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Oases in the desert: our favorite Arizona resorts and spas

cactus at sunset, The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona
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cactus at sunset, The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona

Need a winter escape, a chance to relax, recharge your energy, and rejuvenate your spirit? How about Arizona, a state symbolized by the tall multi-armed Saguaro Cactus?

For those of us who grew up on Western movies and television shows, the desert evokes images of a harsh skeleton-ridden wasteland with rattlesnakes and prickly cactus–a place where everything sticks, pokes, bites, or stings.

However, there’s great beauty to be found here, and among Arizona’s gems are its refreshing oases, its resorts and spas.

Enchantment Resort and Mii Amo Spa: The Journey

Kachina Woman hoodoo, entrance to Boynton Canyon, Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona
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Kachina Woman hoodoo, entrance to Boynton Canyon, Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona

The red rocks of Sedona create a spectacular approach to this 70 acre luxury resort. Once inside the resort gate and Boynton Canyon, it’s the feeling of being in a cocoon that glows with the sun.

Enchantment Resort is 110 miles north of Phoenix, in one of the most spectacular natural settings on earth. Sedona, altitude 4,600’, has comfortable temperatures and sunshine more than 300 days a year–more than Florida, the Sunshine State.

The privacy tag dangling from the guest room doorknob is printed with the Native American proverb “Sometimes dreams are wiser than waking.”, an introduction to this unique experience in relaxation and enlightenment.

Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona
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Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona

The adobe brick, wood, and indigenous stone structures seem to have grown from their setting. The strong Native American influence includes a spa design inspired by Anasazi cliff dwellings.

The 218 guest accommodations are furnished in rich earth colors in a Southwest theme with beehive fireplaces and private decks overlooking the canyon. Some units also include gas grills, kitchens, and indoor/outdoor dining areas. Mii amo has 16 spa casita guest rooms and suites. Consistently ranked among the world’s best, Enchantment Resort and Mii amo Spa are listed in both the 2010 Leading Hotels of the World and 2010 Leading Spas of the World.

From the orange juice and newspaper delivered each morning to the nightly turndown service that includes relaxation music and setting out plush spa robes, this is a pampered experience. Should you desire it, the concierge will arrange off-site adventures like Grand Canyon helicopter excursions, balloon rides, or jeep tours of the red rocks.

Enchantment Resort, Sedona Arizona
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Enchantment Resort, Sedona Arizona

Enchantment Resort’s clubhouse has two glass-walled restaurants, each with patio dining options.

Book early for the popular sunset dinnertime. Che-Ah-Chi, Apache for Boynton Canyon,serves Contemporary American cuisine with a Southwest influence. There is casual fare at Tii Gavo and gourmet spa cuisine at the Mii amo Café.

A tall wind-carved rock spire or hoodoo named Kachina Woman guards the entrance to Boynton Canyon. According to the Yavapai creation legend, First Woman gave birth here to their people, and the area is considered sacred. One of Sedona’s four vortexes, or metaphysical energy sites, is on a nearby 30’ high knoll along the 2.4 mile Boynton Canyon Wilderness Trail. There is access to the trail behind the spa.

Kachina Woman hoodoo, entrance to Boynton Canyon, Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona
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Kachina Woman hoodoo, entrance to Boynton Canyon, Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona

The area was once home to the Hopi, Yavapai, Apache, and Navajo. Guest experiences–drumming, dancing, guided medicine walks, talking circles and more– have been developed with approval from tribal elders.

Mii Amo means journey in the Yuman language, and this world-renowned spa offers approaches to finding your own pathway –yoga, meditation, vortex energy, aura colors, dream interpretation, and soothing spa treatments– to balance, renewal, and understanding of the body’s signals. There are stress relieving, fitness, and restorative therapies, with Eastern arts techniques and traditional Native American spiritual influences. The daily program of activities–from Apache teachings to Zumba– begins with 7 am Sunrise Stretch and continues to early evening.

Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona
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Enchantment Resort, Sedona, Arizona

At sunrise colorful songbirds chirp the joy of a new day. The sun illuminates on one rock and then another, and soon the red rocks of Bryce Canyon are aglow. The richness of living in the moment dawns. Life is better when we discover and, like the Native Americans, return to places where we find spiritual renewal.

The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa: Authentic Arizona

couple’s suite, Red Door Spa, The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa, Litchfield Hills, Arizona
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couple’s suite, Red Door Spa, The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa, Litchfield Hills, Arizona

Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa, a 450 acre resort with traditional territorial adobe architecture, lush landscaped walkways, citrus trees and floral gardens, three championship golf courses and a world-class spa is a casually elegant authentic Arizona experience in Litchfield Park, 25 miles west of downtown Phoenix.

Miles of palm trees line the road from the train station to the resort, reminders of the era when Goodyear bought 16,000 acres here to grow the cotton they needed to improve the durability of their newly developed pneumatic tires. They built a three room lodge for the executives who visited to oversee their operations, and its popularity as a company winter retreat led to its expansion and the opening of the Wigwam Hotel as a guest ranch in 1929.

Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa, Litchfield Hills, Arizona’s only resort with 54 holes of championship golf
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Wigwam Golf Resort & Spa, Litchfield Hills, Arizona’s only resort with 54 holes of championship golf

Golf and fine dining were added. A church, now non-denominational, was built across the street when a post-Prohibition bar was added to the property. Meanwhile Litchfield Park grew as a company town and master planned community. The Wigwam served as military housing in World War II. In 1965 Robert Trent Jones, Sr. oversaw the design and expansion of the championship golf courses.

Goodyear sold The Wigwam and the cotton farms in 1987. The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa was recently purchased by JDM Partners, whose principal partner is businessman and sports mogul Jerry Colangelo. Colangelo, named one of the 100 most powerful people in sports by Business Week, is certain to bring a new dimension to the property.

Innovations of the 2011 rejuvenation project include enhancements to the arrival experience, citrus trees and olive groves, and the resort function garden. Adult and children’s pools are connected by a “river”, and dining options include a signature restaurant created by James Beard Award winner Chris Bianco featuring farm-to-table fare.

The resort draws guests from around the world, including sports fans who enjoy its proximity to The Valley’s major sporting events–Cactus League Spring Training, NASCAR, and Arizona Cardinals and Phoenix Coyotes games.

Opportunities abound to rub shoulders with sports stars while they enjoy the dining and golf or take part in celebrity golf tournaments, especially during spring training. The Wigwam is Arizona’s only resort with 54 holes of championship golf– 3 challenging courses. Befitting all the resort has to offer sports enthusiasts, a Superbowl GoDaddy.com commercial was filmed at the Wigwam’s Red Door Spa.

The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa, Litchfield Hills, Arizona
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The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa, Litchfield Hills, Arizona

There are 331 private casitas, including 72 suites and two Presidential casitas, three pools and nine tennis courts. Private patios overlook gardens, pools, tennis courts, or golf courses, depending on location. The Grill, which serves traditional favorites, is open during resort renovations.

Anglers enjoy the nearby lake for fishing and there’s walking map of this historic area.

Awareness of the Native American perspective plays a vital role in understanding Arizona’s history. The resort’s cultural interpreter and storyteller is Lance Polingyouma, whose father, a Hopi oral historian, passed the tradition to him. He teaches guests and the local community every weekend.

Red Door Spa, The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa, Litchfield Hills, Arizona
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Red Door Spa, The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa, Litchfield Hills, Arizona

A signature red portal marks the entrance to the full-service 26,000 square foot world-renowned Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa. There are aromatic fragrances throughout and softly-lit plush relaxation areas. One of the luxurious couples’ suites features indoor and outdoor showers and relaxation areas.

