I have stayed at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess many times over the past few years. It happens to be one of my favorite places to relax close to home.
Some of my visits have been as a guest of the resort and on other occasions I’ve paid for the visit myself. I’ve both received complimentary spa treatments and have purchased my own. It’s the same at the restaurants on the resort’s grounds–I’ve had complimentary meals and I’ve paid for my own. So, this hotel profile is different from some of the others and an overview of the hotel based on multiple stays.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a AAA Five-Diamond resort in North Scottsdale. It has graced the desert for 25 years now, since it opened in December 1987. The views of the McDowell Mountains from the property are breathtaking. For years before there were other buildings and hotels close to it, the “Princess” was a beacon in the desert. The hotel was originally part of Princess Hotels & Resorts but even after it changed hands and became a Fairmont property, the “Princess” part of the name stuck. I remember coming to Arizona to visit my sister in the years before I moved here–so perhaps 22 or 23 years ago now–and The Princess was one of the first places she took me.
I have traveled the world but am convinced we have some of the best resorts right here in Arizona. Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is at the top of that list. The best part is that the resort frequently offers specials, making it a great place to visit even for those on limited budgets.
I love pulling up to the Princess. The folks who greet me are always so pleasant and welcoming. I usually valet park my car–especially in the hot summer months–to avoid the walk from self-parking to the main entrance. The lobby is beautiful all year round with wide open spaces and gorgeous flowers on the table in the entry. It somehow is a perfect blend of elegance and desert Southwest without any kitschy decor. I think my favorite time of year is during the holidays when the lobby is decked out with greenery, candles, twinkling lights and trees.
As you make your way to the front desk, be sure to check out the screen on the wall behind the desk. It cycles through live shots from cameras around the resort. The staff is always friendly and I get the same level of service whether I go as a guest of the resort or more incognito and pay for my own stay.
It doesn’t matter that I have been to the resort more than a half dozen times, I still have one of the bell staff guide me to my room the first time. The resort is massive and that way I can get to my room without wandering around the grounds. There are many different types of rooms at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess and I have stayed in a number of them. On most of my visits, including the most recent one in August 2013, I stay in a Deluxe Room. These rooms overlook the gardens, pools or lagoons, have a spacious covered patio with table and chairs, a wet bar, Nespresso machine, mini-bar, desk, flat-screen TV and a soothing interior design with natural colors of the desert Southwest. The bathrooms are quite large with over-sized soaking tub, separate shower, large closet with storage, double vanities and a dressing area.
You’ll also find plenty of little touches that make you feel pampered, including great bath amenities, thick bathrobes and turn-down service. I love the beds at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. I’d love to have one of my very own at home. I had one of these rooms overlooking the pool when I stayed at the resort over Fourth of July in 2012. I felt like I was getting a private fireworks show as I watched from my balcony. I have yet to see such spectacular fireworks anywhere else.
In the past, I’ve also stayed in a Cholla Suite and a Casita Suite. The Casita Suites are located in a separate area on the West side of the resort. These rooms are almost double the size of the Deluxe Rooms with a separate living area. Each Casita Suite is decorated in a Spanish Colonial style. On the one occasion I stayed in a casita, I truly felt pampered. The living area has a gas fireplace, wonderful thick throw on the sofa, a dining table that seats four and a lounge chair. The bathroom is similar to that in the rooms, with two vanities and over-sized tub. There’s a lovely patio where I enjoyed breakfast. Those staying at the casitas can hang out at the private Casita Pool and hot tub. Another huge plus for staying in this area is that there is a separate casita self-parking area.
My favorite room of the ones I’ve stayed in is the Cholla Suite. Of course, I’ve never stayed in the Presidential Suite or one of the Fairmont Gold Master Suites, so I can’t compare to those, but I adored the Cholla Suite. These suites look out over the South Pool and Princess Plaza. I imagine that the view is gorgeous during the holidays. The Cholla Suite has a separate living room that you access down a long hallway from the front door. There is a dining table that seats four, sleeper sofa and chair, two 42″ flat-screen TVs (one in the bedroom and another in the living area) and a large bathroom with soaker tub.
In addition to the ones I’ve stayed in at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, there are a number of Fairmont Gold Junior Suites located in a separate Fairmont Gold area. I haven’t stayed in one of the rooms at this “resort within a resort” concept, but I was able to use the Fairmont Gold lounge on my last visit. The lounge is open from 6:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Guests who book these rooms have access to a private concierge, separate check-in, free breakfast with two hot entrees, free afternoon appetizers and evening desserts. There is free coffee, tea, water and soda available all day and an honor bar with beer, wine and liquor. WiFi is free in the lounge and you’ll have a comfortable spot to relax, read the paper or use one of the computers. Those who book the Fairmont Gold rooms also have free access to the Willow Stream Spa.
