21 Cool Staycations

Written by Niki D'Andrea, Mirelle Inglefield, Leah LeMoine, Craig Outhier Category: Lifestyle Issue: August 2014
Group Free

 

ULTIMATE RESORT AND STAYCATION GUIDE

The summer is in full swing, and it’s time to face facts: You’re not making it to Paris this year. Don’t despair! Grab a smokin' resort deal for a splashy and splendid in-town escape.

 

 

The Boulders

MOST TRANSPORTIVE STAYCATION
The Boulders

34631 N. Tom Darlington Dr., Carefree,
480-488-9009, theboulders.com

Want to feel like you’re vacationing in another part of the world, without the hassle of baggage fees and TSA pat-downs? The Boulders is your jam. Artfully integrated into the Black Mountain foothills of Carefree, the sprawling Waldorf Astoria property feels like an alien hybrid version of Phoenix, with spectacular fairways framed by towering saguaros and multi-ton desert granite, and elegant chaparral flats between the casitas and footpaths. The pièce de résistance: a mountain of russet boulders overlooking the main lobby and pool, shielding guests from both the late afternoon sun and any visual evidence of the metro beyond. It’s like getting away from it all, without going away.

Three Things We Love Most About the Boulders
1 - The Waldorf Astoria Spa. This 33,000-square-foot temple of body-pampering pleasure features a private swimming pool and labyrinth-like zen footpath, in addition to a superb suite of steam rooms and revitalizing saunas. It’s a true purpose-built, dedicated spa complex – instantly distinguishable from the converted gym-and-locker-room setups you find at many Valley resorts.

2 - Dining. Fronted by chef de cuisine Nicholas Hertel, the resort’s on-site Palo Verde restaurant takes resort dining up a notch with Arizona-sourced produce (melons from Nogales, pumpkins from Prescott) and innovative Southwestern cuisine (chipotle-cured duck). “(Local sourcing) is something we try to do all year long,” Hertel says. “Even in the summer.” The off-campus dining scene is great, too. At least once during your staycation, venture to nearby Cafe Bink for the farm-to-table stylings of master chef Kevin Binkley, or grab a killer mole poblano at  The Spotted Donkey Cantina. According to Carefree’s PR department, the town has the most restaurants per resident of any city in the Valley.

3 - Sports and fitness. The Boulders’ unfailingly friendly platoon of golf cart-driving valets will arrange an early-morning visit to nearby Black Mountain (2.5 mile round trip hike), or will ferry you directly to the Boulders Club and its eight tennis courts. Looking to work on your golf swing? “This iPad makes my work a lot easier,” genial Boulders golf pro Donald Crawley confides, capturing video evidence of a guest’s too-upright stance. “You need to narrow your feet, too.” Custom tutorials start at $60 for a half hour, or Crawley (or one of his staff) will join you for a nine-hole “playing session” ($199). Also look for reduced summer greens fees ($55-$75) at a fraction of the $225 high season rate.

Summer Specials
In addition to reduced summer room rates of $99 a night, the Boulders offers a frankly overwhelming selection of seasonal deals. A few of our favorites: the Truly Boulders Package ($159/night) includes complimentary golf club rentals and other incentives; while the LAZy Spa Day (Arizona residents only) offers two back-to-back spa treatments for $219. Another fun one: the Full Moon deal (August 10), which offers any spa service at a cost equal to the day’s high temperature. C’mon, haboob!

 

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

MOST SCENIC STAYCATION
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr., Scottsdale,
480-515-5700, fourseasons.com/scottsdale

Photo by Diana Elizabeth, clothing provided by Dillards, hair and makeup by Lizzy Marsh, model provided by Ford Robert Black Agency; Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, enjoying an Arizona Mai Tai, High-season base rate: $279/night. Summer rate: $169/night. Pink strapless swimsuit by Kenneth Cole ($102), courtesy of Dillard's

You might get a little shutter-happy en route to your casita at Four Seasons Scottsdale at Troon North. Winding through lovingly landscaped pathways on a whisper-quiet golf cart, you’ll enjoy magisterial views of Pinnacle Peak and a nice eyeful of the solemn, private beauty of Crescent Butte. Seemingly a dimension apart from the Valley, these are the same views that inspired cereal heiress Lois Kellogg Maur to build a finishing school for well-to-do debutantes in the 1940s called Crescent Moon Ranch. Now it’s among the Valley’s premier staycation spots.

