ArizonaAugust 22, 2022

A Plethora of Outdoor Activities Amid Exceptional Beauty By
August 22, 2022


A Plethora of Outdoor Activities Amid Exceptional Beauty
Arizona offers meeting attendees everything from breathtaking canyon views to awe-inspiring, orange-hued sunrises over the desert. Photo by Jack Kurtz / Courtesy of Talking Stick Resort

Arizona offers meeting attendees everything from breathtaking canyon views to awe-inspiring, orange-hued sunrises over the desert. Photo by Jack Kurtz / Courtesy of Talking Stick Resort

Star-studded night skies, crisp mountain air and warm, sun-soaked days are just a few of the myriad reasons Arizona entices visitors year-round as a top-ranked meetings destination.

Add more than a sprinkling of flexible function venues in expansive indoor/outdoor spaces surrounded by wild desert beauty, plus unlimited recreational possibilities, and event organizers have all the makings for creating a transformative corporate and incentive meeting experience.


When it came time to book a site for a technology client’s quarterly sales meeting, Tessa Cameron selected Scottsdale’s Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. As strategic sourcing planner for Enterprise Events Group, Cameron zeroed in quickly on the property for several reasons, including its best overall value combined with convenient location. “The Kierland Commons is within walking distance to the hotel,” Cameron says. Plus the fact that “Westin Kierland was the first hotel to respond to our RFP, and the sales person showed a genuine desire to earn the business. Once the contract was signed, the director of sales called to personally thank us for the business. It was such a simple gesture, but appreciated.”

Located in the heart of North Scottsdale 19 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, Westin Kierland spans 730 acres of lush grounds and wide-open spaces framed by magnificent mountain ranges surrounding the Sonoran Desert. “Westin Kierland is a solid conference hotel with spacious meeting rooms and foyers,” Cameron says. “Everything is under one roof, which is ideal for a summer meeting in the desert.”

The resort’s more than 200,000 sf of event space includes 40 meeting rooms, the 15,000-sf Herberger Ballroom, and the resort’s largest venue, the 25,000-sf Kierland Grand Ballroom, which provides an ideal venue for up to 3,600 people in a theater-style layout. State-of-the art integrated A/V equipment enhances the meeting experience for celebratory gatherings and themed events. “The resort fee at Westin Kierland includes Wi-Fi in the meeting space, and it is enough bandwidth that additional bandwidth did not need to be purchased. This was a huge cost savings,” Cameron says.

The resort’s 732 luxurious guest accommodations include 55 suites with spellbinding views from the suite’s balcony or terrace. For dining and customizable catering menus, the resort features seven unique restaurants and lounges showcasing Southwestern dishes in casual to fine-dining venues under the direction of Chris Masco, executive chef. Among venues for hosting private events, Nellie Cashman’s Monday Club Cafe offers reinvented traditional dishes, while the Brittlebush Bar & Grill is notable for its innovative, contemporary cuisine. A taste of the Old West takes center stage at Waltz & Weiser Whiskey Bar and Cantina, and more than 300 whiskey labels are on display at The Scotch Library. Guests can kick back indoors in the comfort of The Rim lobby lounge or bask in the sunshine at J. Swilling’s Poolside Bar & Grill.

Beyond relaxing dining venues, meeting attendees have no shortage of recreational opportunities on- and off-site. From Agave, The Arizona Spa & Salon, featuring a plethora of signature body treatments and massages, to playtime at Adventure Water Park, to a dip in the Adult Aguamiel Pool, a round of golf at The Westin Kierland Golf Club, and a variety of fitness services, the resort offers unforgettable experiences. Cameron recommends Experience Scottsdale as “a great resource for planners,” she says, noting the destinations offer of ‘a special promotion for summer business,’ which was an additional cost savings.”

What’s a planner to do when faced with the need for a last-minute Paris site replacement? Jill Davis, senior project manager at Enigma Marketing & Travel Solutions, explains: “We needed a quick domestic replacement for a Paris program that was being moved.” The solution? “We narrowed our search to Arizona, and Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch fit the bill perfectly. There were plenty of amenities, solid room product, great location in proximity to activities and restaurants and, of course, they met our budgetary needs.”

Arizona offers meeting attendees everything from breathtaking canyon views to awe-inspiring, orange-hued sunrises over the desert.

Arizona offers meeting attendees everything from breathtaking canyon views to awe-inspiring, orange-hued sunrises over the desert.

Southwestern elegance and endless charm are on full display at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, located 15 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. You have to love a venue where guests are warmly greeted with a “Would you like a margarita?” welcome at check-in, even if it is only 10 a.m. In fact, Davis singles out the exceptional hospitality and service at the resort. “The staff was outstanding, all surpassing our experience at other properties through the years. The bell team was unbelievable; not just walking to their tasks, but running most of the time,” Davis says. “The front desk and banquet team also went above and beyond expectations. The planning process was super easy, and the details were communicated clearly to all resort departments. This element ensured a smooth group arrival, experience and departure.”

