“Family-friendly” and “luxury resort” are often mutually exclusive, however, one Scottsdale luxury resort—The Phoenician—has managed to marry the two concepts in spectacular form. Although this AAA Five Diamond property exudes elegance, understandably attracting the likes of every U.S. President (post-office) since–and including—Ronald Reagan among its VIP guest roster, the resort is also a delightful playground rife with on-site fun and adventure. Here, young and old can genuinely enjoy common ground—a place families can stay, play and parlay into memories that’ll last a lifetime.
Upon my own arrival to the property and upon taking a bit of time to explore, I was captivated by the indigenous desert scenery both inside and around this pristine private resort. The Phoenician, which is located at the base of Camelback Mountain, ensconces guests in 250 acres rife with natural beauty: magnificent gardens (including an expansive private two-acre Cactus Garden), lush landscaping, and water features and fountains. So serene is the setting, here you can’t help but maintain a vacation state of mind.
Adding to the allure is the resort’s multi-million dollar art collection that highlights both Old World and contemporary works by European, Native American and Asian artists. Works interspersed all throughout the interior and exterior of the property include Navajo rugs, French tapestries, oil and watercolor paintings, and bronze and marble sculptures to name a few. A complimentary self-guided audio tour is even offered to the delight of true artwork aficionados.
With no less than eight room type options, from a Superior Room to the Presidential Suite, guests at The Phoenician are sure to find accommodations that suit. On the top end, the 4,000-square foot Presidential Suite provides two bedrooms, two and half baths, two sitting areas, a service kitchen, a Steinway baby grand piano and a large furnished patio boasting breathtaking views. And, who wouldn’t love amenities-to-order like a rose petal turndown or a private dinner on the Eighth Tee Box? Yes, I would be remiss to not mention the resort’s recreational facilities do include 27 holes of championship golf. At the other end of the spectrum are the 600-foot “Superior Rooms” that provide their fair share of notable features, including imported Italian linens, signed original artwork, an oversized bathroom outfitted with Italian marble and a private terrace or balcony. Other standard amenities impress, including high-speed Internet and a 40-inch LCD television.
Fun for One and All
Even amid all of this splendor, The Phoenician upholds its appeal for kids as well. For children ages 5-12, the specially-designed “Funicians Club” program offers a variety of both indoor and outdoor activities. The kiddos venture outside for playground activities, outdoor sports and a tour of the property’s aforementioned Cactus Garden while indoor fun includes arts and crafts, board games, charades and video games like Wii and Xbox. Both half day and full day programs, with lunch included, are available.
No family vacation at The Phoenician is complete without spending a fair amount of time splashing and sunning poolside. The resort’s expansive Oasis Pool Complex boasts seven different pools—some with lovely cascading waterfalls—where guests of all ages swim and sprawl below the Sonoran desert sun to their heart’s content. Towel and water service and private poolside cabana rentals ensure guests feel pampered all the while.
While some visit the Oasis Pool to relax, the young, and young at heart, turn it up a notch by taking advantage of the basketball hoop and volleyball net respectively hung above and across the water. But, it’s the 165-foot water slide that seems to give the kids the most glee. For the youngest guests, there is also a children’s wading pool and the “Surge Splash Pad” that’s a wet wonderland of misting turtles and ladybugs, buckets dumping water and water cannons hitting their aquatic mark.
What I particularly love about the Oasis Pool is the creative kid-oriented programs it inspires among resort personnel, as weekly poolside activates abound. Water bucket relays, dive-in movies, marshmallow roasting, rubber ducky and frozen t-shirt races, and sponge ball challenges are just some examples of the many cute initiatives staffers have instituted at The Phoenician.
Of course, no poolside respite is complete without some light and flavorful fare, and the Oasis Pool Bar & Grill is happy to accommodate. Under the hot Scottsdale sun it’s important to stay hydrated, and adults and children alike can do so with cocktails and kid-friendly drink items, frozen and otherwise, from the Surge Bar located right on the pool deck.
