Wish You Were Here
Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel

OAKLAND

A founding member of one of America’s most famous Black activist organizations leads Oakland’s Black Panther Legacy tour, offering an insider’s view of the group’s impact on the community. The Northern California Council of Black Professional Engineers sponsors the Museum of African American Technology Science Village, which houses exhibits on Black inventors, scientists and engineers. Two other notable local Black heritage attractions are the Ebony Museum of Art and the African American Museum & Library at Oakland.
In historic Old Oakland, restored Victorian structures now hold shops, galleries and restaurants, and there’s more shopping and dining on tap at places like College Avenue, Piedmont Avenue and Monclair Village. Jack London Square offers shopping, waterfront dining, live jazz and tours of the USS Potomac — President Franklin Delano’s Roosevelt’s “Floating White House.”
Kids should enjoy the new interactive exhibit at the Chabot Space & Science Center called “Beyond Blastoff: Surviving in Space,” or seeing one of the center’s live, Saturday afternoon planetarium shows.  Other options for family outings include the Oakland Museum of California, where you can walk on a giant map of the state; the city’s 25-block Chinatown; and Lake Merritt, which has a variety of recreational amenities.

PASADENA

One of Pasadena’s best-known attractions, the Gamble House, will turn 100 years old in 2008. The city is planning a series of special events to celebrate the centennial of this national landmark, which is regarded as one of the nation’s best-preserved examples of Craftsman architecture. Besides taking a tour of the home, you can also book space there for small events.

A number of other historical, cultural and recreational sites in Pasadena can also accommodate group gatherings. The list includes the Armory Center for the Arts in Old Pasadena; Kidspace Children’s Museum; the Pasadena Historical Museum Castle Green, a turn-of-the-century Victorian structure; the Court of Champions at the famous Rose Bowl; and the rooftop terrace at the Pasadena Museum of California Art.  Paseo Colorado, a three-block, open-air village in downtown Pasadena, provides a charming Mediterranean-style outdoor setting for events, with views of the San Gabriel Mountains in the background. The Pacific Asia Museum, with its recently renovated courtyard garden and new Korean Gallery, also offers event space, as does the Huntington Library, Art Collections and Botanical Gardens, which opens a new 4.5-acre Chinese garden in February 2008 as the first phase of an $18 million upgrade.

Two new Pasadena shopping tours are now available, courtesy of the Pasadena Convention & Visitors Bureau and Urban Shopping Ventures. You can choose “Shop Paseo Colorado” or “Shop Old Pasadena.” Other local shopping venues include the Playhouse District — home to the renowned Pasadena Playhouse — and South Lake Avenue.

The Pasadena Convention Center is undergoing a $121.6 million expansion that is targeted for completion by spring 2009. The enlarged facility will have 85,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 28 breakout rooms and a new 25,000-sq.ft. ballroom.

Pasadena has a total of 2,500 guestrooms and five major hotels, including four within walking distance of the convention center.

SAN DIEGO

If you visit Old Town San Diego State Historic Park, you’ll come upon the Light-Freeman House, home of two African-American businessmen who ran a saloon and provision store. Other sites highlighting local Black history and culture include Bethel A.M.E. Church, founded in 1897; the Julian Hotel, which was built by a former slave; and the Charles Rucker Gallery.

The historic district known as the Gaslamp Quarter is filled with restaurants, art galleries and boutiques. America’s oldest active tall ship, the (i)Star of India(ei), is docked at the Maritime Museum of San Diego, while another attraction showcasing the city’s maritime history is the San Diego Aircraft Carrier Museum at Navy Pier. 

Groups traveling with kids will want to check out the ever-popular SeaWorld San Diego, where Shamu the whale welcomes and entertains visitors, and the acclaimed San Diego Zoo, where narrated bus tours, aerial tram rides and audio tours help visitors navigate the more than 100 acres housing 4,000 animals.

Other options for your group’s leisure include a trip to LEGOLAND California theme park, a tour of Whaley House Museum — which some call the “most haunted house in America” — and a ferry ride to the Island of Coronado.

COLORADO

The Barney Ford House Museum in Breckenridge was the home of the city’s first Black businessman, an escaped slave who became a wealthy investor. When it was built, Ford’s home was considered to be the finest in town, and he is regarded as Colorado’s first major African-American leader.

Breckinridge is one of several popular ski resorts in Colorado, all of which offer year-round recreational and cultural activities. Notable attractions include the Aspen Art Museum in Aspen, the shops and restaurants at Keystone Village in Keystone and the Colorado Ski Museum in Vail.

Colorado Springs visitors can check out the Rocky Mountain Dinosaur Resource Center in Woodland Park, while those in Boulder might wish to browse the no-charge Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art. After a day of winter outdoor adventure in Steamboat Springs, a dip into one of the hot springs that lend the resort its name might be just the thing.

