Destinations

4 Strategies to Uncover Unique Meeting Venues & Locations


An aerial view of Grand Canyon National Park with a light dusting of snow. A unique meeting venue covers the cliff edge on the right-hand side of the image.

Skift Take

Bleisure travelers don’t want the same old travel experiences they see on social media; they want to be the first in their friend group to explore and adventure somewhere new. Here’s how meeting planners can organize professional gatherings that fulfill that dream.

This content was created collaboratively by the Arizona Office of Tourism and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

As blended or “bleisure” travel becomes the norm and attendees grow accustomed to combining business and pleasure in a single trip, planners increasingly have to think about leisure travel trends. And with so many travel experiences now documented and disseminated around the clock on social channels, many travelers actively seek out experiences that are unique and different from what they see online.

In other words, “I’ll have what she’s not having.”

According to the Skift Research Millennial and Gen Z Survey, 70 percent of American millennial and Gen Z travelers indicate that they look for experiences that their family and friends likely haven’t considered. This desire to stand out isn’t limited to today’s younger generations: A 2024 survey of 31,600 past Globus and Cosmos travelers found that 45 percent of travelers overall are interested in tour experiences that take them off the beaten path.

How can meeting planners bring this same sense of novelty and adventure to their events? One of the most effective strategies is to choose unconventional venues and event locations, setting the stage for the one-of-a-kind bleisure trips that attendees love. Forty-eight percent of planners say they will source unique event venues throughout 2024, according to Cvent research. To pinpoint the ways planners can find truly unique and exciting meeting venues and event locations, Skift Meetings partnered with the Arizona Office of Tourism on this guide.

And if you’d like a quick preview of the state’s highlights, watch the video below:

1. Witness Nature Through Lesser-Known Locations

To set the scene for a one-of-a-kind experience, planners should consider hosting events and meetings outside of big cities. Select a location that’s off the beaten path but still within range of top attractions, bustling downtowns, and major airports — it makes for an exciting change of pace that’s still highly accessible.

Page, Arizona exemplifies this balance, connected to Flagstaff by a beautiful scenic drive and located just two hours from Flagstaff Pulliam Airport. Plenty of hotel and accommodation options in the Page area hold event space suitable for gatherings of all sizes:

  • Courtyard Page at Lake Powell (3,825 square feet of event space)
  • Hyatt Place Page / Lake Powell (910 square feet of event space)
  • The Hampton Inn & Suites Page – Lake Powell (648 square feet of event space)
  • The Holiday Inn Express & Suites Page (287 square feet of event space)

Although it is connected and accessible, Page is also surrounded by some of Arizona’s most spectacular natural wonders. The town is within close range of national monuments including Vermilion Cliffs and Rainbow Bridge, outdoor areas such as Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, and renowned natural landscapes including Painted Desert, Antelope Canyon, and Navajo Canyon.

Three rectangular red sandstone buttes line the desert horizon, with a longer plateau mesa in the distance on the far right-hand side.
Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park, just outside Page, Arizona.

2. Connect to the Region’s Unique History

After selecting an unexpected event location, planners can deepen the attendee experience by encouraging a sense of place and connection. Providing opportunities to learn about the region’s history and explore its cultural roots will help turn business-minded meetings and conventions into full-fledged experiences that become treasured memories.

Page’s rich and fascinating history, for example, starts in 1957, when the town was founded for dam workers and their families. Standing at 709 feet tall, Glen Canyon Dam is the second-largest concrete arch dam in the United States today (Hoover Dam stands just 17 feet taller, at 726 feet). Glen Canyon Dam led to the formation of the 3,650-foot deep Lake Powell, which is one of the area’s top attractions. The Carl Hayden Visitor Center showcases all this history, and helps guests understand the complex challenges of irrigating the arid southwest.

Rafting in Glen Canyon near Glen Canyon Dam. Image credit: Rick Williams.

3. Create Cultural Immersion With Tribal Nations

Visiting tribal nations is another way to connect unexpected event locations with more meaningful experiences, taking the bleisure travel appeal even further. For example, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation is a short drive from Fountain Hills and Scottsdale, and just 24 miles away from Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix. The Yavapai people have called this tranquil setting home for thousands of years, and there are countless ways to experience their local culture and connections to the native land, from the desert lowlands to the Verde River.

