Cover: Isle of Capri at sunset, JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort, Phoenix, Arizona
Photo: Kim Hull, Cool Adventures © Chasing Light Media
Article by Kim Hull
When it’s time to relax and recharge, JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix delivers the ultimate resort and spa experience.
Combining approachable luxury and an idyllic setting, delightful indulgences and stunning views await around each corner of the resort’s 316 acres.
With unparalleled hospitality, four acres of sparkling pools and waterways, two championship golf courses, an amazing array of family activities, an award-winning spa, and fabulous restaurants, the resort is a perfect destination for those looking for adventure, relaxation – or both.
Always a fan of JW Marriott hotels, we were especially looking forward to visiting the resort during spring training, which is always an exciting time in Phoenix. So, when invited, we booked flights and were on our way to enjoy some relaxation and baseball.
Checking into our beautiful room overlooking the Isle of Capri, we resisted the urge to just fall into the beautiful bed with its crisp white linens, loads of fluffy pillows, and a comfy duvet. A loveseat and an overstuffed chair provided plenty of space to both relax and get a bit of work done. A desk, flat-panel TV, mini-fridge and large safe rounded out the room’s amenities.
A large, free-standing shower, soaking tub, and large vanity, along with bathrobes, stacks of thick towels and Aromatherapy Associates toiletries, created a relaxing, well-designed bath environment.
Set against the backdrop of the McDowell Mountains and the Sonoran Desert, JW Marriott embraces the resort’s peaceful, natural setting with a creative blend of design that reflects the elements of fire, water, earth, and sky.
Sunrises in Arizona are phenomenal.
Ironically, the only time we set an alarm clock is when we are traveling – for early morning flights and sunrises. When visiting the resort – set the alarm at least one of the days, stop off at Starbucks for a coffee or tea, find a spot by one of the many fire pits at Desert Ridge, and simply enjoy the majestic rising of the sun.
Colorful gardens, vibrant landscaping and the natural beauty of the arid Arizona landscape unify to create an exceptional environment that soothes the senses at Desert Ridge.
An area not to be missed – the beautiful desert botanical garden – an ideal spot for relaxing amongst the trees, plants, and cacti native to Arizona.
One of our favorite activities while at the resort was the Chef’s garden tour. Located near the spa, the garden produces some of the fruits and vegetables served at the Spa Bistro and contributes the herbs for Revive Spa’s signature product line. One of the resort’s horticulturists, Candace, gave us a tour of the gardens, which was both educational and tasty, with fruit and vegetable samples as we went. Nasturtium tastes remarkably like wasabi – who knew? And the creosote bush, it smells like rain. Such a fun morning and tours are available to all hotel guests.
Water is abundant at this oasis in the desert.
Four acres of sparkling pools and waterways wind their way through the resort, providing guests countless opportunities to bask in the gorgeous Arizona sun alongside cooling waters.
Everyone enjoys a plunge into the lazy river for a tranquil, relaxing time floating along through the courtyard and the kids delight in slip-sliding down the serpentine water slide.
Natural water features are also abundant throughout. From the incredibly beautiful lake near the golf course to the meandering streams and falls, the soothing sound of water provides a relaxing background to life at the resort.
Fire pits are abundant at Desert Ridge and provide a wonderful place to end the day and meet new friends.
After dinner at Stonegrill, we brought our bottle of Twenty6 Pinot over to enjoy under the incredible Phoenix stars and were soon joined by four new friends from an old spot – Dallas! As one of our new acquaintances later said, “New friends are wonderful, especially when discovered in such a beautiful atmosphere.”
I couldn’t have said it better.
The restaurants and bars
We enjoyed dinner at stonegrill the first night we arrived and it set the tone for our entire stay. The food was superb, the service was stellar, and the atmosphere was comfortable and inviting.
We started with lemon drop martinis and calamari, then moved on to our main courses of salmon and shrimp and grits – yep, the south ventured to the southwest in a delicious transition. We loved it! Seriously good food in a relaxed, upscale environment.
The Twenty6 lounge is located in the center of the hotel overlooking the expanse of the pools and terraces, and features hand-crafted cocktails, wines, beers, and other beverages, and a selection of tasty small plates.
So, the obvious question about Twenty6 is – why is it called Twenty6? Desert Ridge was the 26th JW Marriott and, hence, they have christened their bar and casual restaurant with the title of Twenty6.
While the signature prickly pear margarita is an absolute must, Twenty6 also has a very cool beverage endeavor underway.
Desert Ridge has partnered with a local brewery in Flagstaff to create the Twenty6 ale and with the renowned Paul Hobbs Wines from Sonoma County to deliver the Twenty6 chardonnay, pinot noir, and cabernet.
We had both the pinot and the cab – absolutely delightful wines and such a very cool program celebrating their unique part of the JW Marriott brand.
In addition to the lively interior of Twenty6, the terrace provides a fabulous vantage point to experience the vibrancy of Desert Ridge.
Sharing a bottle of wine on the Twenty6 patio late afternoon on a Sunday while watching the resort in full swing, it was as if experiencing a modern day version of Seurat’s A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.
