Amazing what a few days at the Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort on the north side of Phoenix will do for you. It's a short flight or a half-day's drive from L.A., and my husband, Skip, and I can quickly be a world away. The Pointe, 15 minutes from Sky Harbor Airport, has lush grounds and eight pools in its expansive 27 acres. If you decide to leave this oasis, there are 15 miles of hiking trails through the desert landscape abutting the east side of the resort, and lots of great eating, interesting historical sites and spectacular indigenous art within minutes of the front entrance. The tab: about $720 (including taxes and resort fees) for three nights at the Pointe, $294 for meals and $36 for museum admission. Round-trip airfare from LAX: from $207.
The $199-a-night rate for our king bed studio at the Pointe Hilton [7677 N. 16th St.; (602) 997-2626, www.squawpeakhilton.com] included the use of the pools, 20% off spa treatments, miniature golf, one hour of tennis a day and one hour of practice on the putting greens. It's a kid- and pet-friendly resort, but we found quiet hideaways at the lap pool just outside the spa area and at the upper Squaw Peak Patio. The pool outside our room had a swim-up bar stocked with adult beverages to sip beneath blue skies.
We always return to Aunt Chilada's [7330 N. Dreamy Draw Drive; (602) 944-1286, www.auntchiladas.com] for authentic Mexican food, bougainvillea cascading over the patio walls, brightly colored rustic chairs and the free buffet from 4 to 6:30 p.m. Fridays. Need directions? Follow the chile peppers painted on the sidewalk that lead you from the resort to the bright blue doors of this historic landmark just a block away. We had chipotle cream chicken ($13.95) and seafood enchiladas filled with shrimp and scallops ($16.95), both from the house specialties menu. Phoenix City Grille, a couple of miles down the road [5816 N. 16 St.; (602) 997-2626, www.phoenixcitygrille.com], is a favorite with griddled corn cakes ($12) on its weekend brunch menu. It comes with a choice of chicken, smoked ham or bacon, black beans, brunch potatoes and pure maple syrup.
Free trolleys run 6 to 10 p.m the first Friday of every month in the downtown Phoenix area, providing access to art galleries, studios, food, wine, local brews and, most recently, Etsy vendors who set up along Roosevelt Street during the popular First Fridays (www.artlinkphoenix.com/first-fridays) event. The Heard Museum (www.heard.org), one of our favorite places to view Native American art, was added in November as a stop on the First Friday Trolley Tour. The museum shop's annual spring sale is April 22-24, with discounts on almost all of the treasures in its gift shop/gallery. The Heard Courtyard Cafe features locally sourced, all natural ingredients. (Try the Dreamcatcher Salad.)
The lesson learned
You can walk from the resort to the Phoenix Mountains Preserve's hiking trails rather than drive to the crowded parking lot. The 1.2-mile hike to the top of Piestewa Peak is strenuous with lots of loose rock, but many easier hikes — try Trail No. 304 with great views — crisscross it. Pick up a detailed map of the area at the Pointe's concierge desk. Sunset hikes here are spectacular, but give yourself time to get back before dark or bring a flashlight.
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