Arizona Blooms with New Meeting Venues

The Grand Canyon State soars high for meetings.

Where to ...
Meet: Pima Air & Space Museum

On Tucson’s south side, Pima Air & Space Museum offers one-of-a-kind meeting opportunities in five hangars that house new and historic aircraft from around the world. The temperature-controlled hangars can host groups of up to 500.

Eat: Different Pointe of View

Different Pointe of View restaurant at Phoenix’s Pointe Hilton Tapatio Cliffs Resort offers a culinary experience just as memorable as its stunning views atop North Mountain. The Terrace Room next door can be transformed into a meeting space 1,800 feet above the desert.

Play: Hot-Air Balloon Ride

A sunset hot-air balloon ride is a breathtaking way to take in the majestic views of the Sonoran desert. The panoramic view from the balloon’s handcrafted wicker basket is virtually unobstructed!

A lot is going on in the desert these days. The state of Arizona is bustling with major hotel renovations and new event venues. Perhaps the biggest news comes out of the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, where, in celebration of its 25th birthday, The Phoenician is launching a $34-million renovation starting in May.

The multi-year project will revamp 616 of the Scottsdale property’s guest rooms, including those at The Canyon Suites.

Meanwhile, back in January 2013, Scottsdale’s only bed and breakfast — the Bespoke Inn, Café and Bicycles — opened with four rooms, a 43-foot infinity-edge pool, and a boutique bike shop that provides guests with complimentary transportation. In June 2013, Bespoke’s in-house restaurant, Virtù Honest Craft, opened to great acclaim: It has already been named one of the best new restaurants in the U.S. by Esquire magazine.

Meanwhile, in downtown Phoenix, a Minneapolis-based hospitality developer has unveiled its plans for a $40-million restoration and adaptive reuse of the Valley National Bank building (formerly the Hotel Monroe). The developer, CSM Lodging, plans to adapt the building into a 165-room premium hotel, likely carrying a Hilton flag. Additionally, the 247-room Hilton Phoenix Airport Hotel — which was bought by Wanamaug Hospitality and Interstate Hotels and Resorts for a reported $15.8 million in January — will be undergoing a $7-million renovation this year. And in March, Phoenix’s Crowne Plaza Phoenix Airport Hotel finished an $8-million renovation that renamed the property The Wren and included top-to-bottom work on guest rooms, meeting spaces, and the restaurant.

In Tucson, Starwood Hotels & Resorts recently completed the conversion of the Four Points by Sheraton Tucson University Plaza into the Aloft Tucson University. The 154-room property boasts high-tech yet cozy guest rooms and a modern design that emphasizes free-flowing spaces. It features complimentary hotel-wide Wi-Fi, as well as an outdoor pool, a 24-hour fitness center, a 24-hour snack bar, and a bar with both live and virtual DJs.

Also in Tucson, The Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa completed a $35-million renovation of all its public spaces and private rooms in October, including makeovers of its 512 guest rooms and suites as well as upgrades to banquet amenities. Upgrades to the rooms included the addition of Westin Heavenly Beds, headboards with LED technology, desks with power outlets, and Westin Heavenly Rain Forest showerheads. The 60,000-square-foot conference space has been rejuvenated with new carpeting, ballroom chandeliers, and state-of-the-art A/V equipment. New technology features include the INNCOM Energy Management System, which draws fresh air from outside rather than recirculating, and Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) door locks.

Tucson is also laying claim to the title of “Book Capital of the Southwest,” thanks to the success of the Tucson Festival of Books, which debuted in 2009. This year’s installment, which took place in mid-March, saw 250-plus authors and compelling programming at the University of Arizona Mall, drawing up to 120,000 attendees.

Some new event venues have also come on the scene. In October, the Ambiente Golf Course opened at Scottsdale’s JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa. The new 18hole, 150-acre course focuses on conserving water, maintaining a wildlife habitat, and decreasing pesticide and fossil fuel use. The opening of the golf course capped off a seven-year, $70-million renovation at the property. Last fall, JW Marriott Camelback Inn Resort & Spa completed $9.5 million in refurbishments, such as new bathroom vanities, countertops, walk-in showers, and carpeting in the guest rooms.

Also in Scottsdale in October, The Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain revealed its newly redesigned Jade Bar, which now features a removable glass wall and an 850-square-foot partially enclosed patio for al fresco gatherings. A month earlier, the Royal Palms Resort & Spa unveiled a newly redesigned restaurant, T. Cook’s, with expanded interiors and a new menu, as well as The Mix Up Bar, which features garden-to-glass cocktails made from fresh produce grown in the onsite garden. And most recently, in January, the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa opened its Scotch Library, featuring more than 130 different labels of scotch and a staff of Scotch Library Ambassadors, who are experts available to assist guests with selections. The library is open from 5 to 7 p.m. daily and can be reserved for private tastings and events.

In January, Bottled Blonde Pizzeria and Beer Garden opened in Scottsdale. The restaurant serves contemporary Italian cuisine and a large variety of craft beers in a modern German beer garden, complete with 9,000 square feet of indoor-outdoor space.

January also saw the opening of both Hula’s Modern Tiki in the heart of Scottsdale, serving a selection of Polynesian fare and cocktails reminiscent of the beach, as well as the Taco Haus, the newest concept from Dave Andrea and Payton Curry, owners of Scottsdale’s German-inspired Brat Haus. The Latin-inspired restaurant highlights the fresh and light side of Latin cuisine and houses a Ceviche Bar.

Meanwhile, Pinnacle Peak Patio Steakhouse & Microbrewery, in North Scottsdale, plans to expand its 35,000-square-foot space with a new bar and larger patios. Word to the well dressed: Be wary of entering the steakhouse wearing a tie; a friendly staff member may cut it off and nail it to the ceiling.

Meanwhile, the first installment of the attraction Odysea in the Desert, Butterfly Wonderland, opened in May 2013, making it the country’s largest butterfly pavilion. The second installment, Odysea Mirror Maze, opened in November adjacent to Butterfly Wonderland. This summer the 16-acre OdySea Aquarium will break ground, opening in the Odysea in the Desert entertainment complex in the fall of 2015.