Offering a great family vacation, this resort delivers anything you want for a relaxing stay, plus a semester's worth of learning opportunities from National Geographic's explorers kids program.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess’ philosophy is ‘Have the vacation you want.’ Whether you’re a hands-on, hands held, always together, attached-at-the-hip type of parent or a more as-long-as-everyone’s-having-fun, I’ll-catch-up-with-you-at-dinner type, this place will give you that vacation.
Up until a few years ago, if you were familiar with the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, Arizona, you certainly wouldn’t have associated it with a family vacation destination. But thanks to a new focus on families and a partnership with National Geographic, it is that and so much more.
The Princess and the NatGeo Team
My family, especially my kids, love everything National Geographic: the kid’s magazine, the adult magazine, the specials; and the channel is on everyone’s DVR list. So, when I heard about National Geographic Explorer’s club at the Fairmont Scottsdale, I knew it was a must-do. Even though my expectations were very high, they managed to exceed even my wildest dreams.
Running for the summer of 2009, Tuesday through Sunday through Labor Day, the camp allows the campers to experience all the fun and excitement of a National Geographic adventure with a kid-friendly sensibility. And if it is successful this year (and how can they miss?) then it will become an annual fixture.
My daughter, Daelyn — about to be 8 years old — could not stop talking about the ‘Desert Discovery,’’ a mixture of a an archeological expedition and a treasure hunt. Campers break off into teams, with a bag of ‘Special Tools’ — my daughter's name for the GPS device, magnifying glasses, measuring tape and disappearing ink they used to help locate animal replicas around the resort.
This is one of the four entertaining and educating programs that rotate daily, so that campers that attend more than one can discover something new each time. The other activities include Photo Safaris, where campers can explore one of the things National Geographic is famous for, extraordinary photography. Additionally, there is Geo Bowl, a geography trivia game show, and Giant traveling maps.
Celebrity Scientists Add Glamour to Discovery
But the real highlight is Special Speaker Saturdays. Every other Saturday through Labor Day, world-renowned real life National Geographic explorers share their stories and adventures during two sessions throughout the day with the campers. That night the whole family can join in the fun for a lively and entertaining dinner presentation.
Our weekend we saw Dr. Brady Barr, host of ‘Deadly Encounters’ on Nat Geo, and a recognized herpetologist, which I learned from his lecture is a reptile expert. In the morning session, the campers got to touch an 18-foot python and come face-to-taped-up-snout with an alligator.
In the afternoon, the children got to experience the actual ‘Croc Suit’ Dr. Barr uses to tag crocodiles in the field, as well as try different methods for capturing a croc. The dinner, which featured a child- and adult-pleasing selection of different foods, was delicious but the lecture and photos and videos presented by Dr. Barr were truly unforgettable and an amazing and unique experience.
Upcoming presenters include Tornado Hunter Tim Samaras; NASA engineer Dr. Kobie Boykins; and primatologist Dr Mireya Mayor, to name a few.
One of the ideas behind the camp was to inspire a new generation of nature lovers, conservationists, scientists and adventurers, and judging from the faces around the room that night they did just that. Prices for the camp range from $49 for a half-day to $89 for a full day session on Special Speaker Saturdays, the special Saturday dinner is an additional fee. There are also special rates for explorer’s camp and hotel suite packages, which can be found on the resort's website.
Fairmont Princess: Organized Fun for All Ages
Now if Explorer’s camp isn’t your family’s idea of fun, the Fairmont Scottsdale has plenty of alternative family fun to offer. Seven tennis courts, five heated pools — one with two family waterslides and another that hosts ’Dive-in movies’ weekend nights — five restaurants, and enough Arizona flora and fauna to keep you entertained just walking the property, are some of the facilities that will keep you engaged in plenty of together time.
There may be times when you want a little less togetherness, to just go and do grownup stuff. The Fairmont makes this desire guilt-free with their Kid’s Club and Teen Hangout. The Kid’s Club is basically a day camp the Hotel has for its younger guests. The main room has Sony Playstations and Nintendo Wii systems, arcade machines, air hockey, a pool table, board games, crafts, and so much more including their pet bearded dragon.
