Greater Phoenix is a Hot Spot for Planners

Arizona Outback Adventures

Greater Phoenix is blessed with some of the best weather in the United States. With more than 330 annual days of sunshine, low humidity and an average daily temperature of 75 degrees, it is a boon for planners, who are virtually guaranteed that their outdoor events won’t be disrupted by inclement weather.

pink-jeep-toursPink Jeep Tours

Yet the lovely climate is just one benefit of this pleasant destination. Spectacular resorts boast championship golf courses, world-class dining and spas, top-notch meeting facilities, authentic Native American culture and enticing options that promise fun in the sun. Whether it’s hiking majestic Camelback Mountain, stand-up paddleboarding on Tempe Town Lake, exploring the rugged Sonoran Desert in a bright pink Jeep or taking in the beauty from above in a hot air balloon, there is plenty of adventure to be had.

Greater Phoenix encompasses Phoenix and the neighboring cities of Scottsdale, Tempe, Mesa, Gilbert and Chandler. The region is serviced by Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport (PHX), which offers easy accessibility from nearly anywhere in the United States. It’s no wonder this Arizona mecca is a hot spot for planners.

Outdoor Activities Galore

“Scottsdale is the perfect destination for corporate and incentive meetings, and the logical choice for planners looking to let their attendees experience the great outdoors,” says Stephanie Pressler, communications manager for Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau. “When they aren’t in the boardroom, groups can take advantage of the destination’s championship golf courses and countless adventure options, including kayaking, horseback riding and off-roading.” Visit Phoenix Director of Media Relations Doug MacKenzie adds, “With an exciting urban downtown core and outdoor adventure in the desert around the corner, the Southwest is the perfect destination for any meeting.”

Arizona Outback Adventures (AOA) offers a wide array of interactive outdoor activities for groups. Its Team River Rafting Rodeo combines a classic river tour with competitive river and shore-based challenges that foster communication and strategic thinking. AOA transforms orienteering into a team-building game that teaches participants the skills and confidence necessary to survive in the wilderness. The organization can coordinate guided hiking and biking excursions in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a 30,200-acre stretch of protected land with more than 100 miles of trails, as well as kayaking and stand-up paddleboarding explorations of the Lower Salt River. AOA also orchestrates milder walking tours with guides who can discuss local ecology and wildlife.

fort-mcdowell-adventures-dining-in-the-western-inspired-settingFort McDowell Adventures’ dining in a Western-inspired setting

Fort McDowell Adventures, which along with nearby We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center is now owned and operated by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, offers an entertaining array of Wild West-inspired activities such as horseback riding on rustic trails, kayaking down the Verde River and maneuvering Segways through the desert. The company also arranges off-road touring adventures and live cattle drives where parties of 10 or more can rope live animals and play cowboy games. Fort McDowell Adventures also can stage a mock hold-up of your bus in which costumed deputies arrest and haul designated members of your party off to jail. Tamer group activities include narrated cruises on Saguaro Lake, a Yavapai cultural tour and a salsa or chili cook-off.

“Meeting planners are always looking for fun, Southwest-inspired activities that their attendees can enjoy after a long day of meetings or attending a conference,” says Craig Benell, acting general manager of We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center. “Planning after-hours functions and team-building events is now easier than ever, since they can be booked at the same time as a company’s meeting space, catering menus and audio/visual needs.”

Another Scottsdale-based company that will show wannabe cowboys and cow gals the ropes is Arizona Cowboy College. Planners can coordinate team-building and corporate events at the working ranch. If your attendees are more interested in driving race cars than cattle, check out Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving, where speed racers can spin around a 1.6-mile track at 100 mph in classic race cars. The company has been hosting corporate groups for more than four decades.

Cruise by Octane Raceway for a different experience in the fast lane—electric karts that can travel more than 45 mph. If your group would prefer to admire rather than drive race cars, bring your event to Penske Racing Museum in Phoenix. The facility boasts an extensive collection of cars and racing memorabilia, as well as 5,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space.

