When travelling long-haul I see it of interest to spend a couple of weeks exploring that country. Saying that, the only long-haul travelling I’ve done has been to America and mostly spent that time in Florida. This time, there was no trip to Florida involved (sadly as we do love a bit of Disneyland); primarily we were heading to America for Las Vegas but, based on what others have said, two weeks would certainly have been too much (it’s quite expensive for starters!). When it came to planning our vacation, I referred to our holiday bucket list for inspiration. One of the places on the list was Sedona, Arizona. When talking with the travel agent we established that Sedona itself is quite a pricey place to stay and could potentially limit other activities we could do when there. Eventually we found a hotel in Chandler, Phoenix (about 20/30 minutes from downtown) which would allow us to go shopping, explore culture, visit Sedona on an excursion, go to the spa and generally relax.
We stayed at the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass, Resort and Spa. The resort was just magnificent. Based in the Gila River Indian Reservation, the hotel has been designed with the heritage, culture and locations aesthetic in mind; the stories of this tribe are told throughout the hotel (murals, campfires, books in your room, artifacts, paintings etc.). The moment you walk into the hotel you are met with expansive windows offering a glimpse of the stunning mountainous backdrop. It is from this side of the hotel (poolside) that is the scene for the most glorious and romantic sunsets; whether indoors or out you are promised a beautiful setting to transition from day to night.
If you would look to book this hotel, I would strongly recommend advising your travel agent/the hotel directly (they are more than accommodating to assist in anything once you have booked on the lead up to your holiday) of some room expectations, such as; which side of the hotel your room is facing, the wing you will be situated on (for sunset purposes) and the rooms size i.e. double, king or family as we ended up with two double beds in our room and though it was nice to have the space, it wasn’t what we expected. As it is very hot (it is situated in the Sonoran Desert) they provide complimentary bottled water daily (it is a small bottle but you can always ask for more), it is key to stay hydrated here and the resort ensure water is easily accessible. We did incur some minor inconveniences with cleanliness in the room, however, the lobby staff were very understanding, accommodating and apologetic; they also acknowledged our inconveniences with room changes and adding credit to our room to use anywhere in the resort (we used it to spend sometime in the spa). We obviously did not leave housekeeping a tip (a first!).
Within the resort you will find a 36 hole golf course which covers 242 acres of land, a gorgeous spa with 17 treatments rooms, an equestrian centre, conference and wedding rooms, gift shop, convenient shop, nature walks, tennis courts, private lessons in pilates and tennis, is the home to some of the most amazing restaurants and a complimentary shuttle service to the outlet centre (which is amazing; more on that later) and to the western town of Rawhide.
The spa is situated on the resort, just a short walk away from the main hotel. Is is $20 per person to just use the facilities or if you opt to have a treatment, the use of the facilities is complimentary, the treatments can be quite costly ranging from $75 to $500. There are no time restrictions. Within the spa you will find a private pool, segregated men only and women only segments (for hydrotherapy pools, jacuzzi, steam room, sauna, relaxation rooms and changing rooms), a communal resting area, the spa’s cafe and gift shop.
Within the communal relaxation area you can get some hot tea, fruit tea, water and a very light snack of nuts. The changing rooms are fully equipped for all your needs; there are towels, robes, hairdryers and various products (shower gel, conditioner, body wash, mouthwash, hairbrushes, combs, mouthwash, shaving foam, razors etc.) which was super convenient and ensured total relaxation and piece of mind.
I did find the segregation of men and women only secctions quite unusual as it meant that going for a relaxing spa session with your partner isn’t possible (which was our intention). This also isn’t made explicitly clear when you book, enter or are given a tour of the spa and is something both me and my boyfriend happened upon once we were already settling. This separation made enjoying the facilities quite lonely and found that I was unable to appreciate them fully; although we don’t communicate a great deal when in such a relaxing environment it is a shared, loving and enjoyable experience to have together.
Koli Equestrian Centre
You will also find on resort an equestrian centre where horesback rides are available at sunrise and sunset; although we didn’t actually take advantage of the excursion (which is very reasonably priced, $60 and $80 per person depending on the time of day) we did take a look at the ranch. It is a short car journey away, which is provided with compliments by the hotel, up a dirt beaten track. The journey is a great opportunity to seek out the local wildlife such as roadrunners, coyotes, jack rabbits, scorpions and snakes (though obviously harder to see scorpions and snakes from the car). On arriving (it was during the horses resting period) the horses were roaming in quartered areas, they appeared strong, well looked after and extremely friendly.
If you are looking for excursions or assistance for outside of the hotels resort I cannot recommend Gigi, the hotel’s concierge, highly enough. She was extremely helpful, friendly and knowledgeable. Through interacting with Gigi we knew not to spend too long in downtown Phoenix (which was more of a business district than a tourist destination) but rather head to Mill Avenue in Tempe which is a university hub of trendy bars, clubs, shops and exquisite, local art.
As mentioned, the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass resort and spa is home to some incredible restaurants. On site you will find 7 distinct food locations including a Starbucks cafe (you will also find Starbucks filtered coffee, which is complimentary, in your room). There is also room service available where there is an extended selection of meals available that you can find at some of the restaurants on site. We found most meals to be exceptional value for money and with the various locations available, a great selection too. The Kai restaurant is the number one restaurant in Chandler as rated by Trip Advisor. It isn’t a restaurant we visited on this occasion but based on the notable quality of the meals we had throughout the resort, it is certainly recommended if you are celebrating, budget is unlimited and/or looking for a dining experience.
As mentioned, there is a complementary shuttle service available to the Phoenix Premium Outlets where there are 90 amazing, discounted stores. We picked up some fantastic designer items with amazing discounts; our particular favourites were Ralph Lauren and Banana Republic (we managed to pick up a couple of tops that were just $3.99 each, what a steal!). You can also find Michael Kors, Coach, Sketchers, Hugo Boss, Armani, Calvin Klein, DKNY, Guess, J.Crew, Levi’s and so many more. If your quite meticulous when it comes to planning your holiday, as in what events are occurring during the duration of your stay, then taking a look at the shopping events guide on the outlets site is a must as you could end up with further reductions as we did over Columbus Day. Note, that you do have luggage limits restricting your spending and you may be subject to taxation on return to the UK if you exceed your tax free limit. You can find more information on this here: http://www.hmrc.gov.uk/customs/arriving/arrivingnoneu.htm
The shuttle service to Rawhide is slightly different. To visit this Western town and steakhouse you will need to pick up the boat (yes boat) from the opposite side of the hotel. It’s a great way to travel and pretty romantic. We only discovered this shuttle/location two days before we were to depart- thankfully we went on an explore around the resort and happened upon it, we were so glad we did. Rawhide is a great way to experience an 1880’s frontier town and perhaps, like us, the only experience of the wild, wild west during your entire visit as a vast majority of the Arizona area is dedicated to the lands originators and various Indian tribes. There are a number of attractions including live action gunfire shows, petting zoo, horse carriages to experience the way settlers got around, gold panning and an opportunity to experience a Western jail. You can also have a literal shotgun wedding, dress the family up for old western photos and so much more.
What was astonishing is the number of locals quizzing our purpose for visiting; they were astounded that it was our choice of holiday destination. However, by all accounts it is a perfect destination (this is speaking of the particular location we were based at). What with the fantastic food selection, spa, pools, the gorgeous weather (as it is the desert, there is very little rainfall and would be particularly unlucky to encounter terrible weather for the duration of your stay), the outlets and shopping, number of excursions available (including the Grand Canyon South rim and Sedona) you have the perfect, balanced vacation suitable for all.