Visitors can also explore the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort for a dose of world-class entertainment. The resort’s 25,000-square-foot Wassaja Conference Center accommodates up to 2,000 guests, making it a strong central location for official event programming.

Two men and two little girls stand on the edge of a balcony overlooking the desert landscape at the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort, a unique venue for meetings. They are wearing a combination of traditional tribal clothing and cowboy attire as they play a mix of percussive instruments — rattles, drums, and sticks.
Performers at the We-Ko-Pa Casino Resort, Fort McDowell, Arizona.

The Navajo Nation also offers a range of incredible opportunities to learn about and experience tribal traditions and artforms. Less than a three-hour drive from Flagstaff, the Navajo Nation Museum boasts 54,000 square feet of curated art exhibitions and ethnographic, archaeological, and archival materials. Located a few hours away in Page, Red Heritage is a Navajo-owned and operated dinner theater. Performances include powwow dancing accompanied by live flute and drum music by local talents.

An interactive exhibit at the Navajo Museum.

A bit further afield, the Shash Diné Eco-Retreat is an off-the-grid experience located on a working sheep farm 12 miles south of Page. Whether during dedicated retreats or bookmarking the official program, this unique venue is worth the trip. Guests can immerse themselves in the beauty of Northern Arizona and the Navajo Nation through stays in canvas Bell Tents, a traditional Hogan, cabin accommodations, or restored covered wagons.

4. Break the Mold With Unexpected Activities

Beyond stunning locations, rich history, and living culture, it’s important for planners to connect bleisure travelers to activities and attractions they won’t find anywhere else. Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation makes this easy, with breathtaking night skies and incredible daylight landscapes that provide a perfect backdrop for outdoor excursions. Fort McDowell Adventures is a local outdoor outfitter specializing in Western experiences including horseback riding, cattle drives, Jeep rides, and more. And year-round programming such as powwows, rodeos, parades, and 5K run/walk events can help guests meet and mingle with the local community.

In the Page area, there are countless activities primed to thrill city dwellers and convention attendees. Marble Canyon sits just 45 minutes away, and the 9.8-mile Page Rimview Trail offers postcard-worthy views of Horseshoe Bend. Most of the visitors to Horseshoe Bend view it from the rim and look down; however for a unique perspective, rent a kayak and gaze upward from the Colorado. A range of outdoor sports and adventure options from golf to off-roading are sure to keep guests exploring and enjoying.

Unique Locations for Standout Off-Site Activities

  • Antelope Point Marina: Guided boat tours, jet skis, paddleboards, and kayaks are a great way for visitors to explore Lake Powell and its nearby monuments and canyons. For VIP excursions and event capstones, planners can rent luxury houseboats providing unique private experiences.
  • Coyote Buttes North: Fondly referred to as The Wave, this undeveloped wilderness area is home to astounding natural sandstone formations. Permits are required to enter the protected area, and the permit lottery is now easy to enter online (with a recently increased number of total permits available each day).
  • North Rim of the Grand Canyon: This lesser-visited section of the Grand Canyon is beautiful, quiet, and worth the four-wheel drive access. To experience the North Rim’s unobstructed night skies and breathtaking canyon views, plan around its winter closure from October 15 through May 15.
Coyote Buttes (The Wave), Vermilion Cliffs.

Helping travelers discover the unique experiences they crave is an important strategy for meeting planners looking to stand out from the crowd. In addition to situating official event programming outside the tried and true convention circuit, choosing an unexpected location is a great way to connect event attendees with experiences that aren’t already mainstream on social media. Off-the-beaten-path meetings, events, and conventions in locations like Page are sure to inspire travelers and get them excited to attend, document, and show off their once-in-a-lifetime bleisure adventures.

To learn more about Arizona’s unique venues and off-the-beaten-path meeting locations, visit ArizonaMeetings.com.

This content was created collaboratively by the Arizona Office of Tourism and Skift’s branded content studio, SkiftX.

Photo credit: