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On The Road: The Southwest

By Selena Fragassi


If you’re still digging for gold when it comes to venues, consider these five southwest gems for your next meeting, event, or conference. From a health and wellness center to an accredited science museum and national historic landmark, these hot spots prove why the west is always won.

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History (Albuquerque, NM)

Science is everywhere at the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History, from the Periodic Table embossed on the floor of Periodic Hall to the background scenery of fighter planes at the nine-acre Heritage Park. The museum is located in Albuquerque, not far from the town of Los Alamos, which was the site of the famous Manhattan Project that became an integral part of the Atomic Age.

“We are nationally accredited through the American Alliance of Museums, which is the highest honor a museum can have,” says Claudia Madrid, facility sales & special events coordinator. “We are also affiliated with the Smithsonian and the only congressionally-chartered museum in our field.” As such, the venue has played host to a number of prestigious groups including The White House Office of Technology & Policy and even film and television productions (“Breaking Bad” is a one of the most notable).

The marquee rental space is Periodic Hall, the main banquet room that can comfortably seat 200 people for a sit-down dinner and 300 people for a cocktail reception. Tables, chairs, and linens are available as are screens, projectors, microphones, and complimentary Wi-Fi. There is also a preferred list of caterers you can choose from for food service.

“Any event that is held at our museum also provides each attendee with full access to all of our exhibits,” says Madrid. “We also give discounts for military and nonprofit organizations.”

Parsons Center, (Phoenix, AZ)

Downtown Phoenix is in the midst of a substantial revitalization project, and at the heart of that is the Parsons Center for Health and Wellness. The multi-purpose building is at the site of the former Channel 12 News building, which was extensively renovated a few years ago to provide modern touches such as open ductwork, brass nickel finishes, and exposed brick. Today it hosts a collection of medical groups, a specialty pharmacy and vitamin shop, and a number of impressive community spaces for meetings and events.

“We’ve done everything from weddings to corporate events with the U.S. Department of Labor,” says Facilities Manager Barry Wilson. “We cater to everyone we can, with spaces that can be arranged in any formation, from classroom- and theatre-style to banquets with formal roundtables.”

The largest area can hold 400 people while an upstairs room seats 40 and has a glass wall that overlooks Central Avenue, at the heart of the bustling arts and business district. All spaces include projectors, mounted speakers, portable flip-top tables, and free Wi-Fi, and guests can enjoy several lounge areas with charging ports.

The location of Parsons Center is also ideal, a short light rail ride from Sky Harbor International Airport and across from several hotels and brand-new retail projects. Fitting in with the developing area, Wilson says, “We are a work in progress, but we are building quickly.”

Sea of Glass (Tucson, AZ)

Meetings can find a mission at this performing arts center, located in the middle of Tucson’s cultural district. “Our tagline is global change through higher consciousness,” says Mycenay Plyler, booking agent at Sea of Glass. “We try to bring in events with a positive message, whether that’s live music, independent films, workshops, dance, yoga, or speakers.”

The venue is part of a larger nonprofit organization for global change, and proceeds of each meeting or event goes back to various programs, including cultivating a garden and eco village and rehabilitation programs for the homeless and at-risk youth in southern Arizona.

Inside Sea of Glass are two rentable spaces, including a large 1,200-square-foot Performance Hall fitting up to 180 people and a smaller 400-square-foot gallery space for small receptions and presentations. “We have a great sound system and PA and full sound and lighting,” says Plyler, further noting a movie-style screen for PowerPoint’s and videos. Sea of Glass also provides professional photography, video, and post-production services to capture each event.

Two levels of courtyard space are also available, including a downstairs patio that features a lush fountain while the upstairs has views of the Catalina Mountains.

Though catering isn’t available on-site, groups are allowed to bring in food, with Plyler suggesting the many great establishments in Tucson. “We have a great gastronomical trend in town, and we are in the middle of a whole strip of restaurants and shops.” A fair trade boutique is also located at the venue for even greater impact.

Springs Preserve (Las Vegas, NV)

In addition to the neon lights, Las Vegas also has wonders of nature, such as the national landmark Springs Preserve. Located just a few miles from the world-famous Strip, the 180-acre Springs Preserve is the site of city’s first water source. “We house eight acres of award-winning Botanical Gardens, interactive museums and galleries, and even an animal farm,” says Pietra Sardelli, group sales supervisor.

The property has won sustainability awards for its array of Platinum LEED buildings that offer a variety of indoor and outdoor event spaces, which have been used by the Nevada Women’s Film Festival and The Royal Airforce/Marines, among other clients.

The Desert Living Center offers a stunning 2,678-square-foot Banquet Room made with reclaimed trestle beams and bamboo floors; it fits 180 people. For open-air events, a flexible main amphitheater can seat 2,000 and is commonly used for concerts, elegant dinners, and receptions. The Botanical Gardens also has an amphitheater for 30 to 250 people. As well, “There are combination indoor/outdoor spaces such as the Garden Terrace & Patio and Divine Café offering sweeping views of the Las Vegas skyline,” says Sardelli.

Divine Catering is the on-site food provider, ranked one of the best in the city. They also offer a unique schedule of cooking classes and host happy hours and seasonal brunches that can be reserved by groups. Other in-house services include full A/V and tours led by trained staff that focus on sustainability, architecture, history, archeology, gardens, and zoology.

University of New Mexico (Albuquerque, NM)

There’s no town that gives a full taste of the southwest quite like Albuquerque, and no way to get a more impeccable view than to take the world’s longest tram ride up to the peak of the Sandia Mountains. It’s just one of the excursions that conference guests of the University of New Mexico can enjoy.

“We are an urban campus, so we are right in the heart of the city, which provides a lot of unique opportunities,” says Christopher Cardenas, manager, sales & events. Other options include comprehensive tours of the historic city aboard the ABQ Trolley and booking the 20-person Duke City Peddler for a group bike ride to the city’s many brew houses.

But when it’s time to get down to business, the university has a wealth of options with functional meeting spaces that encourage an environment of learning. The Lobo Room has space for 120 guests and access to nearby breakout rooms while the Mirage is perfect for small meetings of about 10 people. For the largest functions, there is an 18,000-seat arena as well as a Grand Ballroom for 200 to 1,300, equipped with state-of-the-art audiovisual features and on-site catering. One of the most unique spaces is the quaint Alumni Chapel built in the area’s traditional adobe style that can fit 150.

“We also have two golf courses, one with a pavilion that can be rented out for conferences or social events,” says Cardenas. And just in case you never want to leave, there are nearly 2,000 beds available during the summer months.

Get Connected

National Museum of Nuclear Science & History
Albuquerque, NM
(505) 245-2137

Parsons Center
Phoenix, AZ
(602) 595.8143

Sea of Glass
Tucson, AZ
(520) 307.5192

Springs Preserve
Las Vegas, NV
(702) 822.7746

University of New Mexico
Albuquerque, NM
(505) 277.5706