California’s Best Convention Centers

After numerous cancellations over the past few years, convention centers in California are more-than-ready to host events again. Many venues used the past year as an opportunity to improve their facilities, get more ambitious with their sustainability goals, and update their procedures. In fact, 21 out of 25 of the country’s largest convention centers earned the Global BioRisk Advisory Council’s GBAC Star accreditation for their cleaning and disinfection protocols.

With an end in sight for any pandemic-related event cancellations, event planners are looking ahead to a promising future. After reviewing the best convention centers in Florida and Las Vegas, we’ve decided to do a review of some of the best convention centers and venues in California in 2022.

Our top event destinations are chosen by meeting the following criteria:

Size and amenities – Total square feet, amount of exhibit space, number of meeting rooms

Visitor reviews – Ratings of Google, Yelp, TripAdvisor

Protocols – Safety, Cleanliness, and Sustainability procedures

Top 5: San Diego Convention Center

San Diego Convention Center rentalsBernard Gagnon, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The primary convention center in San Diego is located in the Marina district of downtown San Diego near the Gaslamp Quarter, located at 111 West Harbor Drive. The San Diego Convention Center is managed by the San Diego Convention Center Corporation, a non-profit public benefit corporation created by the City of San Diego.

The roof of the iconic Sails Pavilion consists of distinctive Teflon-coated fiberglass “sails” intended to reflect San Diego’s maritime history and advertise the center’s proximity to the San Diego shore. Originally built as an open-air facility under a roof, the Sails Pavilion was enclosed in glass in 2000 to greatly expand the usable area of the center. You’ll have the option to customize any event you host in this area with LED lighting that is visible both inside and outside, illuminating the San Diego skyline and waterfront.

The San Diego Convention Center contains over 2.6 million total square feet of space, offering abundant, flexible space for any type of event – from small group meetings to large conventions with thousands of attendees. With a capacity for 125,000 people, the San Diego CC offers 615,700 square feet of exhibit space, including a 90,000 square foot exhibit and special event area, the Sails Pavilion. The contiguous exhibit hall can host a large gathering of any kind – with 525,701 square feet of exhibit space that can be segmented into up to 7 separate sections with varying widths and column configurations. With 8 loading dock access points, each exhibit hall offers convenient loading and unloading with a direct drive-on access point from the loading dock.

In addition to the massive amount of exhibit space, the San Diego Convention Center also features 72 meeting rooms located throughout the mezzanine and upper levels. Available in various sizes and configurations, most of the meeting room corridors have glass vaulted ceilings allowing plenty of natural sunlight and providing easy access to and from other areas of the center.

With a perfect combination of elegance and functionality, the San Diego CC’s two column-free ballrooms contain a combined 40,000 square feet of space which can be divided into smaller rooms for any type of function.

In 2020, the San Diego Convention Center became one of the first convention centers in the United States to achieve the Global BioRisk Advisory Council (GBAC) Star Facility Accreditation. Under the guidance of GBAC, SDCC will implement stringent protocols for cleaning, disinfection, and infectious disease prevention.

Moscone Center

Moscone Center rentalsBen Miller, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The George R. Moscone Convention Center, commonly known as the Moscone Center, is the largest convention and exhibition complex in San Francisco. Originally opened in 1981, the Moscone Center is named after former San Francisco mayor George Moscone, who was assassinated in 1978. During an expansion in 1992 and 2003, the center added 600,000 square feet of space to its original 300,000 square feet of exhibit space. In 2012, the Moscone center emerged from an additional two-year renovation of the North and South building that added a combined 1.2 million square feet of function space.

Considering all of the expansions, the Moscone Center offers more than 502,000 square feet of contiguous space that can be used for exhibitions, meetings, and more. It also has two ballrooms, including a new 50,000-square-foot, column-free ballroom. In addition to 82 meeting rooms, the Moscone Center has 107,000 square feet of light-filled pre-function lobbies which offer beautiful views of the city and surrounding Yerba Buena Gardens. There are also 25,000 square feet of secure, outdoor terraces which are ideal for receptions.

The expanded Moscone Center is LEED Platinum certified – and achieved the highest scored LEED certification for a convention center in the entire world, thanks to features like fewer carbon emissions per delegate than any major convention center in North America, recovery of 15 million gallons of groundwater annually for reuse in the Center, irrigating neighboring parks and street cleaning, the largest rooftop photovoltaic (solar panel) array in San Francisco, zero-emissions electricity, and daylight harvesting to offset electrical lighting.

In 2021, the Moscone Center successfully completed the Global BioRisk Advisory Council’s 20 STAR program elements and earned its GBAC Star Accreditation.

Los Angeles Convention Center

One of the largest convention centers in the United States, the Los Angeles Convention Center is located in the southwest section of downtown L.A. and hosts multiple annual conventions and has been used as a filming location in many TV shows and movies. This premier event venue is owned by the City of Los Angeles and operated by AEG Facilities.