Services and Amenities
The resort sits on 65 landscaped acres and exploring the grounds is a must-do when you stay. The Spanish-style architecture creates some great spaces. You’ll find hidden alcoves where you can sit and watch the stars. There are fire pits and fireplaces scattered across the grounds where you can kick back and relax on a cool Arizona evening, lagoons and fountains, manicured lawns, flower gardens and desert landscaping.
Fairmont Scottsdale Princess embraces the casual outdoor Arizona lifestyle with five heated pools, five restaurants and lounges, five tennis courts, fitness center, Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa, a number of great shops including a Starbucks and Bobcat Billy’s Clubhouse for kids. Of course, golfers the world over know about the two famous championship-level TPC golf courses, which is the site of the Waste Management Phoenix Open each winter.
The resort now charges one of those controversial service charges. Unlike some places where I feel the charges are for things I may never use, I see the benefit of this charge, which is $29 per room per night. The fee covers unlimited basic internet access in your room or public spaces, free local calls, free calls to anywhere in the continental U.S., free self-parking for one vehicle, free admission to the Trailblazers Kid’s Club for up to three kids, 24-hour access to the fitness center, on-site shuttles around the resort, 50% discount on the daily access fee to Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa (which includes classes, waterfall treatment pool, sauna, rooftop pool) and one hour of free tennis time each day at one of the five tennis courts.
The restaurants at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess are so fabulous they deserve special attention. I have never had a bad meal at any of the restaurants. Just off the main lobby is Michael Mina’s BOURBON STEAK. I love BOURBON STEAK and you can create an experience when you dine there. For more casual dining, head to the bar and order from the Burger menu. You have a selection of burgers and topping, letting you create your own gourmet burger. Don’t forget to order an adult shake on the side. Click here for my report on the burger bar. It’s always on my list of favorite burgers and the ambiance in the bar is great.
If you’re after a full, gourmet meal, you won’t be disappointed with BOURBON STEAK under the guidance of Executive Chef Chris Curtiss and wine-pairings courtesy of Chad Elsner, master of libations. I had dinner at BOURBON STEAK on my last visit to the resort and was wowed. It was my first visit to the restaurant since Chef Curtiss joined the team. I wasn’t disappointed. He put his own spin on some of Michael Mina’s signature flavors, making them bold and memorable. Appetizers range from a delicate tuna crudo to a filet tartar or a corn soup with cream cheese croquette. I had a beautiful shrimp and cucumber in a ponzu broth. The best dish of the evening was homemade agnolotti (pasta) filled with foie gras and a sauce with mango and nuts. It may well have been the best dish I’ve ever eaten. It’s at least tied for the top spot with the ricotta gnocchi I ate at Wolfgang Puck’s Spago.
As its name suggests, BOURBON STEAK also serves up great steaks, whether you choose a Snake River Farms ribeye or Japanese Wagyu beef. Of course, no matter what you order, your evening starts with a trio of duck fat fries and homemade sauces. If you visit in the cooler months, ask to be seated outside. There are several larger booths with fire pit tables and views out onto the grounds.
La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval is another spectacular restaurant located on Hacienda Plaza next to the spa. This restaurant is a Scottsdale legacy and offers a fun twist on Southwest cuisine. If you visit in good weather, you can book one of the fire pit tables outside on the patio. I’ve had some incredible meals at La Hacienda over the years. The restaurant’s signature is its collection of more than 200 varieties of tequila. I’ve had a couple different tequila flights and am quite partial to the Elderflower Margarita. The Prickly Pear is a good option for something a bit sweet while the El Piña Diablo has a great kick with its pineapple-serrano chile infused tequila. I think my favorites on the dinner menu include the ceviche trio, the trio of tacos (chicken tinga, barbacoa de res and pork carnita), the mole poblano and carnitas hacienda (slow braised pork shoulder). You can’t dine at La Hacienda without trying the table-side guacamole before your meal and the flaming coffee created table-side with great flair for dessert. Of course, I’m also partial to the queso fundido, but how can you go wrong with a sizzling pan of melted cheese?
