Any vacay after your teens turn 14 can be a challenge. They don’t want to be seen with you, they only want their friends and their phone, and somehow they feel like they are missing out on all the excitement back home. As a parent of teens, this just frustrates the hell out of me. My inside voice says, “are you frickin’ kidding me?? We are going away, on a holiday…you know – time by the pool, time to relax, time to connect.” BUT – guess what, they don’t give a rats ass about those things. My son actually said to me this year – well – I will GO, but we better not be going for the ENTIRE Spring Break, cause I want to see my friends too…
Any who – contrary to what our kids might want, we “ruined” their Spring Break this year with a 5 day trip to Scottsdale to check out the newly renovated Phoenician Resort. We have a long history with the Scottsdale area, and have not once stayed at this iconic resort. Mixed reviews, in addition to pictures of a slightly tired, old school style hotel had always turned me off selecting The Phoenician for our hotel of choice. But, this year, with the completion of an amazing 90 million dollar renovation, our family took the plunge. I have to say – I am so glad we did.
First let me say, if you choose to visit this hotel during a school holiday, you choose to be surrounded by young families also taking advantage of the school break. The pools, and every other public space (including any and all restaurants) are FILLED with kids of all ages running amuck. As a mom of teens, past the stage of yelling, crying, temper tantrum toddlers, you would think this aspect of the resort would make us nuts. But guess what? When you have teens in puberty, you get all of the above with extra attitude, and a smear of distain, so watching the little ones run around the grass with tired parents in tow at 6am from our balcony just brought back sweet memories…
Our family was impressed with the resort as soon as we walked in. The lobby is a beautiful public space with a massive indoor / outdoor lounge looking out over the entire resort. In the evenings, where we enjoyed post dinner libations, the pools are lit up and gorgeous, and large gas fire pits add some cool ambience. We had two basic rooms in the main hotel that faced out on to the pool area and connected. I say basic, simply because we didn’t have a suite, or casita or anything created particularly for a family. They were extremely spacious, and had everything we needed plus a beautiful balcony to watch all of the resort action. Decorated in cool grey tones, they were beautifully renovated with all the latest “technology” enhanced additions such as plugs that pulled out next to your bed, so everything had a place to be charged. His and her closets were a great idea as well and tons of information was available about the resort in the room. We were super happy with our accommodations. I do know there are several levels of room type available, so take your pick of what works for your family.
If you are staying at a resort like this, and paying the price that comes with it, you want to make sure it is a place you are going to hang out. Because we are regulars to the Scottsdale area (we used to have a vacation home in DC Ranch) we had no plans for site seeing. This made it perfect for us, because we really didn’t need to go anywhere else. Even Camelback mountain and its treacherous hike was just a short walk away. The pool is always the centrepiece of these types of resorts but I would say, with the recent renos to ALL areas of the resort, I was conflicted as to where I wanted to spend my time first!
The new pool area has been completely overhauled into three levels of sun worshipping nirvana. Two levels accommodate families, and one level is set aside for just adults. I found it a little odd that the adult pool was sandwiched on the middle level, between the two family pools because this meant a lot of “kid traffic” through the area, but maybe there was a way around I didn’t see.
Great beach chairs, towel service and staff – I would say that Spring Break had them running to keep everyone happy and fed, but for the most part they did a great job. At one point, we waited over an hour for our lunch but I think we just ordered at a time when the kitchen was super backed up – this was not the norm. Enjoying my lunch and an “adult” smoothie at my beach chair is always a highlight of my day on holidays and this was no exception! I did think my kids were past the age of enjoying some of the “extras” this pool set up had to offer, but my teenage daughter enjoyed the cool splash pad set up, and most importantly the waterslide!
This is a fantastic feature for the young ones. Lots of places for them to run and stay cool in the Arizona heat, with climbing structures and a tree house surrounded by water and those fun colourful buckets that drop a load of water when they are least expecting it … FUN.
Of course, unless you are completely oblivious, the Phoenician is surrounded by some of the best resort golf in the Scottsdale area. The Phoenician golf course also got a complete makeover with the reno of the resort, complete with taking the course from 27 holes to 18, a complete re-design of each hole, and a fully updated clubhouse and restaurant set up. While the course opened in November, the latest food offering at the resort (The Tavern) was newly opened on our stay, so we got to enjoy the full experience. Now, this is not a golf review – a novice golfer at best – I enjoyed the course with my hubby commenting more on the beautiful leather seated golf carts and scoring / distance marking technology INSIDE the cart, than the actual course. I can tell you, the views were spectacular, the beverages cold and the staff amazingly accommodating. My husband did enjoy the course several times, and commented that the course was in great shape, very playable and continually mentioned how great the clubhouse staff was. They got him out first thing in the morning and ensured his experience was a good one. A fun thing to do with teens, if they REALLY enjoy golf. It is an expensive day if they don’t really appreciate the game, and our son who doesn’t really play came along with us as a “rider,” enjoying the company of his very fun parents and a few chocolate bars… Rates fluctuate with the season – take them in May – September if they really need to play 🙂
FITNESS AND TENNIS – The Phoenician Athletic Club
For me, the piece de resistance at this resort is the brand new 4600 sq. foot, two level athletic club that houses every imaginable fitness need. For someone who starts each day with a workout, this building is drool worthy – and I ain’t joking. Even my 73 year old Dad said the building made him THINK about working out. This place is fantastic, fresh and an absolute incredible facility. Two floors, the main floor houses a tennis clubhouse, and a separate games room for kids and teens. The games room features everything to get your kids moving (shuffleboard / pool and foosball tables) and things like arcade / video games if you need them to chill.
