Tucson is an eco-friendly meeting destination two hours southeast of Phoenix. Several off-site venues have sustainability practices that range from using solar-powered lights and harvesting rainwater to repurposing greywater and using low-flow bathroom fixtures. The Tucson International Airport (TUS) offers nonstop flights from 15 major U.S. cities and is one stop away from more than 200 domestic destinations. In addition to ranches and conference hotels, Tucson boasts a full portfolio of luxury destination resorts, including the Loews Ventana Canyon and the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain.
The image most people have of Tucson is straight out of a Western movie — sagebrush, cacti and tumbleweeds — but it's surrounded by a surprisingly green desert filled with flora, fauna and wildlife. The Saguaro National Park forms the city's eastern and western borders; other natural attractions include Ironwood Forest National Monument, Saguaro National Park, Coronado National Forest, Catalina State Park and five mountain ranges. Old-time cowboy atmosphere is found on the sets where movies such as the original "3:10 to Yuma" and "Tombstone" were filmed, and Western-themed attractions and guest ranches. The original O.K. Corral, where Wyatt Earp and Doc Holliday waged an infamous gun battle against Billy Clanton and the McLaury brothers, is 70 miles south of town.
One of Tucson’s best-kept secrets is the Tohono Chul Park, a 49-acre nature preserve filled with demonstration gardens, historic homes, indoor venues for up to 50 guests and outdoor venues for groups up to 200. A percentage of the food served is locally sourced or grown on-site, and leftovers are donated to nonprofits such as Casa del los Ninos and Gospel Rescue Mission. If you want to team-build, geocaching is available. Or challenge attendees to find the park’s hidden “letterbox.” The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a zoo, natural history museum and botanical garden featuring more than 300 animal species and 1,200 botanical species from the Sonoran Desert Region. The museum offers indoor meeting space for up to 200, two indoor/outdoor terraces (capacity: 170-230), an outdoor plaza, a desert garden and a 270-seat theater. Another scenic special facility is the Tucson Botanical Gardens, which has 16 themed gardens on five acres, an event pavilion and a cafe that serves organic cuisine. Meeting/event spaces include xeriscape garden patios (capacity: 60), an education building (capacity: 50) and a 12-person boardroom. After visiting hours, groups can take over the 17-acre Reid Park Zoo, which has indoor and outdoor banquet and reception space for groups of all sizes.
Loews Ventana Canyon looks out on the Sonoran Desert from the Catalina Mountains. It has 398 rooms, including 27 suites, and 25 meeting rooms and parlors as well as 37,000 square feet of indoor function space. This includes the 10,800-sq. ft. Kiva Ballroom and nearly 40,000 square feet of outdoor space. When you wish to set business aside, check out the Lakeside Spa, the four lighted tennis courts or fitness center, the two Tom Fazio-designed golf courses, a nature trail through the desert, or either of two pools with Jacuzzis. As with most Loews hotels, Ventana (the word means “window”) Canyon has child-specific activities and is pet-friendly.
El Charro Café has received accolades from Gourmet magazine for its Mexican cuisine. Private banquet space for groups of eight to 60 is available in its downtown space; three other locations and off-site catering are available. Janos offers French-inspired cuisine, audiovisual equipment, and private banquet and patio space for up to 100 people. The open-air Mercado San Agustin, home of Tucson’s farmers market, has a 1,300-sq. ft. commercial kitchen and a brick courtyard for private gatherings or public festivals. Local microbreweries with meeting and banquet space include Gentle Ben’s, Nimbus Brewery (The Bistro) and Thunder Canyon Brewery.
Tournaments and banquets for up to 200 can be arranged at the Golf Club at Vistoso, rated one of Arizona’s best by GolfLink.com. Groups of up to 250 can dine and play at the Arizona National Golf Club, which has a Robert Trent Jones Jr.-designed course that winds through the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. The Ritz-Carlton Golf Club, Dove Mountain, is a Jack Nicklaus Signature course that’s ranked one of the best in the state by Golfweek magazine. The Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort and the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa each have three golf courses on-property; Loews Ventana Canyon and Omni Tucson National Golf Resort offer two courses each. For a full list of local courses, visit the visittucson.org website.
Canyon Ranch is a pioneering health and wellness resort that offers a full-service spa, healthy cuisine, fitness classes and meeting space for 30 people or fewer. Group rates are all-inclusive. Miraval Arizona Resort & Spa also focuses on wellness, incentive groups and corporate retreats. Meeting amenities include team-building programs and indoor/outdoor meeting and event space for groups up to 130.
The Radisson Suites Tucson has 299 two-room suites and two executive suites with courtyard or pool views. Amenities include Sleep Number beds, private balconies with mountain views and free Wi-Fi. Meeting space includes a ballroom that holds 250 for banquets, two outdoor terrace spaces and an orange grove/garden event space with stone walls and ironwork accents.
The Pima Air & Space Museum has indoor venues that hold groups up to 700 and an outdoor aircraft exhibit for even larger gatherings. The University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 campus has a dedicated conference center (capacity: 180), overnight accommodations and the B2 Institute, which does research on global environmental change, the origin of life and whether other life-sustaining planets exist, among other things.
The Flam Chen Pyrotechnic Theater does shows that combines circus arts with flight, fire and public spectacle. The company has 12 shows in its repertory and operates the year-round Tucson International School of Circus and Performing Arts. The Carnival of Illusion is a humorous, vaudeville-inspired magic show that accommodates 35 guests in an intimate theater setting.
Groups can tour the historic Mission San Xavier del Bac on the Tohono O’odham reservation and learn about its history, school and restoration at an on-site museum. The AAA Tucson Padres, a San Diego Padres affiliate, play baseball games at Kino Stadium, which has a party suite plus terrace and tented event spaces. Agua Caliente Park has educational nature programs and walks for groups of 10 to 50 at its 101-acre campus in the foothills of the Tucson Mountains. Through the Tucson CVB, planners can arrange a group voluntourism activity with one of several local nonprofits, including Arizona State Parks, Arizona’s Children Association, Habitat for Humanity and the Primavera Foundation.