The Wild West
Desert landscapes make or sunny honemoon destinations.
At 6,500 feet above sea level, Albuquerque is a “high desert” with a landscape punctuated by pink-tinged mesas, sage trees and mountain peaks as jagged as the serrated knives on your bridal registry.
What to do: The stunning views are punctuated with hiking and biking trails that crisscross the Cibola National Forest. The signature sport, however, is hot-air ballooning, and it’s easy to catch a ride. Not into heights? You can still experience ballooning at the Anderson-Abruzzo Albuquerque International Balloon Museum. Or take the Sandia Peak Tramway to the 10,400-foot peak, where you can view 11,000 square miles of New Mexican landscape. You’ll feel like you’re hanging from an airplane.
If you want a peek into another time, a hike to the Petroglyph National Monument is in order. Once you’re there, you’ll be able to check out archeological sites that hold nearly 20,000 carvings. Some are easily identified as animals or people. Others are more mysterious.
The petroglyphs aren’t the only cultural window. The state is also home to 19 pueblos, whose histories are detailed at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center. Catch a coach bus from the museum to Acoma, located an hour into the desert. Perched on a 300-foot-high mesa, Acoma is the among the oldest continually inhabited U.S. cities. About 15 people live there full time, without running water or electricity. Laced with ladders leading to second stories, the block buildings stand shoulder-to-shoulder like time-worn sentinels. Bring cash to buy the local pottery made by Pueblo women.
The road to Acoma parallels Route 66, which in town becomes Central Avenue. The historic highway is lined by kitschy ‘50s-style storefronts with neon signs. While you’re there, grab a thick shake and a burger topped with cheese, bacon and green chiles at the 66 Diner.
Where to stay: The Marriott Albuquerque boasts spectacular views of the mountains and it’s near ABQ Uptown, home to Marcello’s Chophouse—try the center-cut sirloin or “flash-fried” lobster—and La Bella Spa, which has a 24-page service menu.
Los Poblanos Inn, just outside of the bustle of the city, is a quiet retreat on an organic farm. Rooms boast Kiva fireplaces and bath products made on the farm. When you aren’t strolling the 25-acres of gardens, lavender fields and organic vegetables, check out the architectural details by southwestern artists. The hotel serves as a gallery of sorts where you can inspect the architecture of John Gaw Meem, the carvings of Gustave Baumann and the ironwork of Walter Gilbert.
Honeymooners can also cultivate a little romance at the intimate Mauger Bed and Breakfast Inn. This historic property (the first home in ABQ to have electricity), maintains its Queen Anne-style charm with hardwood floors, high ceilings and a red brick front. In keeping with B&B tradition, each room is unique. You can look forward everything from a hand-carved headboards to a framed al fresco crowning your bed.
For serious golfers, spa-enthusiasts and outdoor-lovers, Greater Phoenix is the go-to spot.
Greater Phoenix—nicknamed the Valley—encompasses Phoenix, Scottsdale, Tempe and Mesa. Since the Valley’s resorts are destinations unto themselves, it can be challenging to choose just one.
What to do: For serious golfers, spa-enthusiasts and outdoor lovers, Greater Phoenix is the go-to spot. Club carriers should make a stop at Troon North, The Pinnacle, a 7,044-yard, par-72 course designed by Tom Weiskopf. The course has built an enviable reputation in its 20 years, something its caretakers are working to improve on with a recent renovation. If you’ve already mastered the course in the past, swing in for another try and see how you like the newly configured holes.
So exploring the new greens may not be your thing, but exploring the area’s hills might be. If that’s the case, head to the Superstition Mountains, where you might stumble on the fabled Lost Dutchman Mine. At the least, you can peruse items in the Lost Dutchman Museum.
Or, satisfy the speed racer in you with a drive around the 1.6-mile track at the Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Whether you take the one-day Intro to Racing course or the three-day Grand Prix Road Racing class, you’ll be sure to experience the thrill of a soaring speedometer. You might even learn something while you’re at it.
For a slightly slower-paced educational experience, visit the Heard Museum. There you’ll learn about the region’s native cultures, with a focus on the Hohokam Indians, who first settled Phoenix and built its signature canals.
