There’s no gray zone with the desert: it either moves you, or it doesn’t. We are desert lovers. Our kids were born in New Mexico, and we lived happily in Santa Fé for years. But we were absolutely blown away by the vibrant and exotic beauty of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert on a recent family weekend getaway.
Although Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North is just a 40-minute drive from bustling Phoenix, you feel like you are cocooned into a blissful oasis in the wild desert. Tucked up into the foothills of Pinnacle Peak—accentuated with signature Saguaros and the occasional crooning of coyotes in the distance—the resort’s landscaping channels desert Zen. There’s really no reason to leave the 127-acre property (once a finishing school for wealthy Eastern debutantes back in the ‘40s) or the pool cabaña, for that matter. Though you must. Because the outdoor adventures beckoning are just too tempting to pass up.
The in-casita plunge pool/Jacuzzi, especially with goggles at night. Roasting marshmallows over the patio fireplace. The gazillion different kinds of cacti, including Teddy Bear, Prickly Pear and Strawberry Hedgehog. Spotting the moons of Jupiter from your casita’s telescope. Leisurely bubblebaths in the soaker tub. Playing Marco Polo in the pool. The kids-are-VIPs treatment. Gathering stamps around the property, and then a prize, for the new Kids’ Passport challenge. Dropping in for a suncatcher craft, nature walk or Lego and Wii at the complimentary Kids For All Seasons (KFAS)* club. Friday night stargazing with astronomer Richard Allen. “I like how everything is so nearby,” noted our son Duncan, eight.
The smell of mesquite wood crackling in the outdoor chimeneas that dot the winding pathways. The resort’s bright, festive Mexican-inspired design. Saguaro cactus as tall as a house. Lounging by the pool with your mango smoothie as the sun paints the rocky hills red. Watching the stars in your plush robe from your walled courtyard patio, frosty margarita in hand. Dropping off Dick and Jane at the KFAS club while you and the mister join a morning hike, followed by yoga or nine holes. Tequila and local brew tastings. Killer views of the glittering city lights below from Talavera Restaurant’s al fresco balcony.
Mel, the resident bobcat, who frequents the front entrance courtyard in the early morning waiting for plump cottontails. If you’re up at dawn, linger on the patio sofa for a chance to see him. And if you don’t, just grab a latte and paper, and enjoy. The sound of singing birds and the earthy morning air is just lovely.
For grown-ups, the velvety buffalo tenderloin with bacon and a blackberry demi-glace at Talavera Restaurant, the resort’s modern take on the classic steakhouse, with an emphasis on farm-to-table dishes. For kids—from the cute pig-shaped menu (a colorful riff on a butcher’s pork cuts, with protein, starch and greens categories)—the whole-wheat penne with chicken and broccoli. They’ll be giddy over the special goodies the chef conjures: like the triangular, chocolate-dipped Rice Crispies treats, doubling as garnish to a short-stack of chocolate-chip cookies over a bed of gummy bears, delivered with a jug of milk for a bedtime treat. (Kids one to four eat free at several dining spots on the property.)
1. Outdoor adventure: The desert is your playground—and it’s literally right outside your door. Let the experts at Four Seasons partner Arizona Outback Adventures (AOA) customize an adventure for your family. Depending on your sporty inclinations, you might want to do a half-day mountain biking tour, a full day of trekking and kayaking or rafting the Salt River, or a Grand Canyon fly-and-hike. There’s also a four-day hiking tour to the red sandstone cliffs of Havasupai.
2. Bubble gum manicure with the girls: There’s a bubble-gum theme (and scented) Bubble Yummy manicure, pedicure or haircut for kids and a Sweet Sixteen offering: custom facial plus make-up application lesson.
3. Golf lessons with the boys: Ask about the Troon Family Golf program. Juniors play free after 3 pm.
4. Kids For All Seasons: Kids five to 12 can stay all day (9 am to 5 pm) at this complimentary day camp, KFAS, or just drop in for an hour or two. Warning: most won’t want to leave! On the roster: swimming, crafts, archery, roping, kids’ golf, desert nature walks, horseshoes, air hockey, cooking classes, Foosball, Wii, board games, in-theater movies with popcorn, plus seasonal fun like trick-or-treating and pumpkin carving at Halloween. There’s a new teen hangout center, too.
5. Local color: Mingle with Harley bikers and cowboy crooners at Greasewood Flat, just across the road. There’s live music by the bonfire at this rough-‘n-tumble outdoor eatery set in a vintage bunkhouse and stagecoach stop. Try the green-chile cheeseburger.
Read more on Scottsdale in Four Seasons Magazine.
Read more about taking the family to Scottsdale.
*Kids For All Seasons (KFAS) is a Four Seasons complimentary recreational and educational program for children of resort guests. Most KFAS clubs are designed for youth four to 12 years old, and open daily from 9 to 5. (Younger children can often join KFAS with a nanny or parent, or resorts can arrange for babysitting.) But details vary from property to property, so check the resort’s website for more information.
Kids can go all day or just for an hour or two. Activities inside and out include games, sports, music, treasure hunts, swimming, arts and crafts, cultural education, environmental preservation work and yoga. Not your average camp, the VIP offerings are pretty extraordinary—for example, at Four Seasons Resort Bora Bora, kids can help the resort’s marine biologist graft coral in the lagoon sanctuary.
Michelle Pentz Glave is the Have Family Will Travel editor. Before diving into communications/PR, she was a journalist for 25 years in the US and Germany including stints with The Wall Street Journal Europe, Gruner+Jahr (Bertelsman) and the Albuquerque Journal. Her work has appeared in Outside, Wired, Travel + Leisure, Sunset and Fortune. She has a Bachelor's in English from Yale and a Master's in Journalism from Columbia University. Michelle is passionate about family, food, farmers, her garden and taekwondo. She lives on Bowen Island, near Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two kids: Sabrina, 11, and Duncan, nine.
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