/ The Phoenix Traveler
Phoenix — By Heather Wright Schlichting on May 6, 2010 at 12:26 am
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Go Native in Phoenix

Wildhorse Pass, resort, PhoenixOkay, so our real estate prices have fallen, our educational system needs help and our politics have caused much debate. But, what we’re good at is developing the most magnificent resorts that are not just havens for the weary traveler but for those who crave award-winning restaurants, crystal blue pools and non-stop pampering at reasonable prices.

One of my favorites is the Sheraton Wild Horse Pass (map) in Chandler, Arizona. Located on the ancient Tribal lands of the Gila River Indian Community, but only minutes from Sky Harbor International Airport, Wild Horse Pass is surrounded by desert and mountain views. The resort is designed to be an authentic representation of the Gila River Indian heritage and culture, with the architecture, design and art celebrated in every detail imaginable, indoors and out.

From the moment I walked into the lobby, I felt like I entered into another world; one of quiet serenity. I could not help but stare out through the floor to ceiling windows, probably 2-3 stories high, into the outdoor recreational area, pools and 36-hole golf course. The views are so expansive, they’re magnificent. And although I didn’t see any, I’m told that wild horses roam free in the distance giving the resort its name.

This 500 room resort is enormous and yet easy to navigate. Separate buildings for conference space, the spa, and equestrian center keep you in good shape. But if you want to stay true to its decadent nature, take a scenic boat ride to different locales on the property.

The Amenities and Activities

spa, Phoenix, Wild Horse Pass

The pool deck at Aji Spa.

For pampering, I suggest the Wuhum (Awaken) facial at the Aji Spa. For $75 you will receive a 25 minute facial using their exclusive ARCONA skin care line made of enzymes, antioxidants and other stuff that makes you feel good all over. Aji means “Sanctuary” and is named after the nearby Aji Mountain where women and children would go in times of war. To keep with tradition, treatments use native herbs and indigenous plants.

Looking at the long list of treatments, I’m intrigued by the Mustangs and Massage Day package. You start your day on horseback in search of the 1,500 wild horses that roam the desert and then enjoy a 50-minute full-body massage and lunch at Aji Café. You can’t do this in Des Moines!

That brings me to the Koli Equestrian Center, where you can take private riding lessons, go on trail or wagon rides. For an hour and a half ride the cost is $65 per person.

If ropin’ and ridin’ is your thing, then head on over to Rawhide, an old Western town chock full of family fun. You can pan for gold, watch a rodeo and see live reenactments of bank robberies and shootouts. A great place for kids, you can actually pay to have your loved ones arrested. Just for fun, I thought my nieces would enjoy seeing their favorite uncle hauled off by the sheriff and put in jail. I still proudly display a photo of myself all in good fun holding a rope with the noose around my husband’s neck.

The Whirlwind Golf Course is a Troon course that has been declared my husband’s favorite. Designed by Gary Panks, its 36 holes are perfectly manicured and show off the desert at its finest. One of Conde Nast Travelers Top 100 Golf Resorts, fees have come down considerably due to the economy.

Your Stay
The guest rooms are lovely and completely in tune with the theme of Native American design. Each room has a private patio or balcony and two robes to make your stay comfortable. Prices start to come down in late May and to be honest the overwhelming temperatures do not set in until mid-June or July. Deals like: Stay one night and the next is 50% off are going on right now so visit their web site for more details.

Gila River Community, Phoenix, Wild Horse Pass

The 2-1/2 mile replica of the Gila River with the Whirlwind golf course in the background.

Four pools, one with a 111-foot waterslide are available with poolside dining. Meander along a 2-1/2 mile replica of the Gila River that runs through the property, play on their tennis courts or go for a jog on desert trails.

If old habits are hard to break, then head on over to the Chandler Fashion Center where 150 shops and restaurants will keep you occupied for hours. It’s a short ride from the hotel.

Five Star Dining
As a foodie who is always looking for her next great meal, I suggest you spend an evening at Kai. Described as a one-of-a-kind cultural culinary journey, Kai combines ancient Native American recipes with cutting edge techniques that have won them the Forbes Five Star Award and AAA Five Diamond Award.

Phoenix, Kai, Wild Horse Pass, restaurant

The view from Kai restaurant.

Executive Chef Michael O’Dowd incorporates the essence of the Pima and Maricopa tribes and locally farmed ingredients like their signature olive oil, locally grown and pressed to create the most amazing meals. Pan Seared Colorado Lamb Loin with mole sauce, Oysters prepared three different ways and Grilled Tenderloin of Buffalo with saguaro blossom syrup are but a few of the outstanding choices. They also offer tasting menus with selected wines. Reservations are strongly recommended.

If you’re looking to experience a truly unique resort with a multitude of on-site activities in a spectacular setting then you’ll find what you’re looking for and more at Sheraton Wild Horse Pass.

Sheraton Wild Horse Pass
5594 West Wild Horse Pass Boulevard
Chandler, AZ 85226
Phone: 602.225.0100

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