Miles and miles of sand and saguaro cacti standing sentinel across the lonely Sonoran desert might be what many people think of when picturing Arizona’s capital city. Phoenix, however, has a lot more than that going for it—there’s plenty to do and lots of great places to stay.
Scenic desert views are just one of the many attractions drawing visitors to Phoenix
Belonging to the Gila River Indian Community (Pima and Maricopa tribes), the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa in Chandler is a sprawling 500-room resort boasting a golf course, an equestrian center and a casino just a pleasant 10-minute riverboat ride away. All guest rooms have either one king or two double beds and decor is in keeping with local Native American culture. Rooms have private balconies or patios and views of the river, golf course, mountains or the pools. Adjoining rooms and suites are available. Free Wi-Fi is available in the common areas, but there is a fee to use the resort’s computers.
Because the resort is carved into the mountainside, the lobby is an intriguing two levels. The main entrance is on the upper level and a staircase leads down to the lower level, where guests can relax in a variety of seating areas, have a drink at the Lobby Bar, get a snack at Vasip coffee shop or head out to the three saltwater pools (one of which has a water slide) and hot tub.
Dining options include Kai, which incorporates Pima and Maricopa cuisine, uses local ingredients from the Gila River Indian Community and has a menu designed by James Beard Award-winner Janos Wilder; Ko’sin, which features a fusion menu of American and “Arizona desert” cuisine; Hanyo, an outdoor venue set among the swimming pools; the spa’s Aji Cafe, with healthy lunch options; and the Sivlik Grill at the Whirlwind Golf Club.
The 17,500-square-foot Aji Spa (aji is Pima for “sanctuary”) claims to have Arizona’s only authentic Native American spa with treatments “subjected to an extensive approval process by Tribal Elders to ensure authenticity and respect of sacred doctrines.” Using indigenous products, treatments include Sacred Salt Energy Balance, Native Herbs Cleansing Wrap and Blue Coyote Wrap, as well as various massages, reflexology, mother-to-be treatments, facials and salon services. Contact Kristi Kjar, spa director ([email protected], 602-385-5759), for reservations.
The Whirlwind Golf Club has two par-72 courses—Devil’s Claw and Cattail—with 92 acres of turfed area and 150 acres of desert landscape, and was designed by Gary Panks. Only plants that are indigenous to the Gila River and its surrounding desert are featured on its 7,017 yards of greens.
With more than 100,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event and meeting space, the resort is great for business gatherings and, with its incredible scenery, it’s an excellent choice for weddings. To plan a wedding, contact Sandra Bohn, wedding coordinator ([email protected], 602-385-5702).
Camelback Inn Resort & Spa, a JW Marriott property, is composed of 300 Pueblo-style casitas. The Casita Guest Rooms consist of View Casitas, Kiva Casitas and Standard Casitas. All rooms have a private patio or balcony; kitchenettes; refrigerator and minibar; iHome clock/radio/mp3 player; toiletries by June Jacobs; a Spa Collection; high-speed Internet access; and voice messaging.
The 18 suites, some with private swimming pools, include the Sundeck Suite, with extra-large balconies overlooking the North Garden and panoramic views of Camelback Mountain. The decks can be used to entertain up to 25 people. There are three Standard Suites—Bi-Level, One Bedroom and Two Bedroom. The One Bedroom Suites have private patios and the Two Bedroom Suites have two oversized bedrooms, two complete baths, a kitchenette and a living/dining area. Deluxe Suites feature a private pool and large patio, living room with a fireplace, dining area and full kitchen. Each suite connects with two separate bedrooms.
The four Sonoran Suites, decorated in vibrant colors, boast latilla-beamed ceilings, French doors, copper sliding doors to separate the king bedroom from the oversized dressing area with dual sink vanity, a countertop kitchen and, best of all, a corner fireplace.
The Jackrabbit Suite is accented with latilla-beamed ceilings, kiva logs, vigas, French doors and windows, hammered copper details, indoor and outdoor fireplaces and a raised hearth, and is equipped with a kitchen, appliances, granite-top wet bar (inside and outside), a 32-inch TV and 24-disc CD player. The patio leads to a zero-edge pool and overlooks the Jackrabbit pool complex.
