Revitalized Downtown San Jose Offers Traditional and Modern Meeting Spaces
In the past year, San Jose has seen a significant amount of expansion, rebranding and new growth — including plans for a new Google campus that could house up to 25,000 employees — but it isn’t leaving its history behind. From the San Jose McEnery Convention Center to hotels, arenas, auditoriums, mansions and a wide variety of unique spaces and attractions, the city boasts a plethora of historic and modern venues for event planners to choose from.
“When you think of San Jose, you think of innovation, robots meeting you at the airport and futuristic offerings,” said Matthew Martinucci, vice president, sales and destination services for Visit San Jose. “That is all true, but it is also a city of rich history, arts and culture, and it is this combination that allows us to provide a variety of surprising and unique meeting venues.”
The greater San Jose area offers more than 4,000 sleeping rooms — 2,200 of which are located downtown. Located less than five miles from the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, the downtown area is also easily reachable via the VTA Light Rail and Caltrain via the free DASH shuttle.
San Jose Convention Center
The central location of San Jose McEnery Convention Center (most often referred to simply as the San Jose Convention Center or SJCC) allows planners and attendees to take advantage of nearby hotels, theaters and auditorium space for affiliated meetings.
The facility features 520,000 square feet of meeting and event space, including three exhibit halls, two ballrooms and 43 meeting rooms. Its three exhibit halls contain 143,000 total sq. ft. of exhibit hall space, and can be combined to offer 165,000 sq. ft. of contiguous space that can hold up to 1,000 10x10 booths. Opened in 1989, the venue was renovated and expanded in 2013. In recent years, it has hosted high profile tech events including the annual Apple Worldwide Developer Conference and Facebook F8, and the NHL Draft Fan Fest.
Food and beverage is an important part of any event, and SJCC offers an extensive catering menu. The majority of food and beverage options are sourced locally, and customizing menus for meetings is one of the key focus areas for newly-appointed Executive Chef Michael Riddell. Chef Riddell, who has more than a decade of experience at Porta Blu and the Ritz Carlton, Half Moon Bay, was brought on board this month to oversee banquet and catering options for SJCC as well as the San Jose Theaters (San Jose Civic, Montgomery Theater, Center for the Performing Arts, and California Theatre).
For groups wanting either additional meeting space near the convention center or smaller standalone meetings, the San Jose Marriott and San Jose Hilton flank the convention center, and Fairmont San Jose and Westin San Jose are just a short walk away.
The elegant Fairmont San Jose can easily host large meetings completely in-house. The hotel was built in 1987, with the aim of bringing new business to the downtown area, and its 13-story annex was completed in 2002. Fairmont San Jose offers 65,000 sq. ft. of meeting space across 22 rooms, and has 728 guest rooms and 77 suites. Its Imperial Ballroom can hold up to 1,200 theater-style or 3,200 for a reception.
Signature guest rooms and suites offer private patios with access to the hotel’s rooftop pool, which is open seasonally. Guests can also take advantage of the property’s fitness center. Restaurants onsite include McCormick & Schmick’s, The Grill on the Alley, The Fountain, and Bijan Bakery and Café / Bijan Wine Bar. The buffet at the Fountain has everything from sushi to petit fours — and even honey from the hotel’s rooftop hives — so be sure to go in hungry! The Fairmont San Jose’s lobby is in the midst of a refresh, but The Fountain is still open each evening for dining.
Historic Buildings and Museums
There are four theaters near the convention center. A designated city landmark, the 2,850-seat San Jose Civic theater originally opened in 1936. As the San Jose Civic Auditorium, it served as the city’s original convention center, went through a three-year renovation to reopen as City National Civic in 2012, and returned to its original name in May 2019. The Center for the Performing Arts seats 2,608, the 1920s California Theatre seats 1,122, and the smaller Montgomery Theater seats 468. All of these venues are options for indoor and outdoor events, receptions and town hall-style meetings.
The newly opened San Jose Armory refreshes another historic building for event use. Completed in 1934, the Spanish Revival-style building was an armory originally owned by the California Army National Guard. Its 15,000 sq. ft of meeting space offers an attractive option for groups wanting a unique space.
The San Jose Tech Museum of Innovation, often used by groups for special events, rebranded in 2019 as The Tech Interactive, a name that better portrays its mission, according to officials. "Our new name is a reflection of who we are and the experiences we've become known for," said the museum’s President and CEO Tim Ritchie. "The Tech Interactive has long been a place where people learn by doing, and now we have a name that says that to the world."
Going Beyond Downtown
There are many venues available for meetings and events not too far from the downtown area, including arenas such SAP Center and Avaya Stadium. For smaller groups that prefer to keep everything under one roof in a different setting, Hayes Mansion and Hotel Valencia offer unique alternatives.
The charming and historic 214-room Hayes Mansion offers 33,000 sq. ft. of IACC-certified meeting and event space within 24 meeting rooms of varying dimensions, including a 6,600 sq. ft. ballroom and outdoor spaces that are perfect for receptions. The property, which is located eight miles south of downtown San Jose, is currently undergoing a $20 million transformation into a Curio Hilton, with a target rebrand date of Apr. 1, 2020.
Santana Row, San Jose’s popular shopping, dining and entertainment area, is five miles west of downtown. Hotel Valencia is the only hotel located on Santana Row. The boutique property features 4,000 sq. ft. of space that includes gorgeous options for small meetings and events, including an outdoor courtyard and a rooftop that can hold up to 100 guests. Guests can stay in one of the hotel’s 215 rooms and 17 suites.
A bit further afield, Testarossa Winery in nearby Los Gatos has lovely outdoor space for small receptions, and private dining areas including a wine cave where you can sip on the winery's Pinor Noir and Chardonnay.
For more information on meeting in San Jose, go here.