Arizona resorts’ wow factor features you won’t read about on TripAdvisor

Above: The Phoenician pool. Lifestyle | 9 Sep |

Even though Arizona’s tourism industry is struggling to cope with the unprecedented current health crisis, the industry boasts a wow factor that will bring it back quickly and better than ever.

And numbers don’t lie. Last year, Arizona hotels and resorts hosted more than 45.5 million overnight visitors, resulting in $24.4 billion in direct visitor spending and $3.6 billion in tax revenue.

However, while these numbers are astounding, they don’t tell the whole story of the hospitality industry in this state. So much goes into making our local hotels and resorts special, both to us and to travelers from across the globe.

As such, here is a look at just some of “little extras” that set Arizona’s top hotel and resorts apart from anywhere else in the world. Visitors can look forward to experiencing the wow factor at Arizona resorts that won’t read about on TripAdvisor.

Arizona Biltmore: A Waldorf Astoria Resort

Most people know that the Tequila Sunrise cocktail was invented here. But did you know that the Gold Room ceiling is the second-largest gold-gilded feature in the world, next to the Taj Mahal? Or that the resort’s iconic block look is a variation on a textile block first used by Frank Lloyd Wright to construct private homes? And that all 250,000 of these pre-cast blocks were made from desert sand on-site?

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

You’ve likely seen the Scotch Library just off the award-winning resort’s lobby. But did you know said library is home to Arizona’s largest scotch whisky collection, including more than 300 labels representing all of Scotland’s whisky regions and some of the globe’s rarest scotches? And on the flip side, its signature deseo restaurant features one of America’s largest South American wine lists, honored for more than a decade by Wine Enthusiast and Wine Spectator.

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Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix

This downtown Phoenix gem boasts ARTLAB, powered by Artlink. Located on the second-floor of the hotel’s Living Room, the pop-up art studio features a different exhibit every six weeks as a new artist in residence uses the space to bring their paintings and pottery to life. Hidden behind a set of large saloon-style doors fabricated by local artist Doug Boyd of Artfully Rogue, the space features a movable stage that rolls out into a working studio.   

W Scottsdale Hotel

You know the traditional hotel lobby? Don’t expect it here. While being built, ownership decided to knock down the walls of a traditional lobby and instead offer what it calls its Living Room upon entrance. There, expect the combination of cozy couches, chic décor, live music and even an expansive bar with signature cocktails. Upstairs, beyond newly renovated rooms, there is a rooftop pool and the iconic SHADE Lounge, an indoor-outdoor oasis for jet-setters and locals alike.

The Phoenician

In a male-dominated field, the AAA Five Diamond Phoenician has four leading female chefs on its culinary team:  Executive Sous Chef Rebecca Tillman; Mowry & Cotton Chef de Cuisine Tandy Peterson; Pastry Sous Chef Ashley Liane-Winters; and Chef Michelle Milz. There is also an in-house seamstress to assist guests with any wardrobe malfunctions, and The Jokake Inn, the adobe structure on The Phoenician grounds, was used in the 1987 film, Raising Arizona, with Nicolas Cage and Holly Hunter.

The Hermosa Inn

This boutique and historically important hotel – built in the 1930s by cowboy artist Lon Megargee as an art studio and guest ranch to supplement his income – features the only subterranean wine cellar in the greater-Phoenix area. But get this: when the wine cellar was dug, it revealed the legendary tunnels leading to the main residence to the stables that allowed Megargee’s guests to escape gambling raids.

Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia

The resort has a variety of fruit grown on property, including Meyer lemons, Valencia oranges and ruby grapefruits. This fruit harvested on property is now being used in an exclusive local collaboration with Huss Brewing Co. The new Citrus Path Hazy IPA is a balanced craft beer that boasts natural juicy notes from the hops and added citrus and has a light bitterness.

Harrah’s Ak-Chin

The Ak-Chin Indian Community entered into the gaming industry in 1994 as part of the original compacts and established a management agreement with Harrah’s.  To date, Ak-Chin is the only tribal community with an international management company. To honor its cultural heritage, throughout the property, guests will see Native American-inspired artwork and design elements that highlight the culture and traditions of the Ak-Chin Indian Community.

Indulge in signature experiences like the Sanctuary Luxury Facial, Sumatra Coconut Body Ritual, or the In Harmony Massage at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain.

Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort and Spa

Certainly, celebrity chef Beau MacMillan is a draw here, not to mention the triathlon lessons available with Olympic gold medalist Misty Hyman (yes, really!). But, the resort’s now-annual hosting of what is quickly becoming one of the premier food events in the Southwest – Nirvana Food and Wine – is bringing national and international chefs, winemakers and spirit makers to the Valley like never before. All set against Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain’s spectacular backdrop, Nirvana – April 16 to 19 this year – is every foodie’s dream.

Sky Rock Inn of Sedona

Sky Rock is built upon three tenets: harnessing the power of community, celebrating the sacredness of the earth and embracing the importance of a nourished spirit. In every interaction, visitors are exposed to new experiences and opportunities for self-discovery from spiritually therapeutic sunrise yoga on the terrace and a fresh, curated menu of artisan small plates and beverages to nourish the body in the lounge to a full calendar of wellness workshops and sessions designed to energize and invigorate the body, mind and soul.

CIVANA Wellness Resort & Spa

Two words: Meditative Labyrinth. Yep, they have one. And it’s located on the resort’s yoga lawn, no less. Beyond that, resort chef Justin Macy is a cookbook author who hand-picks prickly pear fruits each year to make the restaurants’ jams, jellies, beverage mixes, sauces and more. CIVANA is also the only resort in Phoenix providing in-depth wellness classes – 70 types of classes each week, no less – included with an overnight stay.

The iconic Hotel Valley Ho in Old Town Scottsdale. (Photo by Delight in the Desert)

Hotel Valley Ho

In 1957, Robert Wagner and Natalie Wood held their private wedding reception in the hotel’s ballroom. More than 70 years later, Hotel Valley Ho is still a favorite of celebrities and the general public alike thanks to its constant innovations like the spa’s new French 75 facial, its newly launched Cabanas After Dark program with poolside parties under the stars happening on select Friday nights, and signature restaurant ZuZu’s monthly “Show Stopper” Shake, a monthly dessert special you have to see to believe.

El Portal Sedona Hotel

Intimate and eclectic, this boutique Sedona hotel legitimately furnished the entire property – stained glass, lamps, pictures, radios and pottery – with artsy collections its owners found at garage and estate sales over the course of three decades. Beyond that, its beams and woodwork came from a wooden trestle across the Great Salt Lake called the Lucin Cutoff built in 1904. Because of the elements to which it was exposed, the wood is full of unique characteristics that create a sense of warmth and intrigue wherever it is placed.

Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass

This Chandler-area resort – with an equestrian center on property – is one of the few resorts in the world that has a full-time Cultural Concierge who gives guests cultural tours of the resort, information on the Pima and Maricopa tribes, and ensures that all who come are honoring the tribes in an authentic and respectful way. They also offer a variety of cultural classes for guests to enjoy including jewelry making, gourd painting, chemeith (ancient flatbread) making and more.

JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa

The resort’s golf – Wildfire Golf Club – boasts the only female director of golf in the Americas for Marriott. Back at the main property, the resort harvests its own honey with the separate hives on the property led by queen bees names Bee-oynce, Honey Bee Bee and Beeatrice. The hives produce anywhere from 10 to 36 gallons of raw honey per year. The resort also hosts “bee breaks” for small VIP groups where they will bring the hives in, in encased glass and will serve bites and nibbles all made with honey.

Talking Stick Resort and Casino

The art collection inside Talking Stick Resort is recognized as the largest Native American collection outside of a museum.  As the property was being built they worked with a curator to accumulate the collection, some of which are pieces commissioned specifically for the hotel. Its entertainment space is also second to none, with the ability to host up to 4,000 guests for its always revolving list of A-list entertainers including Skrillx, Diplo and Steve Aoki.

JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort & Spa

Every morning, a Mitakuye Oyasin ritual is offered on property. The peaceful morning ritual begins with a Native American flute serenade followed by creating and burning your own sage tie and an eagle feather blessing. And every night, enjoy a complimentary tequila toast with fellow guests led by the hotel – with tequila chosen from a library of more than 150 artisan tequilas offered on property.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North

As part of the resort’s many green initiatives, each of the property’s kitchens reduce food waste by implementing a program dubbed “Save the Planet – Feed the Turtles.” Through it, the culinary, stewarding and banquet teams collect kitchen-produced waste (such as fruit rinds, stems and other unused vegetable pieces) and donate them to the Phoenix Herpetological Sanctuary to feed their turtles and more than 400 rescued tortoises.

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