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A Whole Lot of New

Innovative hotels, refreshed spaces, and cool experiences are a big part of the Southwest's blossoming meetings and events scene

By Beth Buehler

The Scottsdale
Bennie’s Courtyard at The Scottsdale Resort & Spa. || Courtesy of The Scottsdale Resort & Spa

It feels like a time machine. Only three years ago, everything went on pause for the meetings and events industry. Today, however, a colorful kaleidoscope of intriguing new venues for groups is blooming across the Southwest.

Planners seeking new lodging and meeting experiences are in luck, as Arizona is adding new options galore in the form of sizable resorts, unique hotels, and high-end glamping. Utah’s Greater Zion area is also delivering additional options for groups to embrace the outdoors by staying in luxury tents and Airstreams, while Salt Lake City added a dual-branded hotel not found anywhere else.

Las Vegas is moving forward in noticeable ways with big renovations, the up-coming completion of a massive resort, and new attractions that nod to high-tech and punk rock. Farther northwest, Reno has its fair share of property refreshes, along with three new places to gather with dining and entertainment built in. In New Mexico, make sure to get the secret codes before a team outing to the growing number of speakeasies in Albuquerque and keep your eyes on the expanding cultural options in Santa Fe. 

Arizona

For gatherings around the campfire or on horseback, head to the Grand Canyon Glamping Resort just minutes from the rim of Grand Canyon West on the Hualapai Indian Reservation. The new resort offers an array of luxury camping accommodations in tents and covered wagons, as well as on-site dining from a food truck and opportunities to tour the area via helicopter, horse, and all-terrain vehicles.

Sit back and relax at the destination spa Mii amo at Enchantment Resort in Sedona, which reopened in February after a multimillion-dollar renovation and expansion. Additions include a light-filled fitness wing, new treatment rooms, and Hummingbird, a signature restaurant that spotlights ingredients sourced from nearby farms and Mii amo’s garden.

The 164-room Moxy Phoenix Downtown is opening its doors this September—and in true Moxy style, will check in guests at the bar where they can savor a glass of wine or beer or elect to move to the Bitter and Twisted cocktail bar. The small Plug and Meet gathering area will be ideal for brainstorming sessions and presentations.

Also, in the greater Phoenix area, the 330-room Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU opened in April and offers 36,000 square feet of meeting and event space and four dining outlets, including a rooftop restaurant and bar.

Omni Tempe Hotel
Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU’s rooftop bar and restaurant, Lucero. || Courtesy of Omni Tempe Hotel at ASU

The Ritz-Carlton Paradise Valley, The Palmeraie, will debut this fall as the first Ritz-Carlton built from the ground up in the United States since 2009. The 20-acre property will have a 400-foot-long swimming pool, citrus grove, spa, oxygen-enriched guest rooms, 20,000 square feet of function space, and an adjacent open-air shopping space called The Palmeraie.

The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch near Phoenix is undergoing the largest improvement project in the property’s nearly 50-year history and is also rebranding to The Scottsdale Resort & Spa. Upgrades will be made to all guest rooms, common areas, food and beverage outlets, the spa, and 90,000 square feet of function space. The largest part of the project includes the conversion of the resort’s Stillman Building that featured 60 guest rooms and suites into 12 two-story luxury villas.

In April, The Leo Kent Hotel, Tucson, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, opened in the first nine floors of a longtime downtown skyscraper at the crossroads of West Broadway Boulevard and South Church Avenue. The boutique hotel’s 1,300 square feet of meeting and event space can host groups of up to 60.

Omni Tucson National Resort completed a multimillion-dollar refresh to 25,000 square feet of meeting and event space, the lobby, the fitness center, and all guest rooms, suites, and casitas. New offerings include three restaurant and lounge concepts and the Mokara Spa with 12 treatment rooms and a salon.

“This long-anticipated renovation marks a whole new era for Omni Tucson National Resort,” says Michael Maruca, general manager of the resort. “The entire property has been transformed inside and out.”

Nevada

Las Vegas is poised to have a stellar 2023 with more than $4 billion in new development planned throughout the city. The $2.17 billion MSG Sphere at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas is under construction and scheduled to open in fall 2023. With about 17,500 seats and built in the shape of a sphere, the modernistic venue will host concerts, product launches, marquee events, and more. In addition to the world’s largest and highest-resolution LED screen, the Sphere will have a multilayered audio system equipped with thousands of speakers and 4D multisensory technologies such as changing scents and temperatures.

MGM Resorts is investing big in two of its properties, with $110 million dedicated to renovating all 819 rooms and 104 suites in the Spa Tower at Bellagio Resort & Casino. The project will wrap up by October and follow the resort’s remodel of more than 2,500 guest rooms in the main tower. In 2024, guest-room enhancements throughout the resort will culminate with the redesign of Bellagio Tower’s suites.

