To grasp Chandler’s lengthy past and its lively present, simply walk out of the Crowne Plaza Phoenix-Chandler Golf Resort and into downtown’s streets.
Locals know the 249-room hotel as the San Marcos, one of the first projects city founder Dr. A. J. Chandler built in the early 1900s when he began to develop land that was a blank canvas on Phoenix’s southeastern edge. The resort’s 32,000 square feet of meeting space make it the city’s largest conference property.
Today, city blocks near the hotel are packed with restaurants, bars and live music venues — more than 40 in all — where food and music styles range widely and conference groups can be entertained for hours. Some of the businesses are in carefully restored buildings from Dr. Chandler’s day; others are much more modern. Parks, palm trees and public art provide pleasing interruptions.
A city that stands on its own
Its personable downtown is just one way Chandler proves it is not a Phoenix suburb but instead, a city with a heritage and proud culture. It’s become known as a hotbed of tech and innovation, and more than a dozen companies have made their global headquarters in Chandler, including Fortune 500 tech company Insight.
Those businesses, as well as a welcoming environment for start-ups that Dr. Chandler himself kickstarted with his entrepreneurial efforts, have led to rapid growth. Chandler’s population is nearing a quarter million, making it Arizona’s fourth-largest city. Phoenix-Sky Harbor Airport is a 20-minute drive; I-10, which connects the region to the West and East Coasts, borders Chandler’s western edge.
Growing number of high-profile attractions
Chandler’s growth has attracted a number of national entertainment and retail concepts, like the Crayola Experience, and, most recently, the first Arizona location of SCHEELS, the massive Midwestern outdoor store with 75 departments, a full-size Ferris wheel, a 16,000-gallon saltwater aquarium, a wildlife mountain, a candy shop, a café and arcade games. Its location at Chandler Fashion Center, a mall with a 20-screen cinema, make it a natural for after-meeting hours.
Early next year, Chandler will become the newest location of Andretti Indoor Karting, where multi-story karting tracks draw those who dream of becoming a racecar driver and others find fun with laser tag and virtual reality experiences. Group package pricing covers activities, event space and food; 8,000 square feet of event space will be equipped with audio visual, free wi-fi and in-house catering.
Given Chandler’s large corporate and manufacturing base, team building options are in demand, and that has spawned a new, locally owned 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.”
Evening options expand
Unlike some cities, Chandler seems to have gained more restaurants than it lost during the pandemic. One notable new spot, Elliott’s Steakhouse, is an upscale steak and seafood restaurant with a 47-foot bar and a 1,000-square-foot private dining space. Located in the renovated 1920s Rowena Theatre building, it is a sister restaurant to the popular Brickyard Downtown and Hidden House.
Two other new establishments are sure to draw group outings. QuartHaus is a roomy outdoor space where locals and visitors can play cornhole, basketball and other games while having a drink and a pizza slice. The whole place can be booked for events. BuquiBichi, a boutique taproom out of Mexico, expands Chandler’s already significant list of breweries and distilleries.
And dining extends beyond downtown. The Chandler Ranch plaza is a collection of Asian restaurants and shops that highlights Chandler’s Asian population, said to be the largest in the state. More than a dozen businesses offer everything from Korean fried chicken and sushi to baked goods and Asian gifts. 99 Ranch Market, the largest Asian supermarket chain in the U.S., anchors the development.
Another way small groups can get a literal taste of local flavor is with a private, farm-to-table dinner at Greenhouse Gardens. Janes can help planners with add-ons like live music or Native American hoop dancers.
Conference goers who fly in from other regions can experience the Southwest, whether it be with a guided hike in nearby mountains or desert; an evening at The Eddie Basha Collection, a private collection of high-caliber Western art that welcomes events; or a trail ride at KOLI Equestrian Center. Of course, with the Grand Canyon a little over four hours away and the red rocks of Sedona a couple of hours closer, a day trip to Arizona’s most famous sights isn’t out of the question.
High quality conference hotels
The Crowne Plaza, Chandler’s best-known conference hotel, is an urban resort, with landscaped grounds, a large pool and an 18-hole golf course. Not long ago, its public spaces and guest rooms were refreshed during a $16 million renovation. A new, small casual meeting space, the Ocotillo Suite, feels like a living room in a comfortable home. Some groups use it as their office during conferences; others gather boards or leadership teams in the space. About three minutes from the Crowne Plaza, the 110-room Hilton Garden Inn can provide overflow rooms.
Three miles west of downtown, the Hilton Phoenix Chandler has wrapped up a $4.5 million renovation of its public spaces, 17,000 square feet of meeting space and pool area. It had already renovated its 197 guest rooms.
Another option well-suited to corporate groups, the Marriott Phoenix Chandler opened in 2019 near a corporate office park. The Marriott’s 10,000-square-foot ballroom is Chandler’s largest, and its 28,000 square feet of meeting space is all on the first floor, making navigation simple. Seven limited-service hotels nearby can handle overflow.
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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