When you mention taking a family vacation to Arizona, most people think about Scottsdale, Sedona, or the Grand Canyon. But if you head further south, there is a lot offer in Tucson, Arizona. While downtown Tucson has a cool arts scene and some good restaurants, most families will head to the ranches and Tucson resorts in the outskirts of the city.
I love Tucson because of its proximity to Saguaro National Park. Which if you haven’t been to yet, you really should add it to your list. This Arizona national park is a true gem. I know you can see cacti in plenty of places, but nothing it the same as a sunset in Saguaro.
Just keep in mind that Tucson is located in a valley and it is quite sprawling. So if you are staying up in Ventana Canyon on the northeastern side of the city, it will take you 45 minutes or more to make it over to the western section of Saguaro National Park. And going downtown for dinner or attractions might take up to 30 minutes.
So give yourselves time when you want to explore, but with many Tucson resorts you never want to leave the property. I have visited Tucson twice and stayed on two different resorts. The first was for the Family Travel Association Summit, which was held in the fall and the temperatures were beautiful in October. It was hot enough during the day that you wanted to spend plenty of time at the pool. However, it wasn’t too hot that you couldn’t enjoy hiking or horseback riding in the morning or late afternoon. And the evenings were perfectly cool where all you needed was a light sweater to enjoy dinner outside.
The second time I visited was this past June. Hannah was attending a week-long astronomy camp through the University of Arizona (did I mention that there are also many world-class observatories near Tucson?). Glenn was attending a conference at the same time so I decided to tag along and explore during the week before we could pick her up from camp. June is definitely brutally hot in Arizona. But the good news was that the rates were low and there was no problem getting a chair by the pool. I parked myself under an umbrella by the pool and headed out in the evening to visit Saguaro National Park and do some hiking on property.
One thing I noticed when driving around the Tucson area was just how many resorts there are to choose from. Since I’ve only got to sample two, the Westin La Paloma and the Loews Ventana Canyon, I thought it would be helpful to not just compare these two properties, but also ask some of my blogger friends to share their favorite Tucson resorts for families.
Best Tucson Resorts for Families
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Westin La Paloma
The Westin La Paloma is a AAA Four Diamond resort nestled into the foothills of the Santa Catalina Mountains. While there is a conference center, this resort has a lot of character compared to other Westin properties. It will appeal to business travelers and families alike (or families accompanying business travelers!)
The rooms are spacious and laid out in wings of single-story buildings with outdoor walkways, stretching throughout the property. It can be a bit confusing to find your way around at first, but I appreciate the resort-like feel versus a high-rise hotel. The rooms themselves are large and offer a veranda. One of the things to keep an eye out for as you walk the dimly lit paths at night are the creatures that might be lurking. Plenty of warning signs throughout the property made me keep my eyes peeled but luckily I didn’t have any unwelcome encounters.
Where the resort really shines is the pool area. There is the infinity-style pool for those that like peaceful sunbathing, and then the family pool, which wraps around and includes a water slide. Service pool-side was also very attentive with towels, shade, sunscreen, and water.
The restaurants were a bit pricey, and nothing to wow me, but it is fairly easy to leave the property to visit local restaurants nearby.
Loews Ventana Canyon
By contrast, the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort struck me as more luxurious in some aspects. The property is gorgeous, with the front overlooking the golf course and mountains in the distance, and the back looking straight up at the Santa Catalina Mountains. Maybe it was because I was there in June, but the lobby and public areas felt posh and quiet. The bell staff and valets were very helpful and always had water bottles on hand when you were heading out (or you could refill your water bottle during the day in the lobby.)
The rooms were laid out in two main wings that branched out from the central lobby. There were a mix of indoor and outdoor corridors and it didn’t feel as private as the Westin layout. The rooms themselves were quite nice and comfortable.
Where the Loews and the Westin really vary are in the pool area. The main pool at the Loews is quite simple compared to the Westin, with a simple shape. There is another adults-only pool near the spa and tennis courts but it was across the driveway from the main building and not as convenient. Service was excellent and the view was very pretty, but younger kids would like the Westin pool better.
However, the food at the Loews was delicious, even in-room dining. And there are other activities on property including some hiking trails back to a waterfall in the foothills, and more strenuous hiking nearby. We were also able to head out to dinner with some great Mexican and Peruvian restaurants within a five-minute drive.
El Conquistador Tucson
The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain
The Ritz Carlton, Dove Mountain is nestled right into the mountain terrain allowing for easy access to 20 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. With three pools, a 235-ft waterslide and a splash pad, kids of all ages will have plenty of ways to stay cool in the desert.
My boys loved checking out the desert animals that the Rangers care for like snakes, tarantulas, and desert tortoises. The Ritz Kids Club and availability of in-room camping, round out some awesome fun for kids at this resort. Nightly S’mores, tours of Indian Petroglyphs and nighttime hunts for scorpions will keep the tweens and teens happy too. For the adults, you have Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf, and a spa and fitness center. Or just stay in your guest room and enjoy the large soaking tub and balcony with amazing views.
Karen Heffren, Desert Chica
White Stallion Ranch
Hacienda del Sol
The Hacienda Del Sol, a small, luxury historic guest ranch resort in the foothills north of Tucson, has romantic old-west charm with modern amenities. Built in 1929, the ranch started as girl’s finishing ranch for young ladies of high society including the Campbell and Vanderbilt families. By the 1940’s it was a hotel, and became a favorite desert hideaway for Hollywood’s elite, including Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn.
The resort offers lodging in the main building or more spacious accommodations in 32 newly built private casitas, with able space for couples and families. The property has onsite stables for horseback riding, two pools and a jacuzzi, and lush gardens with walking trails. The service is exceptional and the resort boasts amenities such as free parking, free WiFi, onsite in-room spa services, and a 24-hour fitness room. The Hacienda De Sol has a bar and two restaurants on-property, including the award-winning The Grill, featuring five-star cuisine, a “Best Award of Designation” award by Wine Spectator for the past 19 consecutive years, and breathtaking sunset views of Tucson and the desert. While the resort is definitely family-friendly, there is more activities for families with older children.
Julie Cohn, A Cork, Fork, & Passport
Do you have a Tucson resort that you love? Tell us about it in the comments.
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