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Phoenix Rising

The spa recommended its specialty, a 90-minute Table Thai Massage ($170). Signature treatments usually involve a lot of patting and soaking, though this rather serious therapy involves nothing but stretching. The therapist knew her stuff; the room glowed with natural light, something you almost never find in a spa; and the effects of the treatment did not wash off with my first shower, or even my second.

The spa is the focus of this hotel, so it's attracting couples looking for a romantic spa getaway, friends fleeing the suburbs, bonding mothers and daughters. Everything imaginable is on the menu for them: facials, acupuncture, fortune-telling. Settle in for a weekend and create a classic spa program for yourself—but with as little exercise and as many calories as you like.

Golden Door Spa at the Boulders It won't make you feel like Barbie on a Day of Beauty, but the Golden Door delivers like nowhere else. It's attractive, in the soul-cleansing Zen style of the original Golden Door in California. It's also busy, and once you adjust to sitting around in a robe among so many strangers, you realize that all those people in so many shapes, sizes, and ages are a good sign.

A wrap is the real test of any spa, and the Turquoise Wrap here, an 80-minute, $175 treatment involving Hopi blue cornmeal, clay, and honey, was best of breed. My therapist had a feather-light touch, and with a hydrotherapy tub and Vichy shower in the room, I didn't have to make one unnecessary move. Nor was I abandoned during the inevitable wrap moment of hot, confined panic. Quite the opposite: the therapist began jingling a Native American rain stick around me, and I became so pleasantly disconnected, I felt I was beginning to levitate.

The Golden Door gets the details right, down to the jasmine green tea in its waiting room. There's an unmistakable confidence here, and it's relaxing just to know you're in such good hands.

Willow Stream Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess A local landmark, the Princess is known for its loyal clientele; its Willow Stream Spa, the largest and most luxurious of them all, captures the hotel's spirit. This is a classic ladies' spa of the Georgette Klinger-Elizabeth Arden school. Everything is the most-est: it has the most marble, the most breathtaking Jacuzzis, the most extravagant Swiss showers, the most beautiful rooftop pool.

The spa recommended its signature treatment, the Willow Stream Body Experience, a 90-minute romp ($199) that includes a mud wrap, a shower, a bubble bath, and a massage. I wouldn't recommend it. The wrap was clumsily handled; I could feel the therapist going through the motions and watching the clock. All I could think about was the generous gratuity I was asked to sign for in advance—not the usual practice.


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