According to a recent report by the Arizona Office of Tourism (AOT), Arizona experienced its best year ever for tourism in 2019, including setting an all-time high for Arizonans employed by travel industry jobs directly supported by visitor spending. To give you an idea, in 2019, Arizona visitors who came here seeking unforgettable experiences spent $25.6 billion, which equates to $70.1 million per day spent across the state’s 90+ cities, towns and communities.
This record spending in 2019 also generated a record $3.78 billion in combined local, state and federal tax revenue, which reduced the annual tax burden by $1,400 for every Arizona household.
This year, however, will be vastly different. But we can collectively help. Arizonans can use this time to seek out experiences and attractions across the state, following all CDC guidelines, and support the tourism industry.
Need ideas on where to start, and what to do? Here’s a quick look at some of the most unique ways to be a tourist in your own state now and in the future (noting of course that all areas of Arizona are in various states of reopening and are subject to change as we all navigate through this pandemic):
Plan a gourmand getaway
Located on 100 acres in Prescott National Forest about an hour from the historic and charming City of Prescott, Terra Farm + Manor is unlike almost any other vacation destination on the planet. Stunning and sprawling, within Terra’s 100 acres lies a vineyard, planted farm land, greenhouses , pastured land, rustic barns , orchards, animals including Iberian pigs, Spanish turkeys and Japanese beef cattle, wildflowers, forest trails , black walnut trees, towering cottonwood trees, a fishing pond and a 3,000-square-foot lodge. Within the lodge are eight guest suites, including one 700-square-foot master suite. There are no television sets at Terra, but Wi-Fi is included with all guest stays, which range from two- to four-night packages. Attached to the lodge is both a 1,500-square-foot cooking studio as well as an 8,000-square-foot patio with sparkling twinkle lights, a pizza oven, cast iron cooking pit and French stove.
Once checked in, guests are given an itinerary for the long weekend. Most weekends are given a central theme, be it cooking, wine pairings or even food and photography. On-site activities beyond the interactive classes include bocce ball, hiking, sporting clays, fly fishing, archery, guided nature walks, hatchet throwing, yoga, horseback riding, meditation and a host of both indoor and outdoor games such as corn hole, ping pong, poker and darts.
Each night is capped by an ultra-exclusive themed six- to 10-course dinner with locally sourced cheeses and dishes made entirely with fruits, vegetables, meat including Wagyu beef, poultry, fowl, herbs and spices grown on property.
Experience five-star service and unforgettable experiences
The Forbes Travel Guide recently released its 2020 star ratings, the only independent rating system for luxury hotels, restaurants and spas in the world. There are 24 properties across Arizona that earned a place on the coveted list, including three spas, two resorts and one restaurant that earned the Five Star rating. It is the highest of all Forbes rankings and only presented to about 430 destinations on the planet.
The Phoenician Spa, which opened in March 2018 replacing the original Centre for Well-Being, is one of just 24 spas worldwide receiving the honor for the very first time. The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician, A Luxury Collection Resort also earned a Five-Star rating. Tucked away from the main resort, this exclusive enclave is a boutique hotel within the award-winning resort Following a complete remodel in mid-2016, the 60-room Canyon Suites features a private, palm-fringed pool overlooking Camelback Mountain as well as plush accommodations, a private lounge and unique curated activities, including trapeze lessons and private helicopter tours. Both Aji Spa and Kai restaurant at Sheraton Grand at Wild Horse Pass also earned the Five-Star Award. This marks the first time Aji Spa has been bestowed the honor, joining Kai, which has meticulously maintained the Five Star accolade for 12 years and is still the only restaurant in the state with the distinction. Rounding out the Five-Star honorees are The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain and The Spa at The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, both just outside of Tucson in Marana. The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain joins the Sheraton Grand as one of only two hotels in Arizona, and the only full destination resort in the state, to achieve double Five Stars for 2020.
Wine on Main Street
Arizona’s wine industry has exploded in recent years, with more and more vineyards across Southern and Northern Arizona popping up each year. Given the distance between many, however, it is often hard to try more than one or two at a time, especially when popping bottles at home. Thankfully, there is Cottonwood.
Currently, there are four working Arizona vineyards with wine tasting rooms along Cottonwood’s eclectic, electric Main Street: Carlson Creek Vineyards, Pillsbury Wine Company, Arizona Stronghold Vineyards and Merkin Vineyards Osteria. Each offers wine tasting flights – some with cheese plates, small bites or even full-service kitchens – as well as locally made wines by the glass and bottle. Many also have games, live music and ample patio space to allow for socially distanced tasting. Joining them along Main Street are also Burning Tree Cellars, which offers small batch, boutique wines that aren’t mass marketed; Winey 101, which features wines from the husband and wife winemaker owners; State Bar, an indoor-outdoor bar with yard games and both local wines and beers on tap; and Small Batch Wine & Spirits, a family owned tasting room with both boutique wines and craft beers.
And while only about 90 minutes from the Valley, it is worth booking a stay on Main Street’s most stunning hotel, The Tavern Hotel, versus worrying about a designated driver or traffic. Once upon a time – in the 1920s to be exact – the building was actually the town grocery store. Thanks to a sweeping re-imagining, and significant investment, by Verde Valley couple Eric and Michelle Jurisin, today the boutique, independent hotel is among the most charming in the Southwest. The hotel, which just added a magnificent pool complex and fitness center, features 41 standard rooms with hardwood floors, stone-tiled bathrooms with walk-in showers, granite counter tops, vessel sinks, high-end fixtures, 50-inch flat screen televisions, plush bedding and spa-quality hair and body products. There are also cottages (perfect for distancing with their own entrances) and a massive penthouse with three bedrooms and a full kitchen, so a great fit for even a little bit of a group.