Magazine Online    The Authority On African-American Conventions, Incentives, & Leisure Travel
Issue: March/April 2013
African-American Guide To Meetings, Incentives & Traveling In The West
By: Victoria Head
Whether visiting the neighborhoods and buildings made famous during Los Angeles-based movie making, gazing from your hotel window at a segment of the Las Vegas Strip in all its neon glory or standing in awe viewing the expansive natural wonders of a state or national park, the west is loaded with icons, variety and developments to entice. In the west, traveling from mountainous terrain to coastal beaches and then to the snow or dessert, can be accomplished in one day with a handy GPS and a good set of tires. From the mountain states – Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming, to the Pacific states - Alaska, California, Hawaii, Oregon, and Washington, one can find the best of the best in terms of state-of-the-art meeting facilities, world-famous hotels and resorts, entertainment and fascinating heritage sites.

Arizona, offers the engaging versatilities of desert, pine forests, canyons, mountain ranges, lakes and valleys. Group and leisure travelers alike enjoy this state’s vast natural beauty, engaging in everything from hiking and mountain biking, to downhill skiing or viewing the desert sky. The most famous state attractions include the Grand Canyon, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, Hoover Dam, Lake Mead, Fort Apache, and the reconstructed London Bridge at Lake Havasu City. However, the stunning desert setting of Arizona stands in rugged and delightful contrast to its sophisticated urban lifestyle. This Southwest state is well known as a premier meetings destination due to its pleasant year-round climate, urban flair and enticing value-added options and packages designed to maximize any budget.

Meeting facilities of all sizes can be found in Arizona, from the award winning High Country Convention Center and Hotel in Flagstaff, to the centrally positioned Centers in Tucson and Mesa and the famous Tempe Market Place.

Anybody and everybody can discover some of their favorite travel interests in Arizona’s capital City Phoenix, “The Valley of the Sun.” There’s lots to do to keep one busy with the Phoenix Zoo, Desert Botanical Gardens, countless designer fashion boutiques and the famous George Washington Carver Museum and Cultural Center. The center promotes appreciation and respect for people of African and African-American decent both in Arizona and worldwide. It’s housed in the former Phoenix Union Colored High School, where African-Americans attended during enforced segregation. The museum now features exhibits on African-American pioneers, families, athletes and soldiers, as well as religion in the African-American community. Getting around in Phoenix is made easy by way of the Valley Metro Light-Rail system, which is very inexpensive and takes one through the busiest streets of Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa.

Phoenix, the heart of the Sonoran Desert, offers the beautiful Southwest landscape and relaxed lifestyle, while its downtown district is the commerce and culture capital with a variety of urban discoveries. There are major sports stadiums, the Arizona State University and entertainment venues such as the Dodge Theatre, Orpheum Theatre and Phoenix Symphony Hall. The Sheraton Downtown Phoenix, Hyatt Regency and Wyndham Phoenix are also known for holding spectacular meetings and upscale events. There are great performing arts venues, hip shops and restaurants, anchored by the new Phoenix City Scape – a dinning and retail mecca that occupies two square city blocks. Several hotels within walking distance of the 24-acre Phoenix Convention Center can be found. The center has been has been hosting national and regional conventions and trade shows as well as consumer events and theatrical productions since it opened in 1972. For foodies, the word is, “don’t miss” Mrs. White's Golden Rule Café or Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles restaurants for real down-home cooking.
California is the Golden state many rush to when seeking the world-famous attractions; from the beauty and tranquility of Yosemite to the joy and thrills of Disneyland, there is a lot to be found, including some of the most diverse hidden gems around. The hardest part about California is selecting a region since entertainment, outdoor activities and group attractions are famed from the rolling city hills of San Francisco, to San Diego’s 70 miles of majestic coastline. Globally recognized as much for being a beach capital, an environmental awareness hub and cultural hot spot for young Hollywood, the golden state of California offers the ultimate in possibilities. All the regions of California make it as varied as it is intriguing, and offers a wide variety of culture, meetings possibilities and landscapes.

San Diego is the second largest city in California and the blue skies keep watch over 70 miles of majestic coastline and a gentle Mediterranean climate. Bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Anza-Borrego Desert and the Laguna Mountains to the east, and Mexico to the south, the diverse neighborhoods of San Diego are spread out over 4,200 square miles, offering endless opportunities for exploration and activities. Travelers can spend a day relaxing in one of the many beach communities or hiking in the east San Diego County Mountains. Other favorite pastimes include exploring the urban neighborhoods of San Diego’s downtown, from the iconic Gaslamp District to the eclectic community of Hillcrest; there is also the quaint and charming island town of Coronado. San Diego’s regions are so unique and diverse; there are plenty of options to discover. Meeting planners find that it's hard to beat the world-class San Diego Convention Center. The 2.6 million-sq. ft. facility is located downtown along the waterfront near 11,000 first-class hotel rooms, the best restaurants, entertainment, shopping, and an airport just three miles away.

