• Shopping Destinations Offer Planners a Host of Options and Services Galore

    FROM THE Spring 2016 ISSUE
  • Shopping Destinations Offer Planners a Host of Options and Services Galore

    FROM THE Spring 2016 ISSUE
  • Shopping Destinations Offer Planners a Host of Options and Services Galore

    FROM THE Spring 2016 ISSUE
  • Shopping Destinations Offer Planners a Host of Options and Services Galore

    FROM THE Spring 2016 ISSUE
  • Shopping Destinations Offer Planners a Host of Options and Services Galore

    FROM THE Spring 2016 ISSUE
  • Shopping Destinations Offer Planners a Host of Options and Services Galore

    FROM THE Spring 2016 ISSUE
  • Shopping Destinations Offer Planners a Host of Options and Services Galore

    FROM THE Spring 2016 ISSUE
  • Shopping Destinations Offer Planners a Host of Options and Services Galore

    FROM THE Spring 2016 ISSUE

When it comes to amenities, welltrained staff, easy parking and, yes, glamour, California’s shopping malls deliver. In fact, the service is so elevated at some of these retail/dining/entertainment emporiums and the offerings so varied, that they shun the term “mall” in favor of “luxury shopping destination” or “lifestyle center.” We’d label the seven destinations below worthy of your consideration for small events or gatherings on a grander scale. From dazzling fountains to swoon-worthy gardens, notable architecture, stellar dining, and some first-rate shopping, these properties have it all.


San Diego’s Westfield Horton Plaza is an architectural marvel: With its vibrant colors, mismatched levels, and winding ramps and staircases, the sprawling outdoor mall feels more like a Dr. Seuss wonderland than a downtown business center. Groups have the option of partnering with over 100 specialty stores to create some truly unique events, which can run the gamut from private fashion shows or preview nights at Nordstrom to pampering at BlowPop Dry Bar and receptions at the Kimchi Cosplay art gallery. Westfield Horton Plaza also boasts 10 food operators, a Jimbo’s…Naturally! organic grocery store, 24-Hour Fitness gym, eight-screen Regal UA Horton Plaza Theatre, the two-story Lyceum Theatre, Mad House Comedy Club & Restaurant, and a Game Deck offering oversized chess and checkers games. With all these amenities in one place, groups will be hard-pressed to find a reason to ever leave the mall for dining or diversion. Still, there’s a lot in the nearby vicinity. Westfield Horton Plaza is located adjacent to San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, just steps from downtown’s worldclass hotels, restaurants, convention center and the historic Balboa Theatre.

In an exciting new development, Horton Plaza Park, located directly in front of the mall, will reopen as a rentable venue this spring. The renovated 53,000-square-foot urban park will feature an open amphitheater and the restored Irving Gill fountain, first unveiled in 1910 in conjunction with the opening of San Diego’s stunning US GRANT Hotel across the street. “There is so much architectural significance to this area,” says Julie Montgomery, director of sales and events for Horton Plaza Park. “We’re excited to bring the park back to its original beauty.”

Once open, groups will be able to coordinate events that encompass both the Westfield Horton Plaza and new Horton Plaza Park. “The new urban plaza begs visitors to take a break, take a chill, meet a colleague or gather with friends, all while enjoying sunny San Diego,” says Kimberly Brewer, vice president of Westfield Corporation, Inc. From gourmet dinners to film screenings to repertory theater performances and everything in-between, the Westfield Horton Plaza is a one-stop shop for your next San Diego corporate gathering.


More than just an outdoor shopping destination, the 900,000-square-foot, 15.5-acre Americana at Brand in the Los Angeles suburb of Glendale combines such high-end retail stores as Barneys New York, Nordstrom, Tory Burch and David Yurman with luxury housing, restaurants, an 18-screen movie theater and beautiful grounds that provide a variety of settings to host a memorable event. “The Americana at Brand offers an array of options, including a grand 2-acre green, replete with a choreographed dancing water fountain that is centrally located within the property,” says Director of Public Relations Emily Davis. “Tenants from our first-class dining portfolio also serve as options for events. An historic red trolley transports guests around the entire property.”