Renowned internationally as a prime location for conventions, trade shows, and exhibitions, the LACC is an integral economic component of the Southern Californian area – generating over 12,500 local jobs. Located in the cultural, business, and entertainment mecca of Downtown LA, the Los Angeles Convention Center sees over 350 events hosted annually – including over 2 million visitors.

Comprised of two state-of-the-art buildings, the West Hall and the South Hall, the LACC boasts 867,000 square feet of total exhibit hall and meeting room space which is incorporated within 5 exhibit halls (720,000 sq ft) and 64 meeting rooms (147,000 sq ft). This is all included in the over 4.2 million square feet of total facility space.

The Los Angeles Convention Center was the first convention center in the United States to be awarded the Gold Level certification in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design for Existing Buildings: Operation and Maintenance (LEED-EB O&M). With 2.58 megawatts of solar panels onsite, the LACC has the largest solar array on a municipally owned convention center in the United States.

In 2020, the Los Angeles Convention Center was awarded the Global BioRisk Advisory Council STAR accreditation for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

Anaheim Convention Center

Anaheim Convention Center rentalsTroutfarm27, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

The largest exhibition facility on the west coast, the Anaheim Convention Center is consistently ranked as one of the top meeting venues in the United States in terms of its size, attendance, and overall building services and amenities. This ultra-modern 1.8 million-square-foot facility boasts the capacity to host any mega-conventions, meetings, trade shows, exhibitions, and other events with ease.

The ACC offers over one million square feet of exhibit space, including three ballrooms with a total of 238,000 square feet. In 2017, an expansion project to ACC North added 200,000 square feet of space with a 100,000 square foot carpeted column-free multi-purpose space featuring north-facing windows and moveable airwalls for a variety of meeting room layout options. On top of that, the picturesque outdoor Palm Courts, Arena Plaza, and Grand Plaza offer sunny possibilities for year-round special events, receptions, and networking opportunities – boasting 200,000 square feet of outdoor event space. Additionally, the ACC has 99 meeting rooms for a total of 352,000 square feet of meeting space.

The Anaheim Convention Center is globally recognized for its sustainability and leadership due to its LEED certification as of 2010. In 2020, the ACC received accreditation for the Global BioRisk Advisory Council’s STAR award.

Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center

Built on the former site of Long Beach Municipal Auditorium, the venue is comprised of the Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach Arena, and Long Beach Performing Arts Center. Served by the 1st Street Station of Los Angeles Metro Rail, the LBCC offers more than 400,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space, with new wiring for the latest technology and wireless capabilities.

With 34 meeting rooms, three dynamic exhibition halls, a Grand Ballroom, Long Beach Arena, various turnkey spaces like Beverly O’Neill Theater, Terrace Theater, The Cove, The Wave Pedestrian Bridge, and more, the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center is ideal for all types of special events, conventions, trade shows, and exhibitions. The glass dome of the lobby, Grand Ballroom, and Promenade Ballroom provide illumination by sunlight during the day and colorful LED lights in the evening. 

The Grand Ballroom features the largest dedicated ballroom space in Long Beach with 20,456 square feet of virtually column-free meeting space for maximum flexibility in setup and decorations.

The three multi-faceted exhibition halls can be used individually or in combinations of up to 224,000 square feet of continuous floor space, which also allows for maximum creativity in planning for conventions, trade shows, meetings, exhibitions, and other special events.

As of 2020, the Long Beach Convention Center was awarded the Global BioRisk Advisory Council STAR accreditation for outbreak prevention, response, and recovery.

Honorable Mentions: McEnery Convention Center

The San Jose McEnery Convention Center is the largest convention center in Silicon Valley, known for hosting high-profile technology conferences and events like Apple Worldwide Developers Conference and Facebook F8. Opened in 1989 to replace the San Jose Civic, the SJMCC is named after Tom McEnery, former mayor of San Jose, and is managed by Team San Jose.

The McEnery Convention Center covers 550,000 square feet, including 165,000 square feet of exhibit space, 31 meeting rooms, and banquet facilities. With entrances on West San Carlos Street, Almaden Boulevard, and South Market Street, the San Jose Hilton and Marriott hotels both adjoin the San Jose McEnery Convention Center. A two-story hallway connecting the three entrances is called “Parkway” on the ground floor and “Concourse” on the second floor.

In 2020, the San Jose McEnery Convention Center was awarded the Global BioRisk Advisory Council (GBAC) Star facility accreditation.