For more fun behind the wheel, planners can think pink. Pink Jeep Tours offers adventures in the Sonora Desert in hot-pink Jeep Wranglers. Its off-road tours provide close encounters with gigantic saguaro and other cacti. Afterward, planners can arrange a traditional Western-style meal at one of two dining venues run by Fort McDowell Adventures: La Puesta del Sol or Rosa’s Ranch, which accommodate 1,600 and 300 people respectively.

Outdoors, your group can experience the thrill of rock climbing and rappelling with a professional climbing guide from 360 Adventures. If you want to take the climbing program indoors, bring your group to AZ on the Rocks, the state’s largest indoor rock-climbing facility. For the ultimate outdoor adventure, pilots from WestWind Air Service will take your attendees on a scenic aerial tour to the most breathtaking sections of nearby Grand Canyon. Another popular aerial way to experience the region is in a hot air balloon. Hot Air Expeditions, Inc. offers year-round morning flights, followed by a post-flight champagne breakfast in the middle of the desert. It’s a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime experience that many people choose to do more than once.

Although its climate is arid, Greater Phoenix offers a surprising number of water-based activities. Tempe, home of Arizona State University, is a vibrant oasis on the southeastern border of Phoenix. James Tevault, director of sales for Tempe Tourism, says, “Meeting attendees in Tempe love to go hiking on our desert trails, take a leisurely bike ride, paddleboard or kayak on Tempe Town Lake, dine on an outdoor patio, attend an arts or music festival or simply relax by the pool.”

At Tempe Town Lake, guests can rent a stand-up paddleboard, kayak, pedal boat, pontoon or electric skiff. Fishing enthusiasts can try to catch trout, bass, catfish and sunfish in the lake, while joggers, cyclists and power walkers can utilize the 5-mile paved path surrounding it.

Planners looking for arranged activities that foster social or environmental consciousness will find several interesting options. On the Desert Preservation Hike offered by the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, attendees explore Pinnacle Peak Park with a guide, and can then plant a cactus to help sustain the local ecosystem. Fort McDowell Adventures arranges philanthropic team-building activities where groups assemble wagons or bicycles that are subsequently donated to local charities.

For more sedentary adventures, enjoy a 90-minute narrated cruise around Saguaro Lake aboard Desert Belle, a 143-passenger boat that has been traversing the lake for more than five decades. In addition, Ultimate Art and Cultural Tours offers classes in Native American jewelry making and cactus garden arrangement, as well as group architecture and art tours of Greater Phoenix.

Wrap Up

Greater Phoenix is gaining a reputation as the choice region for high-profile sporting events. It was the site of Super Bowl XLIX and NFL’s Pro Bowl in 2015, will host the College Football Playoff National Championship in 2016 and will welcome the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2017. While it is clearly a winner for attracting professional sports, this appealing region also shines when it comes to fun in the sun for everyone. 

Arizona is Fore Golfers

Sunny Scottsdale is a year-round golfer’s paradise. It’s no surprise that the area is home to more than 200 top-rated courses. At many of the golf clubs, pros offer clinics for players of all skill levels. Here are some of the golf highlights:

Arizona Biltmore features two PGA 18-hole courses with rolling fairways and pristine lakes that are challenging for even the most expert golfer.
Gainey Ranch Golf Club boasts three courses with water—a rarity in the desert.
Talking Stick Golf Club is owned by Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and features two highly rated and challenging courses.
The Boulders invites you to test your handicap on two courses set in breathtaking surroundings, among ancient boulder formations. Short-course fast games available.
TopGolf Scottsdale at Riverwalk is a new facility where guests can perfect their swings using microchipped golf balls or compete in team challenges by aiming for targets on a 215-yard field.
TPC Scottsdale is the site of the PGA Waste Management Phoenix Open. Stadium Course received a $12 million makeover in 2014.
Troon North Golf Club has two renowned 18-hole courses set in the Sonoran Desert that feature new course layouts.
We-Ko-Pa Golf Club features two award-winning 18-hole courses where players won’t see a building or road the whole time they are on the links.

