“Are we in the wild west?” my seven-year-old daughter, Anna, asks me as she goes through the saloon-style doors of the restaurant bathroom. Well, yes and no, my sweet. We’re in Phoenix, Arizona, a sun-drenched city that’s surrounded by breath-taking mountain ranges, and is incredibly proud of its rich old-west history.
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We spend our first two days exploring the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort, home to four acres of water wonderland, including a pool with a waterfall, waterslide and relaxing lazy river. Alongside is an 18-hole mini-golf course (I may have let Anna win) and the resort’s Coyote Club, full of fun stuff for kids. We stay in a “casita,” similar to a townhouse, and Anna decides that with so much room, we should have her dad and sister fly out and make this our new home.
For the last two days, we’re at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa. Their award-winning Family Fun Program puts out a calendar of cool activities every day and runs a kids club for the under-eights, but also accommodates tweens with its Digital Kids Club. On Friday mornings, there’s a reptile presentation in the lobby (if you’re lucky, it will be snake-feeding week!).
We soak up a little sun at the pool, Anna gets a wild lesson on the resort’s popular FlowRider surf simulator, then it’s time for her most anticipated treat of the week—s’mores over an open fire pit. But before we go, we need to finish one last mission: The resort hands out booklets containing historical facts about Arizona and locations within the resort, and we find our way to all of them to earn lapel pins for Anna’s lanyard, getting the perfect souvenir while we’re at it.
Get a real taste of the old west at Goldfield Ghost Town, in nearby Mesa. What was once a booming mining town in the 1890s is now a fun historic landmark on the Apache trail. We took a tour of the actual gold mine, checking out tools and artifacts and heard stories about how the mine worked—and the hard lives of those who worked it. You can enjoy a train ride around the property, shop for kitschy souvenirs (Anna made her own “Wanted” poster) and watch a gunfight in the street. Anna’s favourite part was panning for gold—she may not have struck it rich, but she came home with a glass bottle of pretty crystals that she’ll always treasure.
Breakfast To-die-for French toast at the very hip Snooze in downtown Phoenix.
Gardening lesson Pointe Hilton’s Chef Ken runs organic cooking classes for kids and adults.
Mom time I’m still blissed out from my Rollerssage treatment at the Westin’s Agave spa.
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Dessert Indulge in ice cream and treats made from fresh ingredients at Churn. Try the Fat Elvis sundae!
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Phoenix boasts more than 300 days of sunshine per year and has an average annual rainfall of just 7.7 inches. The best times to visit are spring and fall; it gets scorching hot in the summer.
A version of this article appeared in our April 2014 issue with the headline “Phoenix, Arizona”, p. 14.
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