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Irvine Blog - Posts from Local Experts

Posts for February 2017

Filed In: Dining

Irvine Marriott Unveils Multi-Million M Club and Hotel Redesign

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Monday, Feb 27, 2017

The Irvine Marriott recently unveiled a multi-million redesign to their M Club Lounge and hotel space, which I had the opportunity to experience through a culinary adventure utilizing my five senses. The M Club Lounge renovation completes the hotel's final phase of the $35 million remodel.

Along with the M Club Lounge renovation, other additions include:

• New Front Entrance - Lined with soaring palm trees, the entry welcomes guests with a freshly designed aesthetic that reveals an invigorating escape in Orange County. With a majestic waterfall as the centerpiece, a calming water cascade provides a relaxing soundtrack for guests as customizable LED lighting offers seasonal color and flare.

• Great Room - The grand gathering space showcases a seaside-meets-city-vibe accented by works from local artists, and stunning white limestone that provides a place for  time, not simply passing by. Additionally, a custom built ‘Fusion Table' moonlights as a pool table, but is easily lowered six inches and covered with a lid to be transformed into a dining table.

• Culinary and Beverage Concepts - Keeping glasses raised and conversation buzzing, FLOE Lounge dishes coastal-inspired menus and features relaxed seating with acoustic alcoves, large communal tables, and a private dining room. Inspired by wanderlust, Y.N.K (You Never Know) offers an evolving cocktail and culinary experience that ‘pops-up' as new destinations every few weeks with fresh globally inspired food and beverage offerings.

• Outdoor and Pool Areas - Travelers recharge poolside in the California sun at the Irvine Marriott's new pool area, which features fire pits, open area for events, and modern furniture. A nearby living herb garden adds flavor to libations and culinary programming.

• Fitness Spaces - The Irvine Marriott's new fitness center offers a selection of workout choices to help guests align the body and mind. Precision training equipment and exterior spaces provide alternative training experiences to meet the fitness needs of guests.

• Meetings Imagined - Designed to encourage a group's ingenuity, meetings at the Irvine Marriott provide a blank canvas to create an event with purpose and glass-encased meeting spaces can be customized with lighting, video projection, digital mapping and more.

• Cannery Row - Offering 3,016 square feet of event space, the Cannery Row shipping container spaces maintain an element of surprise, allowing planners to bring their most ambitious event ideas to life in the unique outdoor space.

• Networking: Alone or Together - For a moment of solitude amidst the buzz of a meeting, Cocoon Seating provides privacy and personal space by shielding against outside noise. With smartphone connection capabilities, meeting goers can play music through built-in Bluetooth speakers, or join a conference call without noise and distractions. For groups, Team Foosball allows for up to 12 players to join in on a high-energy teambuilding game for shoulder-to-shoulder networking outside of the meeting room.

Visit Irvine Marriott for more information or to book rooms! Join the Marriott Rewards program for great perks! 

The M Cub Lounge, available to Elite and Club members, has the first ever (in the brand's portfolio) exterior entrance and includes "a range of complimentary food and beverage options such as hot breakfast, evening drinks, hors d'oeuvres, and premium beverages including espresso and hand-crafted libations. Accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the M Club Lounge also offers free Wi-Fi, printing and power supplies to ensure uninterrupted productivity for business travelers".

This lounge is the perfect place to get into work mode or wind down, recharge and enjoy the amenities. I really loved the coastal decor and vibes - there are a variety of tables, booth-like seating and comfy couches to enjoy. This is the area that kicked off our progressive dinner, it was explained to us that we would visit different sections of the hotel and in each section, we would experience a different dish or libation focused through our senses. 


Our first stop was the Floe Lounge dining area in which we had a carrot-themed dish focused around the sense of touch, but we weren't actually touching the food. We witnessed the chef put together various layers of carrot ingredients of different textures - from pureed to carrot shavings then topped with a grainy like texture. Although we didn't touch it ourselves I could imagine what each ingredient would have felt like in my hand.

Our second stop was YNK (You Never Know), a hidden bar area behind the Irvine Marriott's main bar which offers a great place to get away from the grind and enjoy seasonal bespoke cocktails inspired by different places around the world. We experienced the making of an old fashioned through the sense of sight by wearing ear buds so we could focus on the visual of the making of the cocktail (it looked really cool with the smoke). 

