While desert landscapes and stands of cacti are iconic Arizona images, the Grand Canyon State is most definitely a fluid destination where groups can also count on waterborne pursuits such as kayaking, poolside receptions at a host hotel, outings to local aquariums and much more.

Water Runs Through It

Rivers and lakes are part of Arizona’s fabric, including in Phoenix, where according to Trish Lanteigne, media relations manager for Visit Phoenix, groups can cool off on a kayak tour with Arizona Outback Adventures.

“The guided day trips on the Salt River are the perfect way to relax while spotting wild horses and bald eagles along the journey,” she said.

Mesa, located nearby Phoenix, also enjoys close proximity to water recreation, as two rivers and three lakes are located within 30 minutes, including Canyon and

Saguaro lakes, where boating and fishing excursions are popular.

According to Michelle Streeter, vice president, communications and partner relations for Visit Mesa, stand-up paddleboarding is gaining popularity in Arizona, with companies No Snow Stand Up Paddle and Desert Paddleboards able to help facilitate group events.  

“This recreational sport offers a great workout for people of all ages and is a great way to see the scenic Arizona desert,” she said.

Sabino Canyon, which is part of the Coronado National Forest, is a picturesque hiking spot that’s easily accessible from Tucson.

“Yes, water runs through it,” said Dan Gibson, director of communications for Visit Tucson. “The views are incredible with the Catalina Mountains rising up to meet you.”

Sabino Canyon is situated nearby several resorts, he added, making it easily accessible for groups seeking an outdoor experience.

Tempe Town Lake, according to James Tevault, director of sales for the Tempe Tourism Office, is an unexpected experience in the heart of Tempe where groups can kayak, rent electric boats and take a Segway tour around the lake, among other activities.

“If a meeting planner is looking for an indoor venue with a view, the lakeside Tempe Center for the Arts is a perfect fit,” he added.
Groups meeting in Sedona can enjoy a water-to-wine tour with Verde Adventures.

“Attendees can float down the Verde River in a kayak, taking in the sights and sounds of the area, and finish off the experience with a yummy wine-tasting event at Alcantara Vineyards,” said Leslie Brearley, sales manager for the Sedona COC & Tourism Bureau.

In Flagstaff at Lake Mary, which is surrounded by ponderosa pines, groups can kayak or try a paddleboard yoga class.

“Lake Mary Road, a level road boasting a very wide bicycle lane with incredible views of the San Francisco Peaks, runs alongside the lake and is notable as one of the best road bicycle rides in Arizona,” added Jessica Young, sales and marketing manager, meetings and events, for the Flagstaff CVB.

In Yuma, groups can take a leisurely float on the scenic Colorado River with outfitter Yuma River Tubing.  

“It’s great as a main event in a group’s itinerary, or an escape to decompress—there’s even a moonlight option,” said Steven Hennig, marketing manager for the Yuma Visitors Bureau.

And in Lake Havasu, groups can charter a boat for waterborne exploration or enjoy a catered shoreline picnic.

“Working lunches are better with the sound of soft breaking waves along any portion of Lake Havasu’s 400 miles of coastline,” said Jackie Leatherman, director of event marketing for the Lake Havasu City CVB.

She added that groups can let the stunning environment of water and Mojave Desert help to facilitate their meetings.

Liquid Attraction

Among Arizona’s manmade water opportunities is Scottsdale’s OdySea Aquarium, which is the Southwest’s largest aquarium, with 50 exhibits, over 30,000 animals and engaging opportunities including Sea TREK underwater ocean walking.

According to Kelli Blubaum, vice president of sales and services for Experience Scottsdale, the aquarium accommodates events of all sizes in intriguing sea life settings.

“For example, in the Aqua Lobby, event-goers can dine under nine sparkling, globe-shaped aquariums suspended from the ceiling,” she said.

The Tucson-based Warden Aquarium is a recent addition to the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, a world-renowned zoo.

“It’s a surprise to most people traveling here that water would be a part of anything beyond the pools at local resorts,” Visit Tucson’s Gibson said. “However, the Sonoran Desert stretches down to the Sea of Cortez, so it’s impossible to understand the ecosystem here without sea life.”

On-Site Splash

For many Arizona meetings, groups don’t have to leave the host hotel or resort for some water time.

Phoenix-based Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort is home to River Ranch, a four-acre waterpark featuring a half-mile lazy river for tubing.

“The resort’s events team works with groups of all sizes to develop customized teambuilding activities such as water volleyball, lazy river team breakouts, waterslide and boat races, poolside putt-putt challenges and more,” Visit Phoenix’s Lanteigne said.

Phoenix is also home to Arizona Grand Resort and Spa, which boasts a seven-acre waterpark featuring an eight-story slide and a lazy river obstacle course.

Other Phoenix metropolitan area properties with water attractions include The Scottsdale Plaza Resort, which offers a bevy of amenities, including five heated pools throughout the property and 50,000 square feet of indoor/outdoor event space; Scottsdale’s Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, home to the Adventure Water

Park with its waterslide and lazy river; and Phoenix Marriott Tempe at The Buttes, where, according to the Tempe Tourism Office’s Tevault, planners often opt for a poolside reception surrounded by the desert landscape.

And in Sedona is the group-friendly Enchantment Resort, which has an award-winning pool with 360-degree views of Sedona’s famous red rocks.

“The Enchantment pool, with its expansive patio, provides the perfect canvas for jaw-dropping group events and customized receptions,” Sedona COC & Tourism Bureau’s Brearley said.

Meeting guests at Enchantment Resort can also check into Mii amo spa for a treatment from the Power of Water menu.

Arizona CVB Contacts

Experience Scottsdale

Flagstaff CVB 

Lake Havasu City CVB  

Sedona COC & Tourism Bureau 

Tempe Tourism

Visit Mesa

Visit Phoenix  

Visit Tucson

Yuma Visitors Bureau