Head to the desert even in the dead of summer? Yes, you should!
When summer cranks up the heat, resist the temptation to rule out warmer climate vacation destinations, because it’s actually the perfect time to take advantage of five-star resorts offering two-star rates. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess truly knows how to cater activities to keep you cool, whether it’s poolside bars and cabanas or patio dining with misters. You’ll certainly feel the glow as you drink in the amazing views of the desert, mountains, and of course, the vibrant, colorful sunsets.
KidTripster Tip: The Princess also is a fantastic family destination for Spring Break. Baseball fans can take in the very best spring training options with the local Cactus League hosting 15 major league teams. The resort is just 15 minutes from Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.
Where to stay?
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess in the heart of Arizona’s Sonoran Desert is the best of the best, truly an oasis with the finest amenities and the most options for one-stop-shop relaxation and entertainment. Trust me, you’ll never want to leave the property!
The staff's warmth and attentiveness will leave you feeling like royalty. You quickly come to notice the many special touches at this five-diamond resort that scream high-class but family-friendly, like the resident canine ambassadors, a Golden Retriever named Gibbs and Yellow Lab named Bixby, waiting to welcome you in the lobby. There’s a special kids’ check-in desk, where my little ones were thrilled to choose from a basket of goodies, like princess tiaras and beanie babies.
KidTripster Tip: If you happen to be traveling with small pets, the Princess offers a Posh Paws program, where you’ll get a "Pet in Residence" door hanger, plush bed, food and water bowls, toys, and treats. Cost: $25. Ask the staff for help with dog walking, too.
The Summer Sip, Savor & Sand package starts at $179/night with a $50 daily credit. Upgrade to a casita or villa on the property for a more secluded getaway. You also can inquire about kitchen accommodations. The rooms are modern and comfortable with large closets and dual-vanity bathrooms. Every room has a view, and if you’re not familiar with our Arizona desert sunsets, may I just say, “postcard!”
KidTripster Tip: One detail that I just love in the new suites by Sunset Beach is the soundscapes machine, perfect for parents who want to create a little more of a sound barrier for sleeping babes than just a closed door.
What to do?
First, stop at the Trailblazer Family Adventure Center. You can rent pool floats and fishing gear and get the rundown on the family-friendly events and activities. A half-day session at the Trailblazer’s Kids’ Club (ages 5 to 12) is included in your stay. The cabin-style clubhouse has a pet tarantula and iguana, and staffers do a great job keeping the kids entertained with crafts, fishing lessons, and swim time.
KidTripster Tip: On weekend mornings, there’s an all-ages fishing derby with Ranger Rick, who also introduces kids to the Fairmont’s feathered friends, resident hawks and falcons, with lessons from the Sonoran Desert Falconry.
While the kids enjoy the kids’ club, indulge in the Well & Being Spa. I highly suggest a relaxation massage and dip in the therapeutic waterfall grotto followed by lunch at the adult-only rooftop pool. If you’re on an extended trip, you should check out the unique spa classes, like aerial yoga & rip surfer, where you hop on a surfboard hooked up to a virtual reality wave ride for a wicked core workout!
If you’re looking for a beach vacation in the desert, no problem! Sink your toes into 830 tons of white sand, shipped in from Florida, at Sunset Beach, the property’s sixth and largest pool. You’ll also find a toddler splash pad or you can pay for passes to the adjacent water park with inflatable slides and water balloon wars. There are weekend dive-in family movies and free storytimes with pirate and mermaid photo ops. I signed my 8-year-old daughter up for the 90-minute Mermaid University. Your child gets a pair of goggles and mermaid tail for just a little more than the cost of what you’d spend on the tail alone. She was in heaven! My 6-year-old son just loved meeting the real pirates (actors who impressively never came out of character) and proudly took home his sword, sash, hat, eye patch, and diploma from his hour-long Swashbuckler Academy. It’s pretty magical. Cost: $45.
On the other end of the property, the Fairmont Fun Team runs silly contests for prizes at the Sonoran Splash pool. The shallow zero-entry deck with spray fountains is fantastic for toddlers and parents, who want to just relax while staying cool in the water. If you’ve got small children who need occasional breaks, there’s also a shaded playground and huge shaded sandbox with ceiling fans, plus all the toys, trucks, and diggers that you could imagine. But without question, the main attraction at this pool is the twin, 200-foot twisting water slides.
And for those hot summer nights, the Princess brings out a DJ, fog machines, lasers, and even professional glow-in-the-dark hula hoopers (that’s a job!) and throws a Techno Glo Party at the pool. Every Saturday night during the summer, there also are fireworks by the lagoon.
Where to eat?
Voted Arizona’s best dining resort, you will love the on-property options. Ironwood American Kitchen has an impressive breakfast buffet that’s extremely kid-friendly with every sweet and savory option that you can could want. Servers offer tablets, in addition to the usual crayons, to entertain the kids while you wait.
La Hacienda has fantastic Mexican food. I suggest the guacamole sampler that includes bacon, lobster, and pomegranate. The restaurant’s tequila goddess can walk you through the 240 varieties of tequila that are available. And you must cap off dessert with a flaming coffee with cinnamon; the tableside presentation is quite the spectacle to see and smell!
And kids eat free at Bourbon Steak. This restaurant is my favorite. The food is so flavorful, and the ambiance so swanky that my husband and I have come here for anniversary and birthday dinners. If you’re dining with the kids, I’d request patio seating with the misters or better yet, order carry-out and bring it back to the room. You can’t go wrong with anything on the menu here, but I literally dream about the truffle macaroni and cheese and duck-fat fries with dipping sauces. Wow!
KidTripster Tip: If you mention to your server that you’re planning to go by the lagoon after your meal to see the ducks, they’ve been known to give little bags of bread for duck food. The kids love this!
The Princess is located in Scottsdale, just a 30-minute drive north of Phoenix’s Sky Harbor Airport. The resort also is close to shopping and popular trailheads for morning hikes.
Nicole Crites is a television news anchor in Phoenix, wife, and mom to two kids. She insists one of the most important secrets to a successful marriage and happy family is being intentional about taking time to make memories; vacations are often the best medicine.