After YNK, we headed over the patio area that overlooks the Irvine Marriott pool. While enjoying a steak meal that had been encased in a dome we were serenaded by UCI's acapella group. This meal focused on the sense of smell through the release of a smoky, herb fragrance when we opened up the dome from our dish. 


Our last stop brought us back to Floe Lounge to experience seafood bites through the sense of sound by listening to ambient ocean sounds. Overall, this was a very immersive experience, and an innovative way to experience culinary and cocktail creations; as well as get to see the Irvine Marriott's beautiful remodel. 

Irvine Marriott information provided by Fast Forward Events 

Great Park Ice and Sports Complex - Irvine

Posted by: Ellen Bell
Posted on: Wednesday, Feb 22, 2017

Orange County is known for its miles of sandy beaches, its warm, balmy breezes, and a year-round supply of sunshine.


Ice? Not so much.


Until now, that is.




In 2018, Irvine will have ice - four sheets of it to be exact - enclosed in the Great Park Ice and Sports Complex. This 270,000 square foot ice facility will be one of the largest in the nation and will put Irvine on the map as an important hockey and figure skating destination.




The complex will serve as the practice center for the Anaheim Ducks, but it’s purpose goes way beyond Orange County’s professional hockey team. The Great Park Ice and Sports Complex will open its doors to the community as well, providing precious ice time for local youth leagues.


“Ice time is the number one thing because the high school and Jr. Ducks are buying ice from rinks all over Orange County,” said Craig Johnson, Director of Coaches for the Jr. Ducks high school league.


The popularity of ice hockey has grown over the past 25 years in Orange County. The Anaheim Ducks organization has created more than a desire to watch the sport. Now their fans want to get out on the ice themselves. Unfortunately, the local infrastructure and availability of ice facilities haven't kept pace with OC hockey fever.


Director and coach Kathy McGarrigle has seen the Lady Ducks program grow from three teams and 55 girls to 11 teams and more than 180 in just the past decade.


“Every time there’s a learn-to-skate program, we have dozens of kids who want to join,” she said. “There’s such a shortage of ice in Southern California because hockey is growing faster than rinks can support it.”




The Irvine Ice Foundation - a non-profit organization comprised of civic leaders - will own the complex. The Samueli Foundation, started by Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli, will serve as the major contributor. It will be a partnership program with the City of Irvine who will lease the land. Part of the agreement allows the city to take over the facility in the future. The project will be self-funded, self-sustaining and will require no taxpayer funds for construction.


The 13.5-acre property is located at the western portion of the Great Park, near existing sports fields and the Great Park Balloon Ride.


Tom Betti, the architect for the project, said the Great Park Ice and Sports Complex will take advantage of the warm and sunny climate by using more glass for natural light. There will also be large outdoor spaces, where players can warm-up and spectators can enjoy picnics.




It looks like Ice and Sunshine are a good combination after all.

Free Yogurtland on February 6 for the 1st International Frozen Yogurt Day!

Posted by: Amanda Nguyen
Posted on: Friday, Feb 03, 2017

Irvine's very own Yogurtland is kicking off the first ever International Frozen Yogurt Day on Monday, February 6th, with free frozen yogurt at participating Yogurtland locations around the world between 4-7pm (local time). 

Join in on this global celebration with the self-serve frozen yogurt pioneer by enjoying a free frozen yogurt and toppings in a limited-time only cup as well as receiving a limited edition Hersey's® collectible spoon. Yogurtland will also feature a new Peanut Butter Cup frozen yogurt flavor made with Reese's® and Hershey's® ingredients, and the popular Chocolate Milkshake made with Hershey's® flavor and real, creamy California Milk. These two delicious flavors will continue to be served at Yogurtland locations throughout the month of February.


International Frozen Yogurt Day is sponsored by Yogurtland and The Hershey Company, locations throughout the United States, Australia, Dubai, Singapore, Thailand, and Venezuela will be participating in this momentous and delectable occasion.

Find out more on the festivities here and on facebook. Hashtag your photos #YogurtlandIFYD to be featured on our social channels and the Yogurtland website!  


Filed In: Meetings

Heads Up...Top Ten 2017 Meeting Industry Trends

Posted by: Deirdre Michalski
Posted on: Wednesday, Feb 01, 2017

Written By: Deirdre Michalski
Photo: Hotel Irvine's retro-style Treat Trike

The Meetings and Events industry is adaptive to changes---and that's a good thing!  Looking
ahead to the "new year", here is a summary of key global trends and some valuable input from locals here in Irvine, Calif. Meeting planners, industry experts and research findings have all
assisted in answering the question: What are we in store for THIS year? 

1. Mid-Scale Property Openings Are Growing

For six years in a row, meeting planners participating in the AmEx Global Forecast anticipate
the highest demand to be for "mid-tier" properties. New hotel openings in the United States and
Central America are nearly four-to-one in favor of mid-scale hotels over those in the luxury category. In many ways, the mid-scale segment is really the whole package by offering competitive pricing, high-quality service, and convenience. Also, those cities with easy in-and-out air service will remain in high demand.

2. Creativity Is King

Hotels in a "non-resort" setting can still earn huge kudos with meeting planners and
attendees alike.  Being unique and offering special activities garner high marks and send the "meeting success" scores climbing. Finding venues that are unique to the area are often considered home runs. One-of-a-kind experiences such as a "behind-the-scenes" tours, or a "meet-and-greet" with a popular industry leader are popular.  Also sought out are creative "street take-overs" and "pop-up events".  Meetings that offer live streaming and other social media apps are hits as well by expanding the participation beyond just the attendees, but also to those back at the office.

"Hotel Irvine's ‘Backyard' is a popular space for meeting and party planners because it's a blank canvas waiting to be designed and converted into an exciting arena for a daytime BBQ, cocktail party, formal party and everything in-between. The Backyard includes a 6,000-square-foot pavilion, a 10,000-square-foot lush grass lawn, and an adjacent patio space. There are plenty of electrical outlets to create fun lighting such as strung lanterns, oversized floor lamps and audiovisual effects and plenty of space for furniture, staging and team-building outdoor games. Our new retro-style Treat Trike is a hit with planners as it can be pedaled around The Backyard at events - delivering goodies and treats like ice cream, chocolates, and other items."     
Joe Martino, Director of Sales & Marketing, Hotel Irvine

"In today's meeting and event landscape, planners are looking to create experiences that
tell a story and elicit lasting memories. In 2017, 'cookie cutter' events are a thing of the past, as meeting professional are opting for venues that provide a canvas for big ideas to become a reality. As part of a multi-million dollar redesign, the Irvine Marriott introduced "Cannery Row". An outdoor venue built among shipping containers and other structures, Cannery Row is a pop-up space that expands upon the idea of personalization by actually taking attendees outside of the meeting room and placing them anywhere they would like to go. From a backyard barbecue to a wine tasting in Napa Valley, Cannery Row evolves to tell an event's unique story. We predict that ‘pop up' capabilities will increase in popularity as planners are looking to truly make their events stand out.
Stephanie Macias, Destination Sales Executive, Irvine Marriott 

3. Adventure and Experiences Are Important Components for Attendees

Experiences, adventure, and team building are all important components in 2017. Participants
indicate they want to "experience" a destination and not just have a meeting.  This can be accomplished through local partnerships, music, cuisine, hands-on crafts, off-site venues and authentic, shared experiences. Also look for sessions to actually be shortened to create
more time in the agenda for hands-on learning and interactive breakout sessions. Teams want to share information in a new way. According to meeting planners, the expectation is that these "experiences" will elevate the overall impact the meeting on an organization. So the pressure is on... full-throttle.

4. Make Time for Networking

With so many employees working flexible schedules and operating out of remote home-based offices, the desire to network and spend quality time interacting with fellow attendees is very important. These connections lead to new business, finding peer resources, and are becoming increasingly important as a component to the overall success of a meeting.

5. Security is A Serious Concern

Association Insights, a research firm, confirmed that safety and security are a top 2017 budget
consideration at all levels. This was also echoed in the 2017 American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast. It is not just terrorism or active shooters, but cyber security, health concerns of contagious diseases, and other emergency situations that were not "top of mind"
in years past.

Year after year, and study after study, Irvine repeatedly rates as one of the safest cities in the United States. This bodes well for meeting planners, attendees and spouses/guests who are often elated to hear their meeting will be held in Irvine, Calif.!

6. Food and Beverage Prices Are On The Rise

According to CWT Meetings & Events Forecast, F&B prices are on the rise due to production prices, changes in imports/exports, transportation costs and so forth. Embracing the "keeping it local" trend is helpful in terms of transport costs, however, the actual items are not seen as
less expensive. Pre-plating and action stations can provide more control over usage and budgets. For California, the extreme rain in early 2017 will provide a welcome relief to concerns over the drought and all that means to the farming communities our hotel chefs partner
with on a daily basis.

7. Technology Broadens The Reach Far Beyond the Meeting Room

Live video-streaming, Instagram and Snapchat are all changing the game. And not only for those in attendance, but those back home in the corporate/regional offices. Virtual and hybrid meetings are on the up-tick. Wider bandwidth needs will be in greater demand, similar to the needs of Wi-Fi which exploded in meeting public spaces as well as guest rooms just a few years ago.  Apps are on the rise, and more, not less, are anticipated in the future. New apps and websites are useful tools for check-in, sharing information, but also for gathering data on attendee behavior and post-meeting analysis.   Some meetings include voting in their programming---with the attendees using their mobile devices to vote on survey questions and thereby providing instant feedback to be shared in the meeting and in the moment!

"Technology concerns are often huge pain points for Event Planners. They are already tasked with creating engaging meeting content and now they have to figure out how to incorporate
offsite participants in their social media platforms as well. That's why your team at Destination Irvine is promoting solution based incentives, like a technical production consultation with AKJohnston or a digital strategist certification through PCMA. When you come to Irvine, we help give planners a leg up in the digital race."
Demea Metcalf, Director of Sales, Destination Irvine

8. Booking Lead Times Remain Tight

Planners are citing tight lead times, with the most planning reserved for product launches and trade shows. However, another factor on the rise is a balancing act of meeting planner's charged with organizing multiple smaller meetings in addition to the "main event".

9. Elbow Room in Negotiations

With many hotel companies offering centralized sales models, this allows meeting planners to consider multiple properties at one time. The venue size, room rate, complimentary meeting space and discounted Wi-Fi are all high on the list in 2017. There continues to be much less willingness on the part of meeting planners to negotiate on service fees and cancellation penalties. 

10. Thinking Outside the Traditional Box

Sharing is caring, and we are observing a continued increase in Uber, Lyft, various ride-sharing sites, as well as Airbnb and other short-term rental programs offering non-traditional accommodations. Globally, these are nibbling away at the more traditional travel standards. 
UberEvents, for example, was launched in 2015. This offers a prepaid option for groups and social events, such as weddings. (Now there is speculation that Uber may go public in 2017.) With social media and apps for attendees to engage prior to arrival, many are coordinating transportation and accommodations on their own.

And the spike in alternative lodging is found right here in Irvine as well. The city is starting to crack down on its use. (As of September 2016, the city had 370 listings on Airbnb, up from about 10 listings two years earlier, according to Beyond Pricing, a company that tracks vacation-rental data. Earlier this month, there were 130 Irvine listings on VRBO and HomeAway, a more than fourfold increase from three years ago, company data show.)  Statistics indicate it's not
a small issue in Irvine and other cities across the country.

Sources Include:  American Express Global Meetings and Events Forecast 2017

The complete report is available at  MPI's Meetings Outlook (in partnership with MGM Resorts Int. and IMEX Group), Successful Meetings- Top 9 Meeting Trends in 2017- by Terri Hardin - Jan. 3, 2017 ,

Smart Meetings- 8 Meeting Trends for 2017 by Ofer Yatziv 12/13/16. Ofer Yatziv is an events and marketing manager at Better Venues, also Cindy Fisher VP and Global Head of CWT Meetings & Events, Bill Voegeli- MPI Georgia Chapter and President of Association Insights
(a research firm), and Law Street Media- Crime in US Cities

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