Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: March April 2012
Meetings, Incentives & Traveling In The West
By: Michael Bennett
Our history books reveal the wonder and amazement of early explorers as they journeyed deeper and deeper into what is now the American west.  No previous exploration of America could have prepared them for places of such natural beauty. From the towering snow capped Rocky Mountains to the deep gorges of the Grand Canyon to the majestic Pacific Coast, the contrast from other parts of the new republic was equally stark and welcoming.

It’s that great outdoors and love of wide-open spaces that make our western states a much sought after destination for tourists and group gatherings. All destinations featured below have state-of-the-art meeting and convention facilities and all the amenities of city life such as restaurants, shopping, spas and nightlife, plus the convenience of escaping from it all in a matter of minutes.

Visitors to Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Denver, Santa Fe or Seattle can find themselves snow skiing, kayaking, hiking, biking, golfing or simply enjoying the sounds of nature in an hour. From the busy streets of Houston, Honolulu or San Diego, the nearest beach takes just a couple of minutes.

Phoenix, Albuquerque and Flagstaff to the nearest Indian Reservation is literally right around the corner. Come west — all visitors’ welcome.


Arizona is a mix of cosmopolitan adventure and breathtaking scenery starting with the 277-mile long Grand Canyon — the world’s largest land gorge. From the Red Buttes and Mesa’s of Monument Valley, to the magnificent Hoover Dam, to the wonderful imagery of Painted Desert and the Red Rocks near Sedona, the kaleidoscopes of colors leave visitors awe struck.

Nestled in the world’s largest ponderosa pine forest sits Flagstaff, a year-round outdoor playground featuring skiing, snowboarding, hiking, mountain biking, river rafting and rock climbing. Mesa, Scottsdale and Tempe — suburbs of Phoenix are equal parts chic and rustic with a blend of upscale shopping, spas, dining, a collection of golf courses, outdoor activities, nightlife, and art with a unique southwestern flair. Tucson is a thriving visual and performing arts destination with numerous galleries and museums.

America’s sixth largest city and sunniest metropolis is a sports lover’s paradise. The city is represented in all three major sports. It’s the spring training home for several major league baseball teams, college football’s annual Fiesta Bowl, a frequent host of the Super Bowl and home to two-thirds of the state’s 300 golf courses.

The Phoenix Convention Center recently completed a $600 million expansion increasing its size to 900,000 sq. ft. The facility is surrounded by brand name hotel properties including, a 693-room Hyatt Regency across the street. Phoenix has over 55,000 hotel rooms. Symphony Hall, Chase Field, US Airway Center, the Phoenix Art Museum and the Herberger Theater Center are often used for alternate events.

The African-American experience starts at the Phoenix Union Colored High School, the state’s first Black high school and home to the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center. Ella Fitzgerald, Joe Louis and other Black dignitaries stayed at the historic Swindall House during the days of segregation. Kids love the Phoenix Zoo, Children’s Museum of Phoenix and Arizona Science Center. Scottsdale Fashion Square located in nearby Scottsdale and Kierland Commons are the more popular shopping areas.

From top to bottom, California, our most populous state, is the most geographically diverse. Northern California is heavily forested with towering California Redwoods and the Redwoods National Park. Head south across the scenic Golden Gate Bridge to find San Francisco and Oakland. While these cities share the cool waters of San Francisco Bay, each city has its own unique vibe.

The desert resort of Palm Springs is known for great golf, tennis and beautiful mountain scenery. Pasadena is a mecca of art and culture and home to the Rose Bowl and the Tournament of Roses Parade. In Los Angeles it’s all about Hollywood. South of Los Angeles is Anaheim and everything Disney. From Anaheim head west to Newport Beach and enjoy boating, restaurants, amusements and boutique shopping.

The most recognizable attraction in Long Beach is the RMS Queen Mary. This ocean liner, permanently docked in Long Beach is actually 200 feet longer than the more famous Titanic and was the fastest in the world between 1936 and 1952. Come aboard for a guided tour and enjoy a meal, shop or plan to spend the night in an original First Class Stateroom.

Around the corner from the Queen Mary is Aquarium of the Pacific. Explore the new Ocean Science Center and the Arctic and Antarctic Gallery to see how climate change, maritime trade and ports impact our lives. A recent Zagat survey rated the aquarium the #2 Family Attraction in the Los Angeles area behind Disney.

