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Phoenix Rising

Gosh, it's fun. The Phoenician is that rare hotel where the prices are breathtaking but you feel no pain because you're never disappointed. Last winter some luxury hotels were dropping their rates and letting themselves go a bit, but not the Phoenician. Pricing is positioning, a very delicate art that the Phoenician uses to your advantage.

Boulders Resort & Golden Door Spa The Boulders has always meant golf, golf, and more golf. Now, with the addition of the extraordinary Golden Door Spa, it is also a first-rate spa hotel. It's nice to have one more reason to come here. There has never been a better place to feel so completely enveloped by the desert. Walking to your casita in the chill of the night, past the boulders and the cacti, across wood bridges over dry arroyos, the air scented with piñon drifting from the fireplaces—it's as romantic a desert moment as you can hope for.

The Boulders has always had the location, where the wilderness merges with the city, and the layout too, with 160 large casitas scattered across its two famous golf courses and the fringes of the desert. No two rooms have the same view, and it's impossible for the front desk to guess which one will please you, so just keep trying until you find the right fit. Ever since the property was acquired by Wyndham, there have been murmurs about a decline in service, but I thought the place was humming nicely, no different from my last visit five years ago. No marble in the bathrooms here, yet, but the recently redecorated rooms are looking sleeker, more contemporary; you don't feel obliged to wear turquoise and hammered silver anymore. It's all very cozy. What you really want to do is just build a fire in the kiva and climb into a leather club chair.

You'll emerge to play golf, to sun by the pool at the base of a boulder-strewn hill, and to dine at the restaurant, the Latilla, which is built into the boulders themselves. The Latilla is a Phoenix classic, with lots of space around the tables and an inventive American menu that doesn't try too hard. It's the sort of place where you order the duck. The Latilla produced the best all-around meal I had in a week, without the hype and theatricality.

But it comes down to those boulders, some defying gravity, some seemingly frozen in free fall—they're the only decoration any resort needs. The Boulders is still the great country-club hotel of Phoenix.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North The Four Seasons, which opened in 1999, sits among the gated communities at the northern edge of Scottsdale, where red-rubble peaks and saguaros and big views shape the landscape for retired CEO's. It's a little tricky to find, but worth the trip. Heading up the driveway, you won't feel as if you're arriving at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on Oscar night; it's more like coming home.

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