Professional and trade conventions actually are new urbanist events. People arrive from out of town, often sans car, and spend several days walking around the convention site and the host city while taking care of business and enjoying themselves.

So when we at CP&DR started talking about the best convention cities in California, we ended up talking about some of California's best urban areas. It turns out that a good convention city has all the same attributes as a good urban place.

A good convention city has a wide variety of restaurants, coffee houses and watering holes, decent entertainment options, parks or multi-use paths for early-morning or late-afternoon exercise, and maybe some specialty shopping — all within close vicinity of the convention site. Remember, you're at a conference. Considering all the time spent sitting around listening to presentations, and all the drinking and munching you'll do at receptions, you NEED to walk around.

Of course, a convention city also should have good hotels, comfortable meeting facilities, wireless access everywhere, a decent airport, and some public transit.

Resorts are a second option for a convention. The resort convention often encourages even more walking than the downtown convention, but in a different setting. It's more like walking in a shopping mall or hospital or, if you're lucky, a college campus. While there, you think about how long it will take you to walk somewhere — not the place that you're in.

We love cities, so it's not surprising that we favor the downtown convention format. We also should note that we who live and work in California are darned lucky to have so many great meeting places. Many states have only a handful of locations that could handle, say, 500 to 1,000 people for three days. California has dozens of such places, which makes it difficult to choose the best. But we did.

The best cities in California for a convention:

1. Monterey. Is there anybody who doesn't want to spend a few days in Monterey on the company's dime? Monterey Conference Center isn't built for those 20,000-person mega-events, but it's an ideal size for most conventions, and it's perfectly located between downtown and Cannery Row. Top-notch hotels, restaurants and comfortable lounges are everywhere. The fabulous Monterey Bay Aquarium and Fisherman's Wharf are within comfortable walking distance along a bayfront multi-use trail. Downtown can feel a touch upscale touristy, but it's easy enough to find eateries and shops catering to modest budgets. If you're able to sneak off for the afternoon, the Monterey Peninsula offers a world-class selection of public golf courses.

2. San Diego. San Diego is sort of like a much bigger version of Monterey, and with more reliably good weather. This convention center can handle the mega-event, but there are hotels with fine meeting facilities for smaller gatherings. The downtown San Diego walking environment is extraordinary. The thriving restaurants and nightclubs of the Gaslamp District are only a few blocks away from the convention center, as is the San Diego Padres' baseball stadium, and you can always stroll along the waterfront. The San Diego Trolley makes excursions to other parts of town easy. If the family comes along, they may reach the famous San Diego Zoo and other attractions of Balboa Park with a short cab ride.

3. Palm Springs. What's better than finally escaping from 8 hours of brain-numbing PowerPoint presentations in an air conditioned hall? Walking out the sliding glass doors into a pleasantly warm evening and marveling at the San Jacinto Peak escarpment towering over town. Palm Springs' convention hotels are conveniently located in an old-fashioned, low-rise downtown that has a weird, yet enjoyable, mix of businesses. The place manages to be both kitschy and ultra-modern at the same time. Plus, the Spa Resort Casino offers a touch of Vegas right in the middle of everything.

The second tier:

San Francisco. The City would rate higher if Moscone Center were in a better location. Unfortunately, the SoMa neighborhood right around the big convention house is pretty gritty. Union Square and the theater district are nearby, but other great attractions — such as the most vibrant Chinatown in the U.S., the amazing dining in North Beach and the dazzling waterfront along the Embarcadero — require a short cab ride. Public transit can be a little confusing to visitors. Still, if you don't enjoy a convention in San Francisco, then you don't enjoy cities.

Los Angeles. Here, the location problem is even worse. Unlike San Francisco, where there are plenty of good hotels close to the convention center, in L.A. most big hotels are a mile or more from the massive convention center. Who wants to take a shuttle from their hotel to the convention? That said, there are finally some new hotels and restaurants within striking distance of the convention center. If you're lucky enough to attend a convention at one of the established downtown hotels, you'll be close to great museums and entertainment venues around the Civic Center. And, believe it or not, public transit is pretty convenient if you want to hit Olvera Street, or even Hollywood or Pasadena.

San Jose. This may be the only true surprise on our list. There are good hotels fairly near the convention center and the redeveloped downtown is enjoyable if still a work-in-progress. The San Jose State University campus brings variety and vitality to area. Light-rail and a free shuttle make getting around easy, but most things are within a 15-minute walk.

Very popular, but …

Anaheim. OK, if you're bringing the kids, then Anaheim might be convention nirvana. But if you're looking for an urban experience, nearby Long Beach or even Santa Ana would be a better bet. Disneyland's massive surface parking lots prevent good urbanism. The Anaheim Convention Center is disconnected from everything. If you want to eat or drink somewhere other than your hotel or Disneyland, your choice is to find a ride or walk on narrow sidewalks adjacent to high-speed boulevards to, well, a different hotel or chain restaurant. That said, there has been a significant hotel upgrade during recent years, and Downtown Disney is OK for what it is. Check back in 20 years. Things might be great by then.

For a change of pace …

Yosemite Valley. The facilities are spread out, yet everything you could want is here — in one of the world's most spectacular settings. You may take a contemplative walk from Curry Village to Yosemite Lodge to the Ahwahnee Hotel, or you may ride the free shuttle. The boss isn't going to spring for a room in the Ahwahnee, but you may still stop in for a drink by the fireplace. And what could be better than waking up in a tent cabin at Curry Village, grabbing a steaming cup of coffee on the patio, and then deciding whether the day might be better spent on the trail to Upper Yosemite Falls?

— The CP&DR Staff