Music from Roy’s Aloha Hour filled the air as children played games on the lawn, couples quietly shared conversations, people strolled in from the pools, and large groups laughed and conversed around the fire pits – a colorful blend of guests and activities sharing and enjoying their day.
Revive Spa Bistro
Revive Spa Bistro hits the spot for a healthy, organic breakfast or lunch. After touring the Chef’s garden, we stopped by for smoothies, a salad and a sandwich for lunch on the the patio near the pool. The food was fresh and delicious and the atmosphere was tranquil.
Meritage Steakhouse at Wildfire Golf Club
Located at Wildfire Golf Club, Meritage Steakhouse specializes in steaks, fresh seafood and fine wines with a country-club like atmosphere. Open for lunch or dinner, Meritage also has an outdoor patio that overlooks the botanical garden and ballroom lawn areas.
Roy’s Pacific Rim
Well-known for their Hawaiian fusion cuisine, Roy’s outdoor patio is the place to be early evening for Aloha Hour specials and live music. On into the evening, Roy’s delivers dishes crafted from fresh local ingredients with signature cocktails and fine wines.
Just a Splash Bar & Grill
Salads, sandwiches, burgers and a full bar conveniently located poolside.
Always fans of a hotel with a Starbucks, we stopped by frequently to grab a beverage or snack and would sit on the patio viewing the botanical garden and watching the golfers come and go at Wildfire Golf Club.
We waited in line one morning for our chai lattes next to pro golfers, Cheyenne Woods and Sadena Parks, who’d pulled in for a breakfast on their way to the links. Both would be playing the following week in the fifth edition of the JTBC Founders Cup, an LPGA event held each March at the resort.
When it’s time to relax, it’s time to head to Revive Spa for a bit of pampering.
The 28,000 square foot spa includes 41 treatment rooms, private locker rooms, showers, steam rooms, a sauna, a fitness center, the spa bistro, and a full-service salon – making it easy to schedule a full day of relaxation and rejuvenation at Revive.
However, even if you can only fit an hour or two in, check out the pedicures. I opted for the Gingerita pedicure and it was heavenly!
While sipping white ambrosia and coconut tea with honey pearls, my pedicure began with an exfoliating watermelon-basil vodka infused sugar scrub, followed by a warm citrus cilantro vitamin soak with grapeseed and olive fruit oils. Next up, a silky ginger body milk application, and finally, a finish of red polish. Spectacular!
Wildfire Golf Club
Home to two 18-hole championship golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo, Wildfire Golf Club also offers a chipping green, two putting greens, a driving range, golf carts with GPS, Meritage restaurant, and a spectacular pro shop.
The 18 hole, 7,145 yard Palmer course winds around the resort and through the picturesque Sonoran desert, featuring expansive fairways and average green sizes of 7,000 square feet.
The 6,846 yard Faldo course, meanders over 174 acres with large greens, multiple tee boxes, and features 108 sand bunkers.
The practice facilities at Wildfire include an all-grass driving range, and putting & chipping greens and bunkers.
If swinging a racquet is more your game, the Tennis Center offers eight lighted tennis courts and a full-service pro shop. Group and one-on-one instruction is available.
Additionally, bikes can be rented at the tennis shop.
Desert Ridge has two fitness centers, with the primary center located near the pool courtyard and lazy river and the second at Revive Spa. Both fitness centers include cardio equipment and free weights, with the spa fitness center also offering fitness classes for an additional fee.
For those that think shopping is a form of cardio, the retail shops at Desert Ridge have a great selection of offerings ranging from forgotten necessities to local artisan creations, to clothing and much more (including a great selection of Moleskins, of which several now call my backpack home).
Top 5 things we loved about JW Marriott Desert Ridge
- A culture of hospitality. Desert Ridge has a friendly, helpful staff that make you feel truly welcome – and that is something considering the size of the resort. Special thanks to Joshua, Candace, Owen, Leah, Karyn and the entire Desert Ridge team who made our stay so awesome!
- Fabulous location woven into the natural beauty of the desert. It’s easy to forget you’re so close to the city when at Desert Ridge, with its amazing mountain and desert views. Yet, when you want to get to an attraction or event in Phoenix, it is just minutes away.
- A resort fee that provides tons of value. The daily resort fee includes self parking, use of the Revive Spa fitness center, a complimentary dinner appetizer per entree purchased (2 per room max), unlimited balls and use of clubs on the driving range at Wildfire Golf Club, free golf bag storage, complimentary use of the tennis facilities and use of four racquets, and a free two hour bike rental for up to four bikes.
- A resort for golfers and non-golfers. While golfers can enjoy two championship golf courses, there are so many activities at the resort that non-golfers can fill their days with adventures or relaxation, never giving thought to fairways and greens.
- Superb dining and drinking options. The food at all the restaurants was delicious and fresh and the creative Twenty6 beverage programs added a fun, local spin while delivering high-quality wines and beers.
Disclosure & disclaimer: Special thanks to JW Marriott Desert Ridge Phoenix for hosting us as their guest. The content & opinions expressed are entirely our own. Reviews are opinion only and Chasing Light Media accepts no responsibility for how the information is used.