By Merilee Kern, ‘The Luxe List’ Executive Editor
Of all of the cities in the U.S. operating under a duality, I find myself drawn back to one in particular time and time again: Scottsdale. Known as “The West’s Most Western Town,” this locale embraces its laid back desert ambiance while simultaneously styling itself as a contemporary destination with plenty to offer in terms of art, shopping, dining and nightlife. The city has undergone a renaissance in recent years, becoming well known as a “hip” spot akin to trendy areas like Miami, Atlanta and San Francisco, also establishing itself as a tourism hotbed in general. This due in large part to the good folks at the Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau who do a masterful job showcasing the myriad of travel treasures this city has to offer.
The allure of Scottsdale is not surprising given the throngs of well-known restaurants, bars and nightclubs dotting the downtown area, with many catering to the style-minded millennial population. The city hosts many annual cultural events that are a draw unto themselves, like the Scottsdale International Film Festival, the Arabian Horse Show and the Barrett-Jackson Auto Show. A variety of locally-owned art galleries and studios grace the city, along with the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. Scottsdale is also home to a bevy of chic boutique and world-renowned retail shops. I’m personally partial to Scottsdale’s “Fashion Square,” which is reputed to be one of the country’s most profitable shopping malls, that’s replete with nationally known retail brands at every turn.
This municipal growth has also vitalized the city’s hotel industry, with Scottsdale boasting a multitude of luxury properties that personify the city’s sundry sensibility. One such establishment is The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa situated right in the heart of the “new” Scottsdale.
Having stayed and played at this property, to me it exemplifies the dual nature of Scottsdale (and Arizona in general) in that it exudes a classic and quaint western charm in combination with the modern amenities expected of a contemporary luxury destination. This high caliber hospitality most certainly includes an elevated customer service standard, as I found the staff here to be decidedly knowledgeable and professional. Throughout my stay, their primary focus seemed to be how they can further enhance my experience as a guest—and for the other guests I observed. There was no query too large or small for them to answer, and the apparent combination of experience combined with a willingness to go above and beyond made for an atmosphere where guests not only felt welcome, but truly cared for.
Jennifer Franklin, Director of Communications for The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, also underscored how the resort is levering technology to further enhance the guest experience. “One example is that guests can use our texting program day or night to make a request or provide feedback during their stay. It is typically used for housekeeping requests, such as ordering additional towels for the room, or for in-room dining requests,” she said.
Relative to the guest rooms, the resort gives travelers plenty of options to assure a style of accommodations that suits their specific needs and budget. There are eight room/suite options available, each with its own flair. One decidedly popular and oft-requested midrange choice is the Deluxe Room—a 426 square foot space that is available with either two double beds or one King bed. To ensure guest comfort, it includes a luxurious leather chair with ottoman, desk area, large credenza, coffee maker, flat screen TV, bathroom boasting a separate tub and glass-enclosed shower, and a private balcony/terrace area providing a lovely view of the mountains or on-site golf course. For those with larger parties, one great option I personally enjoyed during my own visit is to reserve two Deluxe Rooms and connect them with a third Executive Parlor room, which adds a comfortable sitting area, large flat-screen TV, full bath, wet bar and Murphy bed to the mix.
Amenities-wise, the resort offers a depth of practical luxuries that characterize a convenience-centric guest experience: high-speed internet, smoke-free rooms, in-room dining, famed “Heavenly Beds,” comfortable linens, robes and bath towels and even an in-room movie/video game service. Health-minded guests make use of the resort’s large and amply outfitted 24-hour fitness facility. It includes cutting-edge workout equipment and free weights for both cardio and strength training, along with specialized services designed to aid a fitness regime, such as the running concierge, nutritional assessments, fitness classes (including the hydra tone “aqua fitness” class), as well as a range of different yoga sessions. At this property, there’s simply no excuse to go completely off-road from your exercise routine.
