The JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, a luxury resort about 20 miles north of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport, sits at the northern edge of Phoenix in what was undeveloped desert when I first moved to Arizona a quarter century ago. Even though it is now close to major shopping and amenities—and part of a master planned community—the city has worked to keep vast areas of open space. This gives visitors a real feel for the Sonoran Desert that makes Arizona such a special place. There is no better place to escape the cold and snows of winter for a luxury getaway than JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.
Whether you are looking for a family getaway, a place to reflect and relax in the spa with friends, want to spend time on the golf course, or prefer to have a place to call home while you hit the shops and nightlife of Phoenix and Scottsdale, JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge has something for everyone.
There is some school of thought that when you book a hotel room, you are simply getting a place to sleep. Not so for me. I want my room—especially when I visit a resort—to be a sanctuary. This is my escape. I like having a space where I can go for a little downtime, maybe take a power nap or get some work done (if I must). I like a spot where I can breathe and think. A true escape. I found that at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge.
The rooms, all newly renovated, have beautiful windows that look out on the resort, offering different glimpses of Phoenix, depending on where you stay. You might have desert views, get glimpses of the resort's golf courses, or have lovely mountain views. There are standard rooms, junior suites, executive suites, luxury suites. On a previous visit, I stayed in a junior suite and I have stayed in a regular resort room. They both are equally comfortable, with luxury beds, floor-to-ceiling windows and lovely amenities. I love the rooms with balconies for stays during the winter months because patio space is one of the best parts of life in Arizona. The junior suite has a large walk-out balcony and the room is almost 900 square feet with large living area.
On my most recent visit, however, I stayed in a room with access to the JW Griffin Club. I honestly believe this is the best value and experience you can get during a stay at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa.
JW Griffin Club Experience
By either booking a room that includes JW Griffin Club access for two, which is the best deal, or paying $65 per guest per night membership, your stay will include unlimited access to the JW Griffin Club. This is a beautiful space that includes some great amenities, available from 6:30 am to 10:30 pm daily.
I was able to ask questions of the always-friendly concierge inside the club, which included everything from reactivating keys to where to go out for dinner. There is a nice seating space open throughout the day, ideal for reading, sipping a complimentary non-alcoholic beverage, using the computers, accessing the WiFi, or using the printers. I love that there are also jars filled with colorful retro candies and a selection of snacks, including fresh-baked cookies.
Each morning, the Griffin Club serves a hot breakfast. There are some items available as buffet items, but the chef will also prepare eggs to order. Then, middle of each day, there is a “snack” served. I expected plates of cold cuts when they termed it snacks. Instead, I discovered plates of beautiful sandwiches, piles of fresh meats, cheeses, homemade pickles, lovely salads and fresh fruit. In addition, the friendly staff seemed to care about how our day was going. I was there with my husband and the staff remembered each of us and even what each of us preferred to drink for each meal. I loved relaxing in the club each day, with beautiful views over the resort.
We never had time to get hungry, because late afternoon was time for hors d'oeuvres and cocktails. Again, there was a bartender mixing up drinks and beautiful little bites made by the chef before we left for dinner.
Still hungry after dinner? No worries. Just stop back by the Griffin Club, because each evening there is a sampler of desserts. And, for anyone feeling a bit “peckish” at night (as the British are so fond of saying), there are late night snacks and that ever-present selection of candies and cookies.
I think the price of the Griffin Club is well worth it for two people. There was one evening when my husband and I never went to dinner. We simply grazed our way through hors d'oeuvres, returned for desserts and then munched on snacks a bit later. It would have cost us more than the rate at the JW Griffin Club for breakfast, lunch and dinner that day for two people. In addition, when you pay for the Griffin Club, you also get access for two to the Revive Spa, which includes use of the adult-only Revive Spa pool.
Of course, the beauty of winter in the desert is that you can get outdoors. There is a daily resort fee that includes use of a bike, so hop on two wheels and check out the many trails that surround the resort. Our winters here are ideal for exploring, so take advantage of the amazing weather.
One of the hidden secrets at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge is the chef's garden. Located just outside of Revive Spa, this is an almost empty space each summer, but transforms into a beautiful working garden every winter, where the resort grows some of the produce you'll find in many of the dishes served in the restaurants. It's also a tranquil space to wander for a bit.
Winter is also ideal for grabbing pool time—especially when there's snow on the ground back home. The resort has five pools. Three of the pools are are heated to 82 degrees and open year-round, including the beautiful main Wildfire Pool with its central water feature.
The Lazy River is a favorite at the resort during the summer months. It is not heated during the winter months, but definitely worth putting on your list for a return during the summer months, when deep discounts make this a favorite summer destination.
My favorite pool is the adult-only pool at the Revive Spa. Also heated to 82 degrees year-round, I enjoy getting a cabana at the Revive Spa and staying toasty poolside here.
There are so many great outdoor spaces at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, that I found myself simply ambling along the paths. While I am not a golfer, and can't really speak to the golf at the resort, it does have two championship golf courses designed by Arnold Palmer and Nick Faldo. If you're a golf fan, you can find out more online here.
Relaxing at Revive Spa
For me, there is no real resort visit without a day at the spa. During my most recent visit to JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, I was able to sneak away for a few hours at Revive Spa.
