Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa, Chandler

Healthy competition among properties raises the bar

Luxury meeting options in The Grand Canyon State are as vast as, say, the Grand Canyon.

Stellar resorts with Native American-themed spas, name-brand golf courses and breathtaking desert scenery are hardly new in Arizona. The Wigwam, outside Phoenix in Litchfield Park, turns 86 this year, and JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa helped set the tone for the brand’s resorts throughout the world when it opened in 1967.

“Having such a variety of luxury resorts throughout the state puts us in a wonderfully unique position to market Arizona as a resort destination,” says Debbie Johnson, director of Arizona Office of Tourism. “Our resorts offer such a wide range of amenities, including golf, dining, spas, pools and recreational activities, as well as some of the most luxurious rooms and suites available. This is particularly important to the Arizona Office of Tourism because meetings bring in business travelers, which provide us the opportunity to showcase our state to a different type of visitor.”

From Tucson to Sedona, and with an impressive collection in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Arizona features so many luxurious meeting properties that it could easily change its name to The Resort State.

“With so many luxury properties in the great state of Arizona, it forces all resorts to push the boundaries of luxury and innovation each year,” says Stephanie Sanstead, director of public relations and marketing communications for Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler. “This certainly elevates the overall guest experience and satisfaction.”

The Phoenician

phoenician-scottsdaleThe Phoenician, Scottsdale

The AAA Five Diamond Scottsdale property has expansive indoor and outdoor event space, measuring 160,000 sq. ft. The glamorous Camelback Ballroom Complex features a 15,000-square-foot ballroom, with a veranda for receptions and outdoor breakout sessions. A unique feature of this property is the variety of accommodations. There are 643 total accommodations. The Forbes Five-Star and AAA Five Diamond Canyon Suites has 60 guest rooms and suites, serving as a resort within the resort. Guest rooms in the main building and The Canyon Suites will be remodeled starting this summer. Three nine-hole golf courses, 10 restaurants and bars, eight swimming pools, a spa and an art collection make The Phoenician magical.

The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain

The small town of Marana, about 15 minutes from Tucson, boasts one of the top resorts in the United States thanks to The Ritz. The majestic AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star resort was once sacred land inhabited by the Hohokam Native American people, who honored a natural beauty that endures to this day. There are 253 guest rooms and suites, and 44,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. With a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, an award-winning spa and four restaurants, The Ritz gives the new Discover Marana destination management organization a key property to hang its cowboy hat on. The spa marvel guests with its open-air design and treatments inspired by Native American therapies.

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa

The 53-acre paradise is located in Paradise Valley, outside Scottsdale. There are currently 105 guest rooms/suites and six rental homes. A $10 million renovation of 81 casitas and suites was completed in October. Opening April 14 will be a spa/home, with four bedrooms in the main house and four other rooms nearby, creating an eight-room complex with an event lawn that will be perfect for executive retreats. There’s 5,918 sq. ft. of indoor space, including a 3,204-square-foot ballroom. A leading green resort, it uses low-flow toilets, drought-tolerant plants, organic cleaning products and services, and a staff incentive program to encourage positive environmental practices. Last year, the resort became a certified Monarch butterfly habitat as a result of an increase in Monarch butterflies in the Scottsdale area.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

four-seasons-scottsdale-troon-northFour Seasons Resort Scottsdale At Troon North

Elegantly situated in the foothills of Pinnacle Peak, Four Seasons is a true meeting resort, with 35,920 sq. ft. of event space. The 5,940-square-foot ballroom is the largest indoor space and can accommodate up to 500 for receptions and 430 for banquets. Four scenic outdoor terraces are very popular for receptions and Western-themed dinners, with room for up to 500. There are 210 guest rooms and suites. Four eateries range from poolside fare to a steak house. Complementary shuttle service is available to adjacent Troon North Golf Club, where two Tom Weiskopf-designed 18-hole courses wind through stellar desert settings. The Pinnacle and Monument courses are among the state’s top courses open to the public.

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

The AAA Five Diamond resort is about to get bigger and better. The Fairmont is currently undergoing an expansion that will add 102 guest rooms, pushing the total to 750 when the project is complete in May. The expansion also includes a new pool, which will feature a swim-up bar and cafe, plus a sand beach. This stellar meeting property offers 106,000 sq. ft. of indoor event space and 94,000 sq. ft. of  outdoor space for a combined 200,000 sq. ft of total event space. Copper Canyon is an authentic Western attraction that delivers a mining-town experience, including cowboy games and dancing to live Western music. There’s room for up to 750 attendees.

JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa

Scottsdale’s first luxury resort has been a longtime celebrity haunt, hosting movie stars such as Clark Gable and Bette Davis, and TV icons including Oprah Winfrey and Tom Selleck. J.W. Marriott Sr. was also passionate about the Sonoran Desert area, and the Marriott brand made Camelback Inn its first resort in 1967. The world-class spa and 36 holes of championship golf pair nicely with the resort’s expansive 91,119 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space. The 19,968-square-foot ballroom can hold up to 2,100 guests. The 453 Puebla-style guest rooms are emblematic of the resort’s desert location.

The Wigwam

Celebrating its 86th birthday this year, this iconic resort is staying fresh by completing a $25 million renovation of guest rooms, the lobby bar and three golf courses in April. The property has always been based on meetings, originally serving as a gathering destination for Goodyear Tire & Rubber executives. It’s probably not a coincidence that Litchfield Park, outside Phoenix, also proved to be well-suited to growing cotton for rubber production. Today, the resort boasts 331 guest rooms and 100,000 sq. ft. of event space, including 45,000 sq. ft. indoors. The 26,000-square-foot spa and fitness center add to the resort vibe, but the golf courses, including two designed by legendary Robert Trent Jones Sr., really elevate The Wigwam.

Enchantment Resort

Set amid a spectacular red-rock canyon in Sedona, this resort lives up to its name as an enchanting 70-acre destination primed for meetings and events. There are 218 guest accommodations, including casitas, suites and haciendas. Dining experiences include signature restaurant Che-Ah-Chi, the name given by Apaches for Boynton Canyon, and View 180, a lounge with spectacular landscape views. Tom Weiskopf designed the 18-hole, links-style golf course. Mii Amo Spa is complemented by fitness activities such as yoga, Tai Chi and aqua aerobics.

Miraval Resort & Spa

The award-winning Tucson resort specializes in health and wellness, with private sessions ranging from nutrition and exercise physiology to Pilates, yoga and meditation. Miraval Life in Balance Spa is LEED Silver certified; it opened in 2012 to help transform guests physically and emotionally. There are 118 casita-style guest rooms and suites, plus 16 private villas, creating a wellness oasis ideal for executive retreats. Planners have access to five meeting rooms and several outdoor venues. For adventure lovers, the resort is equipped with a ropes course, equestrian center and nearby trails for hiking and mountain biking.

Casino del Sol Resort

casino-del-sol-resort-tucsonCasino Del Sol Resort, Tucson

The Tucson casino and resort is operated by the Pascua Yaqui tribe. There are 215 guest rooms and suites, and more than 65,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space. The conference center can accommodate 2,000 guests. Entertainment is a huge draw here, with gaming and the 5,000-seat Anselmo Valencia Tori Amphitheater, one of the top live-performance venues in southern Arizona. To stay well, guests can work out in the fitness center and then head over to Hiapsi Spa for some pampering. Hiapsi is the Pascua Yaqui word for heart and soul.

Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa

Fresh off a $2.5 million facelift completed last fall, this luxurious slice of western desert life is a true getaway in Chandler, 15 miles from downtown Phoenix. Enhancements included guest rooms, common areas, restaurants and Aji Spa. There are 500 guest rooms that are inspired by Pima and Maricopa culture. The resort’s 100,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space is great for receptions, creating the perfect offsite for major events being held in Phoenix. Among the flexible spaces are two ballrooms that offer 17,000 sq. ft. and 15,000 sq. ft. A spa day is another offsite option. Aji means sanctuary in the Pima language, and this property certainly lives up to that billing.

The Scottsdale Plaza Resort

This independently owned oasis has been setting the standard for resorts for nearly 40 years. It features 404 guest rooms and 40,000 sq. ft. of event space, including 21 meeting rooms and 58 breakout suits. Last fall, the resort completed a multiphase renovation when its standard rooms were updated, including new glass-walled showers, new lighting and mounted TVs. There are 10 Executive Lodge Suites that are ideal for high-level negotiations, providing privacy and all the amenities associated with a world-class resort. A full-service spa and salon, tennis center, nine-hole putting green and five pools complete the luxury package.

JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa

The spacious AAA Four Diamond resort is situated on 316 acres, featuring amazing desert and mountain vistas. Golf is big thanks to courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo. The LPGA Tour will bring a competitive edge to the resort March 15−20, when the JTBC Founders Cup takes place. The award-winning Revive Spa is expansive, with 41 treatment rooms and a pool that is lined by plam trees. Guests also enjoy relaxing beside five pools, including a lazy river, and working out in the fitness center. With 311,853 sq. ft. of meeting space, event options abound; the 33,218-square-foot Grand Canyon Ballroom is Arizona’s largest banquet hall and can seat up to 4,000. There are 950 guest rooms and suites.

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch

hyatt-regency-scottsdale-resortHyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Galney French

Sororan Desert beauty flows throughout this 27-acre resort, which offers 70,000 sq. ft. of event space and 493 guest rooms. The 35,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space features a 14,280-square-foot ballroom that can host up to 1,800 for receptions. The Ranch offers an expansive water playground, with 10 swimming pools, a three-story waterslide and two poolside bars. Whether attendees are seeking health and wellness pursuits or cultural immersion, there are many options. There’s a spa, 27 holes of golf, a path for jogging or bike riding, and four lighted tennis courts. The resort also features a Native American Learning Center.

Talking Stick Resort

The AAA Four Diamond resort in Scottsdale boasts one of the largest casinos in the state, providing a Las Vegas vibe that is sophisticated and electric. Talking Stick Golf Club and The Spa at Talking Stick Resort serve as reminders that this property is much more than a casino.

The 496-room resort also has more than 113,000 sq. ft. of event space, including a 25,000-square-foot ballroom that can be divided into eight sections. The 650-seat showroom is another popular event venue. Of course, attendees will appreciate the nationally renowned acts that perform in the Salt River Grand Ballroom.

The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, A Destination Hotel

scottsdale-resort-mccormick-ranchThe former Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center was rebranded last year following a $10 million overhaul. The upgrades included new outdoor event space, two new restaurants and a bar, enhanced guest rooms, and the creation of a more open and welcoming feel throughout the resort.

Fondly called The Scottsdale, the property features two event lawns that can host 1,200 and 600 guests outdoors. There’s more than 80,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space and 326 spacious guest rooms and suites.

The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa

The 250-acre property in Tucson offers more than 64,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, with room for up to 2,000 attendees. There are 23 meetings rooms, from a ballroom to executive boardrooms. There are 487 guest rooms and suites.

Most guests come to play on the 27 holes of golf designed by Jack Nicklaus and the property’s 10 tennis courts. Red Door Salon & Spa has 18 treatment rooms, including two outdoor cabanas. There are several stellar dining options, but a for casual atmosphere guests will enjoy Sabino’s Swim-Up Bar & Grill and the 19th Hole after a round of golf.

JW Marriott Tucson Starr Pass Resort & Spa

The AAA Four Diamond resort combines luxury and relaxing activities to create a destination that is great for leisure and business travelers. Guests can wake up to the magical sound of a Native American flute being played as part of a morning ritual, which also includes burning a sage prayer tie and an eagle feather blessing. Attendees should make time to take a hike or mountain bike ride in the saguaro-decorated hills, play golf or head to the spa. There’s 78,158 sq. ft. of meeting space and 575 guest rooms and suites.

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

westin-kierland-resort-spaThe Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottsdale

Once you check in to this Scottsdale resort, you’ll never have to leave. There are 10 dining options, a spa, 27 holes of golf (and climate-controlled golf carts), and even a 900-foot lazy river that’s part of the property’s water park. The fitness studio lends New Balance gear, so meeting attendees don’t even have to pack workout clothes to stay fit. There are three ballrooms, including one that offers 25,000 sq. ft. of space. The resort has 732 guest rooms.

Kierland is committed to conserving energy, recycling and reduction of plastic products, limiting its impact and helping guests feel good about being green.

We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center

This resort has the distinction of being in the heart of the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, on the eastern border of Scottsdale. Native American culture awaits attendees, along with adventures such as Jeep or horseback riding tours along the Verde River. The resort’s 25,000-square-foot conference center offers full catering and state-of-the-art A/V equipment. The 18,000-square-foot ballroom can seat 1,800 theater-style and host 1,200 for receptions. There are 246 guest rooms and suites.

Smart Meetings Event Coming to Arizona Biltmore

arizona-biltmoreArizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort (pictured), will be the site of the Smart Meetings West National event Sept. 11–13 in Phoenix.