Speaking of flavorful fare, food can be a tricky thing for families—especially those with picky eaters. Luckily, The Phoenician has a nice range of on-site resort-level and more casual dining options sure to please everyone in the family… even those with finicky palates. During my own family’s time at the resort, we enjoyed numerous meals at Il Terrazzo. It’s here where, each morning, we ate breakfast al fresco on the expansive patio amongst the cheery birds and soft breezes. Be sure not to miss the restaurant’s Italian Market Brunch on Sundays, which is truly exceptional. This beautifully-staged buffet is a culinary journey unto itself with mouth-watering dishes like hand-made sausage and gnocchi, short-rib pot roast with mascarpone polenta, lemon ricotta waffles, artisan cheeses and house-made desserts. Extra kudos to the kitchen for creating a special and aptly stocked gluten-free station all its own. At night, Il Terrazzo morphs into a gourmet nouveau-Italian dining experience that not only offers seasonal menu items, but also fresh, hand-crafted artisan breads that are baked in-house daily.
For lunch, I highly recommend The Phoenician’s Relish Burger Bistro, which is a casual restaurant offering an expansive and innovative burger menu along with sides like crispy tater tots and garlic Parmesan fries as well as various soups, salads and sweets, shakes and malts. I can assure you the kids will love this dining locale.
While visiting The Phoenician, I had a chance to grab lunch at Relish Burger Bistro with property spokesperson, Denise Seomin. Among other topics, we discussed the resort’s food and beverage approach, and she underscored particularly interesting aspects of the award-winning culinary program, noting “All breads, pastries, tea sandwiches and pastas are made in-house. We also have a butcher on property.” Seomin also pointed out that The Phoenician’s beverage program includes one of the largest tequila and vodka collections in the state of Arizona, and that the resort features its own private label tequila as well as its own private label Woodford Reserve bourbon. She said that more than 70 beers (locally, nationally, internationally crafted) are housed at Relish Burger Bistro, alone.
The Phoenician accomplishes the feat of merging together technology with the natural environment in subtle, unobtrusive and even beneficial ways that serve to elevate a guest’s experience rather than distract from it. In fact, Seomin discussed how The Phoenician uses technology in this regard for adults and kids, alike. She pointed out, “The Stewart Follow Golf Carts use Bluetooth technology and feature a remote control that allows the golfer to direct the cart to carry his or her golf bag across the golf course. This provides a unique alternative for golfers who would rather walk the course and get some exercise. For kids, the Desert Explorers Program allows them to use their smartphone to access a QR Code that connects them to a virtual guide to learn about animals indigenous to the Arizona desert.”
On Fridays and Saturdays, both adults and kids with iPhones and iPads, specifically, can also reserve a spot at the resort’s Photography class where they’ll receive guidance on useful photo enhancing apps “to make images pop.”
So Much More
The list of “things for families to do” at the Phoenician goes on and on, including Koi fish feeding, a guided hike up Camelback Mountain, bicycling and tennis. In fact, The Phoenician’s award-winning Tennis Garden is reportedly the only tennis resort facility in Scottsdale and the Southwest to offer four playing surfaces. And then there’s the on-site Activity Center complete with a movie theater, ping pong, foosball, board games, video game room, basketball court and covered playground.
Another unique and fanciful experience is The Phoenician’s “Flight of the Phoenix” experience. Every Friday and Saturday at sunset, guests can gather on the Thirsty Camel Patio to watch as Zopilote Rey, The Phoenician’s very own Phoenix, brings the story of the mythical Mayan fire spirit to life. The resort’s signature cocktail, Phoenix Rising, is available for adult guests to enjoy throughout.
All told, The Phoenician is a unique luxury resort through and through—a casually elegant property in a gorgeous setting where an abundance of family adventures await. At a location this fun-filled, you just may need a vacation after your vacation!
Fun fact: The first sitting president to stay at the resort was Barack Obama (with the First Family).
Merilee Kern is the executive editor and producer of “The Luxe List.”