Location: Southwest corner of Arizona, near the California and Mexican borders
Access: Interstate 8, state Highway 95, Yuma International Airport
Major Meeting Spaces: Hilton Garden Inn Yuma Pivot Point Hotel, Yuma Civic Center
Hotel Rooms: 4,000 citywide
Off-Site Venues: Colorado River State Historic Park, Yuma Territorial Prison State Historic Park
Yuma, Arizona, is the winter lettuce capital of the U.S., but agriculture isn’t its only claim to fame. The sunny locale on the Colorado River, an easy drive from San Diego, Phoenix, Las Vegas and Tucson, Arizona, is worth a second look.
The home of two beautiful state parks — the Colorado River State Historic Park and Yuma Territorial Prison Museum and Park — Yuma attracts people from across the country who seek outdoor adventures during the icy winter months. With average high temperatures of between 70 and 90 degrees from October through May, visitors can canoe, kayak, swim, bike, rent dune buggies or ATVs, or play a round of golf at the local golf course.
“It’s our mission to get people to come off the interstate and see what Yuma has to offer,” said Leslie McClendon, group sales manager for Visit Yuma. “It is not just a drive-through, gas-up and eat destination. It really warrants the opportunity to come and stay a couple of nights,” she said.
The city of nearly 100,000 people is a great meeting destination with 4,000 hotel rooms and two major convention centers. The restored riverfront and the area’s Wild West past add to Yuma’s allure.
Visitors can visit farms, sample food made with local produce and visit the two military bases nearby: the Marine Corps Air Station Yuma and the U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground. The city of Yuma has worked hard to create an entertainment district downtown with several local bars and restaurants, nightclubs, kitschy shops that feature locally made items and weekend festivals. The river is the focal point for much of the area’s outdoor activity, with three attractive swim beaches.
Visitors can travel upriver to Martinez Lake to try out boating, jet skiing or fishing. The lake is surrounded by the Imperial Wildlife Refuge, so the area attracts droves of anglers, nature lovers and bird-watchers.
Major Meeting Hotels
Yuma’s largest hotel and conference center is on the banks of the Colorado River. The Hilton Garden Inn Yuma Pivot Point is also nearby the downtown Yuma entertainment district. With 21,500 square feet of meeting and banquet space, the site is perfect for both large and small meetings and conventions. The main ballroom is 8,000 square feet with 16-foot ceilings and built-in audiovisual capabilities. It can hold up to 1,000 people or be divided into three separate rooms. The hotel’s boardroom can hold up to 275 guests and is great for small gatherings.
The Radisson, the Marriott, the Hampton Inn and Suites and the Holiday Inn also have hotels in Yuma. Most have meeting spaces that can accommodate events of 50 to 150 people.
The Yuma Civic Center plays host to many of Yuma’s private indoor events, including weddings, seminars, expos and workshops. Adjacent to Yuma’s championship 18-hole Desert Hills Golf Course, the Civic Center has plenty to offer conference planners, including 25,000 square feet of indoor exhibit space and 15 meeting rooms. Many conferences will include an outdoor mixer or a dinner on the terrace overlooking the golf course at sunset. The main meeting room can hold up to 1,500 people, or it can be divided into smaller spaces that hold between 100 and 250 people each.
Tapping into Yuma’s agricultural past and present, conference planners can take attendees on a tour of a farm and then plan a meal cooked by farm families with locally grown produce. They also can plan events at Colorado River State Historic Park, the site of an old Army supply depot for forts across Arizona and the West. The venue can hold as many as 1,000 people, depending on the setup. Visit Yuma has used the site for barbecue hoedowns and outdoor concerts. An old storehouse on the property can be used for small indoor meetings. A section of the area’s original plank road with a Model T Ford on it, an Army Escort Wagon and an exhibit on the history of steamboats on the Colorado River greet visitors inside this 150-person venue.
Conference planners seeking a taste of the Old West should look no further than the Yuma Territorial Prison Museum and Park, which makes a great outdoor venue and tour destination for fewer than 350 attendees. The prison operated between 1876 and 1909 and housed 3,069 of the West’s most hardened criminals. The historic site makes a superb sunset dinner venue because of its location on the river. Conference visitors can take advantage of staged gunfights and Civil War re-enactments, depending on the time of year they visit, or lock themselves in the Dark Cell, a precursor to today’s solitary confinement.