Mike Staver and Kate Patay are scheduled to be keynote speakers. Staver is an author and advocate of counterintuitive thinking. Patay is executive director of sales and marketing for Special Event Linen Rental & Sales and frequently discusses topics of interest to the meetings industry. A Smart Meetings Event favorite, Natalie Spiro will bring her Drum Cafe to the Biltmore for team building and relaxation.

Meeting-goers can take advantage of a 22,000-square-foot spa, a 92-foot waterslide, eight swimming pools, two 18-hole golf courses and six restaurants and lounges.

The Biltmore, with more than 100,000 sq. ft. of event space, is an excellent place to meet. The legendary resort, which opened in 1929, offers 740 guest rooms. Fondly called “the jewel of the desert,” the resort has been hosting galas for 85 years. The consulting architect was Frank Lloyd Wright. Once owned by William Wrigley Jr., the Biltmore’s famous guests included Marilyn Monroe and Irving Berlin.

Urban Updates

Downtown Phoenix is a meeting planner’s dream and is sure to provide a fulfilling experience for attendees. For starters, Phoenix Convention Center (pictured)is in the middle of it all, creating a centralized meeting zone that is surrounded by attractions. The convention center is a doozy, with more than 900,000 sq. ft. of exhibition and meeting space. The West Building, which is LEED Silver certified, combines with the North Building to offer 502,500 sq. ft. of exhibit space.

According to Douglas MacKenzie, director of media relations for Visit Phoenix, the city boasts one of the largest art walks in the nation when First Fridays bring together a large collection of art, food and music vendors. The Phoenix food truck scene is impressive and there are several downtown craft breweries from which to choose. Large-scale venues include Talking Stick Resort Arena, home to the NBA Phoenix Suns, and Chase Field, where the MLB Arizona Diamondbacks play.

Last month, Phoenix City Council approved the sale of the city-owned 1,000-room Sheraton Grand Phoenix. At press time, it was unknown if the state’s largest hotel would be rebranded once the sale is final. The prominent downtown property supports major meetings held at the adjacent convention center. It’s also a frequent event host, with 80,000 sq. ft. of event space, including a 29,000-square-foot ballroom.

Other properties that are popular with meeting attendees are Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel, Hyatt Regency Phoenix and The Westin Phoenix Downtown. Along with the Sheraton, the four downtown hotels combine to offer 2,453 guest rooms and 193,000 sq. ft. of event space, helping Phoenix rank as a leading convention city.


A little off the beaten path west of Phoenix is Chandler, which features a thriving tech scene and vibrant downtown.

Chandler offers an amazing selection of hotels that feature great value, convenience and excellent service. Chandler Center for the Arts can seat up to 1,500, and has a theater and hall that can accommodate 350 and 250, respectively.


Renaissance Phoenix Glendale Hotel & Spa in Glendale is the key meeting venue for this city, which is home to University of Phoenix Stadium. There’s 115,085 sq. ft. of event space spread out among 30 rooms at the Renaissance. The 28,800-square-foot Solana Ballroom can hold up to 2,500 for receptions and 1,600 for banquets. There are 320 guest rooms and a fitness center, full-service restaurant and lobby bar.

The Renaissance is steps from Westgate Entertainment District, which features the football stadium, Gila River Arena and shopping. The 63,400-seat football stadium (expandable to 72,200 seats), which features the first rollout field and retractable roof stadium in the world, is home of the NFL Arizona Cardinals. It hosted the 2015 Super Bowl and 2016 College Football Playoff National Championship, and in 2017 will hold the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four. The 18,300-seat arena is home to the NHL Arizona Coyotes.


Although nearby resorts serve as key hosts for many events, the downtown area of Tucson is equally inviting and features a food scene that is world renowned.

Tucson was recently designated a City of Gastronomy in the Creative Cities Network by UNESCO, calling attention to the region’s rich agricultural heritage, thriving food traditions and culinary distinctiveness. The UNESCO Creative Cities Network includes seven areas: crafts and folk art; design; film; gastronomy; literature; media arts; and music.

The city boasts two James Beard award-winners, including Janos Wilder, who opened Downtown Kitchen + Cocktails in 2010 to help ignite Tucson’s urban culinary notoriety. Wilder opened The Carriage House Cooking School and Special Event Venue last month nearly next door to Downtown Kitchen. The new multipurpose space can hold 160 for sit-down dinners and up to 250 for receptions.

