You know you want a nice cold cocktail — heck, it’s after 5 p.m., and it’s summertime! — but you can’t decide how you want to procure it, or where. At a resort with poolside service? On the beach? Or literally in the drink, at some nice swim-up bar someplace?
Hey, it’s the Valley of the Sun. You can visit all of these places and live to tell about it (hangover notwithstanding). Start big, on the sandy beach of the Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch (7500 East Doubletree Ranch Road, Scottsdale, 480-444-1234), where instead of cool-decking you’ll wiggle your toes into a manmade sandy beach where waiters circulate, handing out mai tais (but only if you’ve ordered one). Nearby, a more traditional swimming pool is ringed with cabanas and comfy deck chairs, from which one can request a bottle of Champagne, a Dewar’s on the rocks, and even nibbles from the bar menu.
Bigger, more panoramic views can be had at The Phoenician’s Thirsty Camel saloon (6000 East Camelback Road, Scottsdale, 480-941-8200), which offers spectacular views of the resort and the Valley beyond it. A diverse selection of hard-to-find whiskies and bourbons is an even better amenity, and a menu of Sonoran-inspired dishes is available to locals and resort guests alike.
Looking for a still-wider view of the Valley while you imbibe? Check out the rooftop bar at the The Clarendon Hotel and Spa (401 West Clarendon Avenue, 602-252-7363), where midtown vistas (think glittery high-rises and astonishing sunsets) are complemented by superb signature drinks and tasty fare from Tranquilo, the hotel’s popular downstairs restaurant. Hot nights are cooled down by the rooftop mister system, and another, indoor ground-level bar is also available for folks afraid of heights.
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A different up-on-the-rooftop experience can be had at Lustre, a cocktail lounge smack-dab on top of the Kimpton Hotel Palomar Phoenix (2 East Jefferson Street, 602-253-6633). Open air views of South Mountain are as cool as the Lustre beverages made with hand-squeezed juices and handcrafted hooch. There’s a bar menu of small-plate wonders, or you can soak up that gin and tonic with something from the room service menu or from either the Blue Hound Kitchen or Lustre Rooftop Garden, both offering excellent fare. And did we mention there’s a pool up there?
The only thing better than a rooftop swimming pool might well be one with a bar staff floating around in it. There is, for example, the Arizona Biltmore (2400 East Missouri Avenue, 602-955-6600), where tourists and locals alike flock to admire its 39 acres of luxurious landscapes, enjoy its 22,000-square-foot spa, dine at its several big-star restaurants, and putt around on its championship golf course. But who cares about the Biltmore’s rich architectural history when it’s triple-digit hot out? We want its swim-up bar experience at the Paradise Pool, where we can order refreshing drinks without ever leaving the wet. And right next to the Paradise, there’s the Cabana Club, a poolside restaurant that serves seafood, sandwiches, and fresh salads.
And if you’re up for a little drive, there’s Harrah’s Ak-Chin (15406 North Maricopa Road, Maricopa, 877-440-8627), where in-pool bartenders not only serve world-class margaritas, but lunch as well. While you have to get out of the pool to enjoy them, you might consider drying off for the casino’s expanded gaming floor with poker, slots, kino, and bingo. And while you’re on dry land, maybe drop in at Copper Cactus Grill for a quick bite. The buffet is opulent and worth a visit. Even if you do have to walk — rather than dog-paddle — up to it.