Guide to Meeting & Event Planning in

Northern California

Learn why you should host your next meeting, event or conference in Northern California.

Why Northern California for Your Next Meeting or Event?

Northern California offers many benefits, among them natural wonders, fine cuisine, environmental consciousness and drop-dead gorgeous views. Experience it all at top properties like Cavallo Point, the Lodge at the Golden Gate (pictured) in Sausalito, recently acquired by Diamond Rock Hospitality.

Travel Essentials
CONVENTION CENTERS: Moscone Center, San Francisco; exhibit space, 888,300 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 114. 

Oakland Convention Center; exhibit space, 64,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 13.

TAXES: San Francisco room tax, 14%; Moscone Expansion District/Tourism Improvement District assessment, 2.25% (on hotels in the city center); sales tax, 8.5%; total tax on hotel rooms, 16.25% in the city center

Oakland room tax, 14%; sales tax, 9.25%; total tax on hotel rooms, 14%

CONTACT: San Francisco Travel; Visit Oakland; Marin Convention & Visitors Bureau

Recent Hotel & Venue Additions

The Hyatt Regency San Francisco, an 821-room meetings-friendly hotel near the Embarcadero, unveiled new Water View guest rooms. Each offers stunning views of the bay, including the waterfront, Ferry Building and Oakland Bay Bridge. At night, the bridge is home to the Bay Lights installation — a unique, 25,000-LED light show by artist Leo Villareal. The hotel is also home to 72,000 square feet of meeting and event space.  

The San Francisco Marriott Marquis unveiled a revamp in November 2019. The property's 1,500 guest rooms were renovated to reflect the latest Marriott design standards, with multipurpose work surfaces, and smart TVs equipped with streaming services and curated TED Talks. The new look can also be seen in the M Club lounge, the restaurants, the fitness center and the 133,000 square feet of meeting space.

The highly anticipated, $551 million expansion of the Moscone Center officially opened in January 2019. More than 157,000 square feet of meeting space has been added to Moscone North and South, creating a contiguous exhibit area of more than 500,000 square feet. The facility now offers a total of 1,139,775 square feet of usable space, including a new 50,000-square-foot column-free ballroom. The North and South lobbies have been enlarged, a new enclosed pedestrian bridge connects the upper levels of the North and South buildings, and an upgraded bridge spans Howard Street. 

The 681-room Park Central San Francisco, the city's sixth-largest hotel in terms of room count, was sold in 2018 for $315.2 million. The hotel, which was the Westin Market Street until 2015 and is again part of the Marriott International portfolio, is just two blocks from Moscone Center and offers more than 32,000 square feet of event space.

Green CVB
In a region that prizes environmental sustainability, the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau leads the way. The organization has joined Positive Impact, a not-for-profit that aims to create a sustainable events industry, and the Global Destination Sustainability Index initiative, an alliance focused on helping destinations and businesses promote best practices.

The Virgin Hotels San Francisco opened last year in the South of Market area, with whimsical touches such as conference ping-pong tables, mini-golf hallways and life-sized Jenga. The 194-room property offers a rooftop lounge and several meeting venues, including the 2,124-square-foot Manor, which can accommodate up to 126 people theater-style, and the 1,898-square-foot terrace lounge.

The W San Francisco has partnered with luxury helicopter company Butterfly Aviation to launch Up, Up and Away, an unforgettable way to journey to Northern California Wine Country. The package includes transportation to nearby airports, a sightseeing tour over Napa Valley and Sonoma County, tastings at two or three wineries, and a culinary experience at an acclaimed Wine Country restaurant.

A 140-room AC Hotel by Marriott, which is being constructed in downtown San Rafael, will be the first major Marin County hotel to be built in two decades. The property, which is going up at Fifth Ave. and B St., is expected to open in the third quarter of 2021. A rooftop garden bar will provide views of Mt. Tam.

Meeting Hotels

Properties in the South of Market area near the Moscone Center include the 1,500-room San Francisco Marriott Marquis, 681-room Park Central San Francisco, 550-room InterContinental San Francisco, 413-room W San Francisco, 405-room Courtyard by Marriott San Francisco Downtown, 277-room Four Seasons Hotel San Francisco, 260-room St. Regis San Francisco, 202-room Hotel Zelos, 194-room Virgin Hotels San Francisco and 143-room Americania Hotel

Outside of Town
The Resort at Squaw Creek, a Destination Hotel, unveiled renovated meeting areas last year. The 405-room North Lake Tahoe property provides 47,750 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space.

Sonoma Valley's Olea Hotel reopened following a 10-month restoration period after the fall 2017 wildfires in Northern California. The hillside inn, surrounded by olive trees, has a new pool, hot tub and fire pit; upgrades were made to its 13 rooms and throughout the hotel. Two cottages have debuted as well. 

To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit Northstar Meetings Group's new venue finder.

Other Event Venues

In November 2019, San Francisco officials began work on the Presidio Tunnel Tops project, 14 acres of new national parkland atop highway tunnels that will provide dramatic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the bay, the Presidio and the San Francisco skyline. The Presidio destination, expected to open in the fall of 2021, will feature a central plaza with visitor and transit centers. The Campfire Circle will be a gathering spot with a central fire pit and plentiful seating, while the Golden Gate Meadow will provide an expansive open lawn for picnics, outdoor activities, social gatherings and more. A Field Station will offer exhibits and educational activities.

Let attendees in on some tasty secrets at Rambler, a bi-level bar and bistro inside the hip, 64-room Hotel Zeppelin in downtown San Francisco. Only those in the know are able to order from the rock-'n'-roll-themed secret menu, specially curated by executive chef Banks White and discoverable only by word of mouth. (Choose from Fleetwood Mac N Cheese, Freddie Mercury Fries and SXSW Ribs.) For private events, meeting planners can rent out the 1,334-square-foot Peace Room, 659-square-foot Love Room or 504-square-foot Soul Room, or buy out the mezzanine level. 

A two-level, 40,000-square-foot gourmet food hall known as the Oakland Assembly will open this summer on the waterfront at Oakland's Jack London Square. Local star chefs have agreed to participate in the venture, among them Preeti Mistry from Juhu Beach Club and Matt Horn from Horn BBQ. The market also will be an entertainment venue, with a large bar in the center, a banquet hall and an indoor stage for live music and other performances.

Harmon Guest House, a 39-room  environmentally chic Wine Country retreat that opened in Healdsburg in the fall of 2018, offers a variety of unique meeting and event spaces. The rooftop Merritt Hall accommodates up to 100 attendees, and the neighboring H2Hotel's naturally lit Green Room, with French doors opening onto a lawn, holds up to 50. 

Looking to Plan a Northern California Meeting?
Learn everything you need to know about this diverse locale at Destination California, Northstar’s premier event for meetings and incentive pros looking to book biz in the area.

Transportation in & Around Northern California

San Francisco International Airport, approximately 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco; transfer cost by taxi, about $46-$66; by shuttle, $17. Lyft, Uber, Sitbaq and Wingz apps all operate here.

Oakland International Airport, about 10 miles south of downtown Oakland; transfer cost by taxi, about $40; by shuttle, about $25

Though delayed, the new South San Francisco Caltrain station is back on track and expected to open by November 2020. The $71.6 million project — creating a new 700-foot platform, ADA access and a pedestrian underpass that will connect the business district with downtown — will be a welcome convenience for the fast-growing biotech hub near San Francisco International Airport.