Pack your bags and camera, not your passport
Yes, there is plenty of dry heat and cacti in the desert oasis of Scottsdale, Arizona, but the city is also a miniature United Nations or Epcot of sorts. During a comprehensive trip in May, Smart Meetings toured 16 meeting hotels and five additional event venues to find all the meeting secrets in this Sonoran escape. We learned that your meeting attendees can experience the cigars of Cuba, mariachis of Mexico and sounds of Scotland, with no passport required.
Meet and Sleep: This is not a mirage. Amid the desert elements lies a tropical retreat with lush landscapes and tranquil water features at The Scott Resort & Spa. This Cuban-themed property transports visitors to Havana through its decor and overall aura. The lobby has an atrium feel to it, with tons of natural light pouring in. Meeting and breakout rooms are conveniently located on the perimeter of the lobby. With 204 newly renovated guest rooms and 21,500 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, The Scott is available for complete buyouts.
Say “hola!” to Royal Palms Resort & Spa, a former 1929 estate-turned-resort designed to resemble Spanish Colonial architecture. The 1,700-square-foot Presidential Villa (which can expand to 2,300 sq. ft. with an adjoining bedroom and a bathroom) is available for your super VIP, or for everyone to enjoy during a cocktail party. Four U.S. presidents—both Bushes, Clinton and Obama—have slept in the suite, as has Beyonce. In total, there are 119 guest rooms and 20,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor event space.
Eat and Drink: Afternoons in the Scottsdale sun can be sweltering. Treat your attendees to an ice-cold beer served by a Beer Burro. a beer-packing donkey.
Another unique cocktail server can be found at La Hacienda, a top-rated Mexican restaurant at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Its “tequila goddess” will guide your group through a tequila tasting during dinner. Our group sampled Casamigos, the brand created by George Clooney and Rande Gerber. The hotel has 750 guest rooms and 156,000 sq. ft. of meeting space. Make sure to check in with the Instagram Concierge for a group photo in front of the hotel’s “Best. Summer. Ever” mural.
It’s taco Tuesday seven days a week in Scottsdale, where Mexican food is abundant. Make new amigos at The Saguaro, where you can be handed a refreshing frosé—a wine-based slushy—cocktail and be greeted by an all-female mariachi band upon arrival. The musical ladies will continue to entertain during dinner at Saguaro Restaurant while you chow down on tacos and churros. The rainbow-colored property has 15,000 sq. ft. of event space, 194 guest rooms and Instagrammable moments everywhere you look, so have your smartphone handy.
Do: The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa puts the Scot in Scottsdale. Tee off for a round of golf, and when the sun is about to set, a bagpiper will serenade players off the course. The hotel has 732 guest rooms and more than 200,000 sq. ft. of meeting space, as well as scotch tastings in its Scotch Library, which offers more than 250 different variations of the libation, poured by an expert staff of kilted ambassadors.
Guests can opt for a gondola tour of the canals of Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch. Rides are led by classically trained professional singers. Planners can host an Italian-themed dinner on the Palm Grove or Waterfall Terrace event lawns and offer guests this special boat ride to fully embrace the Venetian experience. In total, the property houses 493 guest rooms, 70,000 sq. ft. of indoor and outdoor meeting space, golf, tennis and a water playground with 10 pools, 20 fountains, 45 waterfalls and a slide.