That’s just the indoor activities; in the afternoon the children get an opportunity to go swimming. There are plenty of guides. Although none of the pools have official lifeguards, counselors supervise and accompany the children at all times. The Teen Hangout is conveniently located adjacent to the Fitness Center.
The Princess Knows How to Spa
Some of the grownup facilities you are not going to want to pass up include the two adjacent 18-hole TPC golf courses and the Willow Stream Spa. The Willow Stream Spa at Fairmont Scottsdale is an experience not to be missed. A glory to the senses both inside and out, the décor and design are as satisfying as the unique and exceptional services.
I had the opportunity to experience the Havasupai Body Oasis Experience, their signature two-hour treatment that started with their waterfall experience and proceeded to a full body encompassing treatment.
Afterwards, I went to the rooftop pool and swam laps while people sunbathed and read, while drinking prickly pear lemonade. The spa has a full service salon, its own fitness center, a Canyon Oasis garden and a full spa cuisine menu available. This is truly an amazing experience and well worth the prices.
Fairmont Princess Restaurants & Rooms
Of course, there are many other dining options, for when you're not at the spa. The Bourbon Steak, right off the main lobby, is a contemporary American steakhouse, which has set out to help you make the best burgers in Arizona with their build-your-own burger. My son, the burger lover, would have quite literally eaten this place up.
My daughter on the other hand preferred the atmosphere and cuisine of the LV Bistro. The LV Bistro leans towards fresh organic and local produce, all natural meats and fresh smoothies made on the spot.
There’s also nothing stopping you from grabbing a meal at the nearby Kierland Commons, an upscale Main Street lifestyle center that blends upscale shopping, dining and entertainment.
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a AAA Five-Diamond hotel so the rooms are luxurious and beautiful, and a treat for the senses. Calming décor surrounds you with earthy colors and textures, like dark wood, marble, and tiles. Fine linens cover wonderfully cozy beds. (You might actually wish they were less comfortable, so you wouldn’t want to spend all day in them.)
This resort actually finds many ways to make getting up easier, such as Nespresso in-room coffee machines with a selection of rich coffee, decaf and organic teas, and an inspired innovation of the reminder wake up call (a second wake up call 15 minutes after the first, like a concierge snooze alarm).
Our room had a nice size table that could be used as a workstation or for room service, a flat screen TV, an overstuffed mini bar, a balcony with a view of the East pool and the McDowell Mountains. The bathroom was a haven: a large tile shower, a deep bathtub, a WC, double sinks and all the amenities including shampoos and lotions, a scale, and a 7- year-old sized bathrobe. Suites like the on we stayed in come with a king-size bed or two double beds.
The pair of beds was fine for my teeny daughter and me and probably for happy siblings under age 10, but if you're traveling with a larger group or teens you might want to get one of the one-bedroom suites. With a fold-down Murphy bed in the living room, a kitchenette with a fridge and microwave and an extra bathroom, it would be more comfortable, especially for an extended stay.
Another choice are the Fairmont Gold Rooms, which reminded me of a pied a terre or a studio. These luxurious, self-enclosed rooms give you the feeling of staying at a guesthouse on an estate rather than at a hotel.
All in all, my daughter and I both had wonderful individual experiences as well as mother-daughter bonding time at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. There are plenty of sightseeing opportunities in Scottsdale, such as hot air balloon rides, the Scottsdale Museum of the West and more, but for Daelyn and me the hotel offered ample excitement; especially the National Geographic Explorer’s Club. Unique and innovative, it made for an exciting and memorable weekend that may be the highlight of your summer.
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess (480/585-4848, 866/540-4495), is located at 7575 East Princess Drive, Scottsdale, Arizona 85255, close by the Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. Summer time is the best value here, although Arizona can get quite hot, as it's a very popular resort and conference center that is heavily booked in the winter season.
For more information about the National Geographic Explorer’s club at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, parents can email the staff at SCP.NGExplorersCamp@fairmont.com
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