By Josephine Matyas
Who would think a state renowned for hard adventure would also have a gentle side that speaks to everyone’s need to relax and recharge by indulging in a little culture or self-care? From ranch stays to New Age spas, from concerts to guided shopping tours, Arizona fills it all.
Say “I Do”
With more than 300 days of sunshine a year, wedding weather lasts year-round in Arizona. Couple that with a location to suit every romantic taste – from red rocks to picturesque mountain backdrops, and rustic guest ranches to chi-chi resorts – and Arizona is an easy wedding destination to sell.
Your clients will have questions about the legalities – let them know that Arizona has made it very easy and seamless for couples to marry. There is no waiting period (for either marriage licence or ceremony), you don’t have to establish residency and a simple piece of photo identification is all that’s needed to apply.
Brides who are looking for a traditional ceremony will find some of the most beautiful sanctuaries in the Southwest create a magical ambience. An architectural landmark in Phoenix, the beautiful Spanish Mission-style St. Mary’s Basilica is home to Arizona’s largest collection of stained glass windows.
The art galleries, walkways and courtyards of the Heard Museum in Phoenix, one of the state’s premier cultural attractions, are the perfect setting for ceremony and reception.
In Tucson, the adobe architecture is reflective of the Spanish and Mexican heritage. Nestled among giant willow trees, the replica 18th-century chapel at the Tuba Golf Resort & Spa is a fairy-tale setting for nondenominational weddings as small as 25 or as large as 250.
Yes, there’s a soft, romantic side to the history of the Wild West, and it’s never far away in atmosphere-steeped towns like Tombstone, Bisbee and Jerome. Tombstone’s sweet side comes into springtime bloom when the world’s largest Lady Banks rose tree creates a sweet-scented canopy of ivory tea roses under which couples exchange their vows. Bisbee’s abundance of Victorian-style bed and breakfast inns lends a warm nostalgic air. Restored inns like the Surgeon’s House Bed & Breakfast in the old copper mining town of Jerome boast a mile-high view across the Verde Valley. Quirky Jerome, designated a National Historic District, is now a lively tourist and artist centre, and “the largest ghost town in America.”
You can’t beat Arizona’s natural outdoors! The magnificent Shoshone Point along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon offers couples one of the world’s most memorable photo backdrops. The red rocks of the Sedona-Oak Creek area glow a spectacular crimson in the setting sun. Facilities like the Sedona Golf Resort and The Lodge at Sedona, an elegant Mission-style bed and breakfast inn, create the perfect marriage of romance and splendour.
City-bound? Phoenix and Scottsdale are known for lavish luxury resorts, ringed by the stunning photo opportunities of the surrounding Sonoran Desert and the drama of peaks like Camelback Mountain. The five-diamond Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is set against the majestic purple McDowell Mountains; its Willow Stream Spa is ranked one of the best in North America. Stars such as Clark Gable and Carole Lombard honeymooned at the Arizona Biltmore – its flower-filled gardens are a favourite setting for nuptials.
Tucson CVBMusic Fills The Air
The multi-layered musical heritage of both Native American and Hispanic cultures are especially strong – from the haunting, spiritual sounds of the Native American flute to the lively strings of the Mexican Mariachi bands, Arizona’s musical roots run deep.
Phoenix is home to a significant new attraction, the Musical Instrument Museum; the world’s first museum of ethnic, folk or tribal musical instruments from around the globe. Guests savour the multimedia collection through their ears as well as their eyes – the sounds of various instruments are played through wireless headsets as you move from display to display. With a collection of more than 12,000 instruments from around the world, it’s a music lover’s dream.
Musical Instrument Museum
Arizona’s picture-perfect climate makes it a natural setting for outdoor festivals featuring the historic styles and influences unique to the Southwest. Mariachi festivals draw thousands of music lovers, peaking in mid-September when the annual Fiestas Patrias celebrations, commemorating Mexico’s independence from Spain, bring lively music, traditional foods and dance to the streets. And there’s a festival-like energy at Phoenix’s P.F. Chang's Rock and Roll Marathon held each January. More than 30,000 runners and walkers enjoy bands located at every mile mark of the race path.
Built On Native Foundations
Arizona architecture means more than the plank-sidewalks of dusty Wild West towns. The influence of the state’s earliest Native residents shows in the styles that integrate function with the surrounding environment.
