HOTEL The Phoenician, Scottsdale ROOM COUNT 654 RESTAURANTS Six options, from Mary Elaine's (French with a modern twist) to an ice cream parlor TOP FEATURES A $25 million art collection; three distinctively designed nie-hole golf courses; nine pools (great cabanas); 12 tennis courts NICE SURPRISE The two-acre cactus garden COST Doubles from $675 CONTACT 800/888-8234; www.thephoenician.com
THE LOOK Everything from the lobby to the poolside cabanas of this sprawling resort has been given a face-lift by designer Paula Fox. Her aesthetic: a design scheme that recalls France in the late 1930's (Phoenix's Hollywood heyday), with a dash of Southwestern chic, of course. In the main lobby, chairs are upholstered in leather and studded with copper nail heads, footrests are covered in mohair, and grandmotherly gilding has been banished.
THE SCENE Active travelers and golf fanatics flock to the Phoenician in the winter. Be forewarned: during shoulder season (September through December), you'll be sharing space with convention-goers.
THE ROOMS No garish cowboy themes here—the rooms and suites are surprisingly tasteful, done in understated earth tones. The old lumpy, polyester-clad beds have been replaced with Sealy Luxury Collection mattresses (perfectly soft), goose-down pillows, and Rivolta linens in crisp cream with olive-trimmed covers. We found the new marble-clad bathrooms equally luxurious, right down to the full-sized shampoos.
THE SERVICE You can easily forget that you're sharing 250 acres with 1,200 other guests. The 2-to-1 staff-to-guest ratio—not to mention those new "Rolls-Royce" golf carts—translates into lightning-speed service. Our cab arrived within five minutes of calling the concierge. And eager pool staff were more than willing to jog over to the main building for sunscreen and a New York Times. The staff can arrange almost any outdoor activity: a morning climb up nearby Camelback Mountain, one-on-one tennis lessons, unlimited rounds of golf.
THE FACILITIES Chef Bradford Thompson, formerly of Manhattan's Daniel, maintains Mary Elaine's award-winning status (try the New Zealand John Dory and glazed sweetbreads); for a casual lunch, we like the Jamaican-themed poolside menu. The spa still has great treatments—the Pevonia caviar facial is decadent—but its dark, cavernous halls and rooms somehow missed the revamp. Rumor has it the spa will be moving to a new site in a year or two.