Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa Hotel Review
It's not the biggest pool in town, and it's not even the flashiest (you won't find any fountains or water slides at this serene spot), but there are still three good reasons why the pool at Sanctuary on Camelback is our favorite place for a swim: location, location, location. Nestled amidst an oasis of lush palm trees and palo verdes that lazily wave in the breeze, it looks like a placid turquoise lagoon under the big, blue Arizona sky, with a sweet view of Camelback Mountain and the Praying Monk rock formation practically hovering over us. Sanctuary also claims its pool has the biggest infinity edge in the state — we love to swim right up to it, listening to the soothing sound of water splashing over glossy mosaic tiles. After we've turned into prunes, the surrounding flagstone patio is the perfect place to chill on a sleek white lounge chair and sip a cold piña colada from a curvy lime-green cup (which happens to be the same exact shade as the beach towels here). People come from all over the country to stay at this stylish Paradise Valley enclave, but we're thrilled that we can go there anytime we want — when we can scrounge up the cash, that is.
Camelback Inn, A JW Marriott Resort & Spa, Scottsdale
We hate to sound like a broken record, but once again, this year's honor for Best Spa must go to our all-time favorite, the Spa at Camelback Inn. As a friend recently waxed (heh heh, get it?), "You feel so close to the desert, it's like you can actually reach up and touch the cactus." And it's true — snuggled in your thick white robe, stretched out on an impossibly comfortable chaise next to a clear blue swimming pool, beneath Mummy Mountain, you do feel as if you could reach up and grab a prickly handful.

Instead, head indoors for a Sonoran Rose facial, Native Hot Stone massage, Desert Rain loofah or Desert Nectar honey wrap. Or what the heck — get all four. You only live once, and what better place to blow your spending money than this lovely spa, featuring a sauna, hot tub and private spaces for all-out sunbathing, if you know what we mean. Rent a cabana, take some exercise classes and grab a mani-pedi. We're relaxed just writing about it.

We remember when $20 was all it took for a fun night on the town. Dinner, movies, drinks — heck, even dancing — were all within reach. These days, $20 won't cover our weekly designer coffee habit. That all changed with the Summer Spaaah Series. This is one beauty of a benefit, raising money for the Jewell McFarland Lewis-Fresh Start Women's Resource Center. Each summer, six local luxury spas join in for a full Sunday of pampering, for a mere 20 bucks a person. From mini-manis at the Boulders to partial pedis at the Biltmore or even mini-facials at Aji, attendees can select one scaled-down (read: shorter) treatment from a menu of spa services. There's no scrimping on the eats, which include a chocolate buffet complete with chocolate fountain, and other lunchables. There's even a parting gift: a goodie bag stuffed full of beauty products.

And all for a good cause. Spa-tacular! Sign us up for next year.