Consider, too, Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch’s plentiful amenities, such as on-site adventure activity planning, a 2.5-acre water playground, a 24-hour StayFit gym plus complimentary LOBO fitness classes, Spa Avania’s Himalayan Salt Room and resort shops. The resort also offers 27 holes of championship golf, the Native American Learning Center and nightly entertainment rounding out the package of varied activities and on-site venues. “The attendee reaction was that there was plenty to enjoy every evening beyond what was included in the program,” Davis says. “The lounge with the giant open-air setting was magical. It allowed everyone to be accommodated and mingle into the night.”

The resort’s 493 guest rooms include 31 suites featuring balconies and terraces offering magnificent mountain or golf-course views. Guest accommodations come with free Wi-Fi and large-screen HDTVs. All event spaces are conveniently located in one wing at the resort for easy access, attendee comfort and a focused meeting environment. Conference and catering services allow for customizable menus to meet the dietary needs and preferences of attendees.

Southwestern flavors, Japanese dishes and Italian cuisine are featured among the resort’s restaurants and bars. “The food and food service were great quality as well as a good value,” Davis says. “The set up was always done well in advance, and food quality and temperature were always maintained. The staff always were on task and keeping plates cleared and assisting where needed.” Davis adds, “We were supposed to go to France, so a pivot to Arizona was a challenge to promote. However, this trip was a win with flying colors.”

Yet another Scottsdale convention hotel option, the AAA Four-Diamond Talking Stick Resort, offers 113,000 sf of flexible indoor/outdoor meeting space. About 20 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, the resort can handle events ranging from intimate executive meetings to large-scale trade shows. The resort offers the 25,000-sf Grand Ballroom, the 10,000-sf Showroom and 21 high-tech meeting rooms, all set amid views of scenic Camelback Mountain and the colorful Sonoran Desert.

As for dining, select from food options such as Tash, offering bold flavors and stunning views; Ocean Trail, offering a taste of New Orleans; the award-winning Orange Sky; Blue Coyote Cantina, offering modern Southwestern cuisine; Blue Coyote Cafe and Black Fig Coffee & Bistro.

The 14th-floor Spa at Talking Stick uses organic ingredients and the relaxing benefits of a therapeutic or Aroma Botanic massage, while its floor-to-ceiling windows allow views of the surrounding desert landscape.

Sedona offers a network of hiking trails. Courtesy of Visit Arizona

Sedona offers a network of hiking trails. Courtesy of Visit Arizona


Sedona’s Boynton Canyon, with its dramatic red-rock landscape, serves as the stunning backdrop for Enchantment Resort. a peaceful retreat infused with intoxicating natural beauty spread over 70 acres. “The Enchantment Resort always delivers a top luxury experience for our guests,” says Cheryl Cagle, S.V.P. of client services for Além International Management Inc. “So, they are tops on our list when offering a client an incentive destination. We have used the property for several groups since 2015.”

Cagle says Enchantment Resort’s proximity to Boynton Canyon adds a definite ‘wow’ factor. “Our guests love driving into the resort to see such a unique and almost spiritual location,” she says. “The light on the rock walls changes as the day progresses. It never disappoints.”

In addition to the spectacular setting, Cagle says, “The resort has a special way of making our guests feel valued, and we appreciate that added touch.” The resort’s 218 spacious, one-story guest accommodations bring the outside in through recently redesigned lavish furnishings highlighting the soothing color palette of the Southwest. Wood-beam ceilings and cozy fireplaces add to the comfortable surroundings enhanced by private outdoor decks or patios overlooking the beauty of Boynton Canyon. Private meeting rooms and flexible event space within the resort’s Meeting Village range from the 5,100-sf Anasazi Ballroom to the 2,800-sf Agave Ballroom, 1,760-sf Ocotillo Ballroom and intimate venues such as the Manzanita Boardroom, featuring a large, 25-by-8 conference table made from a single Juniper tree.

Innovative dining experiences shine in seasonal menus and award-winning dishes inspired by the locale and created by the resort’s acclaimed culinary team. Whether indulging in juniper honey duck breast entree with goat cheese and sage hummus, blue corn sourdough crostini, caramelized carrots and huckleberry jus at Che Ah Chi, or dining casually al fresco with friends over brisket burgers or black truffle grilled cheese sandwiches at Tii Gavo, attendees have numerous culinary options at Enchantment Resort. “We always did custom menus and the chef was always happy to work with us. We never had a complaint about the food or the variety of beverages,” Cagle says. “From picnic lunches to gourmet wine dinners, the food, presentation and service was always impeccable. We all loved the variety of local juices too, especially the prickly pear.”

As might be expected in one of Arizona’s premier locations, spa, fitness and well-being services together with outdoor adventures abound at the resort. Golf, tennis and pickleball are among offered activities, as are yoga, movement and mindfulness programs. “Guests love the easy access to the hiking trails, the spa, the food and the euphoric feeling you wake up to every morning,” Cagle says, summing up the group’s experience. “Every guest loved the location, and I never experienced one complaint about any of our programs at Enchantment or Boynton Canyon.” She adds, “Sedona and Boynton Canyon are different destinations. You go to Sedona to shop; you go to Enchantment for a top luxury experience. I travel extensively and have done global programs for 25-plus years, and Enchantment Resort is one of my favorites in the world.”

