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The Group Travel Leader Going on Faith Select Traveler

No shortage of good options in Long Beach

Courtesy Long Beach CVB

Where is Long Beach, Calif.?
Long Beach (pop. 465,000) is 20 miles south of downtown Los Angeles, within 30 minutes of Hollywood, Universal Studios and Disneyland.

How do I get there?
Three airports serve the city: Los Angeles International, 23 miles north; the Orange County/John Wayne Airport, 27 miles south; and the Long Beach Airport, 10 minutes from downtown. Long Beach Transit, LA Metro and Orange County Transit provide bus service in Greater Los Angeles and Orange County.

What types of meetings best suit Long Beach?
Accessibility is a major selling point. For one, 20 million people live within 200 miles of Long Beach, a huge potential audience for events. Three airports further enhance access. The city is also easy to navigate, voted the eighth most-walkable in America by There are plenty of hotels — 17 downtown with a total of 3,301 rooms, most within walking distance of the convention center. Four Long Beach Airport area hotels have a total of 882 rooms.

What’s new?
• The Long Beach Airport is getting a new parking structure, gates and a concourse with a central garden. The $136 million project should be completed in 2013 and will preserve the style of the 1940s Art Deco-style terminal.

• About $8 million in upgrades is on tap for the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center. Among the improvements are mini pods of furniture where attendees can network and relax.

• Long Beach, already one of the country’s best cities for bicyclists, will roll out a Bike Share program this year. With the swipe of a credit card, bikes can be rented at downtown hotels and attractions.

• More than $40 million in renovations is planned or under way at hotels, including $21 million at the Hyatt Regency Long Beach and $10 million each at the Westin Long Beach and the Long Beach Marriott.

Describe the main meeting and event venues.
• The Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center’s 400,000 square feet of meeting space includes not only exhibit halls and meeting rooms but several outdoor areas, such as a promenade in front of the center and a plaza with a fountain lit by colorful LED lights. Two theaters — the 3,000-seat Terrace and the 800-seat Center — can accommodate keynote speakers, awards ceremonies and general sessions.

• Step back to the day when transatlantic travel meant going by sea on the RMS Queen Mary. Permanently moored in Long Beach, the grand ship is now a hotel, a restaurant, a shopping center and a special-events hub. Many first-class public rooms are available for meetings, receptions and dinners.

• For artful events, the Museum of Latin American Art’s sculpture garden is often used for dinners and receptions. Its perch on a seaside bluff overlooking the Pacific makes the Long Beach Museum of Art popular for events.

For a true taste of Long Beach…
• For a panoramic view of Rainbow Harbor, Queensway Bay and the RMS Queen Mary, try Parker’s Lighthouse Restaurant and Queensview Steakhouse. Parker’s Lighthouse has indoor and patio seating; Queensview is on the third floor and has a 360-degree view.

• For a slice of Paris, order the garlic french fries and savory crepes at the Belmont Shore neighborhood’s La Creperie Cafe and Bohemian Bistro and Bar.

• Chefs trained in China turn out regional dishes at the Forbidden City Chinese Restaurant on the canal in the Marina Pacifica neighborhood.

Tell me about some extra-special 
services offered by the convention bureau.
• Before the National Square Dance Convention came to town in 2009, the Long Beach CVB worked with event organizers to create an online trivia contest to build attendance. Prizes, including all-expenses-paid trips to the convention, were awarded to contestants who correctly answered a series of questions about Long Beach and square dancing. Smaller prizes were also given. Members visited the square-dance organization’s website to find answers, which helped increase visibility for the convention.

• The CVB also builds microsites for conventions and meetings, makes gobos- — templates used to project patterns — organizations’ logos to project on walls adjacent to the convention center. It will also provide a customized Long Beach marketing video to promote the city.

• Speaking of “customized,” the CVB has created projects to raise awareness and garner publicity for conventions such as a doghouse-building contest for an American Kennel Club event.