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Phoenix Rising

Everyone in Phoenix is either trying to relax, or in the middle of relaxing, or reflecting on some recent attempt to relax. You hear the word constantly: in lobbies, in spas, waiting in line for coffee. Oh, it was so...relaxing. Oh, I hear that's very...relaxing. Exactly what we are all so tired from I couldn't say, but this city has long been regarded as the cure.

Relaxation has always meant golf here, but in the past year Phoenix has become much more interesting. Many of the classic resorts have been fluffing madly, growing more contemporary and piling on the indulgences. There's a younger vibe at the newer properties, including the city's first boutique hotel and three mega-resorts where the emphasis is on action. Hotel restaurants have retreated from the old country-club menus and begun fusing in every direction. The biggest change: Phoenix is now spa land. Where there used to be a few treatment rooms and a check-in desk, today you'll find the category-killers of relaxation.

If anything, there's almost too much choice. So many resorts, so many spas—and such subtle distinctions among them. Here, for the exhausted among you, our guide to the latest developments.

Sanctuary Camelback Mountain The Sanctuary definitely has buzz. At other resorts in town, you see guests breezing in with trollies of matched Hartmann luggage; at the Sanctuary, everybody glides in trailing one world-weary black roller bag and whips out a Prada wallet. The hotel is hot, the restaurant is hot, the spa is hot. How often does that happen?

Perhaps you remember the Sanctuary in its former life as John Gardiner's Tennis Ranch, a quiet little spot on a hillside in residential Paradise Valley where people played tennis all day and into the night and went to bed early. It closed in 2000 and was relaunched a year ago, with the 74 original "mountain casitas" as well as 24 new "spa casitas," the infinity pool of your dreams, and a spa (see "The Superspas," below).

Here's the novel way you book: first you choose a size (a room or a one-bedroom suite), then you choose a style. While the mountain casitas are low-key and traditional, the spa casitas are pretty jiggy even for a boutique hotel, with lots of crushed velvet and polished concrete and bright colors; each spa suite also has a big white soaking tub outdoors. The Sanctuary is proudest of its spa rooms, but I much preferred the mountain casitas, especially the suites. Erno Laszlo has done his first spa line exclusively for the Sanctuary, so bring a huge cosmetics bag for all the toiletries in your bathroom, many of which are based on neroli, an orange oil. The mini-bar has been expanded into a "beauty bar," and it's hard to ignore the Italian toothpaste, the tooth whitener, and the Kama Sutra Kit.


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