Pooling Their ResourcesBy David Vranicar

Tucson serves up cool desert delights

Pooling Their Resources

James Gelfand knows a thing or two about hot weather. For nearly three decades, he lived in Florida, land of 10,000 beaches, before moving last year to Arizona, where the professional basketball team is the Suns and the universities have nicknames such as Sun Devils.

Indeed, Gelfand, now residing in Tucson, is an expert on temperature, just as someone who moved from Bordeaux to Napa Valley would be an expert on wine. He knows how to wax eloquently about different kinds of heat, and Arizona, he says, has its own distinguishable flavor.

“It’s hot here, but there’s no humidity, and that’s the kicker,” says Gelfand, director of sales and marketing at Tucson’s Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa. “I’ve never had a bad-hair day here.”

Besides its lack of humidity, Tucson has perfected the art of pools. Water features are event destinations unto themselves—gathering spots as well as places to break the ice while trying not to break a sweat.

The Westin, for instance, has five pool areas. Pools are also key amenities at other event venues throughout the Tucson area, from The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, which has three pools, a 235-foot waterslide and in-the-water bar service for the adults, to Loews Ventana Canyon and its cozy pool oasis with fire pits.

“At all the larger resorts, the focal point of the property is the pool area,” says Graeme Hughes, Visit Tucson (visittucson.org) director of convention sales. “By day, guests lounge, dine and take in the sun, and by night it’s a different story altogether. Clear away the deck chairs and umbrellas and transform the pool deck into a unique venue for a themed event or reception. Most people gravitate to water, especially in the desert, so pools and pool parties are a welcome departure from a ballroom.”

Arizona, and especially the state capital of Tucson, appreciates a good pool. And event planners would do well to dive right in.

It is instructive that we’re talking Tucson in November: It’s not necessarily the place to be in the summer. It’s manageable—just ask Gelfand—but venues and hotels unanimously confirm that the best times to visit are the incubator-perfect fall, winter and spring months.

“Our peak season is when everyone else is sipping cocoa—our guests are by the pool,” says Christina VerHeul, director of public relations for Loews Ventana Canyon. “We don’t see a lot of activity in July and August. Usually that’s when a lot of locals are here, people from Arizona and New Mexico, people who are used to the heat, used to it being 110 degrees.”

Not surprisingly, most people don’t object to a little summer reprieve in the dead of winter. And in Tucson, there are more than enough places to make December, January and February melt into summer.

Here’s a look at Tucson’s top meeting hotels and their extraordinary pools and water features:

Main image: The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain