. Phoenix | Northstar Meetings Group

Guide to Meeting & Event Planning in

Phoenix

Learn why you should host your next meeting, event or conference in Phoenix.

Why Phoenix for Your Next Meeting or Event?

In recent years, more than $5 billion has been pumped into a 1.7-square-mile zone in the heart of the city, contributing to a downtown growth spurt that has seen the development of office space, shops, restaurants, hotels, and convention and academic facilities. Meanwhile, the Greater Phoenix area continues to build on its reputation as a golf and spa mecca with luxurious resorts that offer eco-friendly lodging, healthy dining and wellness-oriented activities such as outdoor yoga, hiking and meditation programs. 

Only in Phoenix

A recent study by the Greater Phoenix Economic Council and real estate firm CBRE highlighted Phoenix's growth as a hub for the high-tech industry, which already employs more than 83,000 people. Companies including Intel and Amazon have recently added jobs locally, and big firms in a range of industries — financial services, insurance, consulting and even manufacturing — have IT operations in and around the Phoenix area. 

Transportation

Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, approximately 3 miles south of downtown Phoenix; transfer cost by taxi to downtown, $15. The airport is also served by Uber and Lyft.
 
Sky Harbor has been garnering plenty of accolades: It was named Best Airport in the 2018 Conde Nast Traveler Readers' Choice Awards, and named the best airport for shopping in USA Today's 10 Best Travel Contest. Adding to its allure: A major renovation of Sky Harbor's Terminal 3 included the addition of new shops, dining outlets and amenities.

In other airport news, American Airlines recently launched a daily nonstop flight to London Heathrow Airport, while Condor Airlines will offer three flights a week between Frankfurt, Germany and Phoenix from May to October.


Travel Essentials

Taxes: Bed tax, 3.0%; city tax, 2.3%; county tax, 1.77%; state tax, 5.5%
 
Convention Center: Phoenix Convention Center; exhibit space, more than 900,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 99
 
CVB: Visit Phoenix

2018 Stella Award Winners

Meeting and Event Venues

 

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Top Accommodations 

• The Sheraton Phoenix Downtown, a short distance from the city's convention center, is in the process of revamping its guest rooms, lobby, meeting space and culinary offerings.  The 1,000-room property — the city's largest — was selected to become the prototype for Marriott's portfolio-wide rebranding of Sheraton. When the renovation is completed, the Sheraton's guest rooms, lobby and 110,000 square feet of meeting space will reflect the new brand identity. 

• Following an exterior refresh earlier this year, the Hyatt Regency Phoenix kicked off floor-to-ceiling renovations of its 693 guestrooms as well as revitalization of meeting spaces and three new meeting rooms, with the addition of a new restaurant and market. The 24-story hotel, located in the downtown core, will also be adding a perfect people-watching patio along Adams Street, as well as an expanded market and an expanded rooftop courtyard. The former Networks Bar & Grill is being replaced by Bushel & Barrel, and scheduled to open in December 2019. 

• Neighboring Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel completed a $12 million renovation on their lobby and exterior in 2017 and has now shifted focus to remodeling their guestrooms rooms — splitting the construction between this summer 2019 and 2020. The Renaissance rooms will get fresh carpet, wall coverings, lighting, window treatments and walk-in showers. 

Phoenix Cambria

• The Cambria Hotel Downtown Phoenix Convention Center (pictured above), a seven-story, 127-room property in the downtown Phoenix's Roosevelt Row Arts District, opened its doors in late November 2019. The $26 million hotel spotlights several large art pieces, including murals that will span the height of the building, and a shade structure and sculpture on the rooftop. Additionally, the hotel's ground-floor restaurant/bar, Poppy, and rooftop bar with mixed-use space will be open to the public. 

• Ground was broken this month at the Arizona Center on a new AC Hotel by Marriott. The 199-room hotel, which is scheduled to open in 2021, will be the second AC Hotel in Phoenix after the AC Hotel by Marriott Phoenix Biltmore, which opened roughly a year ago. The mixed-use Arizona Center recently completed a $25 million renovation to office space, dining, entertainment and outdoor space. There also are plans to develop a 31-story residential tower that is expected to open in 2021, as well.  

• Located to the southeast of Phoenix, the Price Road Corridor received a significant new infusion of meeting space with the opening of the Marriott Phoenix Chandler this past fall. Boasting 82,000 square feet and 264 rooms, this $60 million property is the largest full-service Marriott in Arizona and, with over 26,000 square feet of diverse, flexible and stylish space, it's also the largest hotel conference space in Chandler.