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, a Gurney’s Resort & Spa, recently took honors as the No. 1 hotel in Arizona by U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 Best Hotels.

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, a Gurney’s Resort & Spa, recently took honors as the No. 1 hotel in Arizona by U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 Best Hotels.

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain, a Gurney’s Resort & Spa, also a well-regarded Sedona resort, recently took honors as the No. 1 hotel in Arizona by U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 Best Hotels. The acclaimed resort sits on 53 lush, serene acres and is only 15 minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. The resort features 109 casitas with amenities such as stylish modern furnishings, natural finishes and tile flooring, as well as oversized soaking tubs and desert artwork. Eight private villas feature expansive outdoor patios, infinity-edge pools and hot tubs.

Whether attending an intimate corporate retreat or team-building meeting, the resort’s flexible meeting space is top-notch. The 3,024-sf Views Ballroom, the venue’s largest event space, comes complete with a private lobby reception area. The ballroom’s large outdoor terrace is especially suited for evening receptions and outdoor dinners with its built-in outdoor bars and an indoor/outdoor fireplace.

Sanctuary Camelback also offers exceptional dining options. The resort’s upscale dining venue, elements, offers American food with an Asian twist. Seasonal menus showcase local organic produce and sustainable seafood.

After a day of meetings and classes, attendees can relax on Sanctuary’s infinity pool desk, play a game of tennis or pickleball, or join a movement class at the state-of-the-art fitness center. They can also visit Sanctuary Spa, which offers a Zen meditation garden and reflecting pond among its bounty of amenities.


When asked what sealed the deal for selecting Tucson’s The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa for the 54th Annual National Conference on Radiation Control, Mendy Cremeans, executive office manager for the Conference of Radiation Control Program Directors Inc., cites the people who made it happen, including the property’s sales manager, who she says,“provided a proposal that met our needs perfectly. She worked with me to get what we required for our meetings, and then some. She has a beautiful personality, is very quick to respond to correspondences and was a true pleasure to work with.” Cremeans also credits Visit Tucson’s national sales manager, who she says, “provided transportation assistance for the site visit and helped make my visit remarkable.” She adds, “She was also quick to respond to emails. She’s truly a gem in Tucson and was also a pleasure to work with.”

For Cremeans, fast response time by the host property combined with a proposal that “fell within my company budget” were the key elements that made the difference in site selection. What also came into play in making her decision, Cremeans says, was the welcome she received and her first impression of the AAA Four-Diamond property itself. “When I arrived for the site visit, I was in awe of how upscale, yet welcomed, I felt,” she says. “The Westin La Paloma feels remote and brings a sense of relaxation. The property was beautiful, and the grounds were immaculate with stunning views. What it offered exceeded my expectations.”

More than 78,000 sf of versatile indoor/outdoor event space offers spectacular views of the Santa Catalina Mountains. There are also 18 meeting rooms, plus the expansive, 17,479-sf Arizona Ballroom and state-of-the-art A/V equipment. Also, Marriott’s Meeting Services App allows for ease of handling logistics so planners can focus on attendees. “For myself and our staff, one thing that set the bar high and stood out from other venues we’ve been to is how well The Westin La Paloma takes care of the meeting planner and staff,” she says. “We were brought complimentary drinks and snacks every day, and without request. The banquet team treated us like royalty and their customer service was excellent.”

Tucson offers an intriguing mix of activities sure to exceed the expectations of any attendee.

Tucson offers an intriguing mix of activities sure to exceed the expectations of any attendee.

Cremeans’ group enjoyed several on-site amenities, such as the outdoor swimming pools that feature a mineral waterfall and waterslide. “The setting around the pools is classy and upscale,” she says. “The direct view of Finger Rock makes it even more beautiful and relaxing.” Another hit with attendees: “Some attendees took advantage of playing golf on the gorgeous golf courses — and let’s not forget the golf cart transportation around the resort,” she says. “They provided top-notch, very responsive service to our attendees.”

For dining, “Most of our attendees remained on-site and ate at the different restaurants the resort offers,” Cremeans says. “The food options were diverse and we had healthy selections also. The chef was wonderful, and created some custom menus. The banquet team was excellent at providing wonderful displays and set things with perfection. We had a few receptions, and the food was perfectly made with lots of compliments from our attendees.” Dining options range from burgers and sandwiches at Sabino’s Pool Bar & Grill to Latin American cuisine at Contigo Latin Kitchen, to authentic American food fare at AZul Lounge.

“For our attendees, I received so many compliments on the beauty of the resort and excellent customer service, but one thing that stood out was our Night Out. We had that at the Catalina Basin on the grounds of The Westin La Paloma and everyone loved it,” Cremeans says. “It was astonishingly gorgeous. Not all places have an area like the Catalina Basin. It did not disappoint. Our attendees enjoyed the terraces also, which we utilized for receptions and photo opportunities.” She adds, “There’s usually always a few that will complain about something, right? Not here. I didn’t have one negative comment from our attendees, rather, lots of wonderful things about the staff, grounds, guest rooms, you name it.” C&I

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