Look at a map, and you might assume that Chandler, Arizona, is simply a suburb, living in the shadow of Phoenix, its neighbor to the northwest.
Not true. Chandler, now the state’s fourth-largest city, population of more than 286,000, has its own personality and a magnetic pull that has drawn high-powered corporations, major manufacturers and national retailers.
Its population skews young and diverse, so the city leans into family and fun, as evidenced by its prolific parks, public art, frequent festivals, local foods and music.
Chandler’s lively personality, coupled with a location 20 minutes from Phoenix-Sky Harbor International Airport and adjacent to Interstate 10, makes it a perfect place for faith-based groups to gather—whether it’s for a women’s retreat, a youth rally, a regional conference or a church board meeting.
Downtown draws crowds
Even groups that don’t meet at Chandler’s best-known hotel, downtown’s 249-room Crowne Plaza Phoenix-Chandler Golf Resort, will want to spend time in the heart of the city. Downtown is walkable; sheltered by pavilions, trellis-covered walkways and palms; and punctuated by pocket parks. Many of its restaurants, bars and shops are housed in carefully restored buildings from the early 1900s; others are more modern.
Downtown’s dining options—more than 40 in all—include Mexican, Italian, Thai, New American, sushi, barbecue, steak and seafood, so it is easy for attendees to find foods that suit their tastes. Other options appeal to everyone and promote togetherness, like QuartHaus, a roomy outdoor space where visitors rub elbows with locals—and likely their pups—as they play cornhole, basketball and other games and grab slices of pizza. The whole place can be booked for events.
Hotels for every group’s needs
Chandler’s hotels fit a wide range of groups. The historic Crowne Plaza, built by town founder Dr. A.J. Chandler, is an urban resort with landscaped courtyards, a pool shaded by palm trees and a well-known golf course a few blocks away. A new addition to its 32,000 square feet of meeting space is the Ocotillo Studio, a small meeting space that feels like a modern living room in a well-appointed home. When larger groups at the Crowne Plaza need nearby overflow rooms downtown, the 110-room Hilton Garden Inn is three minutes away.
A few miles from downtown, plenty of hotel rooms are situated around Chandler Fashion Center, a massive indoor-outdoor shopping complex that serves as another shopping, dining and entertainment district.
A dozen limited-service and suite hotels as well as the recently renovated 197-room Hilton Phoenix Chandler and its 17,000 square feet of meeting space are near the shopping complex.
Chandler Fashion Center is home to 180 stores and restaurants, a 20-screen movie theater and the Crayola Experience. It also feels like a town square, hosting charity events, free yoga classes and booking its lawn for outdoor gatherings.
In September, another major retailer became an anchor at the center, when SCHEELS, the Midwestern-based outdoor retailer, opened its first Arizona location there. It features SCHEELS’ signatures like a 45-foot Ferris wheel, a 16,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, a wildlife mountain, a candy factory, a café and arcade games.
Chandler’s newest conference hotel, the 264-room Marriott Phoenix Chandler, opened in 2019 near the city’s corporate corridor. Planners appreciate the thoughtfully designed meeting space, 28,000 square feet all on the first floor. Its 10,000-square-foot ballroom is Chandler’s largest contiguous event space.
From karting and pickleball to cattle drives
There’s no shortage of fun activities in Chandler, and the list of options continues to grow. For example, Andretti Indoor Karting will open in early 2024, drawing wannabe racecar drivers as well as those who love laser tag, virtual reality experiences and other games. Organizers will appreciate group packages that cover activities, event space and food and 8,000 square feet of event space equipped with AV and wi-fi.
Corporate demand has inspired many team-building businesses, including Escape Chandler, rated one of the top five teambuilding operations in the West by AAA, and the newest, a locally grown business called Game Show Battle Rooms. “If you were a kid, who loved spending sick days at home watching ‘The Price Is Right’ or other game shows, this is the place for you,” says Kimberly Janes with Visit Chandler. “You get to be the contestant.”
At Pickleball Kingdom, one of the nation’s largest indoor pickleball facilities, personalized tournaments can be organized for groups. For team building with an Old West twist, groups can venture out to KOLI, an equestrian facility, for trail rides or cattle drives followed by a barbecue dinner, cowboy games and a hay ride.
Explore Chandler and beyond
Chandler’s location also makes it easy for groups to explore other parts of Arizona. They might load up a motorcoach for a short trip to Phoenix’s Heard Museum, the Phoenix Art Museum or the Musical Instrument Museum. If there’s time for a day trip or an overnight, the red rocks of Sedona are about two hours away; the Grand Canyon’s a four- to five-hour drive.
There’s also plenty to see in Chandler. Conference-goers who want to experience the Southwest might organize a guided hike in the nearby mountains or desert or pay a visit to the Chandler Museum featuring local, regional and national exhibits. For a literal taste of Chandler’s Asian culture—it has the state’s largest Asian population—there’s Chandler Ranch, a strip mall where more than a couple of dozen businesses sell everything from Korean fried chicken and sushi to baked goods and Asian gifts. The development is anchored by 99 Ranch Market, the largest Asian supermarket chain in the U.S. Another option for local flavor is a farm-to-table dinner at Greenhouse Gardens, where Kimberly Janes can easily arrange entertainment like live music or Native American hoop dancers.
Another plus for planners is knowing they can turn to Janes for assistance. After 20 years with Visit Chandler, she is an expert on the city, its venues, attractions and suppliers. “I know this area and can get them the right connections,” she assures.
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