 • The Arrive Hotel, which is set to (ahem) arrive later this year near the Biltmore and Arcadia neighborhoods in uptown Phoenix, will feature a pool bar helmed by none other than Ross Simon, owner of award-winning cocktail bar Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour. Guests will be able to enjoy poolside craft cocktails at the fittingly named Lylo — a British colloquialism for a pool float.

• Phoenix restaurateur Sam Fox is branching out into hotel development. Fox — who built a culinary empire that he sold to The Cheesecake Factory for more than $300 million in August — plans to develop a hotel located within the 44|Camelback mixed-use project proposed for the corner of 44th St. and Camelback Rd. in Phoenix. In November, the Phoenix City Council approved the $300 million mixed-use project, but only after the team behind the development agreed to lower the height of the proposed buildings from 75 to 50 feet.  

 • Great Wolf Lodge has added Arizona to its roster of family-friendly resorts. The Scottsdale location, which opened in September, offers an 85,000-square-foot indoor water park (heated to 84 degrees year-round), a 27,000-square-foot family entertainment center and 350 rooms. With the grand opening came the debut of a new ride: Diamond Drop. This high-speed, four-person waterslide features serpentine curves and high-bank thrills. Great Wolf Lodge Arizona is the first water park in the world to offer this slide.

• Local development and management firm Oxygen Hospitality Group announced its purchase of the Wyndham Garden Phoenix Midtown in February, along with plans for a multimillion-dollar renovation. The 160-room hotel, which has 5,000 square feet of meeting space, will remain open throughout the renovation.

Phoenix thirsty camel

• The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort, has unveiled a new restaurant — the Phoenician Tavern — which offers "upscale pub grub" and craft beers in a laid-back bar setting. With a total of 249 seats, the eatery's options for groups include a 78-seat private dining room and 34-seat outdoor patio. The tavern's opening caps a three-phase, propertywide series of renovations that began nearly three years ago and saw a refresh of the resort's 645 guest rooms, golf, fitness and spa facilities. In addition, Thirsty Camel Lounge (pictured above), which was also part of the renovation efforts, was recently named one of the best hotel bars in the world by Forbes Travel Guide for 2019.

 • Marriott International’s Westin brand built its image around health and wellness, and its newest property, the Element (by Westin) Scottsdale at SkySong, takes that commitment further than ever before. Making its debut this month, the 157-room Element is an extended-stay property that offers guests a sustainable and health-focused atmosphere, with an emphasis on smart design, efficient use of space and a “nature-focused environment.” The Element occupies the southwestern corner of the SkySong complex, also known as the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center. The hotel offers 2,170 square feet of meeting space and a 7,572-square-foot, open-air courtyard. 

• The 119-room Royal Palms Resort and Spa added nearly 3,600 square feet of new meeting and event space last year, bringing total indoor and outdoor event space at the property to more than 20,000 square feet.

• Arts and entertainment collective Meow Wolf and development collaborative True North Studio have announced plans for a hybrid interactive art installation and hotel in the Phoenix Roosevelt Row Arts District. The 400-room property will include a 75,000-square-foot exhibition area and a 10,000-square-foot performance space.

Hot Venues 

• Phoenix's Talking Stick Resort Arena is on track to complete a $230 million renovation in time for the 2021 basketball season. The arena is home to the Phoenix Suns. 

• Near the Phoenix Convention Center, a $77 million downtown "innovation center" is being developed in partnership with Arizona State University. The new research facility, part of the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, is scheduled to open late next year.

• The Phoenix Convention Center debuted the Canyon on Third outdoor event space. This flexible 80,000-square-foot space is a blank canvas for groups seeking to host everything from a post-convention reception to a open-air food festival. Its centralized location and easy access to the surrounding neighborhood gives the Canyon on Third a buzz and vibrancy, a unique addition to the convention center’s 900,000 square feet of meeting and exhibit space. 

• The Phoenix Convention Center has plans to renovate its food court. The facility has close to a million square feet of meeting and exhibit space, including a 312,500-square-foot main exhibit hall and a 46,000-square-foot ballroom. Two spots to check out within walking distance of the convention center: the Arizona Science Center and The Bungalow in Heritage Square. This building, also known as the Stevens House, dates to 1901 and sells locally made toys, handmade pottery and natural beauty products.

