Hotel rates in the Valley spike up in the winter and crater in the summer. Still, there’s a lot of competition for the tourist dollar even in the high season; that, and the rise of Airbnb and similar alternative lodging sites, ameliorate the pain somewhat.
There aren’t a lot of traditional urban four-star hotels in Phoenix, although recently downtown Phoenix has seen an influx of tony brands, like the high-rise Westin and Palomar. Outside of downtown proper, however, accommodations are invariably branded “resorts.” Some of these, truth be told, stretch the generally accepted meaning of the term, but anything with a four-star designation will at least have a pretty nice pool and some other amenities, and most will be set on spacious grounds. The high-end ones are comfortably among the best in the country, with top-flight golf courses, large and pricey spas, multiple pools and restaurants, and more than enough things to keep kids occupied. There are oodles of each group to choose from, particularly on the east side of town. And while you’ll pay a surcharge, rooms with mountain views—particularly at the Paradise Valley resorts—are worth asking for.
SEASONAL RATES—March and April are baseball’s spring training season, and baseball fans from all over the world converge on the Valley, driving the rates higher and higher. It can sometimes be hard to find the room you want where you want, so book early during those times. The good news is that rates are fairly reasonable at other times, and given the competitive environment there are bargains to be had, so shop around. And if you want to experience Phoenix in the hot season, from June to September, you’ll find rates at $100 a night or lower at some highly desirable locations, and all sorts of other crazy offers, like food credits and upgrades.
Most resorts offer a variety of weekend, golf, and tennis packages, as well as off-season discounts and corporate rates (which you can often get just by asking). And of course you can find discounts online. Poke around for spa deals as well.
RESORT FEES—I know it’s a lost consumers’ cause at this point, but for the record, the practice of adding “hotel fees” or “resort fees” of $20 and $30 a day to the bill remains a racket. If you’re paying to stay at a resort, why is there a “resort fee” on top? When you go to the grocery store you don’t get hit with a “grocery fee” as you leave! (And don’t get me started on the places that have begun calling rooms “casitas.”) The fees are not optional, and in effect just allow the hotels to advertise prices that don’t exist. If any of the amenities included in the fee aren’t up to snuff, by all means call the front desk and get them removed from the bill. (Some, for example, limit the “free Wi-Fi” to two devices, which is not nearly enough for a traveling couple.) In any case, don’t forget to do the mental math as you browse prices; they don’t go away, even on those discounted summer deals.
Finally, pay parking used to be extremely rare in Phoenix. These days, the downtown hotels charge for parking in the garages below, and most of the four-and five-star resorts will hit you up for valet parking as well. Often, however, this is included in the resort fee.
Scottsdale & Paradise Valley
There are more self-described resorts in Scottsdale and the swanky suburb of PV than you can count. Some line Scottsdale Road heading north out of the center of the city, meaning you get the benefits of the close-by nightlife. If you want mountain views, go for the high-end PV resorts or look at the north Scottsdale section below.
There are a few relatively inexpensive chain motels scattered throughout Scottsdale. Still, they will be pricier than you would expect in winter months, and spike even more during spring training. For location alone—it’s right next to Scottsdale Fashion Square and you can walk to just about all the shopping and nightlife downtown Scottsdale has to offer—your best choice would be the Motel 6–Scottsdale, 6848 E. Camelback Rd. (www.motel6.com; tel. 480/946-2280), which has doubles in the $140 area during the high season.
North Scottsdale, Carefree & Cave Creek
With great golf courses, superb restaurants, rugged desert scenery, and a bit of Western character, this area gets my vote for best place to get away from it all, soak up some sun, and get to know the desert. Remember that you’re 20 or 30 minutes away from downtown Scottsdale.
Central Phoenix & the Camelback Corridor
This area includes the newly revitalized downtown and points directly north, and then the shopping areas along Camelback Road running east from Central Avenue. Big as it is, Sky Harbor Airport, which is just a few miles southeast of downtown, has relatively few hotels around it. A number of serviceable midline chain outlets are clustered along 44th Street just north of the airport, and a few more scattered to the south. The most engaging of these is probably Aloft (4450 E. Washington Ave.; www.aloftphoenixairport.com; tel. 602/275-6300). None are in particularly attractive surroundings, however.
Some of the Valley’s best scenery is in north Phoenix; the mountains of the Tonto National Forest north of the city present an impressive vista. Lots of parks and preserves, and you’re close to Lake Pleasant, too. But the Valley’s best shopping and dining, as well as most major attractions, are all at least a 20-minute drive away.
Downtown, South Phoenix & the Airport Area
Phoenix’s downtown has exploded in the last 10 years. ASU, the light rail, sport facilities, and all manner of new clubs have contributed to make it a decent place to hang out for a few days—and finally, there are a couple of nice hotels to experience it all from. There are a few midline hotels around the airport, but nothing special. And there are a few fun places to stay in south Phoenix and points south.
Tempe, Mesa & the East Valley
Tempe, just southeast of the airport, is home to giant Arizona State University and has the nightlife scene you’d expect, centered on Mill Avenue just south of the Salt River in the northwest part of town. Tempe is also convenient to Papago Park, home to the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, a municipal golf course, and hiking and mountain-biking trails. And central Scottsdale is just a few miles up the road.
Apache Boulevard in Tempe running east becomes Main Street in Mesa, and along this stretch of road there are numerous old motels charging some of the lowest rates in the Valley. However, these motels are very hit-or-miss. If you’re intent on staying at non-chain motels, you might want to cruise this strip and check out a few places. Otherwise, look for the chain motels that dot the East Valley, particularly near the numerous freeway off-ramps.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.