North Scottsdale Carefree Cave Creek

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Situated at least a 30-minute drive from downtown Scottsdale, this area boasts the newest resorts, the most spectacular hillside settings, and the best golf courses.

VERY EXPENSIVE

The Boulders Resort and Golden Door Spa tffrjfrjp Set amid a jumble of giant boulders 45 minutes north of Old Town Scottsdale, this was the first luxury golf resort in the north Valley's rugged foothills. When not golfing, you can relax around the small pool, play tennis, relax at the resort's Golden Door Spa, or try your hand at rock climbing. The lobby is in a Santa Fe-style building with tree-trunk pillars and a flagstone floor, and the guest rooms continue the pueblo styling with stucco walls, beehive fireplaces, and beamed ceilings. For the best views, ask for one of the second-floor units. Bathrooms are large and luxuriously appointed, with tubs for two and separate showers. In addition to the resort's restaurants, there are several other dining options at the adjacent El Pedregal Festival Marketplace.

34631 N. Tom Darlington Dr. (P.O. Box 2090), Carefree, AZ 85377. & 800/553-1717, 800/WYNDHAM, or 480/4889009. Fax 480/488-4118. www.wyndhamboulders.com. 215 units. Late Dec to May $649 double, from $1,150 villa; May to early Sept $279 double, from $800 villa; early Sept to early Dec $550 double, from $1,150 villa; early Dec to late Dec $299 double, from $800 villa (for all rates there is an additional $29-$33 nightly service charge). Children under 16 stay free in parent's room. AE, DC, DISC, MC, V Pets accepted ($100). Amenities: 8 restaurants; lounge; 4 pools; 2 18-hole golf courses; 8 tennis courts; exercise room; full-service spa; 3 Jacuzzis; bike rentals; children's programs; concierge; business center; pro shop; shopping arcade; salon; room service; massage; babysitting; laundry service; dry cleaning. In room:A/C, TV, dataport, minibar, coffeemaker, hair dryer, iron, safe, high-speed Internet access.

Copperwynd Resort and Club ££ Value Although it's a ways from Old Town Scottsdale, this boutique hotel, high on a ridge overlooking the town of Fountain Hills, is one of the most luxurious resorts in the area. The hotel boasts some of the most picturesque mountain vistas in the Valley, which is one of the reasons I like it so much. The resort has a fabulous tennis facility, an impressive health club, and a spa. The resort's Jacuzzi, tucked into a rocky hillside, is as romantic as they come. All guest rooms have great views and feature a European deluxe decor. Balconies provide plenty of room for taking in the vista. There's an excellent restaurant on the premises.

13225 N. Eagle Ridge Dr., Fountain Hills, AZ 85268. & 877/707-7760 or 480/333-1900. www.copperwynd.com. 42 units. Late Dec to late Apr $379-$425 double, $825-$925 villa; late Apr to mid-May and late Sept to late Dec $199-$249 double, $800-$1,000 villa; mid-May to late Sept $129-$189 double, $550-$650 villa. Children under 18 stay free in parent's room. AE, DC, DISC, MC, V. Amenities: 2 restaurants; lounge; 2 pools; 9 tennis courts; health club and full-service spa; 3 Jacuzzis; saunas; children's programs; game room; concierge; pro shop; room service; massage; babysitting; laundry service; dry cleaning. In room: A/C, TV, dataport, fridge, coffeemaker, hair dryer, iron, safe, free local calls, high-speed Internet access, wi-fi.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North ($($($ Located in the foothills of north Scottsdale adjacent to (and with privileges at) the legendary Troon North golf course, the Four Seasons is even more impressive than the nearby Boulders resort. With casita accommodations scattered across a boulder-strewn hillside, the Four Seasons boasts one of the Valley's most dramatic settings, and with a hiking trail to the nearby Pinnacle Peak Park, the resort is a good choice for anyone who wants to explore the desert on foot. Guest rooms and suites are among the most lavish you'll find in Arizona. If you can afford it, opt for one with a private plunge pool and an outdoor shower—a luxury usually found only in tropical resorts.