DENVER

During the 1930s and ‘40s, Charlie Parker, Duke Ellington, Lionel Hampton and great musicians performed the jazz clubs of Denver’s Five Points neighborhood, which was founded in the 1860s.

The area also is home to the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center,  whose exhibits on Black pioneers, cowboys and Buffalo Soldiers are housed the former home of Dr. Justina Ford, Denver’s first Black doctor. Other notable attractions in Five Points include the Stiles African American Heritage Center, the Blair-Caldwell African American Research Library, the Cleo Parker Robinson Dance Ensemble Studios and the Roundtree Art Center.

A recent addition to the Denver Museum Art is the first U.S. project of world-famous architect Daniel Libeskind. The museum is noted for its collection of Native American art works.  The new facility of the Museum of Contemporary Art/Denver, designed by Tanzania-born architect David Adjaye, is set in LoDo — short for “Lower Downtown” — a popular hangout dotted with galleries, restaurants and pubs. The Denver Performing Arts Complex and the Center for American Theatre at Elitch Gardens, based at Denver’s oldest theater, have each completed multi-million-dollar upgrades recently.

Coors Brewery — the world’s largest single brewing site — offers free tours, as does the Anheuser-Busch Brewery in nearby Fort Collins. Berkeley Park, Highlands and Old South Gaylord are three of the city’s favorite shopping haunts.

On a free tour of the Colorado State Capitol, you can view the a 24-karat gold leaf dome, the indoor wainscoting that used up the entire world’s supply of Colorado onyx, and the west staircase containing the step that marks the exact one-mile-high level that gives the city its nickname.

The Colorado Convention Center contains 584,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space on one level, 63 meeting rooms and two large ballrooms.  There are 7,300 hotel rooms within walking distance of the convention center.

HAWAII

Three resorts in the Aloha State recently nabbed the prestigious AAA Five Diamond Award: the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua and the Four Seasons Resort at Wailea on Maui, and the Four Seasons Resort Hualalai at Historica Ka’upulehu on the Big Island.

Maui’s Kapalua resort area has a new attraction for the active traveler called the Kapulua Adventure Mountain Outpost.

One of the newest tourism developments on Kauai, known as “the Garden Isle,” is the Waipouli Beach Resort on the Coconut Coast. 

Oahu, home to Honolulu, Hawaii’s capital and largest city, is also the site of Hawaii’s most visited attractions, including the beaches of Waikiki and the Polynesian Cultural Center. Adventurous climbers to the top of the 760-ft. volcano Diamond Head will be rewarded with spectacular views..

Visitors can now see Hawaii’s three most popular islands on one trip by taking advantage of the Hawaii Superferry’s daily ferry service from Oahu to Kauai and Maui.

NEVADA

With more than 300 mountain ranges and peaks, America’s most mountainous state offers a wide range of alpine adventure, from skiing to hiking and mountain biking. Nevada’s Reno-Tahoe area contains the largest concentration of ski and snowboard resorts and North America.

The resort areas surrounding Lake Tahoe, the nation’s highest alpine lake, have the Sierra Nevada Mountains behind them, providing more than 180 ski trails. Other Lake Tahoe area diversions include six casinos, the shops and restaurants of Incline Village and the view from the Mount Kove Overlook.

An hour from Lake Tahoe sits Reno, the state’s second largest metro area, where casino gaming, golfing, kayaking on the Truckee River and exploring the downtown Truckee River Arts District are among the favorite things to do. One particularly interesting cultural and architectural landmark is the Nevada Museum of Art.  Its design was inspired by Nevada’s Black Rock Desert.

LAS VEGAS

The short-lived Moulin Rouge Hotel, which provided the setting for the Academy Award-nominated movie “Casino,” was founded in May 1955 as the city’s first major integrated hotel. Before then, African-American entertainers had to stay overnight in Black boarding houses. Though the Moulin Rouge closed just six months after it opened, in 1960 it held a meeting between local hotel owners and Black leaders that led to the integration of Las Vegas hotels and the avoidance of a planned protest march.

Today, visitors can get a glimpse of Las Vegas’ multicultural heritage at places like the Walker African-American Museum, the Hispanic Museum of Nevada, the Asian-Pacific Cultural Center and the Lost City Museum, which houses Native American artifacts.

The city’s casino resorts offer an assortment of entertainment that goes far beyond gaming — from live shows by top acts to museums, amusement parks and shopping centers.  Besides the famous Las Vegas Strip — the U.S. government’s only All-American Road chosen for its after-dark scenery — another must-see attraction is the Fremont Street Experience, which features a four-block canopy covered with 16 million lights and free nightly LED shows.  It is also home to Fitzgeralds Casino, the city’s only Black-owned casino, offering 638 guestrooms and an inventory of flexible meeting and event space.

A planned $890 million upgrade of the Las Convention Center has been targeted for completion by 2010.


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