Great big, 827-room Scottsdale resort designed for just about everyone
As a golf resort, a family getaway, and a corporate retreat, the Westin Kierland is a clear standout in Scottsdale. How does it manage to satisfy such a range of guests? It's big, for starters. While kids run wild at the onsite Aquaventure water park, couples relax at the comparatively serene adults-only pool, great big blue margaritas in hand. For a bite to eat, there are eight places to choose from onsite -- from Nuevo Latino fine dining, to pizza, to a quality poolside salad, to steak and bourbon out by the greens -- plus another 11 restaurants across the street at Kierland Commons, an upscale shopping mall. Three golf courses; tennis courts; extensive spa facilities; four lounges; daily activities for kids and teens; beautiful, meticulously-maintained grounds -- the Westin simply has more stuff than other resorts, and a convenient location to boot. But how does it satisfy so many guests? Routinely fun, friendly service and a bit of Scotch-Arizona character -- bagpipes at sunset, for instance. So while the added fees can be irksome ($20 to access the gym's locker rooms; $13 for Wi-Fi) and the guestrooms aren't extraordinary (they look like higher-tier hotel rooms anywhere), most guests happily return.
Friendly and attentive; a cut above typical Westin service standards
The Westin Kierland has a fairly central location in Scottsdale, a sprawling, upscale suburb of Phoenix. Large resorts, department stores, strip malls, golf courses, and a handful of fine dining restaurants and night spots scatter across the broad, mountainous, desert expanse. When compared to more scenic, isolated-feeling resorts like The Sanctuary or The Boulders, the Westin feels relatively connected to the outside world -- a large shopping mall, Kierland Commons, is only about a five-minute walk from most guestrooms. The great advantage to this is that if you don't intend to explore the area -- and there is much to do and see in and around Phoenix -- you don't really need to have a car. And if you do want to venture outside the resort for a day, there's a Hertz rental car desk inside the Westin.
Across from 72 shops and restaurants at Kierland Commons: dining ranges from P.F. Chang's to Morton's Steakhouse to farm-fresh cuisine and great desserts at The Green House; shopping ranges from Anthropologie to BCBG to Coach. The Westin also offers a free shuttle to and from the mall.
About a 20- to 30-minute drive to the bars, restaurants, and boutique shops of "Old Town Scottsdale."
Perfectly comfortable, if not exceptionally luxurious
While the guestrooms maintain all the high-end comforts of the Westin brand -- you'll hear no complaints about the trademark "Heavenly" beds -- they don't exactly wow in the way one might expect from a hotel in this price range. They were refreshed with new furniture in 2010, and they're contemporary and reasonably stylish. But the standard rooms, while certainly adequate in terms of size, are about on par with those at even less expensive resorts, such as the FireSky. And the noise insulation is less than perfect -- you'll likely hear doors slamming in the hallway and your neighbors watching TV.
The standard room, called a Traditional Room, is a comfortable 426 square feet and it comes with either a king bed or two double beds. The Deluxe Room is basically the same, though it looks out over the mountains or the golf course (a significant improvement over the parking lot or noisy pool area views from the Traditional rooms). Junior Suites offer a bit more space (641 square feet).
The one-bedroom Parlor King Suite (854 square feet) also includes another half bathroom and a separate living area with a sofa bed and a wet bar. The Executive Suites are available with either one bedroom (also 854 square feet) or two bedrooms (1,281 square feet) and come with two or three full baths. Corner Suites are significantly larger (1,281 square feet with a one-bedroom; 1,708 square feet for a two-bedroom), and also include a foyer, larger living room, a kitchen with a full-size fridge. As for the one- or two-bedroom Presidential Suite, add in a bit more space (1,708 to 2,135 square feet), as well as a large dining table, a Roman-style tub in the master bedroom, and a bigger balcony.
Separated from the rest of the rooms, and located near the pool and lazy river, the Casita Suites (816 to 1,225 square feet) also include a gas fireplace, a kitchen, and a breakfast bar for two.
The FedEx Business Center offers printing, copying (black-and-white and color), faxing, binding, computer rental, and shipping services (all for an extra fee); open 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday
Nightly "Bagpipes at Sunset Series" -- a celebration of the Scottsdale Scottish heritage
Extensive meeting facilities (208,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space across 37 rooms), along with dedicated staff organizers and tech support
Tip: Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) members can use rewards points to buy just about anything onsite, from spa treatments to dinners.
Cabanas include a ceiling fan, four chairs, two lounges, a table, a TV and DVD player, bottled water, a fruit basket, and a dedicated server; from $65 Monday to Thursday; $90 Friday to Sunday
Attentive food and drinks service; better-than-average fare
Tip: Get to the pool, especially the adults' pool, early during peak travel times -- the loungers fill up fast.