Dinning on the regal Queen Mary docked at Long Beach’s port, experiencing spectacular stirring Broadway shows, enjoying live music venues and hundreds of exclusive dining destinations — all centrally located, Long Beach, CA has it all. Within conveniently close proximity you can find first-class accommodations, shopping, numerous entertainment options and more than 100 restaurants in an eight-block area. To get around Long Beach easily, you’ll want to utilize the free Passport shuttle downtown; then, for only $1.25, the Passport links you up with local destinations such as Belmont Shore, Alamitos Bay and Cal State Long Beach. You can also navigate the Long Beach Harbor via AquaBus and/or AquaLink. World-class arts and cultural exhibitions complement this spectacular seaside locale. There are musical masterpieces at the waterside Long Beach Performing Arts Center, million-dollar ocean views atop the bluffs at the Museum of Art within the historic Craftsman mansion, and the dynamic culture of the eclectic East Village Arts District.

Many plan their visit to Long Beach to sync up with the Aquarium of the Pacific’s African-American Festival; an annual February event featuring live gospel singers, hip hop music, ethnic food, storytelling, drum circles, jazz, as well as African music and dance. For those attending a meeting or Convention at the award winning Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center (LBCEE), you’ll be glad to know that recently over $75 million has been spent in hotel and convention center renovations at this award winning facility. The LBCEE offers more than 400,000 sq. ft. of meeting and exhibit space, with new wiring for the latest technology, as well as wireless capability. The center has incorporated the new model for contemporary convention centers into its renovation efforts; transforming it from traditional, meeting rooms into more comfortable lounges aimed at encouraging people to mingle and ideas to flow. It now provides a warm, stylish and welcoming social experience for guests with mini meeting spots and networking pods for sitting, talking and socializing.

San Jose is amongst the easiest cities to navigate. Those flying into San Jose arrive via Mineta San Jose International Airport, which is most convenient and located only five minutes from downtown. Once downtown, guests find the area very walkable with accessible train, bus and light rail services. Tucked away in San Jose’s Rose Garden neighborhood is the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium, housing a replica of an Egyptian temple and a restored planetarium, as well as a landscaping scheme that evokes the feeling of an ancient Egyptian garden. Those seeking more daring ventures, make it a point to add Great America to their itinerary with its amusement park rides and waterpark, as well as Raging Waters — Northern California’s largest water park.

Three thousand of San Jose’s hotel rooms are within walking distance or a short light rail ride away, along with dozens of restaurants, museums, theaters and events at the San Jose Convention Center. The Convention Center has 143,000 sq. ft. of column-free exhibit space, with room for 800 10' x 10' booths; a 22,000-sq. ft. ballroom; as many as 31 meeting rooms with capacities from 50 to 2,400 in theater-style seating; and banquet seating and kitchen facilities for 5,000.

Los Angeles, one of the most famous cities in the world for its glitz and glam, star studded streets and a ranch, which transformed into the historical center of film studios and starlets — Hollywood. One of the best ways to experience Los Angeles is by visiting its cultural attractions; the LA Philharmonic at Walt Disney Concert Hall; outdoor performances at the Hollywood Bowl; the stunning Getty Center in Brentwood and the California African-American Museum to name a few. Leisure travelers and meeting planners alike enjoy scheduling their arrival to LA around a Lakers or Clippers game at the world famous Staples Center or during one of the city’s famous events like the UCLA Jazz & Reggae Festival, Juneteenth Celebration or Hollywood Black Film Festival. Other “must sees” are the world-famous LA beaches – Venice, Malibu, Zuma and the Santa Monica Pier will not disappoint. In the heart of all the action is the LA Convention Center, located downtown. Flying into LA can be done via the Burbank Bob Hope Airport and of course, Los Angeles International Airport, the gateway to the city.

