Tucson is a bit of an outlier in Arizona, at least based on my personal experience. While Phoe- nix has risen in status among the state’s elite
cultural hot spots in recent years, Tucson is the true
originator of quirky, desert cool in Arizona, blending
the laid-back resort life with an abundance of things to
see and do in downtown Tucson’s various districts.
The AAA Four Diamond, 428-room Hilton Tucson
El Conquistador Golf & Tennis Resort served up a
prime example of what Tucson can offer groups
meeting in the area during a Meetings & Events Media
FAM trip from Nov. 7-9, 2016. For starters, the Hilton
El Conquistador, situated at the base of Pusch Ridge
and surrounded by mountain and desert vistas, offers
tons of on-site amenities and activities.
If your group likes to be pampered, there’s the Elements Spa; if you have a sportier group then there’s
45 holes of championship golf nearby and 31 outdoor
tennis courts; and if your group simply wants to hang
out by the pool after a day of meetings, there are five
outdoor swimming pools. Our media group dined on
the Epazote Kitchen & Cocktails patio, which serves
Southwestern fare and some creative cocktails.
We closed out our first night with a “tequila toast”
and some fireside s’mores for dessert—Arizona
resorts love their s’mores—and rested up for an
action-packed day of activities, and yes, more food.
But before we get to that, let’s talk meeting space.
The Hilton El Conquistador offers 54,000 square feet
of flexible indoor function space and over 100,000
square feet of total space with its outdoor options.
Much of the indoor
space is split between
and Presidio) and an
11,000-square-foot Executive Conference Center with seven meeting
rooms and a boardroom.
The highlight of the outdoor space is The Last
Territory, a standalone,
venue where groups can
partake in a teambuilding exercise or hold
dining events such as a Southwestern barbecue.
As mentioned, my group explored much of the
Hilton El Conquistador during our morning property
tour, and overall the resort gives off a laid-back vibe
that still has a certain elegance to it—comfortable but
not overly uptight. After the property tour we walked
to some nearby desert trails for a scenic guided group
hike that everyone wished was a little longer than an
hour, but that will largely depend on your group.
We eventually met up with Visit Tucson (the local
CVB) for an off-site trip to the Arizona-Sonora Desert
Museum and a progressive dine-around in downtown
Tucson, both of which were a lot of fun. The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is “a fusion zoo, natural
history museum, botanical garden, art gallery and
aquarium” that features 230 animal species, 1,200
plants and interesting event space for up to 450. We
spent two hours at the museum and I definitely could
have stayed longer. Bring comfortable shoes!
Finally, we headed to downtown Tucson, the city’s
cultural hub where modern urban-style properties are
mixed in with colorful barrios. The closest comparison
in vibe to the area is Austin, but you definitely get
more of the desert culture in Tucson, versus the Texan
’tude (and yes, there’s a lot of hipster style).
In December 2015 Tucson was designated as a
UNESCO World City of Gastronomy, the first in the
U.S. to earn the
honor, so naturally
we took part in a
made stops at The
(a private dining
space led by James
ning chef Janos
Kitchen and Hotel
Congress, a quirky
historic hotel that is
home to The Cup
Cafe and a buzzing nightlife.
To sum it all up, I ate a lot of excellent food—
including a delicious steak at Charro—and was not disappointed by any of the offerings. Also, people-watch-ing opportunities abound at Hotel Congress. m
By Eric Andersen
HILTON TUCSON EL CONQUISTADOR
THE RESORT SCENE GETS A SWIFT KICK OF CULTURE IN TUCSON
HILTON TUCSON EL CONQUISTADOR
ARIZONA-SONORA DESERT MUSEUM
ON the SCENE
THE CARRIAGE HOUSE
GRILLED PRIME NEW YORK STEAK, EPAZOTE KITCHEN
THE LAST TERRITORY