High in the limestone walls of the ancient Montezuma Castle National Monument, just north of Phoenix, is the best-preserved prehistoric cliff dwelling in North America. The alcove high above the valley floor shelters dwellings that are a harbinger of the pueblo-style architecture seen today.
Spanish Colonialism also left its mark in the beauty of Arizona’s haciendas and missions, especially near Tucson. One of the state’s oldest structures, the luminous Mission San Xavier del Bac (“White Dove of the Desert”), is considered one of the country’s finest examples of this period. The white walls of fired adobe brick are almost two metres thick; the interior of this National Historic Landmark is decorated with original statuary and murals that are a step back in time.
American architectural icon Frank Lloyd Wright also made his mark on the state – and Arizona on him. Wright’s trademark use of indigenous materials is evident at one of Phoenix’s first resorts, the elegant Arizona Biltmore. Nicknamed “The Jewel of the Desert,” the Biltmore is where Irving Berlin lounged by the pool and penned White Christmas. Nearby, at the foot of the McDowell Mountains, Wright’s winter home is now the headquarters of The Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The tours at Taliesin West allow the public to experience Wright’s craftsmanship and learn about the famous architect’s philosophies and theories of design.
Along historic Route 66, in Winslow, an architectural treasure described as “the last great railroad hotel” has been rated by Condé Nast Traveler as one of the best places in the world to stay. With its gardens of sustainable desert vegetation and award-winning Turquoise Room restaurant, La Posada is the hacienda-style masterpiece of famed American architect Mary Jane Colter. Colter’s design touch also shaped most of the National Park Service landmark hotels and structures along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.
Ranches & Retreats
From girlfriend getaways to a couple’s weekend to reconnect, there’s something on Arizona’s menu of luxury properties to fit every fancy.
Water babies might not think of the Grand Canyon State as a destination of lakes and rivers, but they’d be missing out on some of the best boating and rafting in the Southwest. The brilliant blue waters of Lake Powell are especially popular for houseboating vacations. Marinas in Page offer houseboats – from luxury craft outfitted with crisp linens and personal chef service to a DIY-style to accommodate any budget.
In the central part of the state, the hip new Heat Hotel on the Lake Havasu waterfront boasts unparalleled views of the famous London Bridge and private cabanas for sunset cocktails.
There’s luxury for nature lovers in the White Mountains at the beautifully crafted log cabins of Hidden Meadow Ranch. Fly fishing, horseback riding and long walks to spot wildlife calm the spirit and soothe the senses.
Sedona’s worldwide reputation as a spiritual energy centre means no shortage of places to rejuvenate. The Mii amo spa at Enchantment Resort offers multi-day “journeys” that emphasize aromatherapy, yoga and balanced nutrition.
Ranch stays can be customized to fit almost any bill of fare. Rugged trails, a string of 100 horses and seasoned wranglers create an unforgettable Western experience at Rancho de los Caballeros at Wickenburg. The focus is on solitude and reconnecting at the eco-friendly Sunglow Ranch near the Chiricahua Mountains in the southeast. Yoga, cooking, writing and photography are just some of their workshops.
With more than 5,500 upscale boutiques, galleries and malls in Scottsdale, finding the time may be more of a challenge than finding shopping treasures. The Old West lives on in Old Town where fine galleries and eclectic shops line the Marshall Way Arts District, and the Fifth Avenue Arts District. High-powered shopping is possible at the area’s larger malls – Scottsdale Fashion Square’s 240 stores include Barneys New York, Gucci and Louis Vuitton. If the choice is overwhelming, suggest clients consider Spree luxury-shopping tours in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. Shoppers are chauffeur-driven from one amazing boutique to another, guided by a personal shopping expert.
Tucson is just a little more laid-back – the diverse group of locally-owned galleries at Gallery Row have been named Tucson’s “Best Art Destination.” Every Thursday, they host ARTWalk, where visitors can browse the collections, enjoy live music and savour wine tastings.
It’s the glow of the signature red rocks and the New Age ambience that infuse the pretty town of Sedona. A popular destination for window shoppers and serious collectors, Sedona’s main street is lined with one-of-a-kind shops, galleries and restaurants. Pottery, silver and stone jewelry, textiles and sculptures showcase the work of local and Native American artists.