Located in the Rocky Mountain region of the country, Colorado has a number of natural marvels. Waterfalls are one of the state’s best sites; some are small, trickling gently down the rocks of a scenic trail, while others are grand and a destination unto themselves. Among those that captivate is the breathtaking Ouzel Falls which has a drop of more than 40 ft.; the Fish Creek Falls, best witnessed in early spring when the snow begins to melt and the rushing water thunders over the cliffs; and the Bridal Veil Falls, Colorado’s tallest waterfall which plummets 365 ft. in grandeur. In the city of Aspen/Snowmass fun happens all year long; winter outdoor concerts are ongoing in this trendy ski town known for its celebrities and liberal politics. Vail has an amazing itinerary of skiers in the winter, but is also well known for its summer outdoor sports races and world class concerts, food and dining events.

In the city of Denver 24-hour casinos lay tucked amongst historic mining towns. Many are greatly surprised by the climate as the sun shines more than 300 days a year. In the winter months, the temperature averages about 50 degrees, and in the summer, the average daily high is a mild 86º F. These enjoyable temperatures make discovering downtown Denver a delight. A most walkable and visitor-friendly area, it hosts 8,400 hotel rooms with the majority of them conveniently located near the Colorado Convention Center. The Center has 584,000 sq. ft. of exhibit space on one level; 63 meeting rooms, two ball rooms totaling 85,000 sq. ft., a 5,000-fixed-seat theater and 1,000 parking spaces.

Diversity is celebrated in this energizing metropolis as many African-Americans and their contributions are evident throughout the City and County of Denver in business, culture, and government. One of the best ways to explore African-American cultural influences in Denver is to visit the historic Five Points neighborhood, an area steeped in classic jazz history and still home to several first-rate jazz clubs. Easily accessible on foot, by car or by Light Rail, this neighborhood was one of the nation’s first business districts to be predominantly African-American owned. Considered the “Harlem of the West” in the early 20th Century, many of the world’s greatest jazz musicians played here, including Billie Holiday, Duke Ellington, Miles Davis and others. Just blocks from the city center, you’ll find the impressive Blair-Caldwell African-American Research Library and a short walk from there is the Black American West Museum & Heritage Center; The center details the contributions Blacks made to the settlement of the American West.

There's plenty to do in Nevada for all types of travelers. The state has more than 100 beautifully well-manicured golf courses; there’s tubing and kayaking in downtown Reno on the Truckee River and relaxing by the shores of Lake Tahoe. Reno Tahoe offers nonstop service from approximately 120 daily arrivals and departures at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, making it easily accessible. The city also provides a first-tier experience without the expense and red tape of a large metropolitan area. The region boast 20,000 hotel rooms near the 500,000-sq. ft. Reno-Sparks Convention Center and Reno Events Center, as well as hosts of other amazing group facilities. Laughlin is situated on a slice of land in the Colorado River Valley, where Nevada, California and Arizona converge. Within the past few decades, this city has earned its rank among tourist and gaming hot spots. With nine major hotel and casino resorts located right on the Colorado River, there is easy access to river activities like fishing, cruising and jet skiing.

When it comes to staying and playing in Las Vegas, your choices can range from a high-roller suite in a luxury Las Vegas hotel to a rustic family dude ranch on the outskirts of the city. Las Vegas hotels range from Paris to New York themes and from one end of the strip to the edge of the town’s borders. This city is widely known as the world's premier meeting and convention destination, with more meeting space than any other city on the globe. Be it an intimate poolside mixer, a lavish banquet for 10,000 people or a major international convention, Las Vegas provides the most complete, flexible and extensive facilities and services. Off the strip, the Las Vegas Convention Center has 2,182,167 sq. ft. of meeting space.

This almost always sunny state offers a plethora of recreational activities: tennis courts, softball fields, skateboard and in-line skate parks, public swimming pools and oh yes, golf courses. The Centrally located city of Albuquerque received the only five-star rating from Golf Digest’s readers for its Southwest Paa-Ko Ridge Golf Course,. Located at the southern tip of the state, Las Cruces is a city rich in history, culture and hospitality. Outdoor recreation is a way of life with golf courses and touring its many vineyards a favorite pastime. The town of Taos is one of the countries undiscovered American treasures. Filled with 1,100 years of history, culture, ancient society and art, much of it can be seen at the historic Plaza. Just south of Taos, world-class hotels to luxurious resorts, elegant to casual bed and breakfasts and vacation rentals abound in Santa Fe .

From urban hot spots like Oklahoma City’s Bricktown Entertainment District and Paseo Arts District to entertainment hubs like Tulsa’s Blue Dome District, nightlife is never hard to come by in Oklahoma. Take the time to ride a water taxi along the downtown canal or enjoy the nightlife havens nestled within the area's famous art deco architecture. Recently completed expansion and renovations to the OKC Airport have made traveling by air to OKC easier than ever before. Downtown Oklahoma City offers a number of hotels that are just steps away the Cox Convention Center. Tulsa, Oklahoma's second-largest city is a haven of Southern comfort and cosmopolitan style. T-Town is home of the highly-rated Tulsa Zoo, while the city's Arkansas River trails and outdoor recreation areas offer outdoor respites from all the urban excitement.