In addition to revamped guest suites, MGM will embark on a $100 million renovation to its 2.1 million-square-foot convention center at Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino. Among the refreshed features are 11 new digital walls and redesigned spaces with an upbeat, tropical style; brighter lighting; fine art; and seating nooks. The project will be done in phases and is projected for completion by the end of 2024.

“We listened to feedback from meeting planners over recent years and are confident this refreshed and upgraded space will exceed their needs and expectations in every way,” says Ernest Stovall, vice president of sales for Mandalay Bay.

Caesars Palace’s recently unveiled multimillion-dollar renovation includes the main entrance, casino dome, porte cochere, and the new Galleria Bar in the hotel’s lobby. Caesars is also expanding food and beverage options to include the Dominique Ansel Las Vegas by the James Beard Award-winning pastry chef. Steaks are a highlight at the 200-seat Stanton Social Prime, along with two private dining spaces and delectable desserts and cocktails. For an impressive tableside presentation, order the Super Tomahawk steak that is delivered hanging under a small dome of miniature lights and doused
with spoonfuls of flaming cognac.

Head north to Reno to visit the new Element Reno Experience District hotel in the multifaceted Reno Experience District. The 170-room venue features about 1,800 square feet of meeting space, a rooftop pool, a lobby bar and lounge, and a restaurant. As a part of a larger project, the Element Reno Experience District hotel is joined by two luxury apartment complexes, artisan shops, dining, entertainment, a market hall, and a 2-acre public park with an amphitheater. 

“From hotel renovations, new and exciting events, and additional amenities throughout the destination, Reno Tahoe continues to evolve, improve, and re-energize, giving visitors more reasons and more ways to discover northern Nevada,” says Charles Harris, president and CEO of Reno Tahoe.

Z-Lounge
A craft cocktail at the Hotel Zazz’s Z-Lounge in Albuquerque. || Photo by Esperanza Roybal, courtesy of Z-Lounge

New Mexico

For something a little mysterious, groups should take part in Albuquerque’s growing speakeasy scene. Pull open a bakery shelf to step inside the 1920s-themed Teddy Roe’s or tap a golden banana to enter Hotel Zazz’s hidden vinyl and cocktail bar, Z-Lounge. Drop the code word in El Rey Liquors to get through the secret entrance into Founders Speakeasy or make a reservation at Vernon’s Speakeasy, hidden behind the bookcase.

Capitalizing on this hidden bar trend is Destination Southwest, a destination management company (DMC) based in Albuquerque. For cocktail lovers, the company offers custom speakeasy and secret lounge tours for groups. “As the local DMC company for Albuquerque and Santa Fe, I find that our guests are looking for meaningful travel and immersive experiences from a local’s perspective,” says Sheli Hinds Armstrong, owner and CEO.

In Nob Hill (a neighborhood of Albuquerque known for its eclectic shops and chic dining options), the historic Lobo Theater reopened as a lounge and event space and was joined by a slew of new eateries and bars including the upscale wine bar Public House ABQ and a dual concept featuring Gather for cocktails and small plates and 3128 Social House for gastropub fare.

In Santa Fe, the New Mexico Museum of Art is expanding to two locations, with the new Vladem Contemporary slated to open in the Santa Fe Railyard District in September to complement the attraction’s historic building on the Plaza. The Vladem Contemporary has flexible exhibition spaces totaling 10,000 square feet that broaden the possibilities for holding large-scale installations, multimedia projects, performance-based works, and indoor and outdoor meetings and events.

Utah

The dual-branded Element Salt Lake City Downtown and Le Méridien Salt Lake City Downtown opened in January and is the first combination of the two brands. The property is adjacent to Delta Center, a sports and entertainment facility and home to the NBAs Utah Jazz. It is also steps away from the Salt Palace Convention Center. Le Méridien and Element offer a combined 270 guest rooms, rooftop pool, fitness center, and about 8,400 square feet of meeting space. Guests can sample elevated French cuisine at Adelaide or try small plates and cocktails at Van Ryder rooftop bar.

Just 40 minutes away from Salt Lake City in Park City is The St. Regis Deer Valley’s new Snow Park building, which features the Italian eatery, La Stellina, which opened in January. Executive Chef Pierson Shields and his team artfully combine locally sourced produce with Italian meats, cheeses, and pastas to create tasty dishes for guests—with sommeliers on staff to recommend thoughtful wine pairings. 

Travel to the southwestern corner of the state to stay at Zion Wildflower Resort in Virgin near Zion National Park. Expanding its lodging options to 40 roomy, luxurious tents with private bathrooms, the property is also debuting cooling pools and a clubhouse with on-site dining options and dedicated space for meetings and events.

experiencescottsdale.com

grandcanyonwest.com

santafe.org

tempetourism.com

visitalbuquerque.org

visitlasvegas.com

visitparkcity.com

visitphoenix.com

visitrenotahoe.com

visitsaltlake.com

visitsedona.com

visittucson.org

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