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Things to do in Phoenix

Earn your spurs on a dude ranch

Ever fancied roaming the plains, lassoing cattle and starting a mass brawl in a saloon bar? Head to a dude ranch and learn to do at least two of those things. Tanque Verde Ranch (www.tanqueverderanch.com) is the perfect place to play cowboy for a day or for the full-on western experience, stay for a week.

Go for gold in the Weaver Mountains

Play the prospector in Phoenix and you may return home richer in more than experience. The Weaver Mountains, two hours from Phoenix, was the location of several large finds by early settlers. Arizona Gold Adventures (tel: +1 914 589 3985; www.arizonagoldadventures.com) will show you how to pan but it's up to you to find a fortune.

Rise above the sun in a hot air balloon

There's a vastness to Phoenix and the outlying Arizona landscape that's only really grasped from up high. From the basket of a hot air balloon, it's a wonder, especially as the sun rises over the desert. Hot Air Expeditions (tel: +1 480 502 6999; www.hotairexpeditions.com) offer dawn trips above the mountains that include a champagne toast.

Roar down a zip line

Home to some of the world's most dangerous predators, Out of Africa Wildlife Park (www.outofafricapark.com), is worthy of a visit to see the animals alone. If the rhinos, lions and crocodiles aren't quite wild enough, visitors can up the ante by roaring down a zipline (tel: +1 928 567 9947; www.predatorzipline.com) above the animals as they feed.

Test your putting skills in perfect golfing weather

Vast, green and manicured, the golf courses of subtropical Phoenix – all nine of them – are almost a feat of engineering. The usually warm and dry weather is great for golf too. The most popular course is Stone Creek Golf Club (tel: +1 602 953 9111; www.stonecreekgc.com), a challenging round that hosts the city's international competitions too.

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Featured Hotels


The Saguaro Scottsdale

Vibrant colours, handcrafted Mexican furniture and two outdoor pools help give this trendy hotel in Oldtown Scottsdale the va-va-voom factor.
Recently renovated, the hotel boasts 194 guest rooms, each furnished with a pillow-top mattress and 42-inch flat screen TV. Outside, a tropical garden sits between two outdoor pools and a margarita bar, stocking more than 100 varieties of tequila.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess

This luxurious desert retreat's backdrop is in the dramatic McDowell Mountains, and has pools, fountains, falls and lagoons in its own grounds. A plaza and courtyard have a Mexican village style. Rooms are spacious, with a southwest theme and either a patio or balcony. Casitas include butlers. Amenities include a free kids’ club, golf concierge for its famous golf course, five restaurants, five pools, water slides and an indoor/outdoor lounge with live entertainment.

Four Seasons at Troon North

Everything you expect from a luxurious Four Seasons resort. The lobby is a living gallery of desert art. Accented with a desert motif, the spacious rooms include a fireplace and a balcony, often with picture perfect views. Marble bathrooms have deep soaking tubs. Accommodation is in casitas, small villas. Excellent cuisine is accompanied by sweeping desert views at Acacia, a contemporary steakhouse, and the southwest-flavoured Crescent Moon. Amenities include a spa and fitness centre, and two lounges.

The Phoenician

With US$25 million worth of art (there is a self-guided tour), this hotel is opulent. The grounds have a large cactus garden, nine pools (some shaped like grand pianos) and a golf course. The hotel's restaurants range from epicurean, with a wine list of 4,500, to an ice-cream parlour and tea court. Airy rooms feature Berber carpeting, Irish linens, as well as rich and oversized Italian marble bathrooms. Not to be missed is its plush spa with a complete treatment menu, and the unusual addition of Tarot card readings.

Orange Tree Golf Resort

This hotel complex, on one of Scottsdale's popular golf courses, offers plenty of luxury for the discerning guest with a slightly less discerning budget. The décor is newly renovated and modern, and has 160 suites, all with a balcony or patio. The facilities include fitness and sports centre, swimming pool and golfing lessons. The poolside bar serves lunch and the golf restaurant is an alternative destination for dinner.

Arizona Biltmore Resort

Since 1929, this has been the place for celebrities, dignitaries and presidents. Spread over 16 hectares (40 acres), structures are interspersed with gardens, nine pools (the Catalina was Marilyn Monroe's favourite) and Irving Berlin wrote White Christmas here. The grounds include: tennis courts, lawn chess, croquet and two championship golf courses. Guests will find earthy-toned, spacious accommodation, large marble bathrooms and excellent service. Light meals are available at a café in the hotel's plaza.