I don’t play tennis, but I heard nothing but rave reviews of the amazing lit courts, and lessons for all ages. It seemed bustling but I’m sure fairly easy to book times. Many families were staying active playing together and I have to say, I wish this was a sport our family was into. All ages and stages were involved.
The second floor is where it is at for me personally. Imagine rows of your most favourite brand new cardio machines, spin bikes and equipment. A separate room for “on demand” classes, stretching or abs. Any piece of equipment you could want for your traditional weights / cardio based workout is here. Little things, like a filtered water station to fill up your water bottle (encouraging waste-free hydration!), all types of weighted balls and ropes and floor to ceiling windows with incredible views all make this a place you want to visit on vacation. YOGI’S never fear, if you crave sun salutations (Danni!!) they have another yoga studio / gym at the spa for you to explore. This studio features the new aerial yoga trend and classes in both meditation and yoga are plentiful.
As you can imagine, a resort of this size has a few eating establishments to choose from. I think in five days we managed to sample them all. Every restaurant is new and fresh. Modern decor, the latest in food trends and design, it made dining at the resort seem like going to a funky new hot spot in Old Town Scottsdale. We had dinner at the resort twice, for the simple reason that it was so convenient, the menus looked great and we could then drink wine without worrying about driving anywhere.
J & G Steakhouse was first on the list. Located just above the main lobby, with identical views, this restaurant is beautiful to look at and has a wine list to match! We ate quite late (8:30 on a Sunday) and because this was really “family time” at the resort, it was quite quiet and perhaps lacking a little in atmosphere. I have no doubt that had we come earlier, or at a different time of year (sans Spring Break) this place would have been rockin’. Several other nights, we noticed that the patios were busy and bustling, so I am making that assumption based also on what we saw other nights. The food was good. I wouldn’t say life changing, but a great place for a steak and great bottle of wine. Not being a real “foodie” and living with teens and a meat and potato husband, we were all very satisfied at the end of the meal, so I would call it a win! We didn’t tackle the dessert menu – so I will leave it to you to let me know how it is when you go!! 😉
Mowry and Cotton was our morning ritual. Because our amazing travel agent Jolene Williams gets us set up with Virtuoso benefits, our room included breakfast each morning. This is a huge perk if you have teens with big appetites in the morning. Although most mornings we had to wait upwards of 20 minutes for a table, once seated the food was excellent (I fell in love with the greek yogurt parfait) and plentiful. My son enjoyed some chocolate chip pancakes that could have fed a small country! They also offer a breakfast buffet with all of the traditional offerings and a quite a large selection of gluten free items as well.
We also enjoyed this restaurant at dinner one evening. Located on the ground floor, the outdoor dining area looks over the lit pools and is quite beautiful. The menu was interesting, fresh and focused on clean preparations. Our waiter was a gem, very knowledgeable on the menu and just an all round fun guy. Food was very slow to come out, but hey – we were on vacation and had no where to be, so that didn’t bother us at all. There were a number of families with young kids around though, and I would imagine if you had a hungry toddler, this would have been tough. You get a mixed bag of diners here because it is the main resort restaurant. Lots of young families who probably should have been dining at 5 instead of 7:30. I particularly enjoyed the comic relief of a four year old doing an interesting pelvic grind (Elvis Presley style) in front of a table of older diners trying to have a romantic evening…ah, those were the days.
The Phoenician Tavern was our first lunch after arrival to the hotel and our last lunch after golf on day five. Both times we enjoyed both the service and the food. The Tavern serves as the clubhouse restaurant for golfers, and has the vibe of a golf centric sports bar with a trendy contemporary vibe. A pub style menu with lots of yummy options (I had a salmon sandwich made with dill infused bread – delish). We sat outside, enjoying views of the golf course and cold glasses of rosé. I know, this vacation really sucked…
Kalio Kabobery served up the pool fare with a Mediterranean style. I had to look up the name of this place, because who really cares who is making your food and drink at the pool as long as it keeps coming! We ordered a few things here and there at the pool. They had some healthy choices and not so healthy choices, and these awesome kabobs that you could add to any salad, or just have on their own with hummus and pita. They seemed to have a reasonable kids menu with treats and smoothies – everything you might need to keep those kids happy while you try and read your book by the pool.
Things to Note
I have to tell you, there were no less than 10 times that I said to my husband how happy I was that I booked at this resort. We absolutely loved our stay. There are a few things we didn’t get to try out that you might want to if you have teens in tow, and that we would have tried if we had a little more time. The resort offers endless activities through out the day. If you have a teen that likes to participate in resort games, learn something new, or just meet new people by hitting up the S’more Buffet, they will be happy. Yes, I DID just say S’more Buffet… Add on to this Dive-In movies at the pool (family friendly – so moms can watch too!), an I-Fly Trapeze set up (which we SO wanted to try but didn’t get to), bikes to rent and special glow in the dark golf nights and you really have a place for all ages to enjoy.
In addition, I did visit the spa, but timing did not allow a treatment. I figure I will go back with just the hubby and explore this incredible facility then. I did do a walk through, and if the entrance / lobby area is anything like the treatments, you can guarantee it will be an incredible experience. Of course, private adult only roof top pools, all the most current trends in spa treatments and a Dry Bar (cue the squeal from your teen daughter) are all at your fingertips.
Our Spring Break involved lots of laughs, great conversations and family time. I don’t know if The Phoenician resort had anything to do with it, but if you can get even a few days of that with kids in their teens, I think it constitutes success.
Wishing you glorious family time this Spring Break, no matter where you are…