Loews Ventana Canyon Resort in Tucson, Az. is a big desert resort with the heartbeat of a much smaller venue. Nestled all alone in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, this 398 room property hosts
a number of corporate meetings alongside couples escape there for golf, hiking or a romantic, relaxing getaway. With two 18-hole, Fazio-designed PGA golf courses, eight tennis courts, a well-equipped gym and exercise studio, a terrific 7,000 s.f. spa/beauty center, two swimming pools to lounge around on a 75 degree mid-February day, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

My sister and I just had one day to try it all so we hit the ground running. Our newly renovated room had all the necessary luxe touches and thoughtfully provided an extra long table between the two beds, so for once my sister and I could spread out all our books, water bottles, papers etc. without fighting for personal space. Pick your view—you can’t lose with either the glorious mountains adorned with cactus and palm trees or the distant twinkling lights of Tuscon.

Since it was glorious weather we decided to have brekkie outdoors by the pool, where peppy reggae music was playing. Then a quick detour to the Concierge’s desk where we handed her our To-Do list: confirm our flight times, print our Boarding Passes, make dinner reservations at the hotel’s Flying V Bar & Grill, and provide us with fool-proof directions for a morning hike. She graciously accomplished all and when we thanked her, replied that it was her pleasure and sounded like she actually meant it! Time now for a shout-out to whoever trains the personnel here– everyone we encountered at the resort, from the young girl at the gift shop to the fellow at the pool, the whole staff at Loews Ventana were the best. It makes such a difference when you pass an employee who first offers a cheerful greeting and then asks if there is anything they can do for you.

Time to get physical. We unfolded the hiking map to find out trail which began right behind the hotel. The concierge had assured us that it was “impossible to get lost.” (Hah…typical for us, we got lost in the parking lot just trying to find the trail head.) For the first hour we strode out single file on the fairly well defined trail until we heard something that sounded….really animal-ish. I whispered to my big- city sis, “Look over there! What the hell is that?”
She tried looking really hard, but without her “readers” she couldn’t see squat, but she did know it wasn’t something she usually encountered on the streets of Manhattan. Squinting hard, she zeroed in on…..a cougar? Just in case, we picked up some big rocks for protection. Then another wild animal came up behind the first guy, and they started making some serious territorial fighting noises. Holding our breath and rocks, we silently backtracked and took a detour back to the hotel. Later we learned that these two dudes were “just” bobcats- but ours were most definitely not house broken!

After our wild animal adventure we were more than ready to kick back with some beauty treatments at the full-service Lakeside Spa. My sister went upstairs for a mani-pedi, and reported back that she loved her charming esthetician, Sarah, who sweetly explained each step of the procedure, “Now I am just going to wrap each of your feet in a fragrant hot towel while I prepare you for your massage.” Thirty minutes later her working girl hands with their two-bit stubby nails actually looked ready for the Oscars.

I wanted to try something different so opted for their signature Sedona Sacred Clay Energy Restorer Juniper Cedar Wood Body Treatment, which was every bit as wonderful as it sounds. For 80 minutes I was buffed, exfoliated, massaged, and wrapped in a warm clay cocoon to marinate, I mean detox, while listening to the soothing sounds of native music and breathing in the purifying smoke of white sage…sheer unadulterated heaven!

I collected my sister and oohed over her mani while she awwed over my baby-butt skin and we headed back to our room. Walking toward the elevator we heard sounds much nicer than warring bobcats, coming from an incredible chanteuse and her pianist at the lobby bar. My sis, a devotee of all good cabaret and jazz, twisted my arm to stop for a drink and listen. This duo could easily hold their own in any top Manhattan club. What an unexpected treat.

Although the hotel’s Ventana Room had been chosen as one of the top restaurants in the Southwest by Condé Nast Traveler and Zagat, we were in the mood for something casual and were happy to kick back at the Flying V Bar & Grill. The Mexican-centric menu had so many tempting offerings that we decided to just share a bunch of small plates. The chunky guacamole made table-side, chicken quesadillas, southwestern spicy riblets, a bubbling skillet of the house favorite mac and cheese, and a chopped salad for some token health food, were all tasty and very generously sized. If these were the “small plates” I wondered just how large were the entree size?

Back in our room, snuggling down for the night we were sorely tempted to change our plane tickets so that we might stay on one more day-but couldn’t figure out a way to avoid the outrageous change fee. No worries, since we knew we’d be back.

Go to their website for more details and some great packages.