High season is about to begin in Scottsdale, Ariz.
Whatever your reason for traveling to the playground of the Valley of the Sun -- golf, shopping, hiking or just basking in a bathing suit by the pool -- there's a spa and a treatment to fit your itinerary.
Golf: Scottsdale is home to more than 200 golf courses, and spas here cater to golfers. Most will offer some variant on a "golfer's massage," which focuses on the muscles most taxed during your game. Some take the theme further than others: The Four Seasons Resort, Scottsdale at Troon North offers a Golfer's Massage, which is administered with -- get this -- heated golf balls.
It's not just your muscles that take a beating during golf, though. All those hours in the hot, dry desert air can do a number on your skin. So consider the new Lavender Zen treatment at the Golden Door Spa at the Boulders. It's a scrub, it's a hot stone massage, and it's a body wrap, which makes it a good choice for indecisive golfers who are having trouble sorting through the spa's extensive menu or if you're new to the whole spa thing.
The Sheraton Wild Horse Pass is an enterprise of the Gila River Indian Community, and its spa, Aji, structures its treatments around the healing traditions of the Pima and Maricopa Indian tribes. Try the Blue Coyote Wrap, which starts with a good coating of ultra-hydrating Azulene mud, and end with a full-body massage with cedar and sage oil.
Shopping: Scottsdale shopping opportunities are in close proximity to one another, whether you prefer to fill your bags at Fashion Square, the largest enclosed mall in the Southwest, or at the galleries and boutiques in Old Town.
Either way, the VH Spa, at the Hotel Valley Ho, is a chic spot to make a spa pit stop, as well as a convenient place to stash the shopping bags at night. The Valley Ho first opened in 1956, and was the area's first year-round resort, frequented by celebs of the day. The hotel was completely renovated in 2005 yet faithfully maintains its mid-century Modern architecture, décor and details. The hotel's spa is small, but the relaxation room maintains the feel of the '50s, with sleek, gold, satin-like loungers and '50s and '60s music replacing the typical Asian-inspired spa music. Try the Hawai'ian Papaya-Pineapple Enzyme Wrap, in which you're rubbed with a fruit concoction that you could actually eat if you wanted to. It ends with a deeply moisturizing scalp massage.
Speaking of eating, if you're in the market for clothing, you might want to go easy at the hotel's restaurant ZuZu, which serves an upscale take on comfort foods, including homemade potato chips with blue-cheese fondue, and an outrageous meat loaf. You'll have more "spa food" options (read: lighter fare) if you venture a bit further out to Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain. This boutique resort is still convenient to shopping, but it feels far outside the hustle and bustle. The Sanctuary spa's 90-minute Luxury Facial is meant to be both stimulating (if a masque of wasabi and green tea doesn't wake you up, nothing will) and relaxing (a foot, shoulder and arm massage of hot stones).
Hiking: Adventure can be found on Scottsdale's extensive network of trails, which wend their way up, down and through the saguaro-cactus-spiked Sonoran desert with its rising craggy mountains and boulders.
The Spa at the Four Seasons Resort offers an entire program for hikers, starting with hikes themselves, including a regularly scheduled morning expedition to nearby Pinnacle Peak Park, so-called Yoga for Hikers, which focuses on postures that stretch and strengthen the muscles used in hiking, and its Healing Hiker's Massage, which particularly focuses on the leg muscles and uses an oil that includes mountain arnica, an anti-inflammatory. It's best to end up at one of the resort's salt-water pools to relax with a Prickly Pear margarita. If you're traveling without kids, you'll especially appreciate the adult-only pool .
Basking: Of course, you can come to Scottsdale and do nothing but spa hop. For a full-day spa experience, it's hard to beat the elegant and well-thought through Spa Avania at the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale at Gainey Ranch. This spa is based entirely around the time of the day. From the flavor of the water in the pitchers placed strategically throughout, to the varieties of tea (hot and iced), to the music you can select in the treatment room, everything changes from morning to the afternoon to the evening.
New this winter season, Avania will be offering an entirely new Thai massage treatment program. Between treatments, lunch on light "spa flights," small tapas-style bites. Food options also change throughout the day. Or just lounge around the French Celtic mineral pool and marvel at summer temperatures in the middle of winter.