Arizona features some of the most authentic Mexican food north of the border, top-notch properties and gorgeous views at every turn. Given the stunning scenery of the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa's Jack Nicklaus course (pictured), it's easy to see why the state has been called "the mecca of desert golf."
• Impulsion, a 40-foot-long horse that stands nearly 30-feet-high, was unveiled outside of WestWorld of Scottsdale late last year. LED lights in the sculpture's 10,000 pounds of stainless-steel tubing light up at night.
• In another nighttime display, Phoenix's Desert Botanical Garden will feature British artist Bruce Munro's impressive light installations, which will illuminate the garden at night starting in November.
The Urban Adventure Quest scavenger hunt is a great way to learn about Tucson. Teams scour local landmarks looking for gems and more, using a smartphone as their guide.
• Scottsdale's AAA Four Diamond-rated Talking Stick Resort upgraded its casino-level lounge in 2014. The upscale space features LED staircases that change colors as people walk on them. In the renovated downstairs tavern, guests can choose from more than 40 tequilas to create their own margaritas. The 496-room resort has more than 100,000 square feet of meeting space.
• January saw the debut of the $11 million Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West, featuring interactive exhibits, historic artifacts and western art from some of the world's most prestigious collections. The two-story, 43,000-square-foot building is available for events.
Meeting Hotels: Properties in Phoenix include the 1,000-room Sheraton Phoenix Downtown Hotel, 950-room JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa and 744-room Arizona Grand Resort & Spa.
Among Scottsdale's many properties are the 732-room Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, 648-room Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and 453-room JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa.
To find and compare hotels, and send RFPs, visit mcvenues.com
Convention Center: Phoenix Convention Center; exhibit space, approximately 584,500 square feet; number of meeting rooms, 106; (602) 262-6225 or (800) 282-4842
Airport Transit: Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, about four miles from downtown Phoenix, 10 miles from downtown Scottsdale. Transfer cost by taxi, $16-$20 to downtown Phoenix, $25 to downtown Scottsdale; by light rail to Phoenix, $2; by shuttle to Scottsdale, $17
Taxes: Phoenix: sales tax, 5.50%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12.27% (includes 1.77 percent Maricopa County transaction excise tax and 5% City of Phoenix transaction tax)
Scottsdale: room tax, 5%; sales tax, 5.50%; total tax on hotel rooms, 13.92% (this includes 1.77 percent Maricopa County transaction excise tax and 1.65% City of Scottsdale transaction tax)
Group Venue: At Centro, at the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, groups of up to 155 guests can lounge around outdoor fire pits and dine while enjoying views of Camelback Mountain. (480) 627-3004
Contact: Visit Phoenix, (602) 254-6500 or (877) 633-8749
Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau, (480) 949-6293 or (800) 782-1117
In Tucson, which boasts "23 miles of Mexican food," expand your palate beyond the usual Southwestern fare with a raspado (a Sonoran snow cone with ice cream and fresh fruit) or a Sonoran hot dog, which comes wrapped in bacon and topped with beans, pico de gallo and mayonnaise on a soft bolillo roll.
• The Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa, which in 2013 finished a $35 million renovation of its 487 guest rooms and 25 suites, recently instated a "running concierge" to lead both beginner- and intermediate-level morning runs. The resort is converting a cold plunge pool into a hot mineral "bath," with salt imported from the Dead Sea.
Meeting Hotels: Properties in Tucson include the 575-room JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa, 487-room Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa and 428-room Hilton Tucson El Conquistador Resort.
Convention Center: Tucson Convention Center; meeting space, approximately 205,000 square feet; number of meeting rooms, eight; (520) 791-4101
Airport Transit: Tucson International Airport, about eight miles south of downtown. Transfer cost by taxi, $25
Taxes: Hotels within Tucson city limits: room tax, 12.05%; sales tax, 9.1%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12.05%, plus a $2 per night surcharge. Hotels outside Tucson city limits but within Pima county: room tax, 12.05%; total tax on hotel rooms, 12.05%
Group Venue: At the Pima Air & Space Museum, groups of 50 to 400 seated guests can congregate in the Main Hangar below the wings of aircraft from all over the world. (520) 574-0462
Contact: Visit Tucson, (800) 638-8350