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Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

September 7, 2011 5:18 PM

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White Tank Mountain Regional Park (credit: Liz Laing)

White Tank Mountain Regional Park (credit: Liz Laing)

01 white tank mountain regional park Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

White Tank Mountain Regional Park (credit: Liz Laing)

If you’re thinking about squeezing in one more summer vacation, try Phoenix, Arizona – only a hop, skip and jump away. Southern Californians make-up the largest population of visitors to the Phoenix area in the summer, due to its proximity and the low rates offered at many luxury resorts. While it can be pretty hot in Arizona at this time of year, you’ll stay cool in the pool and there’s plenty of air conditioning around as well. The kids will have so much fun sliding down water slides, floating along rivers and splashing in pools that they won’t want to leave.
02 arizonagrandresort oasis Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

Arizona Grand Resort Oasis

Arizona Grand Resort

8000 S. Arizona Grand Parkway
Phoenix, Arizona 85044
602-438-9000
More info

The Arizona Grand Resort is a AAA Four-Diamond all-suite hotel in Phoenix, located near the South Mountain Preserve – 17,000 acres of natural beauty and one of the largest municipal parks in the world. Tee off at the 18-hole golf course and wind your way through dramatic elevation changes and stunning mountain scenery.

The Arizona Grand Resort has what every kid dreams of, a 7-acre water park on the premises (for guests only), which makes it a very popular family destination. Named as one of the Top Ten Theme Parks by the Travel Channel, Oasis Water Park is filled with fun and exciting water activities to keep you cool. Climb the 83-foot high Slide Canyon Tower, which boasts three water slides with speeds up to 35 mph. Brave souls quickly descend down the dramatic free-fall slide or roadrunner, while kids and adults alike enjoy the gradual 42-foot drop of the sidewinder slide, full of thrilling twists and turns. When you’re ready for some relaxation, float down the Zuni River in a big, yellow, double inner tube. The strategically placed arching water jets cool you off just as you begin to notice the heat. You can also enjoy dive-in movies on weekend summer nights, kicking back on your tube in the 10,000 sq. ft. wave pool.

Book a discount with promo code PROCA – suites from $149/night and $50 nightly resort credit, plus four free LEGOLAND tickets good through December 31, 2011 (which is a $276 savings for just the tickets!). Offer valid for stays through October 30, 2011.

03 rustlersrooste lizlaing Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

Rustlers Rooste (credit: Liz Laing)

Rustler’s Rooste

8383 S. 48th St.
Phoenix, AZ 85044
602-431-6474
More info

After working up an appetite in the water, you’ll find several dining options at the Arizona Grand Resort for re-fueling. Be sure to check-out Rustler’s Rooste for a fun and authentic Western steakhouse experience. When you’re ready for dinner, just call the front desk for a ride to Rustler’s Rooste, where the Old West atmosphere is apparent the moment you’re greeted by the live steer, who resides outside the entrance of the old mineshaft. Kids can enter the dining room by sliding down a tin slide and can repeat this activity endlessly until dinner arrives. This family-owned, mountaintop landmark has been providing guests with award-winning chili, mesquite-broiled steaks and barbecued ribs since 1971. A live band plays Country and Western music above the dance floor, which provides ample space to kick up your heels. Be sure to order some freshly-spun cotton candy before you leave – another kid pleaser.

04 sealife lizlaing Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

Sea Life (credit: Liz Laing)

SEA LIFE Arizona

5000 S. Arizona Mills Circle, Ste. 145
Tempe, Arizona 85282
480-478-7600
More info

When you need a break from the afternoon sun and are feeling a bit waterlogged, visit SEA LIFE Arizona, a 26,000 sq. ft. aquarium, located nearby at Arizona Mills (mall) near entrance one. This interactive aquarium provides visitors with a fun and educational underwater experience (while keeping you dry), showcasing over 5,000 sea creatures in more than 30 display tanks. The new Claws exhibit is sure to grab your attention. Kids will be fascinated by this creepy exhibit featuring the world’s biggest species of crabs, such as the Japanese spider crab with a leg span of over 12 feet, from claw to claw.

05 sciencectr lizlaing Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

Arizona Science Center (credit: Liz Laing)

Arizona Science Center

600 E. Washington Street
Phoenix, Arizona 85004
602-716-2016
More Info

Another great family-fun activity is a visit to the Arizona Science Center, located in downtown Phoenix, not far from the resort. This is one of the best science centers I’ve ever encountered. It features more than 300 hands-on exhibits, spread out among four levels of interactive science galleries, live activities and demonstrations. Don’t miss the Immersion Theater platform at the Forces of Nature exhibit. During this five-minute show, guests will experience what it feels like to be in the middle of earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires and monsoons. Other highlights include: touching a real human brain and viewing live brain surgeries in the Neuro Theater at the W.O.N.D.E.R. center and getting lost in over 9,000 sq. ft. of mind-bending adventures at MAZES, a challenging collection of mazes, 3-D puzzles and full-body games ($3 special exhibit fee).

06 fairmontscottsdale Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

Fairmont Scottsdale

Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

7575 East Princess Drive
Scottsdale, Arizona 85255-5802
480-585-4848
More info

If you’re looking for a sophisticated resort in the Scottsdale area, look no further than the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. This AAA Five-Diamond property is the ultimate desert oasis, set against the backdrop of the majestic McDowell Mountains. The warmth and spirit of the Southwest is apparent throughout the vast property with its Spanish-Colonial architecture, charming casitas and scenic gardens. The kids will love getting whisked away on golf carts, which will take you just about anywhere you want to go (pools, restaurants, spa, etc.) You’ll find five swimming pools on the premises and kids will especially enjoy the two twisting waterslides at Sonoran Splash. Let the races begin!

