It’s hard to keep from taking photos of ripe oranges in the middle of the winter along Anaheim’s newest gem – the Grand Plaza that opened in January in front of the Anaheim Convention Center. This is, after all, Orange County.
With fountains and palm trees, the 100,000-square-foot pedestrian esplanade is the place to dig into a gourmet burger from a food truck, soak in the Cali sun between sessions and dance the night away at an outdoor concert.
Soon the Anaheim Convention Center campus also will welcome a $160 million expansion that will feature 250,000 sq. ft. of additional flexible meeting space. In the RFQ process at the moment, it is tentatively scheduled to open in 2015.
“Association and medical meetings need more classroom space,” said David Meek, Anaheim Convention Center manager. “The new addition will bring us at over 1 million square feet of exhibit space or over 400,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. It will enable us to better serve growing shows and attract large medical meetings, as well as allow us to run two mid-size shows at the same time.”
Meek noted that the market is improving, and hotel occupancy rates were up 16 percent last year. This gives hope for the development of two boutique hotels with a total of 900 rooms along the Garden Walk, an entertainment and dining area within walking distance of the convention center.
In the meantime, the flagship hotels by the Grand Plaza have undergone serious renovations. Hilton Anaheim welcomes guests with a classy luxury vibe and offers 1, 572 rooms with triple-sheeted bedding and flat-panel TVs.
Meeting planners can count on 140,000 sq. ft. of meeting space with two 28,500 square-foot ballrooms and two outdoor sundecks. During the recent NAMM Show, music pros held concurrent jam sessions and product demos here with zero noise interference. Across the Plaza, Anaheim Marriott has 997 rooms and 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, with the largest ballroom at 25,620 square feet.
Less than a mile away at Disney California Adventure Park, kids and adult alike can scream their hearts out on the Radiator Springs Racers ride based on the Disney-Pixar film “Cars.”
The new 12-acre Cars Land is full of landmarks from the movie and also features the 1960’s- style Luigi’s Flying Tires, perfect for competitive spirits.
Vintage theme spills over to the Carthay Circle Restaurant modeled after the theater where Walk Disney premiered Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. The magic of Disney lights up the night at the new World of Color where familiar characters come to life at a water, music and light extravaganza.
Sports fans will appreciate the upgrades at the Honda Center, home of Anaheim Ducks hockey team. In May 2013, the venue is getting ready to open the Grand Terrace, 12,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor entertainment space, as well as a new full service restaurant that seats 250.
For a historic California vibe, the Packing District makes it easy to entertain in style. The Anaheim Brewery is decked out with vintage license plates and brews a Chocolate Porter, along with other flavors, on site.
The nearby Packing house, a restored citrus warehouse, and will soon offer communal space with organic food vendors, a stage and private event space. The orange scent still is in the air.