BY BRYN BAILER

There was a time when corporate  travel was just “work on the wing”—trade conferences, business meetings, and networking events sandwiched between long plane flights. Fortunately, times have changed. Increasingly, people are turning corporate business trips into “bleisure” travel, mixing business with leisure time and local entertainment.

Tucson is the perfect destination for “bleisure,” with spectacular weather and a multitude of enticing activities, attractions, and entertainment options. Some attendees will extend their stay a few days and spend well-earned hours relaxing poolside or on a resort golf course. Others bring loved ones along to the conference, and explore the city together after-hours. Still others sample Tucson’s local fare and flair on guided sightseeing, culinary, or adventure tours worked into the program by professional planners.

Taste of Tucson Downtown

Taste of Tucson Downtown

Photo by Julie Foskett

“Everyone’s lives are so blended these days that there are not as many lines between your personal and professional life anymore,” explained Colleen Gallagher, vice president of communications for the Alexandria, Virginia-based Global Business Travel Association. “It’s natural that when you’re on the road for work, you take time for yourself as well.”

Visit Tucson is the local source for travel information and itinerary suggestions. The staff provides assistance—event registration, location scouting, service referrals, and the like—to more than 400 meeting and convention planners annually.

Old Pueblo Brew Tours

Old Pueblo Brew Tours

Photo by Julie Foskett

GO BEYOND THE BOARD ROOM

If you want to explore Southern Arizona, Reisen Arizona Day Tours can probably take you there. The company’s seasoned experts offer city tours, Old West–themed day trips to Tombstone and Bisbee, and English- and German-speaking private guides for classic attractions like the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, Old Tucson, and Saguaro National Park.

Locally owned Gray Line Tours provides a variety of chartered bus outings in and around Tucson, and has created an engaging “Best of the Barrio” culinary tour to various Mexican eateries in South Tucson. Along the way, participants get behind-the-scenes looks at family bakery operations and sample delicacies like handmade pan dulce (sweet breads) and bacon-wrapped Sonoran hot dogs.

In 2015, UNESCO designated Tucson as a World City of Gastronomy—and culinary adventures are a delicious way to learn more about the city and its history. Tucson Food Tours focuses on restaurants in historic downtown, along bohemian Historic Fourth Avenue, and modern Main Gate Square. Taste of Tucson offers four-hour tours to downtown and Fourth Avenue restaurants—with streetcar rides and step-offs to admire public artwork along the way. And Old Pueblo Brew Tours partners with more than a dozen local businesses to offer tantalizing tasting tours of craft breweries.

Sonoran Tasting Tours

Sonoran Tasting Tours

Photo by Julie Foskett

Tucson is also well-known for its natural beauty, which helps inspire our wealth of artists. Arizona Star Tours’ amateur astronomers will bring a mobile observatory to your location for private stargazing. Sonoran Tasting Tours hosts weekly day trips to vineyards in Southern Arizona’s respected wine country. See the creative side of the city by spending a day exploring the many galleries in the Warehouse Arts District just north of downtown or take a self-guided driving tour of Tucson’s public art courtesy of the art map from Arts Foundation for Tucson and Southern Arizona.

Adventure Outside

Adventure Outside

Photo by Adventure Outside

Tucson Audubon organizes a variety of birding field trips in and around the area, including the Santa Catalina and Santa Rita Mountains. Southwest Trekking and Adventure Outside offer guided mountain biking, hiking, camping, and road-cycling tours around Southern Arizona. In Oracle, the University of Arizona’s Biosphere 2 research facility gives fascinating “under the glass” tours of its dramatic rainforest, ocean, and marsh biomes. Arizona Zipline Adventures provides a variety of team-building activities, as well as outdoor zipline rides that send you speeding high above the desert floor at 30 miles an hour.

“The profile of meetings is changing,” said Graeme Hughes, vice president of sales for Visit Tucson. “We want event planners and their attendees to know there’s far more to see, do, and taste than just what’s on the program agenda.”