Day One AM: Get the Pinnacle Buffett at the resort’s comfort-food haunt, Proof. The delicious joe from local roaster Press Coffee – not to mention the spread of chocolate peanut butter waffles, pastries, fresh lox and fruit – makes for a perfect “wake up.” Afterward, hit the pools. There are four of them, each with a lively international scene. Refresh your palate at the Saguaro Blossom café, which offers pool-appropriate libations like an Arizona Mai Tai made with Maker’s Mark and prickly pear and presented in a festive, fruit-adorned pineapple. PM: Dine at Four Seasons’ on-site fine-dining restaurant, Talavera. Try the  West Coast “C.O.W.” (Cut of the Week), which on our visit was sustainable and happily-raised Copper River salmon from Alaska with morel mushroom broth, ramps and shaved Oregon black truffles, with a side of lobster mac and cheese, and asparagus with garlic butter. Marvelous.

 

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale

Day Two AM: Choose an adventure. You can play a round of golf at Troon North, which Golf Digest named one of the 25 best courses in North America, or opt for one of the resort’s off-site “Guided Adventures,” like the Family Rafting-Kayaking Combo, a multi-hour tour down the Rio Verde. Or grab a massage at the Four Seasons Spa, named a Forbes Four-Star facility 10 years running. Treatments are inspired by the “four seasons” and Native American culture with the use of yellow clay, Sedona clay, ground pumice and aloe vera. The Golfer’s Massage is also organic – it utilizes warm golf balls to relieve and relax muscles. PM: Post-sunset at the Four Seasons Scottsdale reveals even more spellbinding surprises. Suites at the Four Seasons are equipped with telescopes and custom constellation charts – perfect tools to take advantage of the 360-degree views of pristine night sky. It’s a visual jackpot.

 

Summer Specials
“Bed & Breakfast” packages, typically $279/night during high-season, start at $169/night and include a morning meal. Golf packages start at $233 per night and include a daily round of golf at Troon North. Spa packages (from $399/night during peak season) start at $289/night and include a $175 daily spa credit.

 

BEST SHOPPING SCENE
Arizona Biltmore

2400 E. Missouri Ave., Phoenix
602-955-6600, arizonabiltmore.com

Marilyn Monroe often sunbathed poolside at this 1929 resort. Adrift in a sea of mansions, the Biltmore harks back to Art Deco’s heyday with Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired design, lush landscaping, a plethora of pools and more gold leaf ceilings than any building in the world besides the Taj Mahal.

48 Hours at the Biltmore
Day One
Morning: Golf on one of the Biltmore’s two 18-hole courses (azbiltmoregc.com). If you’d rather go shopping, nearby Biltmore Fashion Park (shopbiltmore.com) houses more than 70 outlets, from marquee department stores such as Macy’s to boutique businesses like Citrine Natural Beauty Bar in the locally-owned UNION concept.

Afternoon: Cool off with the Biltmore’s Summer Tea service, hosted by tea sommelier Kevin Doyle and featuring a fine marriage of finger foods and teas, from Ceylon gold to lavender citrus. Seatings are from noon to 4 p.m. Thursday-Sunday and cost $30-$49.

Evening: Enjoy a four-course Biltmore Beer Dinner at Frank & Albert’s, which pairs regional microbrews with multi-faceted menus from Executive Chef Gordon Maybury. The last beer dinner of the summer takes place August 11 and features beer from California’s Iron Fist Brewing Company (7 p.m., $40/person).

Day Two
Morning: Learn more about the storied Biltmore on a 90-minute “Jewel of the Desert” history tour. Tours take place Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 10 a.m. (free for guests, $10 for non-guests; reservations required).

