PHOENIX -- It might be a cliche to describe the JW Marriott Desert Ridge Resort & Spa as an oasis in the desert, but that's exactly what it is.
"We capture the essence of Arizona, and our culinary experience is out of this world," said Joe Serna, the resort's director of sales and marketing. "We pride ourselves on everything we do."
That's evident in everything from the food to the hospitality to the rooms themselves. I've stayed in many of the Valley's top resorts, and the JW Marriott is as good as it gets.
Here are 10 reasons why:
1. Wildfire Golf Club
The 36-hole Wildfire Golf Club is on resort property and in the shadows of the spectacular McDowell Mountains. Golfers can try Wildfire's Arnold Palmer Course with wide fairways and mounding that brings the ball back into play, or the more difficult Nick Faldo Course , with its 108 deep pot bunkers. Either way, it's a pleasure to be able to walk out of your room and onto the course within five minutes.
Want to see a movie, do some shopping or grab a quick lunch with the kids? The Desert Ridge Marketplace is less than one mile from the resort. The outdoor mall has upscale clothing outlets and some big, brand-name box stores.
3. Water features
It is Arizona, and a dip in the pool in the summer isn't just advisory, it's mandatory. The JW has that covered, with five pools and a lazy river that's a perfect way to enjoy a hot summer afternoon. The pools are heated as well, so visitors can still take a dip in the winter months. There's also an adult pool that's on the opposite side of the resort of the lazy river for those who prefer a little quieter relaxation.
4. The food
The JW has seven restaurants that run the gamut from serving cheeseburgers to kids out by the pools, to the Tuscany Italian Grill, to the Meritage Steakhouse. It's hard to go wrong with any of them, but try Stonegrill, the Southwestern-fare restaurant from chef de Cuisine Joseph Graffeo. Ask for the calamari as an appetizer and the Prime Flat Iron Steak as the main course. You can thank me later.
5. Take a walk
The property was designed so guests can enjoy Arizona's beautiful climate -- okay, the summer months are a bit much -- and the JW has plenty of sidewalks that weave through the desert and the grounds on all sides of the hotel. Ask the concierge where the bee farm is; yes, the resort actually has a bee farm it uses to produce the honey for its honey brown ale beer.
6. The Griffin Room
The JW is just one of two Marriott resorts -- the other is in Cancun -- to offer the Griffin Room, which can best be described as the concierge level on steroids. For $75, guests can enjoy a chef-made breakfast that includes omelets and the usual buffet items, lunch, appetizers, a dessert tasting menu and free alcohol. Trust me, it's tempting to hang out there all day.
7. The size
To put it simply, the resort is enormous. The property takes up more than 240,000 square feet, there are 950 rooms and enough meeting space to hold several conventions. Oh, and there's the requisite Starbucks for the caffeine high in the morning. Fortunately, while the JW is on a huge scale, it's not outlandish like some high-price resorts. You'll feel as comfortable walking around in a bathing suit and flip-flops as you would a suit and tie.
8. The rooms
They're exactly what you would expect from a first-class resort. Each room has a big-screen, high definition TV, a walk-in shower, and a private balcony or patio. Tell the reservation desk you'd like a room overlooking the pool and lazy river. Then grab a glass of wine and some appetizers from the Griffin Room and enjoy the view.
9. The golf deals
Most golf clubs in the Valley offer special summer deals to entice visitors to play in the 110-degree heat. The JW Marriott Fling and Swing promotion is one of the best. For $159, guests can enjoy unlimited golf after 11 a.m., a night stay at the resort, a $50 resort credit and kids under 12 eat free. There's also a new Fling and Double Swing promotion in which guests can play either of the two Wildfire courses or the two courses at the Camelback Inn.
10. The Revive Spa
Want a couples' massage, a manicure or a pedicure? Try the 28,000-square-foot Revive Spa, which has 41 treatment rooms that include fireplaces and private patios. There's also a full-service salon and a spa bistro.