Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: February/March 2008
African American Guide To Meeting, Incentives and Traveling in the West
By: Sonya Stinson
From cowboys to movie stars, African-Americans have been part of the history and culture of the American West. But beyond the big frontiers and the big screen, the African-American presence has made an impact in a variety of places in the region, including some you might not expect.

California’s San Joaquin Valley is home to Colonel Allensworth State Historic Park, the site of a farming community founded in 1908 by a former slave who became an Army chaplain, educator and orator.  In Utah, a state whose Black heritage may not readily come to mind, Buffalo Soldiers served at two notable military posts: Fort Duchesne and Fort Douglas.

Besides a wide range of attractions that are preserving and continuing the heritage of African-Americans in the West, visitors will find places that showcase the contributions of other groups who make up the region’s diverse tapestry of people.

The Western landscape also makes for a rich and varied scene, from Pacific coastline to prairie land, from rugged mountains to rolling hills.  Add an abundance of recreational opportunities and a broad array of lodging and meeting accommodations, and you’ve got plenty of reasons to go West when planning a meeting or incentive trip.


Long known as a mecca for golf enthusiasts, Arizona recently gained more bragging rights when the International Association of Golf Tour Operators named it the number one golf destination in North America in December 2007.

Even for those who don’t get excited about the greens, there are plenty of interesting diversions throughout the state. Flagstaff, in addition to being the gateway to the Grand Canyon, is home to the state’s first distillery, Arizona High Spirits, which offers tours.

Arizona’s largest arts and entertainment complex is the Mesa Arts Center, its design inspired by the Sonoran Desert.  In Scottsdale, a notable attraction is the Heard Museum North Scottsdale, which opened at its new location last June.  One of the main tourist draws in Tempe is the new lakeside Tempe Center for the Arts.

History buffs visiting Tucson might enjoy a visit to the Mission San Xavier del Bac, while one of Yuma’s most popular historical attractions is Yuma Territorial Prison State Park.


A tour of Phoenix’s African American Cultural Trail will introduce visitors to sites such as the Helen K. Mason Center for the Performing Arts, home base where the Black Theatre Troup performs; the George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center, housed in the former Phoenix Union Colored High School; the Eastlake Park Civil Rights Memorial; the Tanner Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church, the oldest Black church in Phoenix; Booker T. Washington School Memorial Room, at the city’s first all-Black elementary school; and the historic Swindall House.

Other notable attractions include the recently expanded Phoenix Art Museum, the renowned Heard Museum — which spotlights Native American art and culture — the Arizona Capitol Museum, and the Arizona Doll & Toy Museum and Arizona Science Center in Heritage & Science Park. Arizona’s Pioneer the Past attraction offers a great option for teambuilding: groups of up to 1,200 can pick from a list of activities that includes Wild West Olympics, Sports Olympics, Cowboy Games and more.

Those who love the game of shopping can head for Biltmore Fashion Mall or Heritage Square, where many old homes have been converted to retail stores and restaurants.

The completion of phase one of the Phoenix Convention Center’s  $600 million expansion has added the new West Building with 62,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 48,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and a 45,000+ sq. ft. ballroom was completed last July.  Phase two will replace the existing North Building with one containing a 310,000-sq.ft. exhibition hall, 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space and a 50,000-sq. ft. ballroom. It’s expected to be finished by the fall of 2008 and ready to take on group events by January 2009.

With more than 55,000 guestrooms in Greater Phoenix, lodging options are plentiful.


In California’s capital city, the 40 Acres Art Gallery & Cultural Center exhibits the works of African-American artists and promotes Black culture. Along with its famous bayside scenery, San Francisco boasts a unique U.S. cultural asset: the African American Shakespeare Company.

Besides these and many other Black heritage attractions throughout the state, you’ll find a host of other cultural and recreational amenities. Northern California’s Tahoe North resort area, for example, offers hiking, horseback riding, kayaking, skiing and more. San Jose, capital of the Silicon Valley, is the perfect site for the Tech Museum of Innovation.  In Fresno, you can explore 90 rooms of nature at the Forestiere Underground Gardens.