Al Moro Dance Studio
Imagine your P.E. class back in the '80s, minus the embarrassing, random boxer-short tents you pitched in the locker room. Think tube socks, push-ups and jumping jacks. But this time, replace your high school gym with the Al Moro Dance Studio on Camelback and the sounds of '80s pop and lock thumping out of the speakers. If you're willing to pay for Daniel Wayne's Old School Sunday morning workout, your prize is a free Spanish-style breakfast at Lola restaurant next door, whipped up by his fabulous wife, Felicia. The couple own Lola Tapas and the Al Moro Dance Studio. They wanted a way to give back to the community, while whipping the town into shape, physically and philanthropically. It's sweating for a cause because all the class fees go to a charity picked by the students. You pay what you want to donate. Since the workout started about nine months ago, the group has raised $2,000 for causes including Free Arts of Arizona, the Music Conservatory of Phoenix, and the family of slain Phoenix Police Officer George E. Cortez. Feel good inside and out with a camarón in your mouth and sweat on your brow!
Symphony Hall
Want to raise your kid to like Beethoven and Brahms, not just Beyoncé? In Phoenix, at least, you don't have a financial excuse not to instill a love of classical music early, thanks to the fine people at Target. With their assistance, the Phoenix Symphony is able to offer a series of six kid-friendly concerts. Next season's bill of fare, which starts in October, features everything from Tchaikovsky to Bernstein — with some local favorites, including the Grand Canyon Orchestra, thrown in for good measure. Tickets start at just $10. And for every adult subscription you buy, a child can attend free. Don't have a kid? With a deal this good, you may want to start looking for a long-lost nephew.
Symphony Hall
Tired of evenings out that always seem to feature those Valley standbys: flip-flops and cheap margaritas? There's no better cure than a trip to an Arizona Opera performance. It's the one of few things in town that people really do get dressed up for. And while the good seats aren't cheap — the opera wants a $2,500 donation plus $121 a show just to sit in certain areas — you can be frugal, with back-row tickets starting at $34 on weekdays. Even there, though, you're going to feel like a million dollars. Just leave the plastic sandals at home.
Turf Soaring School
If you really want to bond with that special someone — and you and your date collectively weigh less than 300 pounds — a glider ride at Lake Pleasant is the adventure for you.Our spies who've tried the experience say it's a great way to get a little bit closer and check out the beauty of mountains, the lake, and clear blue Arizona skies. For $135, you can take the controls. Not quite so confident? There are plenty of options in which you can let the staff do the work and you and your honey can sit back and enjoy the beauty.
Scottsdale Civic Center Plaza
Instead of the usual dinner, movie, and awkward conversation, we suggest something a little more creative. Get off your butt and get moving. Not quickly; a meandering pace will do. Don't worry, we'll give you something to look at, even if your date's not super-viewable.

Scottsdale is home to some impressive public art, a large deal of it near the Civic Center and the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art. An early-evening self-guided tour is the perfect way to get to know your date (like whether she's ever been inside a museum).

Start with Knight Rise, one of only three sky spaces by the famed artist James Turrell open to the public in the United States. The space is breathtaking at sunset, when you can sit inside the sky chamber and watch the light change through the skylight at the top. It's quiet and a good place to actually get to know the person you're with.

After that, where you move to depends on your taste. There are more than 20 works of art throughout the Civic Center area to look for. We're partial to Robert Indiana's famous Love sculpture and the Hummingbird Sanctuary Garden a few blocks south.

Scottsdale's public art Web site gives a detailed description of each piece available along the tour so you can choose to plan your route, or just wander around and see what you find.

Afterwards, there are plenty of places nearby to feed your date. We like AZ88 and Orange Table, both located just a short hand-holding walk from the museum.

Arthur Murray Dance Studio
With the popularity of ABC's Dancing with the Stars, you'd think old-school ballrooms would be packed nightly. Sadly, Phoenicians seem to prefer watching the foxtrot on television, rather than trotting their asses out to actually do it. The exception is dance instructor Chad Lakridis' Ballroom Bash night, a monthly social gathering with music, food, door prizes, and dancing — from the Argentinean tango to the West Coast Swing. Lakridis is no Emmitt Smith or Mario Lopez, but his winning smile and rugged 5 o'clock shadow combine for a mug that's easy on the eyes — a saving grace for the ladies because those lacking a partner can always team up with the instructor. A half-hour lesson precedes the dance portion, with Lakridis cheerfully offering newbies tips on how to negotiate the often-crowded, 4,200-square-foot dance floor without getting trampled.
The Vig
As Americans, one of our favorite pastimes is hunting for new trends by shamelessly copying traditions from other cultures. We think the Vig has the right idea with their Euro-inspired bocce ball lawn. On the east side of the bar's fabulous patio is a strip of Astroturf that is the perfect size on which to roll some balls back and forth. The idea is so popular, it's rare to be hanging on a weekend evening without hearing the repetitious thud of bocce balls bouncing into one another. And with such simple rules, anyone can be a pseudo-Euro.

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