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess has a couple of hot summer deals still cooking, the “Sip, Savor & Splash Package,” where rooms start at $159/night and includes a $50 dining credit. The “Playcation Family Package” includes two Kids’ Resort Dining Passes, two full-day admissions to the new Bobcat Billy’s Clubhouse for kids and one complimentary court time session at the John Austin Center for Tennis. Room rates for that package start from $179/night. Both deals are good through September 22, based on availability.

07 fairmontprincess spapool1 Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

Willow Stream Spa

Willow Stream Spa

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
More info

Drop the kids off for a few hours at Bobcat Billy’s Clubhouse, while you relax at the luxurious 44,000 square-foot Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. The kids will enjoy a fun-filled day at the kids’ club with games, outdoor activities, fishing, swimming and nature walks. Every day centers around a different theme, from “Mad Scientist Monday” to “Friday Fishing,” so kids can return and discover something new each time.

Named as one of the best spas in North America by Travel + Leisure Magazine, the gorgeous Willow Stream Spa is a sanctuary of tranquility. Bring a bathing suit to enjoy the co-ed waterfalls (inspired by the Grand Canyon’s Havasupai Falls) and rooftop pools after indulging in the serenity of soothing spa treatments — try a couples’ massage or his and her facials. Elements of the earth, air, water, wood and fire are integrated in both the design of the spa and innovative spa treatments. Calming chamomile, native jojoba oil and heated riverbed stones will soothe sore muscles, relax you and renew your energy.

08 lahacienda lizlaing Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

Fairmont Scottsdale: La Hacienda (credit: Liz Laing)

La Hacienda

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
More info

Star your evening by sipping a cocktail at Stone Rose Lounge in Princess Plaza and move on to a fine Mexican dinner at La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval, “the father of modern Mexican cuisine.” Chef Sandoval puts a fresh, contemporary twist on traditional dishes, showcasing vibrant flavors and ingredients in a lighter and healthier way. La Hacienda also features a Tequila Goddess, who offers tastings of more than 200 certified tequilas. Try the snake bite tasting, which is accompanied by the head and tail of a rattle snake. Seafood lovers will enjoy the pistachio chile ancho crusted tuna with sweet potato, green apple salad and mole verde or the seared scallop and crisp pork belly with a blood orange glaze, pumpkin puree and orange tomatillo demi. Don’t forget to order a flaming coffee and churros for dessert. It’s quite a show watching your server make a flaming coffee and it’s one of the best coffees you’ll ever have.

09 ritzcarlton lizlaing Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

Ritz-Carlton (credit: Liz Laing)

Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain

15000 North Secret Springs Drive
Marana, Arizona 85658
520- 572-3000
More info

Take a drive south towards Tucson to the town of Marana and discover a striking resort high in the Sonoran desert – the gorgeous Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain. Surrounded by saguaros (a few that are hundreds of years old!), ancient Hohokam Native American petroglyphs, dramatic red rocks and desert flora, you’ll see the desert up-close and feel the true spirit of the Southwest.

Less than two years old, the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain is a beautifully designed property that complements the natural, desert setting surrounding it. The hotel features a destination spa, Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf, four fabulous restaurants and adventure programs for kids and adults with over 20 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Look for Ranger Rick who serves as the hotel’s ambassador and welcomes guests of all ages to his hikes, rides, animal visits and carving sessions (using tools made of rocks from the surrounding foothills). Listen for his wonderful tales of the old West and vast knowledge of Native American cultures.

010 ritzcarltonpool lizlaing Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

Ritz-Carlton Pool (credit: Liz Laing)


Other family-friendly activities include a 235-foot water slide at Aventura pool, dive-in movies, horse-back riding and star gazing. Once again, you may find it nearly impossible to pull your kids away from the water slide. The infinity edge of Turquesa pool is right next door, so adults can relax nearby, unless they want to join in the fun of sliding as well.

For a more private water experience, check-out the new breathtaking spa — a peaceful haven with a private serenity pool and tanning island. It was ranked as one of the top ten relaxation spas in the world on TripAdvisor (one of two in the U.S.) and it’s easy to see why. Guests receive holistic therapies based upon balancing elements, using sacred stones and herbal poultices. Enjoy the solitude of The Ritz-Carlton Spa, Dove Mountain which celebrates the spirit within all things, just as the Hohokam believed long ago.

011 ritzcarltoncorekitchen liz laing Field Trip: Phoenix, Arizona

CORE Kitchen and Wine Bar (credit: Liz Laing)

CORE Kitchen and Wine Bar

At the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
More info

Before departing the Ritz-Carlton, be sure and have dinner at CORE Kitchen and Wine Bar, where I had one of the best meals of my life. Both the food and service were outstanding. Our sommelier even tracked down a cocktail recipe for us. At CORE, American cuisine is presented in a creative, flavorful way and focuses on local and sustainable ingredients. In fact, a citrus grove on the hotel’s premises provides fresh oranges, Minneola tangelos and red grapefruit to many of the dishes. The open kitchen design invites diners to actively watch their dinner being prepared in front of them. Others may choose to dine in the large, contemporary dining room, which provides excellent views of the desert scenery.
The rugged beauty of the desert is enchanting and with these summer deals, you’ll be able to return soon and capture the spirit of the Southwest again and again.

-Liz Laing

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