A trip to Southern California brings a chance to check out Anaheim’s perennial favorite Disneyland and new Anaheim Garden Walk, the trendy art galleries and boutiques of Beverly Hills, the water adventures and cultural amenities of Newport Beach, or the world-class museums and luxurious spas in Palm Springs.


One of the most popular attractions in Long Beach, the Aquarium of the Pacific on Queensway Bay, will unveil a new environmental exhibition, classroom and garden facility in November 2008 that will be the city’s first building to have a LEED platinum rating for “green” design.

The famous (i)RMS Queen Mary(ei)  —a former World War II troopship and Atlantic luxury liner that is now a museum and hotel offering stateroom and themed tours like the Ghosts and Legends experience — is docked at Long Beach, next to a Russian submarine called The Scorpion.  For your own excursion on the sea, you can board a gondola and ride through the canals on Naples Island, go sailing in Alamitos Bay, or take a Catamaran cruise to Catalina Island for a day of snorkeling, nature preserve exploring and sightseeing.

Top local cultural and historical attractions include Shoreline Village, a recreation of an old California seaport; the Museum of Latin America Art; Ranchos Los Alamitos and Lost Cerritos; and the newly expanded Long Beach Museum of Art, where the views of the art works inside are rivaled by the magnificent outdoor vistas overlooking the Pacific Ocean from the top of Bluff Park. 

Shoreline Village and the Pike at Rainbow Harbor are two shopping hot spots within walking distance of the Aquarium, while Belmont Shore offers another shopping option. Long Beach Transit provides free Passport shuttle buses to many popular area attractions.

The Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center offers more than 300,000 sq. ft. of exhibit and meeting space. The city has over 5,000 guestrooms, including more than 2,000 rooms within walking distance of the convention center. Only 20 miles south of Los Angeles, Long Beach is also easily accessible by air.


If you go to Los Angeles, you can see the iconic Dunbar Hotel, which hosted many Black jazz musicians and other famous guests during the ‘30s, ‘40s, and ‘50s. Another notable historic building is Second Baptist Church, which the renowned African-American architect Paul Williams designed in 1925. The church’s original congregation was established in 1885.

Williams also designed some of the grand dwellings you might see on a tour of Hollywood homes, and his own former home is located in the gated community of Lafayette Square. The list of local Black heritage attractions also includes the Biddy Mason Memorial, dedicated to a woman who arrived in the City of Angels as a slave and became a landowner and philanthropist; the California African American Museum in Exposition Park; the Sugar Hill and West Adams neighborhoods, home to many Black entertainers from the 1920s through the ‘40s;  and Leimert Park Village, an area filled with galleries, boutiques and museums.

One of the newest and most outstanding venues for live entertainment in Los Angeles is the NOKIA Theatre, part of the ongoing $2.5 billion L.A. LIVE downtown redevelopment project. Containing the largest stage in Southern California, 7,100 seats, and 235,000 sq. ft. of flexible space, the theatre hosts the Latin Grammy® Awards and the ESPY Awards as well as meetings and other group events.

            Another focal point of development in L.A. Live is the long awaited convention center hotel under development.  The JW Marriott and The Ritz-Carlton will become the area’s Iconic 54-story structure offering a combined 1,001 guest rooms as well as 70,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including one of the largest ballrooms in Southern California with the capability of serving 3,000 seated guests.  The property’s tower will also include 224 luxury Ritz Residence condominiums on its uppermost floors

The Los Angeles Convention Center offers 720,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space, 147,000 sq. ft. of meeting space in 64 rooms, and a 299-seat presentation theater. The city has more than 92,000 hotel rooms, including 3,500 committable rooms downtown.

With more airports in the Los Angeles metro area than any other major city in the world, it’s easy to get there — and the 25-cent DASH shuttle bus makes it easy and inexpensive to get around downtown once you arrive.