If your travels take you to Long Beach in April catch the exciting action of the Long Beach Grand Prix as the race winds its way through the streets of downtown. The Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center across the street from The Aquarium has 400,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting and exhibit space with all the latest in technology and wireless capability. Adjacent to the Convention Center is the 528-room Hyatt Regency Long Beach with an additional 22,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. There are numerous brand-name high quality hotels within walking distance of the Convention Center.

Avoid the crowds at LAX by flying into the Long Beach Airport, its oh so easy to get around.


San Diego has one of the top 10 best climates according to Farmers Almanac, and one of the top two best summertime climates in America according to the Weather Channel. Average wintertime temperatures hover around 65 degrees with summertime highs in the mid 70s.

For family entertainment Balboa Park is the place. The 1,200-acre Balboa Park, just minutes from downtown is home to the world famous San Diego Zoo, consistently ranked as one of the world’s best. The park has 15 museums such as The San Diego Natural History Museum and The San Diego Air and Space Museum. For performing arts the Marie Hitchcock Puppet Theatre and Old Globe Theatre, present at least 14 productions and 550 performances a year.

Just minutes from Balboa Park is SeaWorld where you can experience the all-new Shamu®, One Ocean and thrilling rides like the Journey to Atlantis. Just up the road in Carlsbad is LEGOLAND California® with more than 60 rides, shows and attractions. The Gaslamp Quarter comes alive at night with more than 40 nightclubs, restaurants and bars. San Diego’s 70-mile coastline means lots of outdoor recreation from boating to surfing, whale watching or a day trip to scenic La Jolla.

The San Diego Convention Center has over 520,000 sq. ft. of meeting space across the street from Petco Park, home of major league baseball’s San Diego Padres. Meeting planners can arrange visits or social gatherings when Petco is not in use.

The marina behind the convention center is perfect for concerts, cookouts and social gatherings.

Winter was made for Colorado. Those first snowflakes can only mean one thing; ski season is about to get underway. Aspen, Breckenridge, Snowmass, Steamboat Springs and Vail are just a few of the world famous mountain resorts that draw millions each year to experience this winter wonderland. Visitors will find slopes for all skill levels with numerous downhill trails and cross-country skiing options.

Aspen is a noted draw for the rich and famous. Steamboat Springs has been the site of numerous competitions including the 1989 and 1990 Alpine Skiing World Cup. Vail is the site of the Colorado Ski Museum and second largest ski mountain in North America.

The 14,110-ft. Pikes Peak in Colorado Springs is the most visited mountain in North America and the furthest east of the big Rocky Mountains peaks. While in Colorado Springs take a tour of the United States Air Force Academy.

The Mile High City has several key points of interest for African-American culture buffs. The Five Points Neighborhood, better known as “Harlem of the West” in the 1940s and ‘50s is home to the Stiles African American Heritage Center, the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library and the Black American West Museum and Heritage Center located in the former home of the state’s first Black female physician, Dr. Justina Ford.

Your itinerary should also include stops at the Denver Art Museum, the U.S. Mint, and the 16th Street Pedestrian Park.

The birthplace of President Barack Obama is a blend of timeless beauty and modern luxury. From the warm waters and 5-star resorts of Waikiki Beach to the dramatic mountain views of Nuuanu Pali Lookout, Oahu truly defines paradise.

Oahu means “Gathering Place.” That name seems so appropriate as the island, home to Disney’s new Aulani Resort, attracts more the 7.5 million visitors annually. Among the top attractions are The USS Memorial Visitor Center at Pearl Harbor Museum and the Hanauma Bay Nature Preserve.

Conde Nast readers voted Maui the “Best Island” for 17 straight years. Stroll through the seaside streets of Lahaina or the beaches of Kaanpali. Drive the scenic Road to Hana with 600 curves and 54 bridges.

On Kauai, try a hike along the Kalalau Trail. Hilo, located on the rainy side of the Big Island has beautiful rainforests, gardens and waterfalls. And Lanai is your escape from civilization with numerous dolphin sittings at Hulopoe Bay.

