17 Replies Latest reply: Jan 1, 2017 5:20 PM by bacon14 RSS

JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin

ssindc Platinum 42 Reviews
Currently Being Moderated

Just back from a splendid family vacation at the JW Camelback Inn in Scottsdale (although, probably, actually, Paradise Valley), Arizona.  A great experience, including brief excursions to the Grand Canyon and Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin.  Much to report - and much to see (yup, photos).  But the summary is simple and straightforward:

 

I hadn't been at the Camelback for many years, but - as I remembered - it's a wonderful, well-managed property that's definitely, "something different."  It's pricey - no doubt about it - but at least you know where you're money's going - it's a massive, visually engaging, enterprise.  Budget travelers, look elsewhere.  But, if you're willing to make a significant investment (of cash or points), this is a memorable property worth considering.

 

I love Arizona (and New Mexico), but here's a litmus test.  Does this image speak to you?

Cactus3153AZ.jpg

 

So many thoughts on the Camelback Inn.

  • As for how we ended up there - well - we were looking for warm (that's easy), domestic (my family vetoed international travel this time), and different - no one else in my family had been to the Grand Canyon, hiked Camelback, etc.  So it ended up being our consensus pick.
  • The property is ... gorgeous ... it's fully integrated into the dessert/mountains ... and it's a pleasure to walk through the property; there's every imaginable kind of outdoor seating and activity, the fire pits (and outdoor heaters) are where you want them, and... well.... you've got to see it to believe/appreciate it.
  • An extremely comfortable room and patio for my mother-in-law; plus
  • A wonderful suite - actually a three-room combo - for my family of four (with both my sons being taller than me);
    • two private bed rooms, plentiful closets;
    • wonderful beds, plentiful towels (in the bath rooms and the pool - more on that below), and robes ... ok, I do enjoy having a robe and slippers;
    • three (count-em, 3) master baths - with two sinks in our bathroom - that was a nice treat;
    • a dining room table that comfortably sat 6, a living room that comfortably sat 4 (or more), a full kitchen (with three, yes, 3 Keurig coffee machines), and... and... and...
    • the enclosed outdoor patio - large enough for a nice gathering (with seating for 6-8) and personal/private heated pool - oh yes, died and gone to heaven
      • This proved to be the high point of the trip for my boys.  I didn't expect this would be that big of a hit, but they loved it (and that made me and my spouse very, very happy);
      • for a small pool, it was quite satisfactory - walk in steps, one side with a gradual incline, 6 feet deep in the center, and a cut-out pool seat on the far side - nice!
  • We ate a lot (and I mean a lot) of meals on the property.
    • We ate at Rita's, the resort's casual restaurant, a lot - OK - every day.  We at there indoors and outdoors, for lunch and dinner, and late at night (when the restaurant was closed but they served us anyway.)  We really enjoyed it.
      • Nicely managed and well staffed, every server we had was a pleasure;
      • the food was very (OK, surprisingly) good;
        • the signature dish or starter was fresh Guacamole, made at table side - it was delicious - we enjoyed it at every meal - it's hard to describe how much we loved it and enjoyed the experience;
        • other than that, we ate everything - fish, salads, burgers (and sliders), grilled cheese, fajitas, beans, asparagus, soups, desserts... Yeah, we enjoyed that place enough to just ... keep ... going ... back....
    • We ate one dinner at the high(er) end restaurant, Lincoln - it's a relatively new restaurant (as of late 2016), replacing BLT (a popular NY-based high end steak place).  Briefly, my sons and I loved it, but my spouse, well, not so much;
      • the service was attentive, engaging, and efficient - both in the restaurant and in the (excellent, nicely stocked) bar;
      • the boys (and I) are still giddy over the tuna tartare starter - exquisite;
      • my fish - and the boy's beef (one fillet, one New York Strip) - were sublime; and
      • the folks who had desserts raved about them;
      • alas, not everyone was as impressed as we were.... in particular, my wife's complaints were legitimate - she thought:
        • the restaurant was simply "too expensive" (with the understanding that this is a relative term);
        • the restaurant was too loud - bottom line, my mother-in-law couldn't hear anything at dinner; and
        • she was disappointed with the table and the general atmosphere - her sense was that it was Spartan/minimalist to the point that it did not feel like the special kind of experience we'd expect for that kind of money (and, on this point, she's got a point).
    • My mother-in-law and my spouse lunched at Sprouts (at the Spa), and they raved primarily about the view and the relaxed atmosphere (with numerous diners in spa robes);
    • We frequented the well-managed and convenient Starbucks, um, frequently....
  • It's a large property, and there are courtesy golf carts/drivers on demand - pick up the phone, and boom, your driver appears.  My mother-in-law loved this service, and the drivers couldn't have been any more accommodating of our wishes or needs (at all hours).
  • Plenty of other memorable mentions:
    • we arrived on my mother-in-law's birthday, and there was a (gorgeous) cake waiting in her room - nicely done, Marriott team;
    • my spouse and I hiked
      • the (very casual) Mummy Mountain trail behind the resort - scenic, accessible, and not terribly time consuming; and
      • the more challenging, but gratifying, Cholla side of Camelback Mountain - a great experience - and killer views of the city and the mountains;
    • the cleaning and maintenance staff were efficient and responsive - we actually had a (rather major) maintenance issue (OK, that's a bummer, plus a repeat the next day - ARGH), and it was resolved promptly.  What more can you ask?

