BY LORI SMITH
After the Spring 2014 Scottsdale Sunsational FAM came to an end (see article in M+IT, June 2014), I stayed on for a couple of days with the complementary goals of enjoying more desert sunshine while checking out some renowned properties outside of Scottsdale’s borders.
My first stop was the AAA four-diamond Radisson Fort McDowell Resort in Fountain Hills. I learned in my meeting with resort personnel that its owner, the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, was in the process of ending its management agreement with Radisson. In October, the Yavapai Nation would take on the management of the property and it would be rebranded as the We-Ko-Pa Resort & Conference Center in October.
The 246-room property, which is surrounded by mountains, is affiliated with the adjacent We-Ko-Pa Golf Club, home to two award-winning, 18-hole courses designed by golf veterans Bill Coore, Ben Crenshaw and Scott Miller. In addition, nearby Fort McDowell Adventures (Green Zebra Adventures, who hosted my Tomcar desert tour, is one of its partners) would be under the management of the resort. As a result, corporate groups staying at the resort can easily arrange team-building exercises including horseback trail rides, desert jeep, Segway tours, riverbo¹ard cruises, City Slicker Cattle Drives and more—without the worry of expensive transportation costs. Bonus: the resort is only a half hour drive from Phoenix Sky Harbour International Airport.
Late the next day, I drove the two hours to Sedona for an overnight stay at Enchantment Resort®, the 70-acre, 5-star property nestled in the red rocks of Boynton Canyon. Everything at Enchantment Resort is, well, enchanting. Guests stay in one-storey adobe casitas. There’s a separate Meetings Village for events. Its multi award-winning spa, Mii Amo, is spectacularly Zen. Hiking trails wind through the pine trees up the red rock hillsides. Guests have access to championship golf at Seven Canyons. There’s mountain biking, tennis, swimming, bocce ball and ping pong. And at night, you can stand on the balcony of your casita or one of the balconies in the main lodge, and look up at a night sky teeming with stars.
I ended my extra days with a stop at the Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria Resort in Phoenix, on my way to the airport and my flight home. This architectural jewel is a nearly straight shot up 24th Street from the airport. Its website says it’s a 30 minute drive but I clocked it at fifteen minutes.
Built in 1929, the property was designed by Albert Chase McArthur, who studied under Frank Lloyd Wright at Taliesin West. And Wright himself did a short stint as a consulting architect on the project. This fabulous architectural pedigree is matched by an equally fabulous guest list. Its original pool, the Catalina, is said to have been Marilyn Monroe’s favorite as well as the spot where Irving Berlin penned White Christmas. Every president of the United States has stayed at the hotel. A Mystery Room, used during Prohibition by male visitors to drink and play cards, is just down the hall from the room Clark Gable called home. Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned there. Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minelli, Frank Capra, Greta Garbo, George Clooney, Bruce Springsteen, Tom Cruise are only the tip of the iceberg of celebrities who have stayed at the property.
Today, the property has 39 acres of gardens, eight swimming pools, a spa, two 18-hole championship golf courses, six tennis courts, five restaurants, designer shopping and some 100,000 square feet of event space, including a 25,000-square-foot ballroom that is the second largest in the state. Remarkably, none of its glamour has been lost over the years. It would be a remarkable beginning or end to a stay in Arizona.
– Lori Smith is editor of Meetings + Incentive Travel magazine and www.meetingscanada.com. She has the great fortune of being able turn on her out of office, visit some remarkable places and call it work. Contact her at email@example.com.