From the glimmering lights of the world’s entertainment capital to the secluded desert and mountain resorts, Nevada has something for everyone. Reno is called “America’s Adventure Place” in large measure for what can be done in town as opposed to out of town. The Riverwalk District is lined with chic shops, coffee houses, markets, a brewery, restaurants and more. Visitors can try whitewater kayaking along the Truckee River or simply watch during the Reno River Festival, the nation’s leading whitewater event.

In southern Nevada along the Colorado River is Laughlin, home to nine major casinos and resorts. Laughlin attracts three million visitors a year for gambling, river cruises, watercraft rentals, golf, ATVs and stunning desert scenery.


The bright lights of Las Vegas attract tens of millions of tourists and convention goers alike each year. The spectacular themed properties such as Caesars Palace and Paris Las Vegas are attractions by themselves. And while gaming is the biggest draw, Las Vegas is known for outstanding eateries, world-class entertainment, shopping and sporting events.  Las Vegas has over 155,000 hotel rooms — the largest collection of rooms in the world.

The iconic Caesars Palace at the corner of Las Vegas and Flamingo Blvd places visitors right in the center of all the action. This spectacular property has 26 restaurants and cafes, nightclubs, spas and arguably the best shopping experience on the Strip is at the Forum Shops.

On the opposite corner sits Bally’s connected by an indoor walkway to Paris Las Vegas. Both properties have all the flamboyance Las Vegas is known for, with their own unique flair. Bally’s has 2,800 hotel rooms and 175,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Paris has 140,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and 2,900 rooms. This dynamic combination can accommodate large events seamlessly.

Other great properties include Flamingo, Harrah’s, Imperial Palace and Planet Hollywood. Looking for an off strip property, try the Rio.


The “Land of Enchantment” and its capitol city of Santa Fe have some of the finest art galleries and museums in the United States. Santa Fe’s Canyon Road Fine Arts District and Georgia O’Keeffe Museum are two of the top destinations. Santa Fe has 325 days of sunshine each year, perfect for strolling the many art galleries and quaint shops.

Taos is known for skiing with four areas to choose from — Taos Ski Valley, Red River, Sipapu and Angel Fire. Nestled in the picturesque Mesilla Valley sits Las Cruces. Stop by the Las Cruces Museum of Art or the New Mexico Farm and Ranch Heritage Museum.

The largest city, Albuquerque is a great place to shop for Native American jewelry, experience hot air ballooning and living history museums. This family-friendly city has a wonderful zoo and a host of museums like Explora, a hands-on science discovery center.


From 1862-1920 over 50 all-Black towns were created, primarily in eastern Oklahoma. Native Americans and African-Americans lived side-by-side. Thirteen of those towns still exist including, Boley and Rentisville. Many have museums and heritage centers.

Tulsa was once home to “Black Wall Street,” a thriving African-American community of the early 20th Century that produced several millionaires. Visit the Greenwood District, to learn more about the era. The Oklahoma Jazz Hall of Fame, Greenwood Cultural Center and the Mabel B. Little Heritage Center are all in this neighborhood.

The heart of Oklahoma City’s Black business community is the Deep Deuce Historic District. OKC is also home to the Bricktown Entertainment District, Paseo Art District, The International Gymnastics Hall of Fame and the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum.


Physical descriptions of Oregon in travel brochures just aren’t adequate enough to describe this most majestic of American states. It’s a kaleidoscope of colors created by a spectacular coastline, volcanic mountains, crystal clear lakes and deserts that will stimulate your visual senses.

A drive along the 363-mile Pacific coastline with a camera could take you days to travel, as you’ll stop constantly for the next photo opportunity. Oregon has more natural scenic byways than any state in the country. It’s home to the deepest lake in the United States — Crater Lake and the deepest river gorge in the U.S. — Hells Canyon.

In the middle of the Willamette Valley sits Eugene, home to the University of Oregon. Eugene is known for outdoor recreational activities, especially bicycling, running/jogging, rafting and kayaking. Some refer to it as “Track Town USA” thanks to Nike, which had its beginnings here.

The Oregon Convention Center (OCC), on the banks of the Willamette River, downtown was the first convention center to earn the LEED® for Existing Buildings certification. In 2008, the facility was recertified at the Silver level, with a pledge to continually improve its environmental footprint.

