4-Star Resort near Sprawling South Mountain Preserve
Arizona Grand Resort & Spa makes it easy to get outside and enjoy the fresh air. The resort's 7-acre water park—open weekends until October 27—is outfitted with a wave pool, two eight-story water slides, and a 25-person hot tub. It was named one of the top 10 water parks in the country by the Travel Channel, and is reserved exclusively for guest use, so it's rarely crowded. There are also six pools open year-round on the resort property, as well as an award-winning golf course.
The sprawling resort fits right in with its southwestern surroundings; with red-tiled roofs, palm trees, and landscaped courtyards, it looks like a Spanish colonial village. An ideal base for exploring the Valley of the Sun, the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa sits just 10 miles from downtown Phoenix and right next door to the 17,000-acre South Mountain Preserve, one of Arizona’s most popular hiking and mountain-biking destinations.
Deluxe and resort suites feature private patios or balconies and separate living and bedrooms. Deluxe suites are located near the Oasis Water Park. Other dining options vary from wood-fired pizza and rotisserie chicken at the Lobby Grill to mesquite-broiled steaks and barbecued ribs at the onsite western steakhouse, Rustler’s Rooste. Hit up the Marketplace Café for casual sandwiches and homemade gelato.
Phoenix, Arizona: Bustling Metropolis and Native American Culture Surrounded by Desert
Phoenix enjoys about 300 days of sunshine a year, which has helped it balloon into the sixth-largest city by population in the United States. Though the topography of the area is all desert, it's by no means desolate. Camelback Mountain is a designated city park with scenic trails that wind past boulders and red sandstone formations; climb to the mountain’s summit for a view of the entire city. You can also hit the themed trails at the Desert Botanical Garden, where you’ll see huge sonoran cacti and other moisture-hoarding succulents. Be sure to plan hikes for the early morning or twilight hours to catch the best views and avoid overheating.
For an in-depth look at the cultures of Arizona’s indigenous population, browse the galleries and sculpture garden at the Heard Museum.The collection’s nearly 40,000 works of art range from Hopi katsina dolls to a full-size Pueblo oven. In nearby Scottsdale, Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West served as the renowned prairie-style architect’s winter home as well as a campus for his architecture school.