For a meeting in California wine country without the high prices of more-famous destinations, look to the city of Fairfield. The hub-and-spoke destination is just 20 minutes from the rolling hillsides of Napa Valley, one of the most renowned wine regions in the world, and 45 minutes from major cities like Sacramento and San Francisco.
“We always tell people that we’re a great place to use as home base,” said Brianna Boyd, communications manager at Visit Fairfield. “People can come to Fairfield, stay in our hotels, and then they have all of these great travel opportunities just 45 minutes away.”
In addition to visiting Napa Valley, groups can also take advantage of Fairfield’s own spectacular wineries in the neighboring regions of Green Valley and Suisun Valley, also known as Napa’s Little Sister Sue. With 17 local wineries to choose from, visitors can follow winding, pastoral roads past fresh-produce stands and family-owned restaurants without the constant flow of traffic and the crowds that characterize other tourist hot spots.
“Our wine country is a wonderful hidden gem,” said Boyd. “We often joke that there is more traffic from squirrels, birds and bicyclists than cars.”
Major Meeting Venues
In downtown Fairfield, the Solano Event Center, with its Spanish Mission-style architecture, a spacious outdoor patio and a beautiful, lighted plaza fountain, creates an elegant backdrop for any event. With its 7,500 square feet of indoor event space along with an additional 11,000 square feet outside, the Solano can accommodate up to 300 guests.
At the Hilton Garden Inn, planners will find everything they need for their event in one location. The hotel features a garden courtyard, a grand ballroom and several other flexible meeting areas, a combined total of 11,712 square feet of meeting space. In addition, the hotel offers all-day nonalcoholic-beverage service and complimentary Wi-Fi.
Fairfield’s Courtyard by Marriot offers 5,845 square feet of meeting space, with seven event rooms and six possible breakout areas. As the largest event room, the ballroom can seat up to 310 guests theater style, making it an excellent location for a small banquet or trade show. Customizable menus are available from the on-site catering staff. Planners can block off 10 or more hotel rooms to receive a special group rate.
Based in the heart of the Suisun Valley, Vezér Family Vineyards is one of the region’s premier wineries and offers a wide range of event venues. Planners can host a 300-seat corporate dinner at the Ranch Estate Vineyard Lookout and Courtyard, which overlooks 31 acres of lush, countryside. The Mankas Legacy Barrel Room contains exclusive wine barrel reserves and has a large meeting table for up to 20 guests. Surrounded by palm trees and sweeping vineyards, the Blue Victorian Barrel Room offers a Victorian-style venue with broad, arching doorways; it accommodates up to 300 guests.
Fairfield is home to two prominent American companies: the Jelly Belly Candy Company and the Anheuser-Busch Brewery.
“Jelly Belly and Anheuser are what usually bring people to the area, and both offer great tours for visitors,” said Boyd.
Voted one of the top-10 tours in the United States by USA Today readers, the Jelly Belly Factory offers free, self-guided tours each day. During the visit, groups get the chance to learn how some of their favorite candies are made as they walk along an elevated path over the colorful production facility, where sweet scents of fruit, cinnamon and chocolate waft from more than 100 flavors of jelly beans. Along the way, guests can enjoy interactive exhibits and games that shed light on the craft of candymaking.
The Jelly Belly Visitors Center provides a one-of-a-kind off-site venue for banquets, training classes and more. The Grand Bean Room features 4,354 square feet of space and can seat up to 200 guests at round tables. There are three smaller conferences spaces — the Berry Blue Room, the Tangerine Room and the Very Cherry Room — each with around 1,000 square feet of space. Planners can tie a Jelly Belly theme to their event with vibrant decorations and table treats from the candy store. After the meeting, attendees can enjoy a Chocolate and Wine Experience, sampling some of the factory’s fresh chocolates as well as local Suisun Valley wines.
Another of Fairfield’s top attractions is the Anheuser-Busch Brewery, which brews classic beers such as Budweiser, Bud Light and Stella Artois. Planners can incorporate several unique brewery experiences into their meetings or events. The Beermaster Tour takes groups on an exclusive, behind-the-scenes tour of the Brew House, the Lager Cellar, the Packaging Facility and the Finishing Cellar, where guests can sample fresh beer straight from a finishing tank. In addition to the daily tours, the brewery features a specialty beer-tasting experience called Flights of Fairfield, where up to eight participants can learn about different beer ingredients and food pairings from an experienced Flight Master as they sample a selection of original Fairfield brews. Planners are welcome to rent the Anheuser-Busch Tasting Room for small after-hours gatherings.