10600 E. Crescent Moon Dr., Scottsdale, AZ 85262. & 888/207-9696 or 480/515-5700. Fax 480/515-5599. www. fourseasons.com. 210 units. Jan to mid-May $465-$650 double, $725-$4,000 suite; mid-May to early Sept $165-$245 double, $395-$2,000 suite; early Sept to Dec $375-$550 double, $725-$4,000 suite. Children under 18 stay free in parent's room. AE, DC, DISC, MC,V. Pets accepted. Amenities: 3 restaurants; lounge; large 2-level pool; 2 18-hole golf courses; 2 tennis courts; large exercise room; spa; Jacuzzi; children's programs; concierge; car-rental desk; business center; 24-hr. room service; massage; babysitting; guest laundry; laundry service; dry cleaning. In room: A/C, TV/VCR, dataport, minibar, coffeemaker, hair dryer, iron, safe, high-speed Internet access.

EXPENSIVE

Carefree Resort & Villas & This resort on the northern edge of the Valley of the Sun is an economical alternative to the nearby Boulders resort. Located away from Scottsdale's traffic, close to the unspoiled desert, and with the Wild West cow town of Cave Creek just down the road, this resort makes a great base for exploring the desert and soaking up western character. Horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking are all nearby, too. The rooms around the main pool were recently renovated and the big villa suites are some of the nicest and most spacious rooms in the Valley. These rooms overlook the nearby mountains and adjacent golf course.

37220 Mule Train Rd., Carefree, AZ 85377. & 888/488-9034 or 480/488-5300. Fax 480/595-3719. www.carefree-resort.com. 370 units. Jan to early Apr $229-$249 double, $289-$499 suite or villa; early Apr to late May $169—$189 double, $219-$419 suite or villa; late May to mid-Sept $99-$119 double, $139-$279 suite or villa; mid-Sept to Dec $169-$189 double, $209-$349 suite or villa. Children under 18 stay free in parent's room.AE, DC, DISC, MC,V. Pets accepted ($45 fee). Amenities: 2 restaurants; 2 lounges; 3 pools; 5 tennis courts; exercise room; full-service spa; 2 Jacuzzis; bike rentals; car-rental desk; business center; room service; massage; laundry service; dry cleaning. In room: A/C, TV, dataport, coffeemaker, hair dryer, iron, free local calls, high-speed Internet access, wi-fi.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess I know this faux Moorish palace belongs in Spain, not Arizona, but I still love it. With its royal palms, tiled fountains, and waterfalls, the Princess offers an exotic atmosphere unmatched in the area and will delight anyone in search of a romantic hideaway. Families will enjoy the water playground (with its two water slides) and kids' fishing pond. The resort is located a 20-minute drive from Old Town Scottsdale and is home to the FBR Open golf tournament and the city's top tennis tournament, which means the fairways and courts are top-notch. There's also the Willow Stream spa. Guest rooms, which have just been renovated, are done in an elegant Southwestern style, with spacious bathrooms. All units have private balconies.

7575 E. Princess Dr., Scottsdale,AZ 85255. & 800/441-1414 or 480/585-4848. Fax 480/585-0086. www.fairmont.com. 650 units. $159-$589 double, $319-$3,800 suite. Children under 12 stay free in parent's room.AE, DC, DISC, MC,V. Pets accepted. Amenities: 4 restaurants; 3 lounges; 4 pools; 2 18-hole golf courses; 7 tennis courts; exercise room; full-service spa; Jacuzzi; concierge; car-rental desk; business center; golf and tennis pro shops; shopping arcade; salon; 24-hr. room service; massage; babysitting; laundry service; dry cleaning. In room:A/C,TV, dataport, minibar, coffeemaker, hair dryer, iron, safe.

MODERATE

Cave Creek Tumbleweed Hotel * Located in the heart of Cave Creek, the Valley's wildest and most western community, this older motel has rooms calculated to appeal to the country-music-loving clientele that frequent Cave Creek. Be sure to book early, because this place stays packed for much of the year. Although the guest rooms have a bit of western character, the popularity of this place is due in large part to the fun atmosphere of surrounding saloons and cowboy steakhouses. Although it's at least a 30-minute drive from here to Phoenix, the desert is a whole lot closer here than it is to Phoenix and Scottsdale's budget motels.

6333 E. Cave Creek Rd., Cave Creek,AZ 85327. & 480/488-3668. www.tumbleweedhotel.com. 24 units. $99-$149 double. Children under 18 stay free in parent's room. AE, DISC, MC, V. Pets accepted ($75 refundable deposit). Amenities: Outdoor pool. In room: A/C, TV, coffeemaker.

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