Ironwood American Kitchen is the resort’s all-day eatery. The food is elevated American dishes, with some great options for the kids. You really must try the Béchamel-drizzled potato chips. The restaurant serves breakfast, lunch and dinner in a casual setting. Toro Latin Restaurant and Rum Bar is the resort’s newest eatery, formerly The Grill, located at the Clubhouse on the 18th hole of the TPC Scottsdale Stadium Course and serves Pan Latin cuisine under the guidance of celebrity chef Richard Sandoval. Toro has more than 111 rums served up by the Rum Princesa. You can get breakfast, lunch and dinner from 7:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. The bar is open from 9:30 am to 10 pm daily.
I also love stopping in at The Plaza Bar for a drink when I visit. This fun indoor/outdoor lounge is ideal for meeting friends or catching a game on one of the big screens inside. My favorite spot in winter is outside on one of the white sofas by a fire pit table.
Finally, if you happen to be at the resort (or live in the area) on one of the special occasions that they’re having a brunch, you won’t be disappointed. The resort serves its magnificent brunch on Easter, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas and other special occasions. You have a chance to sample food from all the resort’s restaurants.
One of my favorite things to do at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is visit the Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa. The 44,000 square foot facility is a definite respite from the crazy world. You can book one of the spa treatments and then spend the rest of the day at the spa. The spa has a small quiet room inside, a sauna, whirlpool and private rooftop pool. One of the signature features at the spa is the Havasupai Falls, named in honor of the sacred falls at the Grand Canyon. This small outdoor pool has a series of waterfalls that pour out at different strengths, massaging your body with the water. There is also a great spa cafe onsite, where you can order tasty but healthy food and eat in the open-air courtyard or indoors next to the floor-to-ceiling windows. The spa also has a number of classes in yoga and meditation, a fitness center, a salon and experts in services like acupuncture and Reiki.
On a previous visit, I booked the signature 60-minute journey massage designed to help you completely relax. On my most recent visit, I had the Tranquillow Face and Back Experience. It was amazing. I started with a delightful back massage, then cleansing and exfoliating my back, followed by warm oil drizzled on my back and more massaging. After that, I was treated to a facial and pressure point scalp massage. The 90-minute treatment left me completely relaxed and my skin as smooth as a baby.
The spa offers a wide selection of treatments from massages to body wraps, facials to reflexology. One of these days I must try the Havasupai Falls Rejuvenation. During the 2-hour treatment, the therapist starts with a body scrub before you sink into a tub of warm water. That is followed by a hot stone massage. After that, the therapist cocoons you in a body wrap while streaming warm oil over your forehead. The treatment ends with a scalp massage. It sounds like my idea of perfection.
There is something happening at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess all the time. In summer, you can watch dine-in movies at the South Pool on weekends or join the Techno Glo Pool Party on weekends during summer. The family-friendly East Pool also offers summer weekend movies. Of course, the 200-foot twisting water slides are a big hit at the Sonoran Splash pool. You can rent cabanas there and at the South Pool and kick back in your private space with TV, lounge chairs, fan, fridge, fresh fruit plate, bottled water and Gatorade. You can catch a fireworks show every Saturday night each summer as well. There are special summer events at the resort for Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.
I believe my favorite time of year at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is the holidays. Beginning about Thanksgiving each year and going through the month of December, the resort is decked out in its holiday best. There’s a massive tree with thousands of lights that plays carols, additional trees on Hacienda patio and in the lobby, strolling carolers, a train that takes you for a casual ride through the resort to see the thousands of twinkling lights adorning every tree and cactus as well as figures set up in the lagoons. New in 2012, the resort also has a skating rink set up during the month, so you’ll be able to don ice skates and whisk around the rink under the Arizona sky.
The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a unique combination of casual and elegant. You’ll not want for anything when you stay and the staff is always professional but quick to share a smile and offer to help. It’s a place where you can go to relax, have a romantic rendezvous or take the entire family for a fun outing. I’m already counting the days until it’s holiday season at the Princess.
- 649 Rooms including 69 Fairmont Gold rooms and suites
- Separate tub/shower
- Nice lighting with outlets next to the bed and additional outlets on the desk
- iHome clock radio
- WiFi and wired internet in rooms and WiFi in public spaces; included in resort fee
- Flat screen TV
- Desk/workstation in room
- Luxurious bed linens
- Full-size hairdryer
- Mini bar
- In-room safe
- Business Center
- 24-hour fitness center
- Room service
- 5 restaurants and lounges including Michael Mina’s BOURBON STEAK, La Hacienda by Richard Sandoval, Ironwood American Kitchen, The Grill at TPC, The Plaza Bar and poolside dining service
- 44,000 square foot Spa
- 5 heated pools
- 5 tennis courts
- Championship golf courses