Scottsdale, Ariz., is a city that conjures up images of luxe desert resorts, Major League Baseball spring training excursions and, of course, the area’s PGA-caliber courses and the major golf tournaments they draw in. At least those were the things I was expecting to learn more about during the course of the Scottsdale Sonoran FAM in late September 2016.
While I did tour a lot of high-end resorts during my visit hosted by Experience Scottsdale, I was also surprised to explore a number of hotel and resort options that seemed able to cater to a wider range of meeting and event planners than initially expected while still offering a best-in-class resort experience.
Since I was the sole media representative at a planner-focused FAM, we visited more properties than I can possibly mention here, but I thought I’d share a few highlights below based on my experience:
- The Saguaro Scottsdale, a colorful 194-room hotel, deserves a shout-out for hosting a whole crew of meeting planners and myself at a time when extensive room renovations were still in progress. Recent additions include the launch of the Agave Ballroom and Patio, a 5,285-square-foot event complex, bringing the resort’s total event space to 12,000 square feet.
- The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa may seem a bit intimidating with its 200,000-plus square feet of event space, but its staff was attentive and friendly, and the resort felt fairly laid-back.
- Boulders Resort and Spa, Curio Collection by Hilton was perhaps the most “retreat-like” spa property that we visited, and its 50,000 square feet of space can accommodate up to 400.
- The 750-room Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a truly impressive property that has enough restaurants, activities and event facilities to entertain a group without ever leaving the resort (definitely dine at La Hacienda). Recent meetings additions bring the Fairmont’s total event space to 316,000 square feet.
Other Scottsdale resort stops included the FireSky Resort & Spa, Embassy Suites by Hilton Scottsdale Resort, Hyatt Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Gainey Ranch, The Scottsdale Plaza Resort, Hotel Valley Ho, Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa, The McCormick Scottsdale, Carefree Resort & Conference Center and The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch. (See, I told you Experience Scottsdale kept us busy!)
Beyond its nearby resort properties, downtown Scottsdale has much to offer in terms of off-site art galleries, shopping, restaurant and nightlife options, and it seems like the area is working to build up its arts and culture scene. We spent some time in Old Town Scottsdale, which may come across as a little touristy, but also houses some hidden gems, such as Citizen Public House, a trendy restaurant offering gastropub cuisine with a private speakeasy space upstairs capable of handling up to 36 guests for a smaller event.
Two notable off-site excursions included a stop at Su Vino Winery, which is able to host group wine tastings on-site for up to 100 in a party setting or 400 in a block party setup utilizing a public plaza, and a stop at Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West for a guided group tour of the facility.
Western Spirit celebrates “the art, history and unique stories of the 19 states of the American West” and features an array of authentic Old West artifacts, including American Indian pottery and artifacts. The Smithsonian Affiliate features private event spaces that can accommodate groups of 25 to 500.