Afternoon: Rent a cabana at the Paradise Pool and enjoy “Splash Cinema” on Saturday nights, and Sundays with DJ Mr. P-Body, who plays popular songs by everybody from Michael Jackson to Maroon 5. Be sure to glide down the 29-foot slide.

Evening: Dine at Wright’s, where everything – from the classic Waldorf salad to filet of sirloin in a bone marrow demi-glace – tastes like nirvana. On Sundays, check the Arizona Biltmore’s Twitter page (twitter.com/ArizonaBiltmore) for a secret passphrase that gives you entry into the Mystery Room, the former men’s smoking room that served as a speakeasy during Prohibition. Sip some cocktails in the dark den while listening to jazz music on a boom box.

Summer Specials
With regular rates for 2015 starting at $349/night, the Biltmore offers some summer rates worth a splurge. The Best of Waldorf Astoria package, from $134/night, includes a $50 per-night resort credit. The Golf Stay and Play, from $199/night, includes one round of golf and cart per registered guest per night. The All-Inclusive package, from $209 for two/night, includes breakfast, lunch and dinner and 30 percent off select  spa services.

 

 

Photo by Brian Goddard; Royal Palms Resort and Spa, High-season base rate: $386/night.  Summer rate: $149/night.

HIGH ROMANCE
Royal Palms Resort and Spa

5200 E. Camelback Rd., Phoenix, 602-840-3610,
royalpalmshotel.com/specials-packages/scottsdale-vacation-packages

Romantic escapism is the raison d’être for a stay at the Royal Palms. Its grounds, situated on nine acres at the base of Camelback Mountain, are petite by sprawling resort standards, but they pack a passionate punch. The resort is built on the original Spanish Revival villa of Delos and Florence Cooke, globe-trotting lovers who settled in Phoenix in the late 1920s with their vast collection of Mediterranean art and exotic flora in tow. The result is a lush, romantic hideaway well-suited for honeymooners and longtime loves looking to rekindle the fire. There’s even a Director of Romance on staff to help orchestrate proposals, weddings and other displays of amour.     

The Stay: Wandering through the open-air hallways, vine-covered arches and meandering, flower-hedged paths of the resort, you’ll feel like the houseguest of the historical Cookes. The setting is transportive, with Southwestern influences (cacti, hacienda-style courtyards) mingled with European touches (stone pathways, intimate nooks). Private patios and outdoor showers increase the romance in casitas and villas. Feed your beloved some saffron pappardelle, antelope and other elegant New American nibbles by Chef Paul McCabe at on-site restaurant T. Cook’s. The neighboring Mix-Up Bar's craft cocktails, luxe pub bites (try the pork belly- and duck egg-topped burger) and live music on Friday and Saturday evenings make for an enchanting date night. Between the food, the scenery and the luxe services at the resort’s Alvadora Spa, you won’t want to leave for a moment. If you insist, you can hike Camelback Mountain or venture out for a meal. Sam Fox has two restaurants nearby – Flower Child and The Henry – or do as we did and have an in-room picnic with takeout from AJ’s Fine Foods.

Summer Specials
Vouchers rule for Royal Palms savings. The Luxe Lounging package (through Sept. 1) includes one $25 T. Cook’s dinner credit, two $40 spa credits, room upgrade and two welcome cocktails. There’s no savings with the resort’s new Instagram package – a phone photography scavenger hunt through the grounds – but you can win prizes and future stays, so inquire when you check in. Rates start at $149 per night.

 

PHOENIX MAG’S TOP FIVE VALLEY POOL SCENES
1. OH Pool at the Valley Ho. DJ-in-residence Mr. P-Body has been spinning weekend Ho fun for almost a decade now.
2. The Phoenician. With nine pools and a 165-foot water slide, the Camelback-area mega-resort has enough aquatic acreage for its own ZIP code.
3. LUSTRE at the Palomar. Downtown's toniest rooftop garden pool offers top-notch eye candy and ravishing Downtown skyline views.
4. Wildfire Pool at JW Marriott Desert Ridge: Known for its gargantuan lazy river, the Marriott also boasts one of the Valley's most dramatic pool features: a prismatic flame that rises from the water, lending the pool a weird, shifting ambiance.
5. WET at the W Scottsdale: Score a cabana at this 21-and-over pool, and gain instant admittance into the hip 1 percent.