Papago Golf Course in Phoenix recently opened Evie's Pavilion, a 2,900-square-foot indoor/outdoor event venue overlooking the Papago Buttes and the city's skyline. The pavilion can accommodate up to 150 guests. 

The Churchill, a new community-driven gathering place, opened its doors in downtown Phoenix's Roosevelt Row neighborhood in September 2018. The innovative $3.5 million project entailed repurposing 20 shipping containers into sites for 10 locally owned shops, bars and restaurants, positioned around a 9,000-square-foot courtyard.

• Desert aisles: Stroll the winding paths of the Desert Botanical Garden. The 140-acre venue showcases a variety of arid plants, from towering saguaros to delicate blooms. During the winter holidays, the gardens are transformed into an evening wonderland, lit by thousands of luminarias and twinkling lights.

Cloth & Flame, an Arizona-based outdoor dining and luxury retreat company, partners with private landowners and state parks to create unforgettable culinary experiences at inspiring locales. From the secluded  desert, forest wilderness and local lakes – all with picturesque mountain backdrops – to city rooftops, community gardens, and rare and unusual urban spaces, including private art galleries, these picturesque tablescapes pair perfectly with the Arizona ambiance for your next event.

Phoenix Flavors 

 • Arizona Wilderness Brewing Co. has already taken the local craft-beer circuit by storm with its inventive brews and bold flavors, but its newest offering might be its biggest yet: A 650-seat beer garden-tasting bar hybrid, complete with an expansive outdoor seating area featuring fire pits and picnic-style seating, along with an indoor bar and restaurant space that serves up hearty fare like burgers and tacos. Anchoring the corner of East Roosevelt and Second Streets, this downtown Phoenix oasis for beer lovers is the kind of neighborhood gathering space that attracts locals and visitors alike. 

• Just one block from the Phoenix Convention Center, restaurateur Ivan Jacobo opened a contemporary American bistro called Anhelo. The Heritage Square eatery is located in the space that formerly housed Rose & Crown, a popular British-style pub that relocated to a new site across the street from the convention center at the beginning of the year. Previously, Chef Jacobo earned a following for the inventive fare he served at a pop-up supper club, and the same ethos of reinventing traditional dishes with modern tweaks and locally sourced ingredients prevails at Anhelo. 

Phoenix zuzu

• Following its most extensive renovation since 2005, Hotel Valley Ho has re-introduced its signature restaurant, ZuZu (pictured above). The bold new design celebrates the hotel’s mid-century style, while adding a fresh atmosphere for guests. Executive chef Russell LaCasce’s new menu adds shareable plates and new signature dishes to a roster of guest favorites – along with a daily brunch. A new wine room, the Vine Vault, has been added.

• Local restaurateur Christopher Collins overhauled two of his Phoenix restaurants in October 2018, giving each a new name, look and culinary theme. Twisted Grove Parlor + Bar is now a bistro called The Collins Small Batch Kitchen.
 
• The Southwestern U.S. is agave country, and there are any number of high-end tequila bars in the greater Phoenix area with dozens or even hundreds of varieties. But for atmosphere, you really can't beat Phoenix's Taco Guild. Housed in a historic mission-style church building that features a soaring wood-beam ceiling and stained-glass windows, Taco Guild serves award-winning tacos, burritos and other Mexican fare. A private dining room hosts groups of up to 25.

• Grassroots Kitchen & Tap, which opened in 2014 at the Town and Country Shopping Center, is now The Macintosh.

• Food Network star Giada de Laurentiis will be spearheading the development of two new restaurants at the Caesars Republic Scottsdale. The 256-room property, slated to open in 2021, will be Caesar’s first non-gaming hotel in the United States. The names of the two eateries suggest that both will reflect de Laurentiis’s fresh takes on Italian cuisine: "Luna by Giada” will be a high-end restaurant, while "Pronto by Giada" will have more of a fast-casual atmosphere. 

Greater Phoenix Grand Openings

• Locals and visitors are equally ecstatic about the debut of Phoenix's first full-service grocery store in the heart of downtown. The Fry’s Food Store, located near Washington and First streets, will feature a pharmacy, Starbucks, deli, bakery, online ordering, delivery, sushi station and curbside pick-up – all within walking distance of CityScape, Talking Stick Resort Arena, Chase Field, and a number of downtown hotels and neighborhoods. The grocer, which will open Oct. 23, will serve as an anchor of the Block 23 residential initiative in downtown Phoenix, which also includes construction of more than 300 luxury apartments, office space as well as restaurant tenants.

