Big, bold and bountiful – three words you might use to describe the good old US of A. And for our family, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, too. Arriving at this vast desert resort, we were swept along by a sea of staff, parking our rental car, loading up a golf trolley with our luggage (which included, embarrassingly, a monster plastic bag of Yorkshire Tea we’d brought over for expat friends) and dazzling us with the overwhelming array of services and activities on offer.
Sitting on 65 acres beside a PGA golf course, the Scottsdale Princess was built in 1987 as a conference facility but has blossomed into something of a family holiday wonderland, with a huge choice of accommodation, dining options, pools, activities and seasonal events. It’s also perfectly placed for exploring the many museums and shopping areas of Scottsdale, should you ever manage to make it off-site.
With almost 650 rooms, there’s something to suit every family, from standard doubles to casita suites, with interconnecting rooms and accommodation for nannies available. All are comfortable, with spacious bathrooms and air conditioning, with all the baby kit you need bookable in advance, as well as hire of microwaves and mini-fridges.
The Trailblazers Kids Club runs daily from 8am to 4pm for 5-12 year olds, offering crafts, sports, games and wildlife activities, with each day themed. On Solar Day, attendees learn to cook in a solar oven while Wild West Day introduces aspiring prospectors to pan for gold the traditional way. It's an extra charge ($60 for a full day, $35 for a half, lunch extra) but families with more than one child get a discount.
You can sign your children up for either half or full days, with an option to stay for lunch. The recreation centre, which is filled with games consoles and table games like air hockey is open for families to use on weekends too, as well as Friday and Saturday evenings.
THINGS TO DO
Water babies will love this resort, with five heated pools to choose from (although the rooftop spa is adult only). The South Pool is a vibrant central hub, close to the Trailblazers clubhouse, where guests and local families all gathered on the Friday afternoon we were there to enjoy a dip and a drink. Cabanas with TV screens, ceiling fans and fridges can be hired, if you want to live the poolside high life.
The East Pool has lots of games and activities for like bubble making and badminton on Fridays and Saturdays, while it’s bigger cousin, the Sonoran Splash, is perfect for little ones, with a gently sloping bottom, two 200ft water slides, toys and cabanas to cool off in. In the summer, it plays host to weekly parties, complete with glow sticks and DJ, while the South Pool offer ‘dive-in’ movie showings.
In fact, the Fairmont is big on seasonal extras. At Christmas, you can enjoy huge music and light shows, Santa’s grotto and even an ice rink! There’s a full package of fun at Easter too, with a Bunnyland, egg hunts, pony rides, a petting zoo – you name it, they have it. Through the summer, you can enjoy firework shows on Saturdays or ride a zip wire over the lagoon.
On a more regular basis, the whole family will love paying a visit to Cecil, the resident tortoise, or have a go at fishing for catfish, bluegill and bass in the three resort lagoon. Rods can be hired for $7 per pole for two hours, which includes bait and tackle.
Should mums and dads find themselves with a little time to themselves, you can have a round of golf on the course which hosts the PGA Tour Waste Management Phoenix Open, play tennis or just relax at Well & Being spa.
You might have guessed by now that there was never going to be just one option for mealtimes at the Princess! And whether you choose from relaxed American fare at Ironwood, which sits beside the South Pool, organic grilled meats at Bourbon Steak or Latino-Asian fusion at Toro Latin Restaurant and Rum Bar, there are fresh and inviting children’s menus on offer.
Our favourite was La Hacienda, with a Mexican menu like nothing we’d experienced back home in Blighty. Neither was the tequila, which is treated with the reverence of whisky, with the staff passionate educating us about this much misunderstood spirit. Indeed, the restaurant has a resident Tequilla Goddess Abeer Besharieh, who the equivalent of a sommelier, to manage its 240 strong list, who is accredited by the Mexican government.
The food is delicious, much lighter than the stodgy tortillas and sour cream and cheese-heavy dishes that dominate in the UK. It’s fine-dining but not fussy, with five imaginative gucamoles alone to indulge in. There’s a lovely ambience too, whether you dine in the rustic Spanish restaurant on beside one of the fire pits on the terrace.
For ‘Ninos’ there is a simple selection of chicken, steak or cheese dishes, all served with beans and rice, with authentic Mexican bottled sodas to drink. For the adults, our standout dish was the Robalo Frito – tempura fried seabass with savoy cabbage, chile arbol remoulade and mango salsa. It looked and tasted spectacular, especially washed down with some cinnamon churros and another tequila. A word of advice – you might want to book the children into Trailblazers and book yourselves into a poolside cabana the day after you dine here…
For more information and rates, visit www.scottsdaleprincess.com
To find out more about Scottsdale holidays, visit http://www.experiencescottsdale.com/
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