In December, we took our very first vacation as a family of three to the Ritz-Carlton in Dove Mountain, Arizona. Truth be told, we previously had an entire trip planned to St. Croix, but when Hurricane Maria hit the island in September, the resort we had planned to stay at, as well as most of the island, sustained major damage and our reservations were cancelled. This all happened only a few days before I had our baby so after things calmed down a few weeks later, we were able to devote some attention to planning a new trip. We had reserved the original trip using points and were able to transfer them to another resort (if you haven’t already, you can read about how we travel using points here and here). In a conversation with my mom about where to go, she mentioned that we might enjoy Arizona with its outdoor activities and beautiful geography. We looked into availability and were pleased to be able to use our points to stay for 5 nights at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain outside of Tuscon. The vacation turned out to be absolutely perfect for our first trip with our three-month-old baby, so thanks to my mom for the great suggestion!
After touching down in Tuscon, we stopped at Crazy Dogs for lunch on the way to resort. If you’re traveling to Dove Mountain, this is a great place to stop on your way to/from the airport. It’s super inexpensive and offers delicious hot dogs with interesting toppings, as well as tacos, tortas, and burritos. I wanted to go on our way back to the airport too, but it wasn’t open at the time, unfortunately.
The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain is a quick 30-minute drive from the Tuscon Airport. When we arrived and checked into our room, a bottle of champagne and chocolate covered strawberries were waiting for us. Later in our stay, resort staff brought us a cheese and fruit board and a bottle of wine to enjoy in our room. Throughout our stay, the resort staff were so kind and went out of their way to make our visit perfect.
Our first order of business upon arriving was a walk around the property. We visited just before Christmas, so the resort was decked out in decorations, from desert Christmas trees to a life-size gingerbread house to a room filled with candy cacti. Apparently December is the slow season, and compounded with the fact that the property is less than 8 years old, the resort felt very quiet and peaceful for most of our stay. We quickly settled into a daily routine. After we woke up, one of us would go to the gym while the other stayed with the baby. We’d then have breakfast and get ready for the day while he napped. After he woke up, we’d set off on our adventure for the day. We usually relaxed in the afternoon before dinner and were in bed early for the night. Since we were slowing down for the baby’s schedule, it made for a much slower vacation pace than we were accustomed to pre-baby and resulted in a very relaxing week!
If you stay at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, here are our suggestions for what to expect and what to do during your stay.
Each day at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain, you’ll receive a schedule of events. Some activities happen on certain days of the week while others are daily occurrences. There is a daily $50 resort fee, which covers many of the activities and amenities provided by the resort.
Each morning at 10:30 am, you can take a 40-minute guided family nature walk with the resort ranger. It’s a great way to familiarize yourself with the layout of the property and trail system while learning about some of the local plant and animal species and viewing the ancient petroglyphs on the property. The resort also offers longer guided hikes and a guided sunset hike for a fee.
From 1-3 p.m. daily, you can “Meet Desert Friends” in the ranger headquarters to learn about desert critters like snakes, lizards, scorpions, and tarantulas, and ask questions of the rangers. You can also view the desert tortoises that live on property, Rocky and Wamba. This is a fun activity for all ages!
There is a daily mixology demonstration at 4 p.m. in the Ignite Lounge. Depending on how many guests show up, it may even become a make-your-own cocktail class. We were the only guests one afternoon, so were able to make our own cocktails. The drinks are unique and made with fresh ingredients. This is definitely a worthwhile activity!
Every evening at 5:15 p.m., you can listen to an acoustic performance by a Native-American flautist. Called the “Spirit of Adventure Celebration,” the performance tells the story of the day and honors the ancient Hohokam tribe that lived in Dove Mountain. During our visit in mid-December, this coincided with the sunset so we made sure to be outside (or at least on our balcony) every evening for the beautiful sunset soundtrack!
The Sonoran Desert is one of the top U.S. stargazing destinations and the Ritz-Carlton is no exception. On Saturday nights from 7-9 p.m., the resort offers a Stargazing Experience led by Bejamin Loker of Arizona Star Tours. The astronomer points out stars and constellations with a powerful laser that are viewable with the naked eye and brings a huge telescope for closer viewing. He was engaging, informative, and educational and we had a great time!
During our stay, we were also lucky enough to witness the Geminid meteor shower. We didn’t even have to get up in the middle of the night; we just walked out onto our balcony before bed and saw several shooting stars! It was incredible.
A full list of resort activities, including s’mores, kid’s activities, and guided hikes, can be found here.
I love exercise and there is something very special to me about working out on vacation. I find it to be such a treat to exercise at whatever time of day I feel like it in whatever way I want. I especially love it when I can use a gym with excellent facilities. The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain has a fitness center with brand new equipment including cardiovascular machines like elliptical trainers, stationary bikes, and treadmills, as well as several strength training machines and free weights. Personal training and daily group fitness classes are also offered at the fitness center. Classes include yoga, pilates, barre, H.I.I.T., zumba, strength training, and outdoor hikes. I took a barre class with two other women and thoroughly enjoyed it. Next time we return, I’d love to reserve a private hike and mountain yoga session. How amazing does that sound?