Crypto.com Arena (formerly Staples Center)

Formerly the Staples Center since 1999, the “crypto.com ARENA” was renamed in 2021 when Singapore-based Crypto.com acquired the naming rights. Owned and operated by the Arturo L.A. Arena Company and Anschutz Entertainment Group, the Crypto.com Arena is the home venue to the Los Angeles Kings (NHL), the Los Angeles Lakers (NBA), the Los Angeles Clippers (NBA), and the Los Angeles Sparks (WNBA). Aside from sporting events, the Crypto.com arena is host to over 250 events and nearly 4 million guests each year. Crypto.com Arena is also home to the Grammy Awards ceremony and will host the basketball competition during the 2028 Summer Olympics.

For concerts and special events, the capacity for Crypto.com Arena nears 20,000 guests, with various meeting rooms for smaller sessions. 

In 2020, the Global BioRisk Advisory Council (GBAC) announced that Crypto.com Arena has received its GBAC STAR facility accreditation, the gold standard for prepared facilities.

Santa Clara Convention Center

One of the largest meeting and convention facilities in the Silicon Valley, the Santa Clara Convention Center was built in 1986 and expanded in 2009. In 1987, the Santa Clara Convention Center hosted the very first Apple Worldwide Developers Conference.

Santa Clara’s premiere event space offers over 300,000 square feet of event space to customize your perfect event. Their exhibit halls are perfect for trade shows, expos, public shows, social events, corporate meetings, banquet events, theater events, weddings, holiday parties, and even sporting events.

As of 2022, the Santa Clara Convention Center has been certified for the Global BioRisk Advisory Council’s (GBAC) STAR facility accreditation.

South San Francisco Convention Center

South San Francisco Convention Center rentalsSouth San Francisco Conference Center, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Facebook

The South San Francisco Convention Center is a state-of-the-art facility and Gold LEED Conference Center known for its technological excellence, onsite culinary capabilities, and atrium lobby. Often preferred by many meeting planners seeking maximum value due to its close proximity to the San Francisco International Airport and downtown San Francisco, the SSFCC offers 20,500 square feet of conference room space for rent with no visual obstructions or columns.

Although this is a very popular meeting destination and is LEED certified, which means it has met the qualifications and standards set by the US Green Building Council which qualify buildings across the globe for design, construction, and operation, as of 2022 the South San Francisco Convention Center has yet to be certified for the Global BioRisk Advisory Council’s (GBAC) STAR facility accreditation.

Exhibitor Center

Are you looking to get more potential customers to an event to see your trade show booth? There are a variety of ways to generate leads, educate prospects and customers, build brand awareness, upsell customers, and increase event attendance. Check out these tips for improving your event marketing strategy in order to boost attendance.

If you attend trade shows and conventions regularly, or exhibit at them, you may notice that almost every exhibit looks almost exactly the same. If you’re looking to stand out from the rest of the exhibitors or companies at your next convention, consider reading Why bringing your own gear to a show isn’t easy.

You wouldn’t purchase a car you were only going to use for a few months, so why would you buy technology you’re only going to use a few times at various trade shows or conventions? That’s why renting trade show booth displays and other equipment makes sense. While sometimes companies rent equipment for budgetary reasons, renting technology makes sense for most situations – and this is especially true for trade show displays.

At the end of the day, the decision to rent or purchase your own exhibiting equipment is up to you, but we highly recommend trying rentals first if you:

  • Are a new business
  • Your company exhibits at two locations simultaneously
  • You want to test an upgrade
  • Your company outgrew its old trade show booth
  • You don’t want to be tied down to aging technology
  • You only do a few shows per year

Rentacomputer.com – A Trusted Rental Partner

Are you looking for a technology rental provider that you can trust? Rentacomputer.com has been in business for over 30 years – and we can back that up with positive reviews on Google, referrals from our accounting executives and certificates of insurance for events of all sizes, and educated employment of technicians.

Tech Travel Agent Randy MooreWhen you rent from us, you not only get the best equipment but also top-of-the-line support from qualified tech travel agents with years of experience in the technology rental and event production field. Our agents coordinate all the logistics of delivery and installation and can have techs on call to troubleshoot and fix any problems that may arise with your rental technology. Our account manager Randy Moore specializes in exhibitor rentals like displays, kiosks, event engagement rentals, laptops, tablets, smartphones, internet hotspots, accessory rentals, and much more. Randy will gladly handle any questions you may have in regards to rentals to make your event exhibition easier. Contact Randy today at 1-800-736-8772 ext. 225 or fill out a fast, easy online quote form today.

Visit our PC & AV Rental Pricing Factors page to find out about our pricing estimates.

Do you need help setting up your trade show booth, convention exhibit, stage, or other display? Since Rentacomputer.com has been doing business in the events industry for so long, our technology travel agents are experienced in dealing with a variety of events from small to large and can assist you with a variety of equipment rentals and marketing options that come with them. Just request a fast, easy rental quote and one of our representatives will get back to you shortly via the communication method of your choice.

Our technicians handle everything from configuration and testing to delivery, set up, troubleshooting, tear down, and returns. Get a quote for your event technology rental needs today. Contact us today for a hassle-free exhibit rental.

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