 

 

Radisson-Fort McDowell Resort & Casino, High-season base rate: $179/night.  Summer rate: $89/night.

BEST GAMING STAYCATION
Radisson-Fort McDowell Resort & Casino

10438 N. Fort McDowell Rd., Fountain Hills
480-789-5300, radisson.com/scottsdale-hotel-az-85264-azmcdowe

The Old West meets modern gaming mecca six miles outside the sleepy town of Fountain Hills. Like a mini Vegas, the casino serves up buffets, bingo and poker games against a flashing neon backdrop of slots. Resort guests get rustic with horseback riding, golf and sage-smelling spa treatments. Views include the Four Peaks, adding to the fantastic naturalistic vibe of the resort, which is located on the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation.

Choose Your Own Adventure:
Pick your way to play by personality type at nearby Fort McDowell Adventures (fortmcdowelladventures.com). Animal and nature lovers saddle up for 90-minute horseback rides through the Sonoran Desert –  stunning, almost surreal mini-safaris that splash across the Verde River multiple times and provide pulchritudinous views of pecan tree orchards and alfalfa farms against the backdrop of Four Peaks, along with ample encounters of grazing cattle, wild horses and bald eagles. Motorheads who might be more inclined to kick up dust on wheels amongst the creosote, cholla cacti and cottonwoods can choose from a 90-minute Segway tour or a two-hour jeep tour. Gamers could get lucky in the resort’s adjacent casino, where live keno and bingo, a card room and 775 slot machines keep the place constantly clanging and dinging. Golfers go “fore” the two award-winning, 18-hole courses at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club (wekopa.com), and everybody can feel like a winner with a splurge at the deep purple- and dark wood-gilded Amethyst Spa, which offers a gamut of massages, skin treatments, mani-pedis and day packages.

Summer Specials
From $89/night, the SunSational Value Package includes $10 casino slot credit upon sign-up for Fort McDowell Casino’s Fortune Club. The Summer Splash 2014 package ($129/night) includes a $50 resort credit. There are two golf packages – the Flagship Golf Package, from $208/night, includes greens fee and cart with practice balls for two, a $10 per person casino slot credit and 20 percent off at Amethyst Spa; and Hole in One Golf Package, from $164/night, essentially the same deal except for one golfer.

 

 

Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak, High-season base rate: $159/ night. Summer rate: $119/night.

BEST THEMED STAYCATION
Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak

7677 N. 16th St., Phoenix, 602-997-2626,
squawpeakhilton.com/phoenix-resort-deals

It may be a Hilton, but there’s nothing stuffy about this family-friendly expanse of suites, casitas, restaurants, pools and play areas near Piestewa Peak. Weekends are hopping with locals, who pack the streets of the complex to take advantage of the four-acre Hole-in-the-Wall River Ranch water park, half-mile lazy river and mini golf. The resort hosts monthly decade-themed retro parties.

The Stay: If the Old West was set in an upscale water park, it would look something like the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak. The aroma of brisket and ribs being smoked outside the rustic Hole-in-the-Wall restaurant mingles with the smell of chlorine and sunblock wafting from the splash pool, lazy river and water slide at the adjacent water park. Young’uns feast on chicken fingers, fries and smoothies from poolside bar/snack shack Slim Picken’s, while mom and dad slurp a prickly pear margarita and sunbathe. When you’ve had your fill of family fun, send the kiddos to Coyote Camp ($35-$65/day or night, depending on hours, ages 4-12) for fun activities, swimming excursions and workshops on Arizona folklore and culture, including gold-panning, tepee-making and arrowhead-hunting. While the kids are away, the parents can play – book a couples massage at the resort’s Tocasierra Spa and steal away for a romantic Italian dinner at Tutti Santi.