The OCC is over 900,000 sq. ft. with 255,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space and 50 meeting rooms. The city has over 25,000 hotel rooms; 4,500 downtown. Leave space in your suitcases and take advantage of tax-free shopping. In addition to all the major retail outlets we’ve come to know, the downtown area features numerous chic boutiques, wine shops, sports stores and other fine outlets.

Portland’s historically Black Albina district features the former Golden West Hotel, the only lodging place open to African-Americans in the early part of the 20th Century. Visit art galleries and boutiques along Alberta Street. On the last Thursday of each month about 20 businesses host “Art of Alberta” from 6-9pm. For live entertainment, The Matt Dishman Community Center, is the home of the Afrikan American Ballet.

At the south end of the OCC stands a memorial to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. — a brass sculpture of King with a child, a worker and an immigrant. Portland’s top destination is the International Rose Test Garden, the oldest continuously operated public test garden in the United States with over 8,000 roses. Oregon Museum of Science and Industry and the Oregon Zoo are also a must.


Much of the early history of Texas takes place in and around San Antonio and the Alamo — the ultimate symbol of heroic struggle against impossible odds. The River Walk SeaWorld and the San Antonio Zoo are top attractions.

Along Sixth Street or the Warehouse District in Austin are an estimated one hundred live music options. The George Washington Carver Museum & Cultural Center were the first Black museums in the state.

Waco is home of the HBCU Paul Quinn College, Baylor University and the Cameron Park Zoo. In Dallas it’s the Dallas Arts District and the Juanita Craft Civil Rights House. Over in Ft. Worth visit the National Multicultural Heritage Museum (formerly the National Cowboys of Color Museum).

Plano is home to the Plano African American Museum. The Buffalo Soldiers National Museum in Houston claims to have the world’s largest collection of African-American military history. And Beaumont is where your taste buds come alive as Cajun cuisine, zesty Texas barbeque and authentic Mexican food all comes together for a unique culinary experience.

If you love films, world-class skiing and beautiful mountain retreats its Park City. In January the city plays host to the Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent cinema festival in the United States. The city has three main resort areas for year-round enjoyment — Canyon, Deer Valley and Park City Mountain.

Like Park City, Ogden has skiing, canoeing and other outdoor activities. North of Ogden is Golden Spike National Historic Site where four symbolic spikes, two of them gold, mark the completion of the transcontinental railroad and the end of the American frontier days.

Salt Lake City, host of the 2002 Winter Olympics has a wonderful array of entertainment options. Historians should visit the Fort Douglas Military Museum, built near the site where the Buffalo Soldiers served and many are buried.

From alternative rock and grunge, to jazz and underground hip-hop, music was, and still is one of Seattle’s gifts to the world. Multiple Grammy winners Quincy Jones Nirvana and Kenny G all grew up in Seattle.

But arguably the best guitarist of all time, Jimi Hendrix hails from Seattle and there are tributes all over town touting the accomplishments of this musical genius. Check out Jimi Hendrix: An Evolution of Sound at the EMP Museum. There are tons of live music venues in Seattle to choose from.

For Black history the Northwest African American Museum is a great place to start. The Seattle/Tacoma area is home base to Boeing. Take a tour of The Boeing Company/Future of Flight Aviation Center. Also The Museum of Flight has a rich collection of exhibits and programs. Spokane Falls and the 100-acre Riverfront Park are one of the best sight seeing attractions in the Pacific Northwest.

We hope we’ve provided you with the incentive necessary to take a serious look at the American West for your next vacation or meeting and convention. We couldn’t possibly give you all the great reasons to head west, so below are the names, phone numbers, and website to assist in exploring all of your options.

It’s time to open your horizons — get out there and experience what this great region has to offer.


Arizona Office of Tourism, (866) 275-5816 /
California Tourism, (877) 225-4367 /
Colorado Tourism, (800) Colorado /
Hawaii Tourism, (800) GoHawaii /
Nevada Commission on Tourism, (800) Nevada-8 /
New Mexico Tourism Department, (505) 877-7400 /
Oklahoma Tourism and Recreation Dept. , (800) 652-6552 /
Oregon Tourism Commission, (800) 547-7842 /
Texas Tourism Division, (512) 936-0101 /
Utah Travel Council, (800) 200-1160 /
Washington State Tourism, (800) 544-1800 /