Those wishing to simply laze away the day, meanwhile, can lounge by the water and enjoy coolers of beer, soda and water while choosing from a selection of reading materials.

While snowmobile tours are a classic offering in Lake Tahoe, what makes this product unique is that it is anything but run of the mill. With access to 75 two-person snowmobiles, we can take groups of up to 150 people on an unforgettable four-hour experience. Guests race through the scenic wilderness to the top of Northstar, where they enjoy magnificent views of the lake in the distance. While a guitarist plays, they then bask in the sun while enjoying hearty fare such as bread bowls, chili and corn chowder.

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