Where to stay: Urban trendsetters head to Hotel Valley Ho, which was originally built in 1956. It recently underwent an $80 million renovation, and it’s so trendy, you almost expect the “Sex in the City” gals to waltz through Trader Vic’s, the hotel restaurant. The 8,000-square-foot VH (Vitality + Health) Spa continues the retro-chic theme.
The Phoenician, which rolls across 250 acres at the base of Camelback Mountain, caters to the cultivated. Witness the collection of fine art and antiques valued at $25 million, the 2.5-acre cactus garden and the onsite master sommelier.
The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa, which opened in 2002, is a block from Kierland Commons, a 38-acre shopping center. Rooms overlook the golf course or McDowell Mountains. The views are equally breathtaking from the lawns, which accommodate wedding ceremonies. Agave Spa, located near the adults-only pool, features a moisture massage that can replenish skin after exposure to the hot sun.
The Four Seasons is, well, The Four Seasons. It’s at a slightly higher altitude at the foothills of Pinnacle Peak, so the site is cooler than downtown Phoenix. The location also makes for some lovely views, especially when framed by towering saguaro cacti, which only bloom in the Sonoran Desert. The rooms, which have gas fireplaces, are in 25 Southwestern-style casitas, which makes the property look like a small village.
Where to eat: Most resorts have several onsite restaurants. If you do venture off-property, try La Grande Orange, a hip pizzeria-deli-gourmet grocery that’s wonderful for lunch.
NoRTH, in Kierland Commons, takes a contemporary approach to Italian cuisine. Pizzas, for instance, are topped with asiago, arugula and sweet onion or prosciutto and goat cheese.
If a draft beer is what you’re after you can always find one at Greasewood Flat, an old stagecoach spot that still packs ‘em in.
Newlyweds will experience both highs and the lows in Moab, which has some of the most dramatically diverse terrain in the world. Canyons plummet thousands of feet and peaks sore up to 12,000 feet.
What to do: Moab—nicknamed the adventure capital of the Southwest—is a destination for those who like to hike, raft, horseback ride, fish, rock-climb, kayak and bike. To be sure, mountain bikers know all about Moab’s Slickrock Trail in the Sand Flats Recreation Area. Drawing more than 100,000 visitors each year, Slickrock is one of the most poular mountain bike trails in the world. At only 12 miles round trip, this is no easy course. The strong of heart (and of pedaling) won’t want to miss sections of the trail like “Faith in Friction” or “Steep Creep.”
For those who prefer asphalt, the Moab area also features excellent road biking.
For a more high-powered road experience, Volkswagen offers The Touareg Adventure a three-day thrill on four-wheel drive trails. The all-inclusive experience has you spending your nights at the Sorrel River Ranch Resort and Spa beside the Colorado River, and adventuring off road during the day.
Arches National Park is a must-do, must-see. More than 2,000 red rock arches are located within the 7,518-acre park, which is peppered with other formations, including sandstone fins, balanced rocks, pinnacles and towering spires. In all, the park makes up the world’s largest concentration of natural stone arches. You can hike or take a scenic drive to the major viewpoints. Then again, you needn’t look far to take in a view. Moab’s romantic landscape, a magnet for photographers, has no shortage of them.
Where to stay: Utah’s only Small Luxury Hotel® and AAA Four-Diamond recipient, the 55-room Sorrel River Ranch is one of two resorts in the area. The other is the Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge, which is also home to Castle Creek Winery and the Moab Movie Museum.
Guests at Sorrel River Ranch can expect ranch charm mixed with a sense of adventure. But guests will be blown away by the different adventures the concierge can help plan. There’s everything from horseback riding to rafting to guided hikes.
At the slightly larger Red Cliffs Adventure Lodge welcomes guests with its western ranch décor. Between touring the winery or the museum save time to experience some trekking, rock climbing, rafting, biking and horseback riding. Or, just spend some time poolside. Whatever your pleasure, there’s a way to pursue it.
You can also rent a condo or stay in a guesthouse, B&B or hotel.