For outdoor fun, the resort offers three pools and a waterslide. The Turquesa Pool is the main pool. The Serenity Pool is an infinity pool surrounded by comfortable lounge chairs and beds. The Aventura Pool caters to families and includes fountains and other water features. The waterslide is surprisingly fast and so much fun! We took turns racing down the slide while cheering each other on. Both pools are heated salt water pools and are open year-round.
On our last day at the resort, we decided to have a “Fun Day at the Resort” and took advantage of many of the amenities. We played bocce ball on the bocce court in the orange trees and ladder ball and badminton by the pool. Other games and activities offered on property include: horseshoes, ping-pong, tennis, and mountain biking. Board games are available to borrow from the concierge.
HIKES ON PROPERTY
The Lower Javelina and Wild Burro Loop Trail is a moderately easy 3 mile hike. It loops from the resort through the Wild Burro Wash and around the Wild Burro Canyon with views of the canyon and out to the Tortolita Mountains. Along the way, you’ll see hundreds of saguaro cacti on the ridge lines amongst boulders and stone slabs.
The Upper Javelina hike is a moderately difficult 4.1 mile trail that is also accessible from the resort. No matter which direction you start, the trail has a steep climb to the top over somewhat rugged terrain, but it is worth it for the gorgeous views of a cactus forest and over the Tortolita Mountains and Catalina Foothills.
ACTIVITIES OFF PROPERTY
Although you may not want to leave the lovely Dove Mountain property, it’s worth devoting a day of your vacation to Saguaro National Park. The park is truly a gem and is one of the more unique national parks in the U.S. Filled with enormous and ancient saguaro cacti, Saguaro National Park protects some the incredible forests of this icon of the American West. It’s just a few miles outside of Tuscon and very easy to get to.
The Tuscon Mountain District is on the west side of Tuscon and has thousands of saguaro cacti to admire. This portion of the park also includes some short and easy hikes as well as several picnic areas. You can take a quick walk from one of the picnic areas to see hundreds of ancient petroglyphs. The Rincon Mountain District is on the east side of Tuscon features small settlements and views of local mountain ranges. Both parts of the park have their own staffed visitor centers with restrooms, water fountains, and maps.
We visited the Tuscon Mountain District and did a few scenic hikes including the Cactus Garden, Desert Discovery, the Valley View Overlook, and Signal Hill trails. The park newspaper includes thorough descriptions of all of the hikes in both parts of the park.
Ignite is the dinner and cocktail lounge located in the Ritz lobby. It’s popular with locals as it provides the opportunity to enjoy dinner and drinks while listening to live music and watching the sun set over the Wild Burro Canyon and Tortolita Foothills. Live southwestern, jazz, or guitar music is offered on Friday and Saturday from 6 to 9 p.m. the lounge. The menu features creative gastropub offerings. We ate at Ignite three nights and some of our favorite dishes were the mixed green salad, butternut squash soup, and heirloom green corn tamale. We also enjoyed the sushi menu, which is available Friday and Saturday from 5 to 9 p.m. The sushi was delicious – we particularly enjoyed the Sonoran Smicy Tuna and the Seared Beef Tenderloin rolls.
Turquesa Latin Grill is the pool restaurant where you can order traditional Latin food and margaritas either at a table or right to your lounge chair. We ate a lunch of chicken nachos and ceviche by the pool. Both dishes were huge – we probably could have shared just one – and everything was delicious.
To Go is a little coffee bar where you can order coffee, smoothies, bagels, and fresh fruit. You can also buy trail mix, granola bars, and other snacks for hikes and desert adventures.
Only 10 minutes outside of the resort is the Dove Mountain Brewing Co. where you can get craft beer brewed in-house or at other local breweries. It’s casual but lively with a calendar of events that includes growler and wings and beer and taco specials. What to order: Dove Dip, Sonoran Chicken Sandwich.
If you need to grab snacks or lunch while exploring the area, Fry’s grocery store is located just down the street from Dove Mountain Brewing Company. They have sandwiches and salads and sell most anything else you might need during your trip.
The rooms at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain were comfortable and made us feel right at home for the week. The feather beds with goose down pillows and 400 thread count linens are heavenly and we slept so well in the room darkened by blackout curtains. The bathrooms are beautiful and include a separate shower and spacious bathtub. The TVs are equipped so you can set up your own Netflix account, which we used to watch Lost during the baby’s naps and after his early bedtime!
The rooms also include walk-in closet, which was the perfect size to put the baby’s travel crib. It was really nice to not have to have all of the lights out after his bedtime. We were able to have dinner and hang out for a bit without worrying that we would wake him. In other baby related matters, the resort offers cribs for tiny guests. If you borrow a crib, you will also receive a special crib toy unique to each Ritz property! We used our own crib because we had our baby sleeping in an inclined position at the time, but we would certainly borrow the crib on a return trip.
Every night, resort staff offered turn-down service, complete with chocolates and special cards indicating what constellations could be seen that night. My sole complaint from the entire visit was that at the beginning of the week, we requested to have our turn-down service early before our baby went to bed, but it never happened. Without fail, they came while or after we were putting him to bed. Just a minor annoyance.
Our vacation in Arizona and our stay at the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain could not have been more perfect! We appreciate everything the staff did to make us feel comfortable and at home. We had adventures while enjoying some much-needed relaxation and made so many memories with our little family!