Some city dwellers like to vacation in the middle of nowhere, to get back touch in with nature. And those who live in suburbs and exurbs sometimes want to bring the family to a city, to experience all a city has to offer.
In Phoenix, you can have both.
The Boulders Resort, just 35 minutes from the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, is so remote that we saw a coyote standing by the side of the road. You need your bright lights to drive off property, though the resort has so much going on, you might never want to leave.
The Westin Phoenix Downtown, meanwhile, is part of a downtown revival, right on the light rail line and a short walk to a handful of museums and shopping attractions.
The luxury Boulders, named for the 12-million-year-old granite boulders that dominate the landscape, is ideal for a family vacation or romantic get-away. The main pool has pool toys and free sunscreen if you forgot to pack some, and the Golden Door spa has an adult-only pool that any guest, even those not receiving a treatment, can use.
In fact, all the spa facilities, including separate men’s and women’s steam rooms and saunas, are open to guests over age 18. You can create your own spa experience with the indoor cool plunge pools, great for relaxing after one of the complimentary fitness classes. The well-equipped gym and two exercise studios, with yoga, Pilates, spin and strength classes let you stay in shape easily.
For more exercise, play tennis, rent a bike from the spa, or hike in the desert. You can go out on your own, but the spa also has guided group tours, where you get a van ride into the desert, water and snacks. Just remember to pack your hiking boots.
You can bring your heels or cowboy boots for a stay at the Westin, which has a rooftop pool and lounge. The lobby restaurant, Province, offers sophisticated Mediterranean food and the patio, with couches and fire pits, is a nice place to spend a cool desert evening.
The brand new hotel was retrofitted into a new office building, and the thick walls, combined with signature Westin heavenly beds, practically guarantee a good night’s sleep. If you’re in the middle of Ferberizing your kid on vacation, there is little chance that anyone will hear a baby crying.
The Westin is a few minutes walk from the Arizona Science Center, which has the National Geographic traveling exhibit, Real Pirates: The Untold Story from Slave Ship to Pirate Ship. This is particularly timely with all the current focus on pirates, from celluloïd to Somalian.
The muséum also has a rock climbing wall, a SkyCycle and several floors of interactive exhibits. You can throw foam ball irritants into a giant nose, which eventually sneezes them back at you, measure your flexibitly, or walk through a giant stomach.
If your kids are 10 or younger, head to the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, which has a tricylce riding area, a 3 story climbing structure and a pretend grocery store and café. The muséum is a couple of blocks from the Science Center.
The Phoenix Art Museum can be reached by the light rail, which stops across the street from the hôtel. You can see art by Rembrandt or Money, but even more interesting is the western art, including Georgia O'Keeffe. The muséum has an interactive gallery for kids, PhxArtKids, and monthly PhxArtKids Days with special family activities and free kids’ meals at the café. Any day, you can borrow a free KidPacks, designed for ages 6-10, with activity cards and puzzles.