It doesn’t require much imagination when seeking out unique meeting venues in the Valley of the Sun.
Simply visit the Desert Botanical Garden, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, historic Sahuaro Ranch and similar destinations that come equipped with a natural, compelling desert backdrop. And, while ambiance is everything, members of the Arizona Sunbelt Chapter of Meeting Professionals International are also embracing the unique offerings of meetings and events locales such as Topgolf, Dave & Buster’s and ISM Raceway, which are perfectly suited for team-building events, corporate meetings, entertainment and more.
Maya Angelou once said, “You are the sum total of everything you’ve ever seen, heard, eaten, smelled, been told, forgot — it’s all there.” The quote helps to answer the “why” when it comes to choosing a more unique meeting venue option. Unique, for many, translates to “memorable.”
Sometimes, it’s the literal physical construct — architecture — of a place that locks into the layers of attendees’ minds.
“Taliesin West was built specifically for its site,” says Kate Hastings, director of events at the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. “It’s uniquely Arizonan and a site of continuous experimentation and innovation. Simply being in this space is inspiring.”
For destination meetings and events, an experience in a place like Taliesin West is key. In addition to imbibing the design majesty of a legendary figure like Frank Lloyd Wright, attendees can seep in the history and ambiance of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert landscape.
“We work with many destination management companies and event planners across the country who are looking for iconic locations for their clients who are seeking exclusive and special experiences,” Hastings explains. “It’s special to be able to stand in the same place that Frank Lloyd Wright stood, watching the sunset from Taliesin West. People resonate with the organic design and natural setting of this beautiful and historic place.”
While history and natural elements are supremely attractive to businesses, so is offering meeting-goers an entertaining experience.
“Our unique event space and food buffets are uniquely positioned to encourage team-building by offering meeting space options, upgraded technology and entertainment,” says Cricket Barrientos, special events manager at Dave & Buster’s. “We offer 180 games on the gaming midway, three championship-sized billiards tables, 80 TVs for sports viewing and private event space to accommodate 10 to 2,000 guests.”
What meeting and event planners are increasingly discovering is that “extras” are everything to the modern meeting climate. Attendees, especially destination meeting guests, don’t want to camp out in a hotel room. Elevating the energy level of an event atmosphere is crucial, particularly if it lasts for a series of days, experts say.
“Topgolf has an energetic atmosphere that simply cannot be matched,” says Topgolf Scottsdale DIrector of Sales Rachele Vincent. “The traditional meeting atmosphere is simply no longer fitting the bill for the culture of the current workplace. What better place to eliminate generational barriers than Topgolf? We take an ageless game like golf, that is truly beloved, and streamline it to make it easy and fun to play for all.”
The same energy level is true for the newly upgraded ISM Raceway.
“At the track, businesses and organizations will have all the amenities they would need to host a successful event,” adds Greg Frésquez, communications manager for ISM Raceway, “with the added value of great meeting areas in our ROLL-BAR and Curve, while enjoying delicious food and drink options from our partners.”
Even more in store
Again, the simple advantage of breathtaking desert landscapes combined with built-in amenities places Greater Phoenix venues in prime position to play event host.
From numerous sports-related entertainment and shopping opportunities to recreational options and state parks, there is something to appeal to every taste.
“Phoenix offers a vibrant cultural and artistic community,” Hastings says. “Scottsdale is one of the nation’s favorite playgrounds, Tempe houses the nation’s largest university, and most of our state is still wild and open for visitors who want an authentic experience of the American West while still ‘roughing it easy.’”
Places like Schnepf Farms, which can host everything from intimate gatherings to large-scale events, serves as a perfect example of “roughing it easy,” as a self-contained venue. The 300-acre farm in Queen Creek has much to offer in the way of rustic agritainment — even newly renovated Airstreams, Silver Streaks and Spartans that are available for a “glamping” (glamorous camping) experience.
In the West Valley, Glendale offers a similar old-world environment with modern amenities.
“You can start off in the Westgate Entertainment district,” says Barrientos, “and venture down to the Old Town Glendale for unique antique shopping with a small-town feel.”
Frésquez sums up what makes unique venues in Phoenix exceptional.
“Arizona boasts top-ranked hotels, resorts, golf courses and serves as a premier destination for world-class sports and entertainment,” he says. “Rivaling other major states, Arizona has renowned shopping and culinary offerings, all easily accessible via the excellent freeway system.”
10 unique venues to try
As home to many unique meeting venues, the Greater Phoenix area has been host to events for notable businesses, nonprofits and a wide range of industries — healthcare, technology, agriculture, aerospace and more. Here are a few of the Valley’s most coveted and captivating venues to try to your next meeting:
Dave & Buster’s: Each Dave & Buster’s has a full-service restaurant and a video arcade.
Desert Botanical Garden: The DBG is a 140-acre botanical garden located in Papago Park.
ISM Raceway: The motorsport track opened in 1964 and currently hosts two NASCAR race weekends annually.
Mesa Arts Center: The 210,000-square-foot facility is the largest comprehensive arts campus in the state.
Musical Instrument Museum: Opened in April 2010, MIM is the largest museum of its type in the world.
OdySea Aquarium: OdySea is the largest aquarium in the Southwest United States and spans more than 200,000 square feet.
Rawhide Western Town & Event Center: Rawhide is an authentic replica of an 1880’s town complete with a Main Street, gunfights, stagecoach and train rides.
Schnepf Farms: This fourth-generation farm is well known for its pumpkin festival and its you-pick peaches.
Taliesin West: Taliesin West was architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and school in the desert from 1937 until his death in 1959.
Topgolf: Topgolf offers fun point-scoring golf games for all skill levels, an upscale bar food and drinks, great music and more.