The ultimate accommodation here is the Manor House. With cathedral ceilings, a living room with a fireplace, three bedrooms with separate baths, a full kitchen, large private pool and richly landscaped garden, this is ideal for families and those wishing to entertain guests.
Guests at Camelback have several dining choices: BLT Steak is a steakhouse offering Certified Black Angus and prime steaks; Rita’s Kitchen specializes in home-style cooking with regional dishes; Hoppin’ Jack’s is the place for patio and poolside dining; and Sprouts is in the spa.
The award-winning Spa at Camelback Inn is a 32,000-square-foot space that includes a state-of-the-art fitness center and 32 treatment rooms and uses indigenous Native American ingredients.
The Camelback Golf Club is composed of two courses, the Padre and the Indian Bend. The Padre course is a 6,903-yard, par-72 design. The par-72 Indian Bend Course is a traditional links course spanning 7,014 yards.
Travel agents can reach out to Stacey Plant, personal planner ([email protected], 480-905-7903 or 800-244-9995) for special requests.
At the Hotel San Carlos, visitors can choose from 121 rooms or one of the 12 Signature Suites, which are named and decorated in honor of Hollywood stars who stayed at the hotel during the “Golden Era,” including Marilyn Monroe, Humphrey Bogart and Spencer Tracy. Free Wi-Fi is available in all common areas.
The famed Taliesin West, winter retreat of famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright
Award-winning Executive Chef J. Whiting designed the menus at the hotel’s restaurant, the Copper Door Restaurant and Lounge. Guests will be in gourmet heaven when they choose from such breakfast items as maple and pecan waffles or Nutella and banana crêpes. For dinner, the restaurant offers handmade pastas, grass-fed beef and tableside flambé preparations. An alternate dining option at the hotel is the Silver Spoon Café, which has more informal and less expensive fare, such as sandwiches, salads and pizza.
For special requests, travel agents can contact the sales director, Georgene Coffman ([email protected] sancarlos.com, 866-253-4121, ext. 150). Agents can make reservations via the special travel agent page on the website or by calling 866-253-4121 or 602-253-4121. For information, e-mail [email protected].
Attractions in Greater Phoenix
Immersion in the Native American culture is a must when visiting the Southwest. To that end, your clients should visit Casa Grande, an ancient Hohokum structure and archaeological site, in Coolidge. No website is available, so call 520-723-3172 for more information. The HeardMuseum displays Native American art and artifacts. For group tour reservations, e-mail Beth Blunt at [email protected] or fill out the online tour reservation page. Call 602-252-8848 for more details.
Montezuma Castle and Tuzigoot National Monuments are both run by the National Park Service. Montezuma Castle is one of the best preserved cliff dwellings in North America and Tuzigoot is an ancient pueblo built around 1000 A.D.
Amid the red buttes of Papago Park, the Desert Botanical Gardens is one of only 44 botanical gardens accredited by the American Association of Museums. Displaying the splendor of desert flora on 50 acres of outdoor exhibits, the Gardens showcase 139 rare, threatened and endangered plant species from around the world. For a calendar of events, visit http://www.dbg.org/index.php/plan/calendar; for information, call 480-941-1225. Also on the Park territory is the Phoenix Zoo, where kids and adults alike can enjoy the company of 1,200 animals. Visit the website or call 602-273-1341 for additional information and special packages.
Taliesin West in Scottsdale was Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter retreat. It is now a museum and home to the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture. Visitors take a guided tour through the buildings and learn about Wright’s visions for this impressive compound. Group tours (at group rates) can be custom-designed for 15 or more people. Individuals and small groups can schedule a private tour with an architect, Wright associate or Taliesin artist. Contact the tour manager at [email protected] for details. For reservations, call 480-860-2700, ext. 494/495, or e-mail [email protected].
Jeep tours are a great way for visitors to see the Southwestern landscape close up. Two companies that offer tours are Pink Jeep Tours in Sedona and Wild West Jeep Tours in Scottsdale. Pink Jeep has a variety of tours to choose from, ranging from $55 to $106, some of which can be combined. Reservations are recommended and can be made online, via e-mail ([email protected]) or by phone (800-873-3662). Wild West Jeep Tours cost $90 for adults, $80 for kids. For an exclusive Jeep (seating six), the cost is $500, plus tax. Reservations are required and must be made by phone (480-922-0144).