Discover how nature and adventure ramp up Arizona meetings
By Christine Loomis
Arizona is a state with an embarrassment of riches when it comes to outdoor adventures, and nowhere is that truer than in Northern Arizona with its trio of prominent towns providing access to the best in nature with mountain and desert activities for every type of ability. But each one has its own vibe and aesthetic, too.
Outdoor adventure isn’t just an escape from formal meeting rooms. It can support and enhance key ingredients of meetings including networking, education and bonding, and it easily delivers the extraordinary experience incentive programs require.
Networking outside of formal sessions is often the most productive and long-lasting in part because relationships develop organically. Colleagues sharing an experience, especially an adventure, bond in a natural way and that translates back to the workplace. It’s also no secret that an inspiring setting can be exactly the catalyst needed for inspired thinking.
Sometimes described as a cathedral without walls, Sedona is a place of deep spirituality, in part because of its mysterious vortexes—places where spiritual and healing energy are believed to swirl (much like a dust devil or whirlpool in a river) but only felt, not seen. Many visitors go to Sedona to tap into this healing energy. The four best known vortexes are Cathedral Rock, Airport Mesa, Bell Rock and Boynton Canyon, each believed to radiate its own particular energy. But there’s more to Sedona than its spiritual side, not the least of which is the powerful landscape of red-rock formations, canyons and desert that create an inviting playground for adventure. If that’s not enough, the Grand Canyon is just over 100 miles away. Resorts, spas and meetings-ready venues round out Sedona’s lengthy list of attributes.
Pink Jeep Adventure Tours operates in Sedona and the Grand Canyon. It offers group and team-building tours as well as private customized tours so whatever the size of your group, you can find a fit with these longtime experts. One day trip from Sedona is to the famed Antelope Canyon, one of the great outdoor adventures of the West. For something more rugged, check out the Broken Arrow tour.
A Day in the West is a stellar tour operator that runs trips around Sedona. Jeep tours can be combined with horseback adventures, zip-lining, wine tasting and helicopter flights. One Jeep tour heads up to one of Sedona’s most impressive spots, Mogollon Rim; another includes the Out of Africa Wildlife Park. Private group tours are available.
Sedona Wine Adventures is a different take on the great outdoors. These tours focus on Arizona’s growing wine industry, particularly vineyards in the Verde Valley. Groups can opt for one of the company’s public tours—one even includes exploring the former mining center, former ghost town, Jerome, Ariz.—or have a tour custom-built for your group, up to 25 people.
Not all great outdoor activities involve the wilderness. A little over 20 miles from Sedona, Predator Zip Lines offers special rates for groups of 12, 50 or 100 booked at the same time. The signature experience is zipping over Out of Africa Wildlife Park, but for the ultimate zip-line challenge, groups should consider taking to Predator’s course at night.
Finally, if discovering Sedona’s spiritual essence is a desire, there are tours to the vortexes as well as to the city’s famous—and naturally inspiring—Chapel of the Holy Cross.
WHERE TO MEET, SLEEP & EAT
The 221-room Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock is a good choice for groups requiring dedicated meeting space. The resort has more than 14,000 square feet indoors, as well as outdoor venues. The Hilton is also a good choice for groups that want to host a golf tournament as part of an event. Dining on the terrace at the resort’s restaurant is always an option, but Sedona has plenty of dining choices in town, too. Oak Creek Brewery & Grill is the place for award-winning brews and views—especially from the second-story patio. There’s no private dining room, but buyouts for 130 people are possible.
If you think Arizona is all soaring temperatures and desert, you’ve likely never been to Flagstaff, where the annual snowfall downtown is 108 inches. Located in high-country mountains and a forest of ponderosa pines, Flagstaff has four distinct seasons, giving planners reasons to meet any time of year. In addition to a conference center and meeting-friendly hotels, the city’s CVB is onboard to help planners with sites, event promotion, DMC referrals and more.
Three national monuments beckon adventurers: Walnut Canyon National Monument, Wupatki National Monument and Sunset Crater Volcano National Monument. All offer day hikes but they aren’t alone in providing groups compelling places to bond or simply enjoy what nature creates. There’s also Lava River Cave in Coconino National Forest and Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon are easily doable day trips.
