Resort Spotlight: Arizona Grand Resort

By Ellen Parlapiano

It won’t be more than 5 minutes into your family vacation at the Arizona Grand Resort in Phoenix before the kids start asking: “When are we going on the slides?”

You can’t blame them: Three thrilling 8-story waterslides tower above the resort’s pool, and can be seen from just about anywhere on the property. It’s almost as if they’re calling out, “Ride me if you dare!”

The slides (2 with dramatic 67-foot drops) are the centerpiece of the resort’s Oasis Water Park pool complex: a 7-acre wonder that’s been named one of the Top Ten Theme parks by the Travel Channel. Available only to Arizona Grand Resort guests, the Water Park also has a wave pool, Zuni Active River (a lazy-river style tubing course with a not-so-lazy bubbling surprise), Wild Cat Springs sprinkler area for toddlers, and the Caliente Springs Hot Tub for adults. Add in Island Nights entertainment from 6 to 9 p.m. in spring and summer - with magic shows, Dive-in movies, and poolside dinners from the Oasis Bar and Grill - and you won’t want to venture far from your lounge chair. But when you do, there’s plenty more fun on property, and in the surrounding Phoenix area, plus spacious all-suite accommodations providing 1- and 2-bedroom units equipped with the comforts of home.

Next time you’re vacationing in Phoenix, or simply stopping there on your way to or from the Grand Canyon (about 4 hours north) - the Arizona Grand is a wonderful place to chill out. And you can score super deals in sizzling summer, when suites start at $139 per night. 

Already live in Phoenix? Consider the Arizona Grand Resort for a “stay-cation.”  In 2008, 80% of the resort’s weekend bookings came from local residents, who chose it as an affordable family getaway close to home.

Fun in the Sun

The Arizona Grand Resort sits next to South Mountain Preserve, the largest city park in the world, with over 17,000 acres of desert hiking, biking and horseback riding trails. Sign up for the family hike on Wednesday mornings, where a guide takes you on a 2-hour trek through the wilderness, pointing out the sun-loving creatures and plants that make their home in the scorched landscape. On our hike, led by naturalist Helen Boyd, we passed different kinds of cacti - from tiny teddy bear varieties to sky-scraper-high chollas - the classic tall green cactus that has come to symbolize the southwest. We were also lucky enough to see a red-tailed hawk, desert squirrel, and some beautiful butterflies fluttering above the purple and yellow wildflowers just coming into bloom. The resort can also arrange jeep tours, horseback riding (there’s a stable right off the property) and mountain biking for an extra fee.

Golfers will love the stunning course that winds its way through the desert, offering dramatic mountain vistas and challenging holes. Kids under 13 play free with a paid adult; there are also free weekly golf clinics for all ages.

And, in addition to the Oasis Water Park, there are six other smaller, quieter pools throughout the resort.

Enjoying the Great Indoors

Need a break from the heat? You’ll have it made in the shade with the resort’s array of indoor activities. If you’re a fitness buff, head to the Athletic Club, the biggest hotel fitness center I’ve ever seen. The cavernous main room is filled with cardio and weight-training equipment, so you’ll rarely have to wait for a machine. Classes are held in the raised balcony area, where picture windows overlook the desert, giving you the chance to glimpse birds and lizards during your spin class. There are even special family yoga and tai chi classes. The Athletic Club also has racquetball and basketball courts, personal training and fitness assessments, an outdoor lap pool and indoor golf instruction.

For parents who crave a little private time, the half-day Grand Adventures Kids Club (included in your resort fee) will keep children ages 5-12 happily occupied with crafts, games, competitions and snacks. Use your free time to pamper yourself with a massage or body treatment in the Grand Spa, where weekly specials are offered.

Now That’s Room Service!

Since this is an all-suite resort, every accommodation features separate bedroom and living areas, allowing parents and children to have their own space. The roomy Standard Suites have a bedroom that can be outfitted with 1 king bed or 2 queen-sized ones, and a separate living room with pull-out sofa bed, and kitchenette containing a microwave and small fridge/mini-bar. With TVs in the both the bedroom and the living room, there will be no fighting over the remote!

The resort has also recently rolled out brand-new 1- and 2-bedroom Grand Villas, which are enormous and luxuriously appointed. These have kitchens with granite countertops and full-sized appliances, spa-style bathrooms with soaking tubs and gigantic glass-enclosed showers, plus balconies and flat screen TVs in the bedrooms and living rooms. Grand Villas are great for extended families. When traveling with grandparents, for example, you can rent the 2-bedroom villa, which has an adjoining, lockable door to the second bedroom and living area with kitchenette, so Grandma and Grandpa can have their independence, yet still be a knock away.

Also on the Menu

When it’s time to eat, you’ll have plenty of options. This spring, the resort completed construction of a brand new lobby/reception area, home to a barista-style coffee bar, offering take-and-go breakfast and lunch, and The Lobby Grill sit-down restaurant, where guests can dine on wood-fired pizzas, grilled fish, chicken and steak, and other delicious fare made with local ingredients. The Lobby Grill offers the option to dine inside within view of the open kitchen, or outside on the beautiful patio overlooking the resort’s grounds and golf course. The resort also serves up authentic Mexican fare at Aunt Chilada’s, and beef and brew at Rustler’s Rooste steakhouse, featuring live country and western music.      

And of course, if you can’t tear yourself away from your lounge chair and that Water Park pool, the Oasis Bar and Grill will quiet your hunger pangs with salads, sandwiches, burgers, and a variety of frozen treats. They’ll even throw in a glorious sunset every night!

If You Go:

  • Seek Deals. Rates are lowest in summer, from Memorial Day through Labor Day. During the summer of 2009, Standard Suites start at $129 per night, 1-bedroom Grand Villas start at $329 per night, and 2-bedroom villas start at $499 per night.
  • Factor in the Resort Rate and Taxes.  An additional resort fee of $30 covers access to the water park, use of the athletic club, Grand Adventures Kids Club, in-room Internet, daily newspaper, local phone calls, parking, and long distance access.
  • Do a Grocery Run. Though Grand Villa kitchens are equipped with dishes, cookware and cutlery, you’ll need to provide extras like paper towels, dishwashing liquid, and tea bags (only coffee and herbal tea are supplied); along with any food and snacks you want on hand. The bellhop can arrange a tram ride to the nearby Fry’s supermarket, so you can stock up on milk, water and other essentials.     
  • Lug your laptop, if you must. The rooms, lobby and business center all have Wi-Fi. The business center also has computers if you need to check email but want to leave the laptop home. 
  • Book Kids Club in Advance. Reservations must be made by 5 p.m. the night before.
  • For Arizona Grand Resort Reservations: Call 866-267-1321; www.arizonagrandresort.com

Ellen Parlapiano is an award-winning writer who has covered family travel for magazines such as Family Circle, Parents, Child and Working Mother. She lives in Eastchester, New York with her husband and two children, and has traveled extensively with her family.

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