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 has one of the highest concentrations of resort spas in the United States, and, not surprisingly, the menu of treatments available to spa-goers in America’s sunniest metropolis is copious and eclectic. Many treatments are imported from Europe and Asia, while others—such as desert-mud body wraps and herbal aromatherapies—are inspired by Native American traditions. Hot-stone massages? They were invented here. In the “World’s Best” awards by Travel + Leisure, Greater Phoenix spas consistently receive significant recognition. In the 2010 “Hotel Spas in the United States and Canada” category, Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, The Spa at Camelback Inn, and The Centre for Well-Being at The Phoenician, all cracked the Top 25. In 2011, Spa Avania at Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch received the 14th place in the same category.
In the 2013 Forbes Travel Guide, Greater Phoenix had six Four Star honorees in the spa category—more than any other city in North America. The winners were Alvadora Spa at Royal Palms; Sanctuary Spa at the Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain; Aji Spa at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass; Willow Stream, The Spa at The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess; The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North; and the Centre for WellBeing at The Phoenician.
Agave, The Arizona Spa at Westin Kierland resort is a full-service spa with 20 treatment rooms, as well as saunas, massage therapy, skin treatment and salon services. The people who settled in this part of Arizona found the 12 species of the agave plant, native to this region, to be an extremely valuable resource. This striking plant serves as the inspiration for Agave, The Arizona Spa, which incorporates the agave into nearly all its spa products and techniques.
Aji Spa at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass gets its name from the Pima Indian word for “sanctuary.” Aji Spa’s design is defined by story-telling art and peaceful gardens. The 17,000-square-foot facility features 17 treatment rooms, a salon, a fitness center, a Watsu pool and a traditional roundhouse. Treatments are inspired by ancient rituals and incorporate ingredients such as red clay from the Gila River and cholla cactus buds. The Blue Coyote Wrap, Aji Spa’s signature service, combines steam aromatherapy and massage.
Alvadora Spa at the Royal Palms mirrors the Old World feel of the resort. Alvadora is residential, warm, intimate and romantic. With nine treatment rooms and a variety of outdoor treatments in a garden setting, the spa celebrates the revitalizing benefits of herbs, flowers, oils and minerals indigenous to the Mediterranean. Signature Alvadora treatments include the Acqua Dolce Ritual and the Orange Blossom Body Buff.
Arizona Biltmore Spa offers treatments inspired by both medieval China and the native tribes of the Sonoran Desert. The spa features outdoor retreat areas and cascading whirlpools, and the signature treatment is the Dream Catcher. This ancient healing blends the senses of touch and smell; it begins with a therapeutic footbath, followed by aromatherapy, warm moist towels and heating packs.
Arizona Grand Spa at Arizona Grand Resort is the largest resort spa-and-salon combo in Arizona. Indoor and outdoor meditation areas accompany 15 treatment rooms. Signature treatments include the Sedona Mud Purification Treatment and the Desert Botanical Aroma Wrap.
The Centre for Well-Being at Phoenician has long been recognized as one of the premier resort spas in the country. Located at the foot of Camelback Mountain on the 250-acre grounds of the Phoenician resort, the spa is known for its focus on the connection of the mind, body and spirit. The 22,000-square-foot facility features 24 private treatment rooms, a complete fitness center and full-service salon. Services range from manicures to tarot card readings. The spa offers a contemporary twist on an age-old Thai treatment—Table Thaitm Massage, a traditional technique adapted to the massage table, instead of the floor.
The Golden Door Spa at The Boulders combines Asian and Native American influences in a setting defined by naturally lit rooms, viga ceilings and a meandering stream. The spa’s signature Turquoise Wrap includes a Hopi blue cornmeal exfoliation and a warm clay wrap with ionized turquoise.
Joya Spa at the Montelucia is Greater Phoenix’s newest resort spa. Celebrated spa designer Sylvia Sepielli used indigenous materials and incorporated cultural traditions to create a spa experience inspired by the deserts of Morocco. Joya is home to Arizona’s only authentic Hammam, an ancient bathing ritual that offers spa guests a meditative and luxurious alternative to the typical steam room. Joya’s spacious environs feature 19 treatment rooms where therapists enmesh joyful simplicity and technological advances. High-tech accoutrements include a zero-gravity pedicure chair and a massage table that vibrates in tune to music. A private rooftop pool terrace offers spectacular views of Camelback Mountain.
The Red Door Spa at The Wigwam is a two-story, 26,000-square-foot facility that mirrors The Wigwam’s signature adobe-style architecture. There are 16 luxurious treatment rooms, 10 of which have outdoor patios, and three of which offer outdoor treatment areas. Two rooms accommodate couples treatments.
Revive Spa at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort makes an arresting first impression. The spa lobby is a two-story rotunda with a central water feature that flows directly underneath an open skylight two floors above, capturing the grand volume of the space. Water is the inspiration for this 28,000-square-foot spa oasis, whose 41 elegantly appointed treatment rooms. Treatments incorporate indigenous flora, ancient rituals and cutting-edge techniques.
Sanctuary Spa at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain is a hip, urban retreat nestled against the flank of Camelback Mountain. The indoor-outdoor facility features a Watsu immersion pool and a state-of-the art fitness center. One of the Southwest’s most noted experts in Chinese herbal medicine, Victoria Molinger, uses traditional methods of pulse, tongue and facial evaluation to recommend personalized holistic solutions to guests.
Fostering the body’s daily journey toward balance is the foundation for every treatment at Spa Avania at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch. Awaken in the morning. Rejuvenate at midday. Unwind in the evening. This spa embraces a holistic, total-immersion approach based on the body’s cyclical needs at key periods of the day. This time-focused philosophy is grounded in the body’s natural daily rhythms and requirements—for only when the five senses align perfectly are you able to experience the ideal state called “avania.”
The Spa at Four Seasons Resort is designed to blend flawlessly with the surrounding Sonoran Desert. The spa offers therapies and treatments inspired by the four seasons, and Native American rituals. For an intimate couples experience, the spa offers private suites equipped with a jetted tub, shower, steam and sauna, restroom and a double massage area.
Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess integrates indigenous Arizona materials and vegetation into its spa experience. The changing lounge features an eucalyptus steam room, cold plunge pool, whirlpool and Swiss shower. Guests also can enjoy lunch at the spa. Its Lifestyle Cuisine menu features several protein, fiber, carbohydrate, drink and desert choices that add up to a well-balanced meal.
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