by Andrea Doyle | April 02, 2018
When most think of Arizona, what comes to mind is likely cacti, desert flowers, and 350 days of sunshine a year -- not to mention the state's most visited attraction, the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, one of the Seven Wonders of the Natural World.
Saguaro National Park, dotted with its namesake cacti, shouldn't be missed. It is split into two parts, on the east side of Tucson at the foot of the Rincon Mountains and the west side just beyond the Tucson Mountains. An eight-mile drive through the park includes many scenic vistas.

Arizona's natural beauty is astonishing, but there are also multicultural, thriving cities groups should be sure to visit. The culture here is like no other -- Native American, Spanish, and Mexican influences combine with Old West flair.

One venue where groups can explore this is Tucson's Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, filled with indigenous plants and wildlife. The 98-acre museum, mostly outdoors, is a blend of zoo, botanical garden, art gallery, natural history museum, and aquarium. There are 21 acres with walking paths through different desert habitats, 230 animal species, and 1,200 types of plants.

In March, it got even easier to get around Tucson with nothing but the sky above, as The Loop, a 131-mile system of bike lanes that spans the metro area, was completed. These paved, vehicle-free pathways connect parks, trailheads, bus routes, and more.

For those who prefer their outdoors a bit more manicured, there are no fewer than 10 championship golf courses in Tucson, not to mention the many in the outlying area. Take Talking Stick Golf Club in Scottsdale. It features two championship courses -- the O'odham Course and the Piipaash Course -- not to mention a 496-room resort, 113,000 square feet of meeting space, a 25,000-square-foot ballroom, and a luxurious spa.

Property Options

Not only are there traditional resorts and hotels in Arizona but there are also guest ranches, spa destinations like Miraval and Canyon Ranch, and unique venues. Add to that conference centers that are approved by IACC. High Country Conference Center in Flagstaff is one such property that offers more than 25,900 square feet of conference space. The historic Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort, which opened in 1929 as a desert retreat in Tucson, offers striking accommodations and history. It was a hideaway for the stars, with Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, John Wayne, and others said to have stayed here.

The property recently added 32 guest rooms to bring its total to 59, the Casa Luna event space, and a negative-edge pool. There is a spa, horseback riding, mountain biking, and more. For art enthusiasts, unique pieces dot the property, many of them available for purchase.

Pima Dental Study Club, a group of dentists and specialists in dentistry, practicing in Tucson and Southern Arizona, gathers eight times a year at Hacienda Del Sol Guest Ranch Resort. "There is no place comparable," says Jane Coppola, executive director. "The ambiance is great, the location beautiful, the food terrific, and the staff so very responsive."

The Tucson Convention Center will soon have an attached, 125-room, $20 million headquarters hotel.

"The hotel will fulfill the growing demand to accommodate guests from around the world visiting downtown Tucson and the many trade shows and events at the convention center," says Roy Bade, executive vice president of Caliber, the company that is building the property.

In other hotel news, the newly renamed El Conquistador Tucson, A Hilton Resort, has renovated its rooms and offers 100,000 square feet of function space. Opening at the end of the year is a freestanding spa that will feature eight treatment rooms, and a private pool with views of Pusch Ridge.

One of Tucson's newest downtown hotels is the eight-story AC Hotel Tucson Downtown, the first hotel to be built in downtown in over 40 years. The all-new hotel features 136 rooms and a rooftop pool and poolside bar.

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This article appears in the April 2018 issue of Successful Meetings.