Summer Specials
Nostalgia is on deck this year, with the Summer Flashback! (May 27-Sept. 8) package rolling back the clock with retro dining specials, “dive-in” movies on Friday nights and poolside DJs on Saturday afternoons. Rates start at $109 per suite per night. Use plan code “SUNSP” when booking. Weekday spa treatments at Tocasierra are discounted for Arizonans (20 percent off) and teachers and students (25 percent off), through September 1.

 

BEST FREE STAYCATION
It's not exactly free – and not exactly in the Valley – but a camping trip at Sawmill Flats in the Tonto National Forest meets every other qualification: relaxing pool soaks, shady vegetation and daytime temperatures about 25 degrees cooler than the Valley. Located rougly 20 miles north of Roosevelt Lake. www.fs.usda.gov

 

Photo by Louis Hernandez, Styling by Shannon Campbell, hair and makeup by Linda Wagner,  models (right, 2)  provided by the Agency Arizona, clothing provided by Everything But Water (Scottsdale Fashion Square) & Dillards; Hotel Palomar,  left: Yellow bikini top ($55) and bottom ($49) by Gianni Bini; right: fringe monokini ($64) by Gianni Bini. Suits courtesy of Dillard's.

BEST URBAN STAYCATION
Hotel Palomar

2 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix
602-253-6633, hotelpalomar-phoenix.com

This gleaming high-rise hotel in the heart of the action in Downtown Phoenix has new high-dollar condos perched on its highest level. It’s like a castle in a concrete jungle – a castle with state-of-the-art electronics and pristine mid-century modern-style furniture in the rooms, and a rooftop pool and bar with a bird’s eye view of U.S. Airways Center.  

Top Six Things to Do
Located within a short walking distance of U.S. Airways Center and the always-lively CityScape complex, Hotel Palomar will leave you wanting only one thing: more time. If you can do only six things during your staycay, our top six are:

6 - StandUp Live comedy club. Crack-ups on the calendar for August include comedians Robert Kelly (7th-10th; 15th-16th); Lahna Turner (21st); and Mary Lynn Rajskub (30th). standuplive.com

5 - U.S. Airways Center. Big-ticket entertainment at the arena includes Paul McCartney (August 12), WWE SmackDown (August 19), and a handful of home games for two-time WNBA champions, the Phoenix Mercury. usairwayscenter.com

4 - LUSTRE Rooftop Garden. Located on the third-floor of the hotel, this al fresco bar/rooftop pool combo has it made in the shade – and the misters.  

3 - FlowRider. Surf in the city through Labor Day in this 38,000-gallon wave simulator at Patriots Square park.

2 - Copper Blues. Swill some fine craft beers (including several Arizona brews) on draft, while bobbing your head to the band onstage covering classic rock songs. copperblueslive.com

1 - Eat at Blue Hound Kitchen + Cocktails, on the second floor of the Palomar. We recommend one of everything off Chef Stephen Jones’  inventive, Southern-inflected menu, but if you must be moderate, the avocado salad with blood orange, grapefruit and “wild greens grown curbside” makes a nice, light summer meal. The craft cocktail menu’s also a crowd-pleaser. bluehoundkitchen.com

Summer Specials
High-season rates start at $329/night, but summer saving include the 100 Days of Summer special, from $100/night, which includes two cocktails at LUSTRE Rooftop Garden or complimentary valet parking for one vehicle; Tequila and Tan Lines, from $119/night, which includes a pitcher of margaritas from LUSTRE Rooftop Garden; Toes on the Nose Surf's Up, from $119/night, which includes two tickets to FlowRider and a 20 percent discount at LUSTRE Rooftop Garden for guests with a FlowRider ticket; and Night on the Town, from $129/night, which includes a $25 gift card to Copper Blues at CityScape.

 

 

BEST SOUTH VALLEY STAYCATION
Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa

5040 W. Wild Horse Pass Blvd., Chandler,
800-946-4452, wildhorsepassresort.com

You glimpse the Wild Horse Pass Hotel & Casino off the I-10. Meh, not bad, you think. Probably a nice place to knock down a few hands of blackjack. Well, push a mile farther into Pima tribal land and you’ll find the casino’s blue-blooded sibling – the Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa, a spectacular high-end operation set in beauteous Sonoran isolation. Its dual claim to fame: home to arguably Arizona’s best restaurant and spa.

