Think about Ontario, California, located 35 miles southeast of Los Angeles. To be so centrally located in Southern California and an attractive springboard to everything else going on in the region probably makes other cities a little jealous; and for good reason. Ontario, population 170,000, and its smaller neighbor, Rancho Cucamonga, welcome visitors to stay awhile before heading out to the long list of activities from which visitors can choose.
“We are 30 to 45 minutes from downtown L.A. We are a hub around which there are a lot of major things to do,” said Michael Krouse, president and CEO of the Greater Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau. The CVB represents both Ontario and Rancho Cucamonga, and it promotes the area as a team. “The two cities have approximately the same population. Ontario has an arena, convention center, international airport and Ontario Mills, a world-class shopping center,” said Krouse.
People may travel to and stay in Greater Ontario, known as the Inland Empire but then take trips to L.A., San Diego, Hollywood, Beverly Hills, Disneyland, wineries, casinos, the desert, beaches, snowy mountains, golf courses and some of the best shopping west of the Mississippi. Ontario is located at the intersection of three major California freeways, making access to other state attractions as easy as can be.
And the lucky attendees at the next Select Traveler Conference, to be held February 5-7, 2017, will all meet in Ontario. By next February, many Select Traveler delegates will be sick of winter back home. Greater Ontario will be just the tonic, with sunny, dry, comfortable days and nights aplenty. High temperatures in February are typically in the 60s. This area is nestled along the beautiful San Bernardino Mountains.
“We are doing something completely different. It’s the first time we have been out in California, that far west,” said Joe Cappuzzello, president and CEO of the Group Travel Family, which stages the Select Traveler Conference. “It will be a great venue, an almost brand-new convention center and beautiful weather.”
The gathering will be held in the beautiful, sunlight-infused Ontario Convention Center. The official conference hotel, the Doubletree by Hilton, a resort-style upscale hotel, is steps away. Both are located a mere six-minute drive from the LA/Ontario International Airport, one of the best smaller, alternative airports in the region.
Krouse said the 18-year-old convention center boasts 225,000 square feet of flexible and divisible meeting, exhibit and function space. Holding a meeting there is more like a “high-end hotel experience” than a traditional convention center gathering. “The food and beverage services are more like what you would find in a fine restaurant than at most convention centers,” Krouse said.
The convention center district is surrounded by 3,000 hotel rooms, said Krouse. “We have about 6,000 rooms all together in Ontario and Cucamonga.”
So Much to Do
The cities of Ontario and Cucamonga and their CVB staff want to make sure visitors get the full-fledged Southern California experience about which they’ve heard so much. Some cities don’t dare encourage you to come to their area then leave. But the two cities actively promote the idea that they are a perfect “home base” so visitors can see and do much more throughout the wider region.
Disneyland, Universal Studios and Knott’s Berry Farm are all major names and popular draws. The theme parks are within an easy drive to the west of Greater Ontario.
Visitors can also enjoy a local amusement center located right in Ontario. Scandia Ontario is a family fun center with a roller coaster, other rides, elaborate miniature golfing, arcade games, bumper boats, go-karts, batting cages, concession stands and room for groups to gather.
For those with a need for speed, as in NASCAR racing, Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana will help them get their fix. The grandstand seats 68,000, and there are 28 skyboxes and a huge fan zone in the infield for campers and other race-day revelers. There are also a lot of activities going on at the track aside from the busy race days. Group tours can be arranged.
There is always something going on at Citizens Business Bank Arena, which seats 9,500 people for professional hockey, arena soccer, basketball, concerts, special events, shows, community activities and business conferences. The arena can be expanded by another 2,000 seats to accommodate certain events.