Designed to resemble a classic American town square, the Caruso Affiliated property, which opened in 2008, centers around a pristinely landscaped park-like setting that’s served as the backdrop of many outdoor gatherings. The inviting space, with its strung lights, water features and well-kept greens, has been the site of a Lunar New Year celebration, Bingo Under the Stars and Movies On the Green. The annual Wee Rock! Kids Music Festival, which supports Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles, features live music performances from popular kids’ bands, DIY stations, appearances by Disney Channel stars and cupcake decorating. Tenants like Lululemon also make use of the center’s grounds for complimentary yoga classes.

Event catering options are available from such on-site dining establishments as Michael Mina’s Bourbon Steak, Amici Trattoria, Deluca’s Italian Deli, Frida Mexican Cuisine, Katsuya and Sprinkles Cupcakes. For example, Movies On The Green guests can dine on picnic boxes from Katsuya or Amici Trattoria, while Bingo Under the Stars has included a taco bar and margaritas from Frida Mexican Cuisine.


Located at the south end of Santa Monica’s Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica Place went upscale with an extensive $250 million renovation in 2010. Observers were impressed: In 2013, the three-story outdoor shopping center, which is anchored by Nordstrom and Blomingdale’s, was named winner of the prestigious International Council of Shopping Center’s VIVA “Best of the Best” award.

The main event spaces at the alfresco shopping center are the top-floor Dining Deck (capacity 150), which features views of the Pacific Ocean and the Santa Monica Pier, and the ground floor Center Plaza (holds 500), a beautiful rotunda-shaped space surrounded by luxury retailers.

“The center’s seaside location, amazing stores, breathtaking views, delicious food and fresh, open-air design, coupled with its close proximity to Los Angeles International Airport and downtown Los Angeles, sets Santa Monica Place apart from other malls in Southern California and gives the center the cache of being the ideal destination for meetings, corporate gatherings and special events,” says Senior Marketing Manager Shoshana Puccia. With the light rail station on 4th Street and Colorado Boulevard set to open this spring, Santa Monica Place will soon be walking distance from public transportation.

The 525,000-square-foot shopping destination recently hosted Ciao Italia Santa Monica, a series of events during Italian Heritage Month. The festivities included a fashion show fundraiser featuring a branded LED screen backdrop, full-length runway and pre- and postevent VIP reception; movie screenings on the third-floor Dining Deck, and a gala honoring Italian-American history. Other successful events have included an exclusive reception for shopping center developer Cadillac Fairview, featuring a live DJ and full catering on the Dining Deck; World Cup Soccer screenings; official Rose Bowl pep rallies; the Dew Tour Game of SKATE competition and concerts, including one featuring the Swedish electropop duo Icona Pop.

While outside caterers are welcome, some polished on-site options are available. Sonoma Wine Garden, featuring Cal-Mediterranean cuisine, offers an indoor/outdoor event venue and holds a full catering and liquor license. The Curious Palate, specializing in artisan foods and farm-to-table cooking, offers a catering menu as well.

2 RODEO | Beverly Hills

With its pristine cobblestone street, colorful flowerpots and old-fashioned street lamps, 2 Rodeo has all the charm of a timeless European village, but its shops, including Stefano Ricci, Jimmy Choo and CH Carolina Herrera, are decidedly modern. Set at the end of Rodeo Drive, across Wilshire Boulevard from the iconic Beverly Wilshire, Beverly Hills (A Four Seasons Hotel), this open-air retail destination has been the scenic setting for both intimate dinner parties and charity fundraisers for as many as 350 guests.

The Porsche Design 40th Anniversary, Rodeo Drive Walk of Style honoring Diana Vreeland was held here as was the Concours d’Elegance car show. For the past 10 years, 2 Rodeo has also served as the setting for The Amanda Foundation animal rescue charity’s largest fundraiser of the year.

“The three-and-a-half-hour event includes a full roped-off red carpet, rows of auction tables, a stage, a bar and catering area that serves hundreds of guests and their dogs,” says Quintessential PR founder Kerith Henderson, who works with the foundation on the annual event. “Not only does 2 Rodeo allow dozens of four-legged critters to run up and down its perfect cobblestone street, but they also showcase dogs available for adoption the day before the event and many of the merchants also get involved in the fundraiser. Even though 2 Rodeo may be on one of the most famous streets in California, you come away with a real sense of small-town community and support.”