Red Door Spa, The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa, Litchfield Hills, Arizona
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Red Door Spa, The Wigwam Golf Resort and Spa, Litchfield Hills, Arizona

This Red Door Spa uses organic products found in Arizona, a fusion, in the Elizabeth Arden tradition, of scientific formulation, art, and nature. Service is distinctly personal, attentive and nurturing. Elizabeth Arden’s skincare products are renowned, and treatments are an exceptional experience. The signature facials and massages are divine.

The Phoenician: Five Diamonds in the Desert

garden pathway, The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona
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garden pathway, The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona

The approach runs through the lush gardens and manicured fairways, past the pools, waterfalls, and fountains of the 250 acre Phoenician Resort. The main building rises from the base of Camelback Mountain and offers close-up views of Arizona’s great outdoors.

Traditional English afternoon tea, tea court of The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona
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Traditional English afternoon tea, tea court of The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona

The inlaid marble entryway is centered on a stunning fountain, crystal chandeliers, and fine European antiques. Traditional English afternoon tea is served in the court on Wedgewood Oberon pattern china.

The 577 luxuriously appointed guestrooms, 62 suites, and four Presidential suites have Italian marble bathrooms. The Phoenician is sleek, sophisticated, and luxurious.

This five diamond AAA property is done to the nines. Just nine miles from Phoenix International Airport, with nine pools, nine tennis courts, and a USGA championship golf course with 3 sets of 9 holes, there’s even a seasonal Fiestas Happy Hour with live entertainment Fridays to 9pm.

Stop for wine and cheese tasting at Grape and Grain, the newest addition to the East Wing shops. Select your favorites to enjoy on your balcony in the comfort of your plush Phoenician robe.

Should you require an even higher level of service, the Canyon Suites are a unique resort within a resort, providing added privacy and signature features, like morning sterling silver coffee and tea service, a chauffeur-driven Mercedes Benz, a private Canyon Ambassador to assist with any need, and the evening’s bathwater drawn with a variety of salts. The suite life…

Dining options range from a steakhouse with a menu of premium meats and fish created by world renowned Michelin chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Italian cuisine with hand-crafted breads, a cafe and ice cream parlor, poolside grills, a tea court, a private dining salon with16 French tapestry chairs alone valued at nearly $100,000, a lobby bar with live piano or jazz music, and a burger bistro with the largest tequila selection in the state of Arizona. An intimate dinner for two on the golf course under the stars can be arranged.

The Center for Well Being has fitness classes and a spa. In addition to conventional skincare treatments and classic Swedish massage, it offers specialties like Shiatsu, and Acussage, signature massage treatment with Chinese acupuncture for pain relief and enhanced energy. Intraceutical oxygen infusions, favored by celebrities like Eva Longoria Parker, bring moisture, vitamins and anti-oxidants into the skin.

Signature Experiences include the stress-relieving Well-Being Stone Ritual, honoring the Native American reverence for the healing energies of the warm basalt river stones.
and the Shea Butter Wrap with Honey Avocado Foot Therapy that includes soothing scalp, neck, and foot massages.

The museum-quality $25 million art collection ranges from French tapestries to the most significant collection of works by the late Allan Houser, the first Native American to receive the National Medal of Arts, America’s foremost art award. Complimentary audio tours are available.

The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona
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The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona

Activities include garden tours and guided hikes on Camelback Mountain, tequila tastings, multiple 18 hole golf options, tennis, bike rentals, Koi feeding at the lagoon, a 165’ waterslide and supervised children’s and teen activities. The hotel is also close to the Scottsdale gallery and shopping scene and the Old Town Historic District. A concierge assists with planning.

gardens pathway, The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona
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gardens pathway, The Phoenician, Scottsdale, Arizona

Mornings, when the fresh scent of the desert is in the air, the shaded pathways along the two-acre cactus garden are blissfully cool. It’s the best time to explore this or the mountain trail. Long eared desert rabbits munch the cactus and birds chirp their morning symphony, beckoning one another to join the flock atop a Saguaro. Aaah, the good life…

Sip a prickly pear margarita in the sun-soaked Sonoran. The desert can be your oasis if you know where to go.

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