Far from the best in Scottsdale, but better than average
The Agave Spa, just outside the resort past a shaded walkway lined with citrus trees, is a large-scale facility with a full range of treatments. It doesn't quite match the new age spectacles found at other Scottsdale resorts like the Golden Door Spa at the Hilton's Boulders or the spa at the Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain, but it's a fair option for a family-focused resort.
20 treatment rooms, facilities open from 6 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Treatments generally fall under the "Eastern Essence" banner, which includes acupuncture and Thai massage, as well as less-common Tui' Na and Craniosacral (light touch) massage. There's also a wide range of not-too-Eastern body wraps, facials, "rollerssage" (Swedish massage mixed with semi-precious stones), hot stone (LaStone) therapy, and organic spray tanning. A 50-minute massage starts at about $149.
Full-service salon with a broad range of pre-wedding hair and makeup services
Access to the 24-hour fitness center is free, but access to the whirlpool tubs, saunas, steam rooms, and juice bars inside the men's and women's locker rooms costs $20 extra.
Fitness classes include "FORE-MAX" (golf fitness), eight types of yoga (ranging from traditional hatha and vinyasa to a candlelight deep stretch), and wellness walks. Body composition and nutritional assessments are also available.
Vaughn Center meditation courses, founded by former NFL player Damian Vaughn, designed to get you "mind fit" (about $140 for a two-hour session)
Three 18-hole courses -- Acacia, Ironwood, and Mesquite -- designed by Scott Miller, the former senior designer for Jack Nickalaus
Greens fees, during peak play hours, range from about $189 (January to April), $169 (April to mid-May), and in the scorching summer the fees drop down to $69.
Kierland is the pioneer of Segway Golf, in which you stand up and ride around on a two-wheel machine, rather than a conventional cart. It's not quite as cozy, but it's quiet and it's easier on the greens. Of course, you can still rent a not so eco-friendly air-conditioned golf cart, which blows cool air on the back of your neck.
Comprehensive instruction and programs from the LaBauve Golf Academy led by husband-and-wife teaching team Mike and Sandy LaBauve (both listed among the "Top 100 Instructors" by Golf magazine). The signature training: FORE-MAX, a training system designed to improve one's drive via strength training, traditional instruction, and nutritional guidance.
Outdoor driving range with an air-conditioned canopy ($20)
Top-notch rental shoes ($15), balls, tees, and clubs ($60) for men, women, and kids (refreshed every six months). And if you didn't bring your traditional Scottish kilt, they've got you covered.
A bit more than your typical pro shop, the Kierland's golf shop offers everything from customized club fitting to the latest Greg Norman fashions.
One of the most kid-friendly resorts anywhere in the Phoenix area
Daily activates for families, such as camp fires with s'mores included (every Friday and Saturday), talent shows, outdoor movie screenings, and desert animal demonstrations brought in from the Phoenix Zoo (every Saturday, from Memorial Day to Labor Day).
Kids can play golf or tennis with their parents (greens fees are half-price), and rent kid-size clubs and racquets.
Kids' in-room dining menu; kids ages five and younger eat free at Nellie Cashman's.
For ages three and younger:
The "Heavenly Crib" (available by request) comes with a four-inch mattress made from fire-safe (yet non-toxic) materials.
Babysitting services, available through the concierge
So that parents can pack light, the resort offers bed rails, booster seats, bottle warmers, a Diaper Genie, diapers and wipes, high chairs, potty seats, safety kits, step stools, strollers (umbrella and jogging), and in-room refrigerators.
The Adventure Pool has a shallow, zero-entry area and pop-jet spouts designed for toddlers and babies
Arts and crafts, story time, and other age-appropriate activities offered at the Kierland Mining Co.
For ages four to 12:
The excellent Westin Kids' Club, for kids four to 12, hosts supervised activities year-round such as swimming, scavenger hunts, video games, soccer, and tennis clinics. Half day: $35 per child. Full day: $75, including lunch.
Designed for five- to 10-year-olds, the two-hour "Kids in the Kitchen" program lets kids learn from the Westin's culinary team.
Aqua Tots Swim School hosts half-day ($39) and full-day swimming and snorkeling clinics ($79).
Supervised pajama parties give parents the night off, for $50 per child (from 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.).
Game Truck, a truck filled with multi-player video games, is available to all kids.
RaceZone allows kids to design, build, and race a toy vehicle, which they can then take home ($50).
At Digital Kids' Zone, children capture footage, take digital photos, and play with special effects and music to build a vacation video to take home ($35 for a three-hour session).
Scuba training (in a chlorinated pool) for kids ages eight to 15 ($59 for a half day; $109 for a full)
Various, teen-targeted activities include "Teen Fear Factor" (relay races), "Kierland's Got Talent" (talent shows), scuba training (in the pool, with a PADI-certified instructor), and "Cardio Tennis" (high-energy drills for $25 per person, which parents might enjoy as well).