Gorgeous views and stirring moments with nature are certainly memorable, but in Monterey County it goes deeper than that. Take the high-tech group from nearby Silicon Valley, who sought new ideas by touring a farm. Or the insurance group who talked business in a geodesic dome they set up on the beach.
“It’s all about inspiration,” says Scott Wilson, vice president of sales for the Monterey County Convention and Visitors Bureau. “Being in a field totally different from their own, it really spurred a lot of discussion as to how to apply what they saw.”
In Monterey County attendees have many opportunities to shake up their perspective. “There are so many neat cities around us, but we have such as variety of things here,” Wilson says.
Groups can meet at wineries and farms, on the beach or in one of many historic sites, such as the former home of Monterey author John Steinbeck. They can buy out venues like the Monterey Aquarium, Poppy Hills Golf Course and Wave Street Studios, a recording center. One of the most popular off-site activities is whale watching; Monterey gets cross migration of whales going both to Mexico and north to Alaska, so it’s the only place in the United States where whales can be seen year-round.
Smaller groups should check out Vision Quest Ranch, a.k.a. the Monterey Zoo, an animal sanctuary located in the Salinas Valley. The ranch offers safari-style educational programs, personalized tours and an animal training school. At night, groups will spend their nights wondering where the wild things are while glamping in luxury tent bungalows with canvas walls. The tents include bathrooms and many amenities, the ultimate one being a continental breakfast delivered every morning by staff and an African elephant.
The area’s plentiful traditional space includes the Monterey Conference Center, which connects to the Portola Hotel & Spa and the Monterey Marriott. The center offers 41,000 sf of flexible meeting and banquet space, which will get a $32 million upgrade scheduled for completion by 2016.-Kate McClare