• Interactive dining and entertainment attraction Medieval Times Dinner & Tournament added its 10th facility this month with a new location at the Talking Stick Entertainment District in Scottsdale. The 80,000-square-foot Medieval Times hosts its two-hour show (which includes a four-course meal) Wednesday through Sunday, and there are already plans to add a second daily show on weekends starting later this month. Bookings can be made for groups as well as individuals.  

Things to Do in Phoenix

Check out the local festivals, exhibits and performances taking place during your events.

Hot Cocktail Spots

• Located in the former Arizona Prohibition Headquarters in downtown Phoenix’s historic Luhrs Building, Bitter & Twisted Cocktail Parlour is building on its reputation as a destination for award-winning craft cocktails: The lively restaurant and bar accompanies its retro-industrial look with inventive libations that were recognized by Tales of the Cocktail Foundation’s Spirited Awards in July. Bitter & Twisted landed in the Top 10 for both “Best American High-Volume Cocktail Bar” and “World’s Best Cocktail Menu” categories.

• Kickstarter-backed Greenwood Brewing is scheduled to open a brewery, taproom and beer garden along Roosevelt Row in downtown Phoenix. The woman-owned brewery produces craft beer with girl-power monikers such as "Herstory" pale ale. Greenwood's new home — a mix of new construction and adaptive re-use of existing structures — is scheduled to open this fall.

Century Grand, an immersive experience aboard an early 20th century train station (replica), is the setting for Barter & Shake Creative Hospitality's biggest and most-anticipated concept yet. This cocktail bar and restaurant is serving up caboose-kicking beverages along with a menu prepared by award-winning chef Sacha Levine (FnB Ocotillo) that draws inspiration from American comfort dishes of the era. Consistent with their previous ventures, owners Jason Asher and Rich Furnari (UnderTow) aim to tell a story with every guest, detailing the fictional happenings of the Century Grand Train station.

Phoenix-Unique Attractions

• If you're in Phoenix at the beginning of the month, catch the self-guided First Fridays Art Walk, which takes place along and around Roosevelt Row in downtown. More than 70 galleries, venues and art-related spaces participate; tour them by utilizing the free hop-on/hop-off shuttles that circulate through three artsy districts.
 
• The Heard Museum in Phoenix has one of the most extensive collections of American Indian art in the U.S., with a focus on tribes of the Southwest. The downtown venue features some 40,000 fine artworks and cultural artifacts.
 
• With a collection of more than 15,000 musical instruments, the Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) in Phoenix is an engaging venue for tourists as well as groups. The 2019 Tripsavvy Editors' Choice Awards recognized the MIM as a "Hall of Fame Winner," an honor bestowed to businesses that impress year after year, with fewer than 1% making the cut.

• Camelback Mountain is one of the area’s most striking natural wonders. Two challenging trails, Echo Canyon and Cholla, ascent 1,420 feet to the summit, where a stunning panoramic view awaits.

• The home stadium of the NFL's Arizona Cardinals was renamed State Farm Stadium, after the insurance company made an 18-year deal for naming rights (it was previously named the University of Phoenix Stadium). The venue recently spent $28 million renovating its club level in preparation for two major events coming to the city within the next five years: Super Bowl LVII in 2023 and the NCAA men's basketball Final Four in 2024.

Extending Your Trip

• Grand attraction: This February, the Grand Canyon celebrated 100 years since it was designated a national park. The canyon's famed South Rim, which is open year-round, is roughly a three-and-a-half hour drive from Phoenix. Outfitters including Detours American West, offer private tours and, for a truly birds-eye view of this natural wonder, private helicopter tours.
 
• Restoration spot: The former Carefree Resort and Conference Center has been transformed into Civana Carefree, a wellness-themed eco-chic retreat. The 176-room resort has 23,000 square feet of function space, including a 9,600-square-foot ballroom with a capacity of 1,000. This past December, Civana debuted an enormous new 22,000-square-foot spa, so guests can unwind after taking advantage of the resort's complimentary classes and activities.

• UNESCO World Heritage Site: Famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright’s Scottsdale home Taliesin West was added as a cultural site on the UNESCO World Heritage site list. Arizona’s second UNESCO site (the Grand Canyon is the other one), Taliesin West was the longtime winter home of Wright, who died in Phoenix in 1959. Along with Taliesin West, seven of Wright’s other iconic designs around the United States were included in the UNESCO designation.

10 Must-Try Restaurants in Phoenix

The Valley of the Sun offers some delightful dining choices.