Three Reasons to Visit
1. Kai. The state’s only eight-time AAA Five-Diamond restaurant, Kai is destination dining in the raw, with a Native American fusion menu that reads so beautifully (“braised pork cheek, Four Corner bean puree, tomatillo salsa, pepicha gremolata, whiskey foie gras emulsion”), you’ll want to frame it afterward. And, yeah, the eating part is pretty beautiful, too.

2. Aji Spa. A Forbes Four-Star spa, Aji exudes class and sensual adventure the moment you step into its sweetgrass-scented foyer. Needless to say, the services are superb, but even better: the spa’s decadent warren of saunas, steam rooms, cool baths, hot baths, sun decks, iced refreshments and complimentary skin products. You could spend all day here simply shvitzing and hydrating, shvitzing and hydrating. And we have. The resort’s reduced summer rate of $149 includes a $50 spa voucher.

3. Dereliction of parental duty. The $149 rate also includes complimentary half-day access at the Sheraton Adventure Club, the resort’s on-site daycare program for children ages 4 to 12. So drop off the little tax deferments and enjoy the day anyway you like, maybe golfing, maybe getting a massage at Aji, or maybe taking a complimentary shuttle to the nearby Phoenix Premium Outlets retail cluster, including Coach, Armani and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Summer Specials
Are you a teacher? Wild Horse Pass has a We Love AZ Teachers deal just for you. Through September 6, Arizona-based educators are privy to $99 per night room rates, which include complimentary access to the Sheraton Adventure Club daycare program.

 

PM’S TOP FIVE VALLEY SPAS
1. Aji Spa at Wild Horse Pass. Like a Native-themed womb of wellness; impeccable facilities, and innovative services like thoatcha Pima healing sessions.
2. Joya Spa at the Montelucia. This Moroccan-inspired spa is a luxury operation from wire-to-wire, from the travertine indoor pools to the Valley’s best hammam Turkish scrub-down treatments.
3. Waldorf Astoria Spa at the Boulders: Love the private, adults-only pool and Zen garden. The sauna facilities are great, too.
4. Four Seasons Spa: One of our favorite eucalyptus steam baths. Also try the The Hydrating and Soothing Facial.
5. Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms: Private indoor and outdoor lounging maximizes romantic, post-couples massage bliss at this intimate spa.

 

 

Photo by Brandon Sullivan; JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, High-season base rate: $359/night. Summer rate: $169/night.

MOST FAMILY-FRIENDLY
JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort and Spa

5350 E. Marriott Dr., Phoenix,
480-293-5000, marriott.com

Rarely are resorts both opulent and family-friendly, but the JW Marriott Desert Ridge walks that line. A grand entrance hall with monolithic slabs of marble and high ceilings welcomes the sophisticated adult in you, while four outdoor pools (one with a lazy river) and a water slide beckon kids and the young at heart.   

The Stay: Spend the day having fun with the kids or divide and conquer. The whole family will enjoy the pools, bike rentals and tennis, but kids ages 4-12 can spend the day (or night) at the Family Escape Center, with activities like desert excursions and pajama parties. Mom and dad can chill on the links at Wildfire Golf Club, get a massage at Revive Spa or hang in the JW Griffin Club, a concierge lounge with small bites and hors d’oeuvres served throughout the day and wine, beer and spirits from 4-11 p.m. Indulge in upscale Southwestern fare at the resort’s new Stonegrill restaurant, where you can munch on crispy chili-lime calamari with cilantr0-lime crema and tuck into a prime flat iron steak with arugula, nopales croutons and red chimichurri. Wash it down with a local brew, wine or cocktail made with Copper City bourbon. If the young ones are restless, pack up the whole gang and fit in some retail therapy and budget bites at nearby Desert Ridge Marketplace.

Summer Specials
Having a family actually saves you money with the Fling & Swing Experience package (through Dec. 31). Rates start at $169 per night and give you access to the Family Escape Center, a $50 daily resort credit, free golf, free meals for kids 12 and under with adult purchase and free resort fee, which includes Internet, appetizer or dessert, self-parking and tennis.

