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Desert Paradise

Escape to Luxury in the Sonoran Desert

Written by Mira Temkin

Statuesque saguaros, lush golf courses, and magnificent mountains welcome you to more than 300 days of sunshine each year in the Valley of the Sun. From palatial accommodations to botanical spa treatments to a cultural wonderland, you’re destined to find a place to warm your heart and soothe your soul. If this sounds like an oasis from a Columbus winter, change direction this year and head southwest! Here are two properties for your consideration.

As a part of the Marriott Luxury Collection, the AAA Five Diamond Phoenician in Scottsdale truly distinguishes itself as Arizona’s premier luxury resort destination. I knew from the moment I drove up, I had arrived at someplace special. With more than 600 spectacular guestrooms and suites in this desert panorama, I felt pampered with opulent surroundings and impeccable service.

For something even more private, cozy up to the 60 Canyon Suites with exclusive amenities like the infinity pool and secluded cabanas. Your day starts with complimentary artisan breakfast and the entire experience feels like a peaceful retreat.

The Phoenician recently opened the Phoenician Athletic Club, a new two-story facility where you can play tennis, pickleball, work out, or up your skills in the game room. Like to hit the greens? Tee up for a premier golf experience at the 18-hole Phoenician Golf Club, showcasing the unique beauty of the Sonoran.

The Phoenician offers eight dining venues that feature sumptuous steaks, bold, American cuisine, and informal poolside options. Go casual yet refined at Mowry & Cotton, and indulge in a menu that combines bold, simple flavors of Modern American cuisine with traditional cooking under fire, coal and smoke. Chef Tandy Peterson uses the large, hearth oven as the focal point of his kitchen for hearty menu options. Try the Charred Hanger Steak with wild mushroom, pickled blueberry and sunflower pesto, which was rich and succulent. Save room for the warm S’mores Pie.

The Spa of Spas

The new, three-story Phoenician Spa offers a range of treatments, therapies, and salon services to chase away your winter doldrums. Natural botanicals blended with Native American traditions provide inspiration for unique healing treatments.

“The Phoenician Spa provides a nurturing, contemporary, and transformative experience personalized for each guest,” said Denise Seomin, Communications Director. “Many of our signature services incorporate elements indigenous to Arizona. The Sonoran Wellness Scrub, Massage & Wrap, for example, is a nearly two-hour therapy that features desert sage and aloe, creating complete balance while nourishing and rejuvenating the body from head to toe. New to the menu is the Hydrafacial Keravive for Healthier, Fuller Hair. This first-of-its-kind, three-step treatment includes a spa component as well as a 30-day take-home spray.

After your spa service, head to the rooftop pool for a tranquil retreat. Enhance your experience by renting a private cabana or relaxing in the lounge area by the fireplace. Visit the Drybar for a blowout/hair styling, nail salon; aromatherapy blending bar and the fitness center for personal training.

The Fairmont Princess Goes A Step Beyond

Situated on 65 acres in the heart of the Sonoran Desert, this AAA Five Diamond resort has earned a stellar reputation for uncompromising standards of excellence. With five distinctive restaurants, two Tournament Players Club golf courses, the Well & Being Spa, and five heated outdoor swimming pools, there’s no reason to leave. Last summer, the resort created a space adventure with “Outta This World” activities geared towards families, taking them to the moon and back.

Check out the Ironwood American Kitchen which serves all-day fare in a warm and inviting atmosphere overlooking the resort’s South Pool. The menu features a variety of hearty, wood-fired specialties such as flatbread pizzas, sandwiches, and oven roasted nachos, as well as mixing bowl salads and chef Sean Mayhew’s famous Bechamel-drizzled potato chips. Take time to watch the exhibition kitchen and say hi to Mayhew and his team.

Under the direction of Chef Richard Sandoval, La Hacienda Restaurant serves Arizona’s best Mexican cuisine with innovative flavors featuring seasonal, indigenous ingredients.

Sandoval’s philosophy embraces the idea of “Old Ways, New Hands,” sharing traditional classics in exciting new ways. Emphasis is on tableside preparation to delight your senses, starting with guacamole. Local favorites include grilled skirt steak served with cactus Pico, fajitas, and barbecue sea bass. I was in awe of their iconic flaming coffee, served tableside with tequila, coffee, cream, cinnamon in an unforgettable presentation; eye-candy at its finest. (

Batter Up for Spring Training

Fifteen major league baseball teams train in Arizona’s Cactus League throughout the Phoenix area, including the Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland Guardians. Catch your favorite teams in action and see if you don’t agree that the games seem more like Little League than Major League Baseball! For information on Spring Training in February and March, check out

Adventure around every curve

Your options for exploration are limitless - including Jeep tours through the mountains, hot-air balloon rides above spectacular scenery, horseback riding, hiking, and rock climbing. You can even kayak on the Salt River like I did, where you might even see a group of wild horses grazing in the shallow waters. Check out REI- Co-op for a full itinerary of challenging and fun adventure trips, including guided tours, mountain biking, on the water and off. Let their experts show you their knowledge of the great outdoors. Spend the day walking the trails through the Desert Botanical Garden to see native plants, blooming cacti, and beauty in the desert terrain.

Cultural Opportunities

Founded in 1929, the Heard Museum is filled with Native American art and history while providing you with an authentic experience about tribes from the Southwest. Tour Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West, his working laboratory and come away with a new understanding of his architectural brilliance. Now through June 19, 2022, take a walking tour, “In A New Light” – which pairs Wright with contemporary glasswork artist, Dale Chihuly.

This year, skip the Sunshine State and make the Grand Canyon State your winter getaway! For more information, visit


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