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A view of Newport Beach from Balboa Island

A Meeting Planner in Newport Beach

Making the case that Newport Beach, Calif., is one of the great upscale value destinations

Newport Beach is now one of my favorite destinations, one I was reluctant to leave on a visit in early June. It had everything I enjoy: perfect weather, amazing architecture, a beautiful view just about anywhere you looked, exceptional food, and a wonderful upscale hotel community. 
Newport Beach is an Orange County enclave in Southern California. It boasts the largest recreational harbor in the U.S. and commands the highest average real estate prices in the country. The median price for a home is $2.5 million. It was one of the most consistently upscale places I have visited; every neighborhood was simply beautiful. But that being said, it is still a great value for groups, especially compared to hotels in similar pockets of affluence like Silicon Valley, Beverly Hills, New York, Seattle, or San Francisco. And unlike those cities, Newport Beach has zero areas where one might feel unsafe. 

One of the best things the area has going for it is John Wayne International Airport. This is an amazing asset, as it allows people to get there without slogging through the dystopian nightmare that is Los Angeles International Airport. From the airport, it’s 10 to 12 minutes to most of the Newport Beach hotels, maybe 14 if you hit a red-light cycle wrong. The airport has tons of direct flights, including American, Southwest, Delta, and United, and the arrival experience was so much nicer than I have ever had coming into LAX. Eliminating stress, traffic, and chaos is an unbelievably effective way to start a conference off on the right foot. 

Another awesome asset for groups is Visit Newport Beach, the convention and visitors bureau. It really provides a lot of value, helping with site visits, promotion, and even rebates for many groups. Lori Hoy has been instrumental in assisting several of my groups who booked meetings here.

john wayne.JPGLiterally a stone’s throw from the airport exit is the Hyatt Regency John Wayne Airport (photo left). This 343-room hotel recently completed an extensive renovation and has 28,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor meeting space. The largest ballroom is 7,200 square feet. It’s a really nice hotel and certainly does not feel like an airport hotel once you get inside, although the comp airport shuttle is very convenient.  

A couple of minutes from the airport is the Renaissance Newport. The hotel is quite a surprise; when you step into the nondescript building, you are greeted with true vibrancy and indigenous flair that are the Renaissance hallmarks. The 444-room hotel has 31,000 square feet of meeting space spread around the property, including some beautiful outdoor spaces, a 7,140-square-foot ballroom, and a 3,000-square-foot junior ballroom with 50-foot ceilings that was pretty cool.

DSCN4953.JPGJust over five miles from the airport, Fashion Island Mall is one of the most upscale and exceptional outdoor malls I have ever visited, with several hundred stores and over 50 restaurants at all price points. The great thing is that it’s walking distance to three major Newport Beach hotels. Your attendees can easily stroll here in the evenings and enjoy all that the area has to offer.

One of those nearby hotels is the former Four Seasons, now called Fashion Island Hotel (above, right). This lovely property is upscale and comfortable, with 294 rooms, a staggering 82 suites, and a warm and hospitable vibe. It has 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space, with great natural light, and the largest ballroom of any Newport Beach hotel at 8,710 square feet. It is certainly a hotel I would highly recommend. It reminded me a lot of the Omni Mandalay in Las Colinas, a hotel where I book a lot of business.

Another hotel with easy access to Fashion Island is the Marriott Newport Beach. This 513-room hotel has just under 32,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor space and would be great for a group of 300 to 400 attendees. It is situated on a private golf course with the ocean beyond, so most rooms have excellent views. 

DSCN4998.JPGJust over a half mile from Fashion Island and Newport Center, is one of my favorite hotels in California, the Hyatt Regency Newport Beach (left). This resort hotel has 408 huge guest rooms and exceptional meeting space for groups of 200. This hotel is a throwback to classic California cool, and the staff members are all wonderful. When I visited, the hotel was hosting the Jazz Fest, a 20-some year tradition, and all meeting venues and public spaces were in use. It has rooms facing the bay, the onsite golf course, or the lush courtyards, and sunsets are particularly stunning. Given the option, I would have enjoyed staying here for a few weeks. I just had a group complete six programs here, and they simply loved the hotel and staff.

61965453_2146217062343057_6318625314574434304_n.jpgAnother cool part of Newport Beach is Balboa Island across the harbor. The downtown here is a unique collection of shops and restaurants, which can be accessed by bridge or a ferry. Balboa Bay Resort is a great 159-room hotel with 23,000 square feet of event space and stunning views. Almost every meeting room has a private waterfront terrace. Walking through the hallways, you see photos of the vast number of interesting people who visited or stayed here when it was a private club. 

The value groups can get from Newport Beach hotels is tremendous. I cannot think of another area of such affluence that’s similar. In multiple contracts, I have gotten rates below $180 here, and even in peak season, getting below $200 at most hotels is not too difficult. Contrast this with hotel prices in Malibu, Santa Monica, Beverly Hills, downtown LA, or San Diego, and you will see what a great area Newport Beach is for your attendees. Add in gorgeous views, easy access, and lots for attendees to do once there, and you will agree that it is a wonderful location for meetings and events.

All photos courtesy of Timothy Arnold, May/June 2019

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