If your group is looking for the ultimate whitewater challenge, running the Colorado through Grand Canyon is it. Hatch River Expeditions, based in Flagstaff, specializes in Grand Canyon rafting trips and has been providing customized private trips for more than 80 years. Some river trips add a good amount of hiking into the adventure as well.
Treetop obstacle courses and zip-line courses make for a challenging outing or structured team-building exercise for groups and Flagstaff Extreme Adventure Course is the place for a group ready to test their physical and mental limits. Corporate groups are welcome and the company offers group pricing on an array of adventures.
WHERE TO MEET, SLEEP & EAT
Flagstaff ’s High Country Conference Center features nearly 30,000 square feet of flexible space and is able to accommodate up to 1,000 attendees.
For the ultimate in privacy, the Arizona Nordic Village accommodates corporate groups for off-the-grid meetings surrounded by a landscape guaranteed to inspire.
Among lodging choices is the 183-room DoubleTree by Hilton Flagstaff with 6,000 square feet of meeting space and full catering capabilities, as well as two on-site restaurants. The Little America Hotel features 247 guest rooms and 13,500 square feet of meeting space across 10 rooms and can accommodate up to 380 attendees. The city has a slew of excellent off-site venues including several museums, the arboretum and Arizona Snowbowl.
As Arizona’s Craft Brew City, Flagstaff has its own Brewery Trail. For a taste of true local culture, visit any or all of the nine breweries on the trail. Or, create a team-building event (with designated drivers)—the first team to collect all nine stamps can head to the city’s visitor center or CVB for free commemorative pint glasses. For group-accommodating restaurants, Mormon Lake Lodge is a possibility. Located about 30 minutes from town, the lodge is famous for its 1880’s-style saloon and open-pit steakhouse— one of only a few in the state. Downtown, the Market Bar & Kitchen is a restaurant with its own contemporary event space, the Market Lounge. The lounge, which has a separate entrance from the restaurant, can accommodate up to 75 guests. A full bar and catering are options for planners to consider.
Prescott is the quirkiest of the three towns. It has a spirited, independent Western vibe, and it’s also home to what’s billed as The World’s Oldest Rodeo (it’s been going for more than 130 years) as well as its traditional Frontier Days. Prescott offers exactly the right infrastructure for small- to moderately-sized groups that want an out-of-the-ordinary experience without spending a fortune out of pocket.
Prescott has several golf courses where groups can savor being outdoors. Antelope Hills Golf Course welcomes groups for golf outings as well as banquets, so you can make a whole day and evening of it.
Stone Ridge Golf Course also welcomes large and small groups on the course, and has plenty of experience with large functions as well.
WHERE TO MEET, SLEEP & EAT
The historic Hassayampa Inn has 67 guest rooms and plenty of modern amenities—including complimentary Wi-Fi throughout the hotel—and more than 12,000 square feet of elegant function space, including a rooftop terrace as well as the stylish Art Deco Marina Ballroom. The hotel’s Peacock Dining Room is a nice choice for a VIP or executive dinner.
The 160-room Prescott Resort & Conference Center is the only full-service resort in the area. Décor and artwork reflect the culture and symbols of the Yavapai Prescott Indian Tribe and amenities include complimentary Wi-Fi in all guest rooms. Meetings and functions are accommodated in 16,000 square feet of flexible space, 13 meeting rooms, conference suites and pre-function areas. The menu at Icha Maajoh, the resort’s restaurant, highlights American cusine such as braised beef short ribs as well as fish, salads, burgers and house-made soups. Icha Maajoh’s catering menu is extensive with plenty of healthy options for breaks and meals.
And Prescott may be small, but it takes craft beverages seriously. It’s home to more than five breweries, a distillery and an award-winning meadery. Superstition Meadery sells its meads and ciders made with honey from its own apiary in 38 states and more than 10 countries. It’s located downtown and worth a visit. Also downtown is one of Prescott’s most historic—and some would say infamous areas— Whiskey Row. It rose up from the ashes of a fire in 1900, garnering its name from the 40 or so saloons that lined the street. Today it has historic saloons, art galleries, festivals and a fair number of tourists, but attendees may well want to join the crowds.