New and Renovated Properties

fairmont-scottsdale-princessMany resorts in Greater Phoenix are growing and/or getting makeovers. In Scottsdale, the AAA Five Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is in the midst of a $60 million expansion. It will open 102 new guest rooms in spring 2016, bringing the total to 750. The Great Lawn, a 35,000-square-foot grassy area that can accommodate 2,000 seated guests, debuts soon. Sunset Beach, opening in spring 2016, will feature a 7,000-square-foot pool, 9,000-square-foot white-sand beach and an expansive deck. The property’s redesigned Wild West town, Copper Canyon, provides an authentic group experience with two saloons, an outdoor stage, dance floor, blacksmith shop and jail.

Scottsdale Resort & Conference Center, a 39-year-old Four Diamond property, has undergone a $9 million Mexican hacienda-inspired makeover, re-emerging as Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch. New additions include an open-air kitchen, 10,000-square-foot outdoor lawn event space, updated guest rooms and redesigned pool.

October marks the one-year anniversary of the relaunch of the former Radisson Fort McDowell Resort by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, which rebranded the property as We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center. The independent AAA Four Diamond property is associated with the adjacent We-Ko-Pa Golf Club and neighboring Fort McDowell Adventures.

The McCormick Scottsdale, formerly Millennium Resort and Villas Scottsdale, reopened last fall following a renovation of its 125 guest rooms, lobby and lounge. Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch has spruced up its 14,000-square-foot Arizona Ballroom, adding new carpet, wall coverings, chandeliers and lighting.

Also in Scottsdale, Westroc Hospitality will open Hotel at Mountain Shadows on the former site of Marriott Mountain Shadows Resort in January 2017. The 180-room, full-service boutique hotel will have a lounge, restaurants, fitness center and specialty grocery store. Luxurious Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa is in the midst of a $10 million renovation. The 105 refreshed guest rooms feature desert-inspired artwork. Also, JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa is spending $9.5 million to refurbish its spa, guest room bathrooms and Ambiente golf course.

Boulders Resort & Spa in nearby Carefree is celebrating its 30th birthday with a multimillion-dollar makeover of the bar lounge and 160 casitas. The property has four dining options, two 18-hole golf courses, four pools and 50,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor meeting space.

In Tempe, Sheraton Phoenix Airport Hotel Tempe (pictured) is completing a $4.6 million-dollar renovation of its 209 guest rooms, public spaces and 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes spent $6 million to update its 20,000-square-foot conference center with new drapes, furniture, lighting and tech workstations. And Four Points by Sheraton Tempe was recently rebranded as Hotel 1333, celebrating the event with a grand reopening in July.

Major Meeting Venues


Arizona Biltmore Hotel, a Waldorf Astoria Resort

Built in 1929; 740 guest rooms; 78 villas; 100,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; 25,000-square-foot conference center; refurbished 24,576-square-foot ballroom; spa; two PGA 18-hole golf courses; four dining options.

Arizona Grand Resort & Spa

AAA Four Diamond property; 744 suites; 120,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor event space; spa; Oasis Water Park; 18-hole golf course; six restaurants.

Hyatt Regency Phoenix

Located across the street from Phoenix Convention Center; 693 guest rooms; 48,000 sq. ft. of function space; gym; pool; free Wi-Fi; four restaurants.

Phoenix Convention Center

Downtown architectural masterpiece has $3.2 million worth of public art; three-building campus boasts nearly 900,000 sq. ft. of exhibition and meeting space, three ballrooms with cutting-edge A/V; The West Building is LEED Silver certified.

Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel

Modern hotel near downtown attractions; 445 guest rooms; 73 suites; 50,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 20 meeting rooms; rooftop pool; fitness center; lounge.

Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel

sheraton-phoenix-downtown-hotelAdjacent to Phoenix Convention Center; walk to downtown attractions; 1,000 guest rooms; 47 suites; 80,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 29,000-square-foot ballroom; pool; fitness center; FedEx office. q

The Westin Phoenix Downtown

Boutique-style downtown hotel; panoramic city views enhanced by floor-to-ceiling windows; 242 guest rooms; 15,000 sq. ft. of meeting space includes 3,000-square-foot ballroom; pool; Westin Workout room; Province restaurant.

The Wigwam

Arizona landmark in Litchfield Park; 331 casitas and suites; 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 10,800-square-foot Wigwam Ballroom and 25 meeting rooms; golf; spa; four pools.


Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

AAA Five Diamond resort will soon have 750 guest rooms; 106,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space includes two 23,000-square-foot ballrooms; 94,000 sq. ft. of outdoor space; Copper Canyon Western town; two golf courses; spa; five top-ranked restaurants.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North 

188 guest rooms; 35,920 sq. ft. of fully renovated indoor and outdoor meeting space; world-class golf; bi-level pool; two tennis courts; award-winning cuisine at Talavera and Proof Canteen.

Hotel Valley Ho

Iconic AAA Four Diamond mid-century-modern property; 191 guest rooms; 13,000 sq. ft. of indoor space; 20,000 sq. ft. of outdoor event space.

Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch

hyatt-regency-scottsdale-resort-spa-galney-ranch493 guest rooms and suites; 70,000 sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor meeting space; eight restaurants; 2.5-acre water playground; championship golf; spa; fitness center; Native American Learning Center. q

JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa

427 guest rooms, including 26 suites; spa; two golf courses; 40,000 sq. ft. of event space, including 20 meeting rooms; seven restaurants.

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort

105 guest rooms; 9,786 sq. ft. indoor meeting space; three boardrooms; 8,265 sq. ft. outdoor event space.

Scottsdale Plaza Resort

Independently owned property in the heart of Old Town; 404 guest rooms, including 180 suites; 40,000 sq. ft. of function space; 10,000-square-foot Grande Ballroom; 58 meeting suites; five pools; tennis; fitness center; spa; putting green; four restaurants.

Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch

Rebranded and refreshed Four Diamond property has open-air kitchen; 10,000-square-foot outdoor lawn; redesigned pool with new cabanas; 326 guest rooms; 50,000 sq. ft. of flexible meeting space; championship golf; spa; signature dining.

Talking Stick Resort

talking-stick-resortAAA Four Diamond resort in Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian community; 496 guest rooms; 100,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; 25,000-square-foot ballroom; two golf courses; casino; six restaurants; Native American cultural center. q

The McCormick Scottsdale

Modern retreat has 125 guest rooms; lounge; 13,000 sq. ft. of flexible indoor/outdoor event space.

The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort

AAA Five Diamond resort; 64,000 sq. ft. of indoor meeting space; 15,000-square-foot Camelback Ballroom; stunning outdoor verandas; seven pools; championship golf; luxurious spa; signature dining.

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

AAA Four Diamond resort embraces its Scottish ancestry; 732 guest rooms; 200,000+ sq. ft. of indoor/outdoor space; three ballrooms; 41 meeting rooms; spa; championship golf; award-winning dining.

W Scottsdale

Stylish AAA Four Diamond property within walking distance of many attractions; lounges offer exciting nightlife; 230 guest rooms; 33 specialty suites; 10,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; poolside deck; live music; Sushi Roku restaurant.

We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center

Operated by the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation; 246 guest rooms and suites; spa; award-winning golf; gaming; outdoor adventures; 25,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, including 18,000-square-foot ballroom.


Phoenix Marriott Tempe at the Buttes

353 guest rooms; 40,000+ sq. ft. of indoor meeting space including updated conference center; 9,000-square-foot ballroom; 13 breakout rooms; 15,000 sq. ft. of outdoor function space.

Tempe Mission Palms Hotel and Conference Center

Walking distance to downtown; 303 guest rooms; 30,000 sq. ft. of meeting space; rooftop pool; three restaurants; tennis court.


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