 

As for the Grand Canyon, well, there's a reason they call it ... Grand...

GrandCanyon3031AZ.jpg

To be clear, it's a very (very) long day-trip from Phoenix/Scottsdale to the Canyon (but we thought it was worth it).  We recommend https://www.silverspurtours.com/ without hesitation for an excellent, customized, VIP experience (and if you can get Duane as your driver/guide, we were very pleased with him).  In a perfect world, it makes more sense to spend more time at the Canyon, it just wasn't in the cards for us on this trip.

GrandCanyon2984AZ.jpg

Unfortunately, we went on a day the weather was "difficult" (OK, really cold, ice/snow risk, and pea soup fog) - but our guide stuck with it, and we enjoyed a sufficient number of epic views.

 

And, another day, yes, a short drive (and a reservation - don't go without one) took us to see Frank Lloyd Wright's former home - OK - working camp - and architecture school (still in operation, offering a master's degree in architecture) - Taliesin West.  Just two images of Wright's "shining brow" - first, the "side" view or toward the beginning of the tour:

Taliesin-Side3172AZ.jpg

I admit, Frank Lloyd Wright is not my favorite, and, frankly, I think he was insane - creative genius, maybe - but the more I read/learn about him, well, I can't say he grows on me..... In any event, it's an extraordinary structure, well integrated into the mountain, here's the "front" view...

Taliesin-Front3193AZ.jpg

 

That's probably enough for now.  My bottom line: A nice vacation, and my spouse, sons, and mother-in-law all came home happy.  A satisfying Marriott experience!

(For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

Location Brand Hotel
Scottsdale, Arizona, USA JW Marriott JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa
  • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
    jerryl Platinum 2 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    Wonderful trip there is restaurant called el charro that just up the street from the hotel that is very historic and very good and can be walked. Next time try it out

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    • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
      ssindc Platinum 42 Reviews
      Currently Being Moderated

      Thanks, jerryl...

       

      Obviously, we drove by (and saw the sign for) El Charro - we'll add that to the list for next time!

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
    razorbackfan Alumni Steward Platinum 23 Reviews
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    ssindc  Really enjoyed reading about your experience.  I'm glad your family enjoyed your vacation and all came home happy.

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
    AZDesertRat Platinum
    Currently Being Moderated

    ssindc  Thanks for a great, detailed report on your Arizona vacation.  It's good to know the JW Camelback is maintaining its high standards.  As a local, I don't experience it first hand, but my wife loves the spa.  From your description of the rooms and private pool, it must have required real will power to go off premises!  jerryl is right about El Chorro, and another nearby good restaurant experience is Lon's at the Hermosa Inn.

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

    • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
      jerryl Platinum 2 Reviews
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      Agree with you these are two of the most historic restaurants in the Phoenix area

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

    • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
      ssindc Platinum 42 Reviews
      Currently Being Moderated

      OK, AZDesertRat and jerryl, since you both weighed in on other restaurants, now I'm curious as to what your experience has been with - or what you've heard about - this place: The House Brasserie in Old Town Scottsdale, Arizona

      • We chose it because it was highly recommended;
      • Despite our advance reservation, when we arrived, we were offered a bar table - with bar stool/chairs - when we asked for another table, we were moved to a table by the (heavily trafficked) back door - as a result, we were directly between the (side) door where the food came into the dining room and the door (to the back) where dirty dishes were shuttled constantly - to be clear, doors were opening on either side of us for the duration of our meal;
      • The restaurant - or at least where we sat - was (very) dark and (very) loud - we were seated directly under one of the speakers;
      • The food was ... just not very good. (And, for the record, I travel and eat out a lot, and I'll put my "foodie" credentials up against just about anyone.)
        • In our party of five, three chose not to finish their entree;
        • Two of us ordered the same fish dish - one was cooked appropriately, the other wasn't;
        • We ordered the signature dessert, and it was bland and uninteresting - the table ate less than half of it; and
        • The filter press coffee was burnt - I found it undrinkable - and, with my Army background, when I say the coffee was undrinkable, it's an extraordinary occurrence.
      • The service was (shockingly) indifferent.
        • When I asked about a dietary issue, we were told - for each disk we inquired about - what we could not eat, but no suggestions/recommendations were offered - even my sons were flabbergasted by the un-helpfulness of the wait staff - they said they'd never seen anything like it;
        • No mention or inquiry ... or interest was shown in the fact that we left large amounts of food on our plates;
        • There was a small army of management and wait staff bustling around in nice clothes - alas, the most helpful and solicitous staff in the place was a tall gentleman wearing a sweater and wool beanie - we originally thought he was a parking valet, but, over the course of the evening, we concluded he must have a management role (maybe called in on short notice?), because he seemed like the only person in the place focused on customer service.
      • For the money, the restaurant was a disaster.  For half the price, I still wouldn't go back.