The day spa is a lovely, relaxing spa that has a beautiful relaxation room, indoor and outdoor whirlpools, saunas, steam rooms, fitness room and beautiful outdoor pool. You can pay $35 a day for unlimited access to all of those amenities, gain access to the spa if you have JW Griffin Club access, or spend the day at Revive if you book a spa treatment.
During my stay, I booked the “Sami Zen” treatment. This 90-minute energy ritual was a very unique treatment that I highly recommend. It blends the customs of Japanese Zen with Sweden's native Samers. It is choreographed to Sami Jojk music, which I found quite soothing and a little mesmerizing. The treatment begins with a chamomile and pumice body scrub and is followed by a warm herbal bath that lasted for about 15 minutes. During my bath, my therapist left me with a cool cloth and a cup of tea in a delightful hydrotherapy tub while music softly played in the dimly lit room. That 15 minutes went way too fast.
After I dried off and returned to the massage table, my therapist covered my skin with a birch-bud extract known for its protective properties that are used to stimulate circulation and detox the skin. Next, she wrapped my body loosely to let my skin detoxify and I floated away into that spa lala land of partially awake and partially asleep.
While my skin was detoxing, my therapist gave me a mini facial, which is always welcome in the dry desert climate. Finally, she unwrapped my body and used heated crystals to give me a stone massage designed to relieve pain and instill a sense of deep calm. All of this was set to that deeply calming music and the slow, deep strokes of the Zen and Samers. I felt strangely calm yet somehow energized. It was definitely one of the best body treatments I have had in a while. I have discovered that a 90-minute treatment, with the scrub and bath at the beginning, is just about perfect for me.
Great Food, Casual Dining
I think the dining experiences at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge go a long way to define food in Arizona. When I first moved here, almost 25 years ago, there weren't the plethora of dining choices there are today. When people ask me now to describe Arizona dining, I always tell them it's about good, fresh flavors with a little bit of heat in a casual atmosphere. I think that describes the dining experiences at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge, particularly at stonegrill.
stonegrill offers what it calls “Southwestern American” cuisine for three meals a day, served both inside and on its outside patio. I really love the feel of stonegrill as well as the food. It feels a little urban—after all, Phoenix is the sixth largest city in the United States—but a little rustic to reflect the wood and sandstone found here in our deserts. There are community tables, private tables and booths indoors, with additional seating on the patio. I also really enjoy the bar area here and they have great salads at lunch. The farm greens with grilled prawns is one of my favorite lunch time dishes and I occasionally pop in there for lunch when I'm in the area.
For dinner during my stay, the highlight was actually quite simple, but sometimes I think that's what makes the best food. My husband and I ordered the tableside guacamole and it was delicious.
I think part of my attraction to tableside guac is that I have a chance to chat with the prep cook preparing the dish. We had a young man preparing our guacamole who chatted about his background and asked us about why we were at the resort. He seemed genuinely interested in us and easily answered our questions about what he enjoyed most about the menu.
I really loved the green chili chicken enchiladas and my husband ordered the Angus bacon cheeseburger that turned out to be delicious. I laughed at him ordering a burger, but it was huge, beautifully presented and, again in its simple goodness with a side of sweet potato fries, a real hit for the evening.
The other great dining and entertainment venue at JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa is twenty6, the lobby lounge named to celebrate the 26th JW Marriott opened worldwide.
This is a great space for day and evening and is another indoor-outdoor space that celebrates what I love most about Arizona. There are massive floor-to-ceiling windows that open to the patio. During the day, it's ideal for business folks who want to work or chat between meetings.
After the meetings end, however, it becomes the place to gather for drinks and bites. Indoors, you can sit by the bar and listen to live entertainment on Friday and Saturday evenings.
Outdoors, there are great firepits where you can sit back, relax and order up some great drinks. The cheese boards and flatbreads are delicious, but I think the selection of three different types of bruschetta is my favorite. I opt for a traditional burrata with a delicious tomato jam, the brie with fig jam and a spicy Spanish chorizo.
I do have some favorite drinks at twenty6. If you really want to splurge, order the twenty6 margarita, made with Corazon Reposado Tequila aged in Buffalo Trace barrels, Grand Marnier, fresh squeezed lime, agave nectar and prickly pear for $26. I'm also not usually a bourbon fan, but I do recommend that you try the Buffalo Trace bourbon that was bottled exclusively for twenty6.
A sweeter, more Arizona-centric option is the Prickly Pear Margarita. Made from the bright pink fruits of the prickly pear cactus, this sweet option is a frequent favorite of visitors and locals alike.
Another twenty6 take on a popular favorite is the Arizona Jack, blending St. George green chile vodka, maraschino liqueur and Gosling's ginger beer.
If You Go
When you're ready to escape the cold and snows of winter, head to Phoenix, Arizona. The ideal luxury resort getaway is waiting you at the JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort & Spa, located in the beautiful desert about 20 minutes north of central Phoenix. You won't be disappointed if you're looking for some great food, relaxation, pampering and beautiful Arizona winter weather.
5350 East Marriott Drive
Phoenix, AZ 85054
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