by Andrea Doyle | November 07, 2018
Tucson is having a bit of a moment. As the New York Times recently wrote, "Foodies, cyclists and the aesthetically inclined will find much to like in this desert city."
What does this mean for the meeting planner? It means that if you're looking for a place to hold your event that is unique, that will thrill your attendees with a new experience and that breaks out of the ballroom experience, Tucson could be for you.

Successful Meetings spoke with Brent DeRaad, president and CEO of Visit Tucson, about what's new there and what planners should know about the cool desert destination.

What's new in Tucson for groups?

The newest thing happening in Tucson for groups are the experiences in and around downtown available to meeting planners. City Park -- a five-story structure, complete with food court, bowling center and 2,600-square-foot rooftop deck -- is perfect for hosting events overlooking the excitement of Congress Street. Also newly available is MSA Annex, a container park on Tucson's historic Westside, with an event space (that hosts the annual All Souls Procession finale). Added to the wide range of entertainment and dining options downtown, groups looking for an urban experience to go with their meeting will be thrilled with the options in Tucson.

What's a venue or activity that's a "hidden gem" for visiting groups?

It's impossible not to be inspired by planes from throughout history and the collection of aircraft at Pima Air & Space Museum is among the best in America. Your attendees will be thrilled to be in the midst of history and to feel a little like a kid again.
What's a good outing for a group looking to get a sense of the city's culture or history?

There's a reason the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum shows up on best-of lists, not just for attractions in Tucson, but for zoos around the world. Even better, they offer great experiences for groups, complete with catering full of local flavors and experiences with a number of the museum's animals. It's an amazing opportunity to get up close and personal with what makes the Sonoran Desert special.

Where should a group go to get a truly local culinary experience?

Conveniently, Tucson's resorts aren't just great places to have your meeting and to enjoy a comfortable room, but also celebrations of the culinary experiences to be had in Tucson. You'll find excellent chefs here, no matter where you stay, with opportunities to taste the unique flavors of our area. If that's not enough, look into catering from El Guero Canelo, the home of the Sonoran hot dog that won a James Beard America's Classic award this year.

What else makes your city a great destination for groups?

What makes a city a great destination for a group, when there are so many choices available to the planner, is somewhere truly unique. Yes, a city needs to have the right meeting space and accessibility, but there also needs to be an appeal to those who might attend. The modern meeting attendee wants more: somewhere they can rave to their colleagues and friends about, somewhere unlike anywhere they've been before. Somewhere with a dynamic that extends beyond the ballroom. Tucson is that sort of city and we invite you to experience it for yourself.