The Northwest state of Oregon features rugged rocky coastlines, dense forests, fun cities, mountains, deep canyons, as well as desert in its southeastern part. As the harbinger of America's westward expansion, the Oregon Trail was the initial pathway to the Pacific for fur traders and gold seekers. Though forest has taken over most of the trail, it continues to attract history seekers and nature buffs. As the second-largest airport in Oregon, the Eugene Airport generates over 740,000 trips annually, with service to Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Oakland, Honolulu, Phoenix, Portland, Salt Lake City, San Francisco and Seattle. The Eugene Airport is only 15 minutes from downtown which is well-known for being bike-friendly, has an excellent public bus system and has been designated a Gold Level "Walk Friendly Community."

Set against the backdrop of majestic Mount Hood, Portland combines a sophisticated, cosmopolitan atmosphere with refreshingly friendly, small-town warmth that makes it a natural for tours of all types. The Portland International Airport is the only international port of entry for Oregon. Business and group travelers find the Oregon Convention Center (OCC) highly experienced in hosting a variety of events – from conventions and trade shows to corporate meetings and parties. They are recognized industry-wide for their expertise in green meeting planning and the facility boasts two grand ballrooms, 50 meeting rooms, 255,000 sq. ft. of contiguous exhibit space, superior concession and catering enough to handle events from 10 to 10,000. In the month of February, many converge on the city to enjoy the annual Portland Jazz Festival.

Portland’s historic Mississippi Avenue thrives on a rich and diverse history that expresses itself in an inspiring community of businesses, homes, and neighbors. Today, N. Mississippi is one of the most diverse neighborhoods in Oregon. Businesses are largely local and independent, and the result is a creative mix of boutiques and shops, music venues, wellness practitioners, restaurants and coffee shops, bars and breweries, and more; it’s a unique neighborhood of creative spirit.


When thinking of great beach destinations, Texas doesn’t always spring to mind; Barbecue, boots, big hats, but not Bikinis. However, Texas’ Gulf region expands over 600 miles of coastline, lined with seaside towns, incredible views and beaches. Where there are beaches, music can’t be far away. Austin, Texas bills itself as the "Live Music Capital of the World" and has nearly 200 live music venues around the city. When traveling to Austin, it’s delightful to find yourself being entertained with live music while walking through the terminal at Austin's airport. Austin has the music, but no other city boasts such an unmistakable mix of preserved Western heritage and unrivaled artistic offerings as Fort Worth. The city of Dallas is well known for it’s vast African-American community that is central to the city's cultural experience, while the world-famous River Walk is one of the top visitor destinations in Texas and a cornerstone of San Antonio’s robust meetings industry.

The state of Utah is a paradise for outdoor lovers; from the National Parks, ski resorts and golf courses to beautiful Park City and the historic Temple Square. Ogden has become known as THE spot for winter sports! With three world-class ski resorts 20 minutes from downtown and 450 inches of powdery snow each season, there are many opportunities for adventure. Ogden is conveniently located just 45 minutes from an international airport and offers endless venue options including a stunning conference center, mountain lodges and team building facilities to ensure the makings of a great event. In Park City, 35 minutes from the Salt Lake International Airport, many families gather for annual reunions and to experience world-class golf courses, lift-served mountain biking, hiking trails and horseback riding. Salt Lake City has a large variety of family activities from Zoos & Gardens, casinos, historic sites, theme and water parks, as well as galleries and museums.

The lovely state of Washington, with its high desert country, abundant valleys and rolling Pacific Ocean beaches, cause some to burst into a rendition of "America, the Beautiful." However, the state continues to paint the fuller picture as it also possesses vibrant urban centers and communities, fine dining and cultural happenings throughout the year. In Seattle, visitors and locals alike can enjoy freedom from driving, parking and traffic, since using the public transportation in this city is delightful. There are free downtown buses, the monorail, the West Seattle Water Taxi, and Light Rail In Tacoma, meeting planners can’t go wrong with their great selection of venues, hotels and attractions. The city can accommodate meetings and budgets of all sizes with over 1,900 hotel rooms and plenty of meeting space. In Spokane you’ll find eclectic arts and an entertainment district; its downtown is 100 acres of fun with attractions including a Giant Screen IMAX Theatre and a gondola sky-ride over the falls.