Downtown Tucson Convention Center offers 205,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Three exhibition halls combine to offer 89,760 sq. ft. of exhibition space.

Major Meeting Venues


Arizona Grand Resort & Spa
Amazing location at base of South Mountain Preserve; AAA Four Diamond rated; 744 suites and villas; 120,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor event space; spa; water park; 18-hole golf course; six restaurants.

Hotel Palomar Phoenix Downtown
Property near convention center and entertainment venues; more than 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; rooftop garden is unique venue; 242 guest rooms.

Hyatt Regency Phoenix
Adjacent to Phoenix Convention Center; 693 guest rooms; 48,000 sq. ft. of function space; 12,000-square-foot atrium for receptions; fitness center; outdoor pool; five restaurants and bars.

Phoenix Convention Center
In the heart of downtown; three-building complex has nearly 900,000 sq. ft. of exhibition and meeting space; West Building is LEED Silver certified; West and North buildings connected by skybridge; South Building offers two exhibit halls with a combined 82,000 sq. ft. and it can be expanded to 143,400 sq. ft. by adding meeting rooms and a ballroom.

Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel
Key property for convention attendees; 518 guest rooms and suites; 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; largest space can accommodate up to 950; rooftop pool; trendy lounge for networking.

Royal Palms Resort and Spa
Destination Luxury Hotel; 119 accommodations, including suites and casitas; 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; estate dates to the ’20s and still exudes its original Spanish Colonial design.

The Westin Phoenix Downtown
Urban vibe with boutique style; 242 guest rooms; 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 3,000-square-foot ballroom; pool; Province restaurant; pets welcome.


Firesky Resort & Spa
In the heart of Old Town Scottsdale; 204 guest rooms and suites; 14,000 sq. ft. of event space, including two ballrooms; largest space offers 6,800 sq. ft., with room for up to 600.

Hotel Valley Ho
Near downtown; celebrating 60th birthday this year; AAA Four Diamond rated; 191 guest rooms; 13,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; 20,000 sq. ft. of outdoor event space; tropical landscaping.

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia
Designed to resemble an Andalusian village in Spain; award-winning spa; amazing mountain views from its Paradise Valley location; 27,000 sq. ft. of indoor event space; 74,000 sq. ft. outside; 293 guest rooms.

The Boulders Resort & Spa
Located in nearby Carefree; member of Hilton Hotel’s Curio Collection; two championship golf courses amid desert landscape; 33,000-square-foot spa; more than 50,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor space; 17,800-square-foot conference center; three casitas are perfect for executive retreats.

W Scottsdale
AAA Four Diamond rated; property anchors Scottsdale entertainment district; 230 guest rooms; 33 specialty suites; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; largest space offers 3,500 sq. ft.; pool creates dynamic event space.


DoubleTree by Hilton Phoenix Tempe
Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired architecture; near Arizona State University campus and Mill Avenue District shopping and entertainment; 30,000 sq. ft. of event space; 270 guest rooms; spa.

Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes
Panoramic views of desert landscape; three miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport; 353 guest rooms; more than 40,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space, including 9,000-square-foot ballroom; 15,000 sq. ft. of outdoor function space.

Sheraton Phoenix Airport Hotel Tempe
Near Tempe Diablo Stadium; 209 guest rooms; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 3,450-square-foot ballroom can accommodate more than 350.


Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort
AAA Four Diamond rated; most golf offered in Southern Arizona with 45 holes; 31 tennis courts; 428 guest rooms; 54,000 sq. ft. of event space.

Loews Ventana Canyon Resort
Two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses; 398 large guest rooms; 37,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; Western-themed event venue; spa.

Omni Tucson National Resort
AAA Four Diamond resort will host the PGA Tucson Conquistadores Classic March 14−20; 10,500 sq. ft. of event space; 128 guest rooms.

The Arizona Inn
Historic property celebrates its 85th birthday this year; Spanish Colonial design; 92 guest rooms and suites; 5,000 sq. ft. of event space.

The Westin La Paloma
Located in Santa Catalina Mountains foothills; 487 guest rooms; 27 holes of golf; 10 tennis courts; spa; more than 64,000 sq. ft. of meeting space.

Westward Look Wyndham Grand Resort and Spa
Historic property dates to 1912; secluded location at the base of Santa Catalina Mountains; 241 guest rooms; conference area offers more than 20,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; ballroom can seat 450.