Event planners may want to consider 2 Rodeo’s 208 Rodeo Restaurant as a catering option, or the site for a small event. Located just up the steps from Wilshire Boulevard along the Via, the charming restaurant seats 30 inside and 70 on the outside patio, serving California cuisine with French and Asian influences. “With our one-of-a-kind location and our spacious patio open to the LA sky, our restaurant is the perfect setting for a special event,” says owner Yiffat Rublevich.


One of the nation’s top urban malls is also one of the best-known destinations in San Francisco. Housed in the shell of the 19th-century Emporium department store, Westfield San Francisco Centre is a Market Street landmark that today houses more than 200 retail outlets, restaurants and other establishments under an iconic glass skylight/dome salvaged from the original, Victorian-era building.

What’s going on inside, however, is far from Victorian. In keeping with San Francisco’s emergence as a hotbed of high-tech innovation, the mall last spring launched Bespoke at Westfield, 35,000 square feet of co-working, event and demonstration space intended to create an “ecosystem” where tech and retail marketplaces converge.

It’s a place where tech-curious consumers can demo new products, retail-industry strategists can work side by side and groups can stage events in a high-energy environment that can be tailored to any need, says Toni Toreno, senior events manager for the venue.

Desk space, private offices and conference rooms in the 14,000-square-foot co-working space, across the atrium from the fourth-floor event venue, can be rented on a day-pass or month-to-month basis, Toreno says. Bespoke, she adds, has been curated for companies in the fashion, retail and tech sectors, from online startups to big brands looking to innovate.

The façade of the event space opens onto a 2,500-square-foot demo area, which is public facing. The conference rooms in the co-working space have mall-facing rooms that can be transformed into temporary pop-up shops, while demonstration spaces where “new and next” concepts are often premiered feature wall-size, gestural-capable touch screens that can run static imagery, be purchased in tangent with an event or activated on a long-term basis. American Express, Toreno says, has dominated the screen for a month at a time.

The 18,000-square-foot Bespoke event space, divisible into quadrants and accommodating anything from small groups of 50 to 1,180 maximum, launched in May 2015 and has since hosted “everything you can possibly imagine,” Toreno says. “We’ve had conferences, 30-person meetings, 500-person receptions, fashion shows, sales force meetings, product launches. You name it!”

More traditional gathering space at Westfield San Francisco Centre can be found under the mall’s 202-foot-diameter skylight/ dome. “It’s a quasi-customizable space,” Toreno says. “We have a retail kiosk under the dome so it’s not entirely open, but we do get creative. Last summer, for example, we had a charitable event for cancer with MasterCard. It was a reception with heavy appetizers and live music. They took the whole dome, but it’s a scalable venue; we’ve also had things like a 10-person yoga class and a large fashion show. Depending on the event, we can accommodate anywhere from 150 standing to around 80 or 90 seated.”


Describe Santana Row as an outdoor mall to a meeting group coming from afar, and attendees might sigh and dismiss it out of hand. After all, every big city has a mall. But none has a retail/dining/entertainment/fashion-forward residential district quite like this stunning, Mediterranean-style development in San Jose.

Santana Row—or “the Row,” as it’s known in Silicon Valley—is a one-of-a-kind, purposebuilt mix of retail and residential that sprung up on the site of a demolished traditional mall just before the dot-com bust in 2002. The complex suffered a setback, rebounded, expanded and since has become the see-and-be-seen, Silicon Valley equivalent of Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills.

The “Main Street” concept, bisected by a lushly landscaped median park dotted with sidewalk cafes, has won numerous architectural design and development awards. It’s also become a “must-see” off-site destination on the agenda of almost every conference and convention group meeting in San Jose. Savvy planners know to schedule a free morning or afternoon here (if not a private reception or dining experience) so attendees can explore the district’s 70 shops, 20 restaurants, nine spas and salons, and endless people-watching opportunities.

Collette Navarrette, marketing manager for the Row, points to upscale anchor tenant Hotel Valencia as a primary meeting venue offering a full-service conference center with 4,000 square feet of flexible space encompassing eight indoor and outdoor venues, the largest of which can accommodate up to 285 guests. For smaller gatherings of up to 30, U.S. Bank at Santana Row offers a reservable conference room. Among restaurants with private dining rooms and/or stand-up reception space are LB Steak, Left Bank Brasserie, Sino, Strait’s, Maggiano’s Little Italy and Amber India.

