Ontario is part of the Inland Empire, the 12th-most-populous metropolitan region in the nation. With roughly 167,000 of the Inland Empire’s 4 million-plus residents, Ontario officials are working to distinguish themselves from the masses.
Over the past two years, the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau has either created or taken the reins of several festivals and events in an effort to set the city apart as well as attract visitors, meeting planners and meeting attendees, said Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Greater Ontario CVB.
“CVBs do not normally run all of these events, but we’re trying to give people a reason to come to Ontario besides the convention center, which is wonderful, and the [Citizens Business Bank Arena], which is wonderful,” he said. “We don’t have Disneyland and Universal Studios, but we do have plenty to do here.”
Ontario’s first Route 66 Cruisin’ Reunion drew 140,000 people last year, and the CVB hopes to bring in even more this September. The event is a classic car lover’s dream that features car shows, car contests, poker runs, food vendors and live music.
Father’s Day weekend will mark the 38th year of the annual Huck Finn Jubilee, but the CVB took over the family music festival this year and expanded it to be the “best lineup in the West,” Krouse said. This year’s acts include the String Cheese Incident, the Del McCoury Band and bluegrass legend Dr. Ralph Stanley.
The CVB is also taking over the city’s annual one-day Christmas on Euclid event and plans to transform it into a three-week celebration that will feature chorale concerts, light displays and horse-drawn carriages, as well as an ice-skating rink, Krouse said. The Ontario CVB also just held its first ever Inland Empire Restaurant Week in March and will do another in October.
Although events like the Cruisin’ Reunion and the jubilee attract thousands of people, there’s no risk of running out of rooms for meeting attendees, Krouse said, because Ontario has about 60 hotels with about 6,000 guest rooms.
The 225,000-square-foot Ontario Convention Center opened its doors in 2008, and if the center’s striking white silhouette and glass-walled architecture look familiar, they may be; the LA entertainment industry often uses the convention center as a backdrop to shoot movies, television shows and commercials. The center has a 70,000-square-foot exhibition hall, a 20,000-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into three smaller ballrooms and another 24,000 square feet of meeting rooms. In addition to its in-house catering, the convention center also offers Wi-Fi, DS3 and the latest in audiovisual equipment.
Just half a mile from the LA/Ontario International Airport, which offers daily commercial passenger service, and just next to the Ontario Convention Center sits the 482-room DoubleTree by Hilton Hotel Ontario Airport. The hotel sits on 18 acres, and its hacienda-style design gives the property a resortlike feel. Room balconies overlook a palm tree-filled courtyard that has a pool, a hot tub and a garden pavilion. The DoubleTree’s 27,000 square feet of flexible meeting space includes a 12,800-square-foot ballroom and a 7,200-square-foot ballroom, both of which can be split into three smaller spaces, as well as additional boardrooms, meeting rooms and suites. All of the meeting space was renovated in 2012, and the hotel just upgraded its bandwidth from 15 Mbps to 25 Mbps.
Olive and Kicking
The Cucamonga Valley has long been evolving from its agricultural roots, but the historic Graber Olive House is still alive and kicking. In 1892, C.C. Graber bought land in Ontario and, after discovering the delicacy of California’s olives, decided to start growing his own. Two years later, he began vat-curing and packing olives on-site. The tradition continues today, making the Graber Olive House Ontario’s oldest business. The site still has the original barn where neighbors and ranchers would help cure and can olives. The Graber Olive House offers public tours and is available for events.
Wineries and Vineyards
Sure, Sonoma and Napa valleys get a lot of attention as California’s wine regions, but don’t forget the Cucamonga Valley. The valley is one of southern California’s original wine regions and was once home to more than 50 vineyards and wineries. Today, most of those wineries are no more, but a handful of family-owned and -operated wineries remain in the greater Ontario area. San Antonio Winery’s newly remodeled Ontario store offers daily tastings, or visitors can enjoy Galleano Winery varietals either in the tasting room or on the picnic grounds at the Mira Loma vineyard. At Joseph Filippi Winery and Vineyards in Rancho Cucamonga, groups can take guided tours, enjoy wine tastings or even play a few games of horseshoes.
Spotlight on Ontario, California
Location: Southern California, about 40 miles east of downtown Los Angeles
Access: Ontario International Airport, Interstates I-10 and I-15
Major Meeting Spaces: Ontario Convention Center
Hotel Rooms: 6,200
Regional: Legoland, Knott’s Berry Farm, Disneyland, Universal Studios
Local: CCA Museum of Art, Museum of History and Art, The Wire Music and Art Venue, Auto Club Speedway
Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau