Sunny Southern California is calling this summer, when the Going On Faith Conference heads to Ontario, August 9-11.
“I can’t tell you how many of our delegates from past conferences have told me how excited they are to be going to Ontario, California,” said conference CEO Joe Cappuzzello. “We’re talking about perhaps the most enviable climate anywhere in America, and the list of things to see and do out there seems to grow every day. We certainly hope everyone is making plans now to join us out there in August.”
Ontario has been climbing the charts for a decade or so as more and more eastern U.S. travelers discover its excellent air service and its proximity to so many of southern California’s hip, cool and trending points of interest.
“Ontario is the perfect hub-and-spoke destination for exploring southern California,” said Michael Krause, CEO of the Ontario Convention and Visitors Bureau. “We’re 30 minutes from Los Angeles, 30 minutes from Disney, 30 minutes from ski country in the mountains and 40 minutes from the beach. We are a regional hub that sits in the shadow of the San Bernardino Mountains.
“Your delegates can literally go to the beach in the morning and to the mountains in the afternoon,” he said. “We’ve recently been selected for a new California Welcome Center. That is a huge deal. We’ll see a thousand buses a year at that center easily. It will open this month [April] and is adjacent to the Ontario Mills Mall, which draws 28 million visitors annually.”
Here is a rundown of sites Going On Faith delegates will have the opportunity to enjoy:
Ontario Mills Mall — Shopping centers of this magnitude have become travel destinations, not just for domestic groups, but for international groups as well. Groups from China, Brazil and many countries in Europe include this mall on their California itineraries. Going On Faith delegates will be astounded at the size and diversity of this shopping experience. Ontario Mills boasts more than 200 stores, from Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue to Nike and Coach, and it contains nearly 60 movie screens.
Citizens Business Bank Arena — This $150 million center is one of the busiest host venues for concerts and events anywhere on the West Coast. Completed in 2008, Citizens Bank Arena has drawn acts like Metallica, Elton John, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood and the Eagles to Ontario. The Los Angeles Lakers play annual preseason games in the venue as well. Built by the city and managed by AEG Facilities, this arena accommodates up to 11,000 guests for a concert or event.
Auto Club Speedway — Do you have any NASCAR fans in your group? Make sure to save time for a trip out to Auto Club Speedway in nearby Fontana. Every March, race fans from across the United States gather for the NASCAR Sprint Series Auto Club 400. This track and complex is California’s finest. Hosting racing 320 days a year, this D-shaped two-mile-long oval track is a favorite with drivers and actors alike. When racing isn’t taking place, this track is used for many movie and photo shoots that call for a racing backdrop.
Graber Olive House — One of the area’s most heralded cultural stops is this iconic olive producer and retailer. Graber Olive House has earned reviews from culinary writers across the country and beyond for its locally grown and packaged olives. The area’s rich olive-growing heritage is attributed to 18th-century Spanish missionaries who planted groves of trees almost 250 years ago. Since 1894, Graber Olives has been an Ontario landmark. Guests to the Going On Faith Conference will have the opportunity to visit its historic shops and cannery. Gift baskets, olive oils, almonds, dates and other delicacies are staples at this charming gift shop.
Maloof Residence and Garden — Another cultural highlight of any trip to Ontario is a visit to the residence and garden of internationally acclaimed woodworker Sam Maloof and his wife and partner of 50 years, Alfreda. Together, this couple built a worldwide following for Sam’s creations, which included custom-designed furniture and decorative art. Located in nearby Rancho Cucamonga, the site includes the Maloof’s custom-built home, their garden and a museum.
“I was just out at the Maloof home,” said Krause. “It’s phenomenal. I walked through the gardens yesterday. Artists in addition to Maloof are featured there. The museum has a lot of his furniture, all handmade and made with pegs. He made rocking chairs for Presidents Kennedy, Carter and Reagan. His workshop has been preserved since his death in 2009. There are still molds there for the chair he made for President Kennedy and others. His kitchen hasn’t been touched since the 1970s. The house is a very cool place. You could spend two days there easily.”
California Route 66 Museum — Route 66 is one of America’s most-visited cultural landmarks. Stretching from Chicago to the Pacific, this historic drive has millions of fans across the world who love its call to the open road and adventure. The California Route 66 Museum in nearby Victorville is an interactive museum that features a 1950s diner, a Volkswagen “Love Bus” van and a Model T Ford.
Golf — Bring your clubs to Ontario. As you might imagine, numerous golf courses grace the region, including nearby public-play tracts like Whispering Lakes and Sierra Lakes. Whispering Lakes was renovated and enhanced recently and features a 6,700-yard, tree-lined layout. Sierra Lakes in nearby Fontana offers gorgeous views of the mountains of nearby San Bernardino.
Outdoor recreation — Need to get away while you’re in Ontario? Head for nearby Cucamonga Guasti Regional Park. A local favorite, this park is the site of choice for paddleboats, fishing, swimming and picnicking. Many other outdoor pursuits, including hiking and bicycling, are just minutes away in the Southern California countryside.
“It’s hard to describe how wonderful this area is — you just have to go,” said Cappuzzello. “I would encourage our delegates to come early and stay late. If you’ve ever wanted to relax in Southern California, this conference is the time to do it.”
Registration is open now for the Going On Faith Conference in Ontario, August 9-11. Faith-based travel planners can attend for only $95, and that includes two nights’ lodging, all conference meals and sightseeing. For details, visit www.gofconference.com.