“We often host progressive dining events for large groups,” Navarrette says. “Recently, for example, Yahoo visited us and we coordinated a cooking demonstration at Consuelo’s Mexican Bistro offering instruction on how to make guacamole and ceviche. In addition, we provided a scavenger hunt throughout the property, and upon completion guests wrapped up for appetizers at Left Bank Brasserie.”

Navarrette adds that Santana Row Concierge can customize any group experience and provide incentives. “Custom Passport Packages, for example, lead guests throughout Santana Row, stopping in numerous shops and restaurants for wine and food tastings,” she says. “In addition, we have Meet & Greet Programs with special incentives, discounts and activities from selected retailers and restaurants.”


Anyone who loves gardens will be interested to learn that Sunset Magazine has chosen CornerStone Sonoma, a garden and retail complex on Highway 121 near the junction with Highway 116, as the site of its new demonstration gardens and outdoor test kitchen. In 2009 the magazine named the CornerStone, which feature 20-plus walk-through installations created by visiting landscape designers, one of the top 10 gardens in the West. The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Newsweek have also praised the inspirational, gallerystyle plantings visited by more than 100,000 people each year.

But while the gardens are a main attraction, CornerStone is also a seductive food, wine, shopping and event venue that surprises on many levels, offering myriad creative options for planners. The home and fashion shops here are all privately owned and each is beautiful and inspiring. They include Potter Green, a gorgeous garden gallery, and Artefact Design & Salvage, where you can find one-of-a-kind items like a $1,500 giant fossilized clam shell.

The 36-acre site features three wine-tasting venues; galleries; upscale garden, antiques, home décor and clothing boutiques; bountiful outdoor space and a restaurant, Park 121, overseen by Bruce Riezenman, founder and head of Park Avenue Catering, well known on the wine-country event circuit.

On the private event side, CornerStone is probably best known as a wedding venue. But it also hosts wine and food tastings, garden tours, team-building events, seminars, dinners, lunches, meetings, parties, fundraisers and many other private functions.

CornerStone is eager to increase the number of corporate events it hosts. Sunset's presence is likely to be a boost in this area. The publication has announced that it will launch its move here with a debut celebration weekend in May. There will also be a wine competition in the fall.

Primary event venues include an open-sided CornerStone Barn that can be warmed with space heaters in winter and dressed up at any time of year to accommodate up to 130 for sit-down dinners. There's also the Vineyard Lawn—a long lawn with a beautiful pond with water lilies where dinners can take place at long tables that are surrounded by vineyards.

There’s also a wedding garden with a tent, erected seasonally, and the new Barn at Tyge- William Cellars, offering 3,000 square feet of indoor space (maximum capacity 200) and a 1,000-square-foot patio overlooking the CornerStone vineyard. Small events can be held within several of the garden installations, which are walled in by shrubbery to create intimate, semiprivate spaces.

Park 121 restaurant can also be rented for private events, as can Keating, Meadowcroft and Poseidon Vineyard & Obsidian Ridge, CornerStone's three wine tasting rooms. A carefully vetted selection of preferred caterers is provided for planners.

With meetings returning to normal as the COVID-19 pandemic levels out, outdoor mountain pursuits are finding more time on meeting agendas. Taking events outdoors not only boosts attendees’ comfort level as they ease back into in-person meetings, time spent in nature is proven to improve brain health and stimulate creative thinking as well.

We’ll be looking at this topic in-depth in the Spring/Summer 2022 issue of Mountain Meetings. Consider this as an introduction to some of the possibilities.  


We never outgrow the pleasure of an Easter egg hunt. That’s the thinking behind a promotion by Visit Temecula. While the city’s annual Easter egg hunt will take place on April 16 in three different locations, the visitor’s bureau promo is monthlong. Visitors, whether leisure travelers or part of a group, who book a midweek stay in Temecula Valley during the month of April might just find an Easter egg with a $50 Visa card inside under their pillow.


Sheraton Dallas Hotel has introduced a new outdoor event space under its new event programming, Dare to Outdoors. The hotel’s catering team has partnered with Pacific Plaza Park, a 3.7-acre green space in Downtown Dallas. The park features a 31,950 square-foot lawn space and permanent seating, as well as night-sky friendly lights for star-watchers. Three food truck power outlets are available and standard outlets are located throughout the park.