Speaking of staying active, golf is one of the area’s most popular activities, and this resort offers guests a one-of-a-kind “Kierland Golf Experience” to make the most of it. This includes packages granting special access to the impeccably manicured golf course and to the latest and greatest gear available for guest use. They also put on daily golf clinics, and general instruction is provided by golf professionals. No matter your current skill level, there is something for everyone to learn by taking part in one of the resort’s many golf tutoring sessions. There are even kid’s classes for younger, aspiring golfers. In all, it’s an excellent way for the whole family to enjoy some together time outdoors on the gorgeous greens.
Indeed, this resort provides an overarching atmosphere of fun for all ages, creating opportunities for revelry along with a hearty dose of relaxation at the on-site Agave spa and adjacent pool facilities. I absolutely adored the “Tommy Bahama Relaxation Reef” experience. This exclusive island cove area of the 900-foot “lazy river” comes with several perks, including an assortment of plush lounge seating, umbrellas, coolers and a dedicated server for food and beverage service. There are also a variety of private, lavishly-appointed specialty cabanas available poolside to keep hotel guests cool and comfortable. Those feeling frolicsome can hit the property’s Adventure Water Park area complete with a 110-foot-long waterslide. Or, ride the waves at FlowRider, an adrenaline-pumping board sport simulator catering to both kids and adults.
Of course, no luxury resort location would be complete without fabulous in-house dining options, and there are no less than ten here. The Westin Kierland’s most notable, however, is “Deseo”—the signature hotel restaurant that brings a range of imaginative South American style cuisine to the fore (coupled with an incredible selection of South American wines, as exemplified by its distinguished inclusion in Wine Enthusiast magazine’s “100 Best Wine Restaurants for 2015”). During my own visit to the energetic eatery, I marveled as the staff worked as a highly trained unit under the watchful eye of Executive Chef Chris Masco. Backed by 20 years of cooking experience, Chef Masco has studied and performed his art around the world and earned numerous distinctions for his skill in the kitchen. Today, diners at Deseo are the benefactors of this tenure, which has manifested in a tantalizing, seasonally-driven menu that draws locals and hotel guests, alike.
The current iteration of the menu includes seafood sensations like Ceviche de Escalopes, a bright combination of diver scallop, the aromatic Mexican herb culantro (similar to but stronger than cilantro), passion fruit leche de tigre marinade, pickled jalapeno and nitro popcorn. Another savory fish dish is Tiradito Nikkei, which features Hon Hamachi (the best quality yellowtail available in the world), truffled ponzu sauce, rocoto chile pearls, cilantro, avocado and nori seaweed. For the carnivores, Deseo also presents a light Latin take on the traditional steak tartare with its Tartare de Carne—a pairing of thinly sliced Arizona Prime beef tenderloin, plantain, aji verde, limon confitado (preserved lemon) and chorizo en polvo (a powder of chorizo). My personal favorite menu item was the Wagyu Beef Empenada with spiced tomato sofrito, green apple salsa verde and huitlacoche “corn smut” (also referred to as the “Mexican truffle”).
Distinctive dining aside, Franklin pointed out another fun fact about resort: that it’s one of the few places in the United States where guests can watch and hear a bagpiper play at sunset each night. “Our bagpiper entertains our guests on our Dreamweavers Canyon overlooking the Acacia golf course each evening,” she said. “It’s a beautiful setting with beautiful views. Guests can relax there with a cocktail and listen to the bagpiper. It’s the perfect way to finish off the day.”
There are so many facets of this property, and the service proffered therein, it would be imprudent to detail them all. But, it’s this expansive range of features and options that makes the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa a premier, tried and true destination exemplifying all that today’s Scottsdale has to offer.
“The Luxe List” Executive Editor Merilee Kern scours the luxury marketplace for exemplary travel experiences, extraordinary events, and notable products and services. Submissions are accepted at www.TheLuxeList.com. Follow her on Twitter here: www.Twitter.com/LuxeListEditor and Facebook here: www.Facebook.com/TheLuxeList.
***Some or all of the accommodations(s), experience(s), item(s) and/or service(s) detailed above were provided at no cost to accommodate this review, but all opinions expressed are entirely those of Merilee Kern and have not been influenced in any way.***