Tucson offers a harmony of three distinct cultures: cowboy lore, Spanish/Mexican verve and Native American spirit. And all of them permeate the experience at the upscale group hotels and cool venues rimming the city. At the Old Tucson Studios, for example, groups up to 2,500 often dress up in cowboy boots and hats for fun Western galas and line dancing lessons.
“You can literally push open saloon doors, slam your fist on the bar, and the saloon keeper will slide a mug of beer down to you,” says Graeme Hughes, director of convention sales for Metropolitan Tucson CVB. “It’s amazing what happens when you give someone a cowboy hat and a couple of beers. They really start to relax.”
Spas at both Loews Ventana Canyon and The Ritz-Carlton at Dove Mountain incorporate mini spa experiences into breaks, while Native American influences at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa are evident in spa products made from local mud packs and herbs. Climate plays a part too. Many spas have outdoor spaces exclusively for treatments overlooking lushly green onsite golf courses.
“Conference resorts are adding the spa experience to meetings as much as the golf component,” says Hughes. “And these signature championship courses set against a scenic backdrop of the Santa Catalina or Tucson Mountains are as much of the experience as the turf itself.”
Last November, the 215-room Casino Del Sol Resort, Spa & Conference Center opened with world class dining options, in both the hotel and separate casino, and an outdoor amphitheater for 5,000 surrounded by “panoramic silhouettes of mountains and dazzling sunsets,” says Hughes.
Pima Air & Space Museum celebrates the city’s aviation and aerospace heritage with a new 20,000-sf hangar favored by military and patriotic groups. Capacity is 700 pax. “You can dine under the wings or around the wheels of the largest private collection of historical aircraft in North America,” says Hughes.
You know The Alamo, Tex-Mex food and The River Walk. But do you know that San Antonio boasts one of the top 10 recognized hotel spas in North America, and it’s the Texas city with the most luxury resorts within 20 minutes of downtown?
“When groups come here, it’s like getting two destinations within one area,” says Ronnie Price, assistant executive director for the San Antonio CVB. “We have a vibrant downtown as well as the undulating hills and cliffs of the Texas Hill Country that serve as backdrop to championship courses.” The 1,002-room JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa is only one of two U.S. locales that has hosted two PGA events: the Valero Texas Open and the AT&T Championship.
“That speaks volumes about the quality of our golf courses; people want to play where the pros play,” says Price. “When the Valero Texas Open happens April 16-22, corporate groups will book conferences around the action.”
Mokara Spa at the Mokara San Antonio Hotel is a 4-star facility with pretty views of River Walk and a rooftop cafe. Try the aromatic River Walk Foot Fix or the Texas Tingle Body Wrap that eliminates toxins while leaving muscles as relaxed as jello.
Not far from Mokara, Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center underwent a $40 million refurb, including the addition of Plaza Acequia, a 20,000-sf private outdoor event space. Price says, “Plaza Acequia opens up opportunities for groups looking to take advantage of our mild weather with fountains, running water and lush greenery just outside the convention center’s doors.”