 

BEST STAYCATION FOR AN ASPIRING ARTIST
The Hermosa Inn doesn’t offer “staycation” deals, but it does have a cool summer program: the Artist for a Day package. Join an instructor on the patio to learn the techniques that made Lon Megargee famous. May 1 – Sept. 7. $364/night. 5532 N. Palo Cristi Rd., Paradise Valley, 602-955-8614, hermosainn.com

 

Photo by Brandon Sullivan; Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort, High-season base rate: $409/night. Summer rate: $209/night.

BEST BUCKET LIST STAYCATION
Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort

5700 E. McDonald Dr., Paradise Valley,
855-245-2051, sanctuaryoncamelback.com

You don’t need a special occasion to stay at Sanctuary – staying at Sanctuary is the special occasion. Lording over Paradise Valley from its Camelback Mountain aerie, the 53-acre boutique resort takes its regal reputation seriously, offering some of the Valley’s most singular guest programs and luxury packages. Better yet: Villa rates in the summer are roughly half the high season price.

Standard Bucket List: Book one of Sanctuary’s private villas. Play some tennis – the place used to be a tennis academy, after all – then cool down in the resort’s swanky negative-edge pool, which is a blessedly adults-only scene through early September. Hike nearby Echo Canyon, and finish the day at Elements, where chef Beau MacMillan conjures his magical brand of Asian-influenced fusion cuisine. Have the braised chili short ribs – they’re fork-tender awesome – and ask the mixologists at Jade next door to make you a Moscow Mule with their house-made ginger beer. Also awesome.

Premium Bucket List: Same as the standard version, but opt for the Spa Harmony package – a three-night commitment that also includes daily in-room breakfast, a private home upgrade and two 60-minute treatments per person at Sanctuary’s Forbes Four-Star spa. (If you like a rough, exquisitely tortuous rub, ask for Tara. She will send you to straight to lala land.) Since you’re in the area, check out the bustling Camelback Corridor dining scene, including Steak 44, The Henry and Chelsea’s Kitchen.

Super Premium Bucket List: Do all the above stuff – the pool, tennis, the restaurants – but also opt for the Mi Casa, Mi Chef program. It entails two nights in one of Sanctuary’s primo mountainside homes, and a chauffeured trip to one of the local farmers' markets with an Elements chef, followed by an interactive cooking session and wine-paired meal. And, yes, a spa treatment at your leisure. You can’t sneeze at Sanctuary without bumping into a customized spa treatment.

Summer Specials
Standard villas start at $409 during the high season; during the summer, they start at $209. Coupled with Sanctuary’s Just for Arizona deal, which gives state residents an addition 20 percent off the best available, the effective staycation rate is $170/night.

 

 

The Wigwam

BEST WEST VALLEY STAYCAY
The Wigwam offers a 3-2-1 Summer Fun package (3 days, 2 nights for $159) and is located tantalizingly close to the Wildlife World Zoo and other West Valley attractions. 300 E. Wigwam Blvd., Litchfield Park, 623-935-3811, wigwamarizona.com

 

PHOENIX MAG'S TOP FIVE VALLEY RESORT RESTAURANTS
1. Kai at Wild Horse Pass Resort and Spa. What, you were expecting the executive breakfast buffet at the Hilton?
2. T. Cook's at the Royal Palms. Newly-hired chef Paul McCabe has the storied restaurant hopping; try his 12-course #PM31 tasting menu on Wednesdays for a multi-foodgasmic dining experience.
3. Elements at Sanctuary. Ask for the west balcony booth and enjoy the most epic sunset meal in the Valley.
4. J&G Steakhouse at The Phoenician. A perennial Wine Spector honoree, with one of the Valley's most seasonal menus.
5. (tie) Bourbon Steak at Scottsdale Fairmont Princess/BLT Steak at the Camelback Inn. Neither Michael Mina nor Laurent Tourondel spend much time in the Valley, but their respective fine dining outposts don't suffer for it