      Either of you had any experiences - similar or, hopefully, better - with the place?

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
        jerryl Platinum 2 Reviews
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        Never been there and will be cautious about going. A new restaurant the "fat ox" just opened on Scottsdale road to great reviews

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
        AZDesertRat Platinum
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        Like jerryl we haven't eaten there, and based on your experience, probably never will.  For consistent excellence, we like Houston's on Scottsdale Road, which is very popular, always crowded, and within easy reach of the Camelback Inn.  Sorry you had such a miserable experience at the House Brasserie - but generally "good" or "excellent" can best be understood when you experience "bad" or "inferior."  Too many places are just mediocre.

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
    iahflyr Platinum 26 Reviews
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    Awesome review of the JW.  It's been a while since we've been there in fact just after it changed to the JW was out last visit and it is great to hear they are taking very good care of the place.  Your room sounds amazing and yes with your own pool heaven is in your suite!

     

    Will be in Scottsdale near the first of February staying at North Scottsdale Hotel | Scottsdale Marriott at McDowell Mountains and will be returning definitely be returning to El Chorro Restaurant - Paradise Valley, Arizona  as well as trying out Lon's.  Only there for three nights and we must visit another favorite of ours Sapporo | Teppan Yaki • Pacific Rim • Sushi Restaurant in Scottsdale, AZ so we will be busy!!

     

    Thanks for the review and for the dining information as well guys, Insiders ROCKS!!!!

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

    • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
      bacon14 Platinum
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      IAHFLYR have you stayed at the Marriott at McDowell Mountains previously?  I'm looking to get down to the area hopefully early April with my dad to visit his brother who lives in the area.  I'd love to go earlier but a few work trips are pushing me into April and a little heat will feel pretty darn good.  We were looking at either McDowell or Tempe at the Butte, any thoughts?  I should mention there will be no golfing so that's not a consideration ....

      (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
        ssindc Platinum 42 Reviews
        Currently Being Moderated

        bacon14, I haven't stayed in the Buttes since Marriott acquired the property ... but ... many years ago - OK, back in the 1980's, when it was (if I'm correct) the Westcourt In the Buttes, that was my favorite property in the area.  It's a unique and fascinating place, and it's definitely worth a try.

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
        iahflyr Platinum 26 Reviews
        Currently Being Moderated

        bacon14,

         

        No have not stayed at either property before so will let ya know something when I get back. Make a reservation at both joints and then make up your mind....also we've got a couple of Insiders like jerryl and AZDesertRat who are probably familiar with both.

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
        jerryl Platinum 2 Reviews
        Currently Being Moderated

        I Have stayed at the buttes a number of times but not in last couple of years. It is a very nice resort built into the side of a butte which means the rooms are well below the lobby and restaurant . The resturant has one of the better views of the valley .

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
        curiousone Platinum
        Currently Being Moderated

        I would take Marriott McDowell Mountains over the Buttes. I have stayed at the Buttes and it is a nice facility with some good views of the valley, if you look past the major freeways that it fronts. The back side of the Buttes is an industrial part of town, so not a lot happening nearby. I have not yet stayed at the McDowell, but it is well located in North Scottsdale with a lot a nearby restaurants and it is next to a golf course.

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
        pluto77 Alumni Steward Platinum 25 Reviews
        Currently Being Moderated

        We stayed at the Buttes and liked it for its uniqueness. Enjoyed the pools, the breakfast was good, and so was dinner (and a great view of the valley) in the restaurant. I enjoyed watching the planes take off and land at Sky Harbor while on the treadmill in the exercise room.  Service was good all around, parking was either very inexpensive or free.  We went for a baseball game.

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

      • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
        bacon14 Platinum
        Currently Being Moderated

        Thank you all for the input!  Sounds like either way we won't be disappointed and both properties sound like they have something unique to offer.  Looking forward to a nice father/daughter weekend since we don't get to do it very often.

        (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

  • Re: JW Camelback, Grand Canyon, Taliesin
    pluto77 Alumni Steward Platinum 25 Reviews
    Currently Being Moderated

    So glad you and your family enjoyed such a nice winter vacation!  Private heated pool?  Wow.  They have those at the JW in Venice (Alas, I did not experience first hand.) 

     

    Table side prepared guacamole is such a rare treat!

     

    I love the Grand Canyon shots with all of the weather going on, which somehow makes it all seem that much more visceral. 

     

    Thanks for sharing. 

    (For each location tag, you will be guided through a 3-step process to add (1) a city and a state or a city and a country, (2) a Marriott brand, and (3) a Marriott hotel.)

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