Desert character. It can’t be conjured, landscaped or kindled with twinkling bulbs. John Ford knew that. So did Frank Lloyd Wright and Louis L’Amour. Spend a few days in Greater Phoenix and you’ll understand, too. America’s sixth-largest city still has cowboys and red-rock buttes and the kind of cactus most people see only in cartoons. It is the heart of the Sonoran Desert and the gateway to the Grand Canyon, and its history is a testament to the spirit of Puebloans, ranchers, miners and visionaries. This timeless Southwestern backdrop is the perfect setting for family vacations, weekend adventures or romantic getaways. Each year, 14 to 16 million leisure visitors travel to Greater Phoenix. They enjoy resorts and spas infused with Native American tradition, golf courses that stay emerald green all year, mountain parks crisscrossed with trails, and sports venues that host the biggest events in the nation. The best way to learn about America’s sunniest metropolis, of course, is to experience it firsthand. The following information will give you a snapshot of what to expect before your visit and provide sound reference material after you leave.
Greater Phoenix encompasses 2,000 square miles and more than 20 incorporated cities,including Glendale, Cottsdale, Tempe and Mesa. Maricopa County, in which Phoenix is located, covers more than 9,000 square miles. Phoenix’s elevation is 1,117 feet, and the city’s horizon is defined by three distinct mountains: South Mountain, Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak.
Greater Phoenix is home to many of the nation’s finest resorts, including several Four Star and Five Diamond properties, as defined by the Forbes Travel Guide and the American Automobile Association, respectively. Multiple Greater Phoenix properties have earned AAA’s Five Diamond rating: The Phoenician Resort; The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician; The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess; and the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. The AAA’s Four Diamond rating is held by over thirty resorts in the Valley of the Sun.
The Forbes Travel Guide, awarded the coveted Five Star status to The Canyon Suites at the Phoenician and the Four Star status to three Greater Phoenix hotels; Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North, The Phoenician and The Ritz-Carlton Phoenix. In terms of style and character, Greater Phoenix’s resorts span a broad spectrum. The most historic resorts date to 1929 (Arizona Biltmore, The Wigwam), while the newest was built in 2008 (Montelucia). Aesthetic influences range from cowboy chic (Hermosa Inn) to mid-century modernism (Hotel Valley Ho) to Mediterranean intimacy (Royal Palms) to Native American authenticity (Sheraton Wild Horse Pass). Some resorts cater to family fun with on-site water parks (Arizona Grand, Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak), while others are famous for their championship golf courses (Four Seasons at Troon North, The Boulders, Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Radisson Fort McDowell).
Interesting facts about a few of Greater Phoenix’s resorts:
• The historic Arizona Biltmore has hosted every U.S. president since Herbert Hoover, and, ironically, Irving Berlin wrote “White Christmas” while sunbathing next to one of the resort’s pools.
• The 7-acre Oasis Water Park at Arizona Grand Resort features a wave pool, a tubing river, a 25-person hot tub, and an 8-story tower with three water slides.
• The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa offers its guests rock-climbing clinics and nature-photography instruction amid the 12-billion-year-old boulders after which the resort is named.
• At The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician, a chauffeured Mercedes awaits guests who need a ride to the spa or mall, and a sommelier hosts wine tastings in the lobby each evening.
• Camelback Inn is one of only three hotels in the United States to earn AAA’s Five Diamond status 34 consecutive years, since the awards’ inception in 1977.
• Fairmont Scottsdale Princess annually plays host to the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the best-attended event on the PGA Tour. • A professional astronomer leads complimentary stargazing talks under the Sonoran Desert sky weekly at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North.
• The Hermosa Inn is the former guest ranch and studio of cowboy artist Alonzo “Lon” Megargee, whose painting “The Last Drop From His Stetson” adorns the inside of the Stetson Company’s premium cowboy hats.
• The Hotel Valley Ho hosted the private wedding reception of Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood in 1957
• The structure that houses Hole-in-the-Wall at Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak was built by hand in the 1940s and known as the Cactus Rock Lodge, a 14-room hotel and dude ranch.
• Sheraton Wild Horse Pass Resort & Spa employs a Cultural Concierge who is available to educate guests about the history and traditions of Pima and Maricopa tribes.
• Each evening at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, Scottish bagpipes usher in the sunset in an homage to Scottish immigrants’ contributions to Arizona’s railroads, mines and towns.
• The Wigwam resort was formerly a cotton farm and winter retreat for executives from the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company.
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