by Suzanne Koch
Best Casino: Talking Stick Resort
Try your luck at more than 800 multi-dimensional slot machines or post up at one of more than 50 tables of blackjack, Three Card Poker and more. The 240,000-sq.-ft. casino also boasts the largest poker room in the state while Keno fans will be pleased to know they can find Arizona’s largest aggregate payout here, a whopping $250,000. talkingstickresort.com.
AFM Fave! Best Casino: Fort McDowell Casino
Exciting things are in the works at Fort McDowell Casino, home to some of the most rewarding gaming in the entire Southwest with the latest slot machines, poker, bingo, blackjack and much more. Fort McDowell will unveil a new casino spanning 166,341 square feet, which will offer guests a larger casino with a garden court, specialty high-end dining, a sports bar with entertainment stage and other exciting new amenities. The highly anticipated casino is slated to be complete and open to the public by 2020. fortmcdowellcasino.com.
Best Downtown Phoenix Hotel: FOUND: RE Phoenix
Dive into Arizona’s art scene at this urban boutique hotel that’s sourced more than 25 local artists to dress up its industrious interiors. A mix of rotating shows, pop-ups and varying artists are hosted in the Studio and Gallery meeting spaces. Even one of the hotel’s exterior walls is an art piece in itself, featuring a six-story video installation that treats guests and the community to an ever-changing canvas of dynamic images and art. foundrehotels.com.
AFM Fave! Best Historic Resort: Hermosa Inn
Originally the art studio and residence of cowboy artist Alonzo “Lon” Megargee, Casa Hermosa was built in 1936 and opened as The Hermosa Inn in 1941. Today, the cozy hideaway is a piece of authentic Arizona. Its adobe architecture and historical charm have contributed to its recent accolades from Condé Nast Traveler’s 2018 Readers’ Choice Awards where it was ranked No. 8 of the Top 10 Hotels in the U.S. and No. 1 Hotel in the Southwest. Casita accommodations feature wood beams and custom artwork and most have fireplaces and wood floors. Enjoy globally inspired Arizona fare at LON’s at the Hermosa which was named Arizona’s Most Romantic Restaurant by Food & Wine. Its outdoor dining patio is a fave among locals for enjoying cocktails and mild weather. hermosainn.com.
Best Lobby Bar: Mountain Shadows
Sip pretty at this gorgeous oval-shaped bar with Mid-Century Modern touches. Gather here for a quick pre-drink before dining at signature Hearth ‘61 or nestle in for a long night of drinks and snacks. Guests can enjoy wine and beer or something more spirited from its inventive cocktail menu. Add a pep in your step with Paradise Lost, made with tequila, fresh lime juice, mango puree and sriracha. mountainshadows.com.
Best Luxury Vacation Rental: Parsons Villas
Rent worry-free with Parsons Villas, a family-run management company with a collection of luxury homes throughout Scottsdale, Paradise Valley and Phoenix. Most homes include heated pools and spas, putting greens, fresh hypoallergenic linens and more. Many even feature brand new furnishings and are completely renovated. Complimentary concierge services will help with restaurant and nightclub reservations, VIP car service, golf, outdoor activities and more, lending to the company’s more than 500 five-star reviews. parsonsvillas.com.
Best Dine In Movie Theatre: iPic
Kick back, relax and enjoy the show in the best way possible. Friendly hosts, lively ushers and great food take the movie-watching experience up a notch at iPic. Movie-goers can enjoy the latest releases with chef-inspired dishes and handmade cocktails available at the push of a button. The delectable delights are delivered seat side by a ninja server so you don’t miss a beat of action. A complimentary pillow and blanket, and not to mention complimentary popcorn, all round out this award-winning experience. With nationwide locations, Valley residents can visit the north Scottsdale IPIC at Scottsdale Quarter. ipic.com.
Best Place to Discover Your Inner Artist: The Brush Bar
Tap into your creative side during a guided, step-by-step painting session with a trained instructor. The interactive group setting and in-studio wine and beer bar make this a perfect option for a fun night out. Guests will even get to walk away with their very own piece of art to keep. Public classes are offered Thursday through Sunday and reservations are required. thebrushbar.com.
Best Pool Party: Hotel Valley Ho
Spend sunny days at the OH Pool, the one-stop shop for a refreshing escape and electric atmosphere. Lounge in one of the nine private cabanas while sipping cocktails and snacking on poolside fare from the full-service bar and kitchen. Additional features include a fire pit, water feature and hot tub. For the best way to play, visit on summer weekends for live entertainment or book the newest VIP cabana, complete with its own private hot tub. hotelvalleyho.com.
Best Relaxing Resort Pool, Best Resort and Most Luxe Accommodations: The Wigwam
This West Valley resort is a Historic Hotel of America and is currently celebrating its 90th anniversary. Adobe-style accommodations include casitas, suites and two presidential suites, all with private patios or balconies nestled amid blooming flowers and towering palms. Dine at the signature farm-to-table Litchfield’s restaurant, unwind at the recently opened LeMonds Aveda Salon – Spa or tee up at one of the three championship golf courses. Three pools offer something for everyone, from a kid’s fun zone with waterslides to a relaxing oasis with cabanas and Jacuzzis. Bocce ball, volleyball and tennis courts; yard games; and bike rentals round out the active amenities. wigwamarizona.com.
AFM Fave! Best Resort: Fairmont Scottsdale Princess
A resort for all occasions and all travelers, there’s not much you won’t find here. Six pools encourage sun-soaking, from an adult-only rooftop oasis to kid-friendly Sonoran Splash with waterslides. Enjoy flavors of all kinds at five dining outlets, including recently renovated La Hacienda. Unwind at the 44,000-sq.-ft. Well & Being Spa whose design was inspired by the Grand Canyon’s Havasupai Falls. Make sure to also check out the resort’s event calendar for an extensive lineup of seasonal happenings, including the annual Christmas at the Princess festival. scottsdaleprincess.com.
Best Valley Adventure Experience: Rainbows Ryders Inc.
See the Valley from a whole new perspective. With more than 35 years flying over the Southwest, Rainbow Ryders is the country’s largest balloon ride company and the official operator of the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta, the world’s largest balloon event. The experience over the Valley includes one hour in the sky, a toast, catered food and a flight certificate, not to mention the unbeatable views. rainbowryders.com.
AFM Fave! Best Resort Remodel: The Phoenician
Recently completing its more than three-year renovation, The Phoenician’s newest debuts include a three-story spa with rooftop pool, the two-story Phoenician Athletic Club and a redesigned golf course with refreshed clubhouse. J&G Steakhouse received a stylish refresh and The Phoenician Tavern (formerly Relish Burger Bistro) premiered, serving upscale pub-style food. The renovation is the most extensive since the resort debuted in October 1988 and included a redesign of all public areas and accommodations. The Canyon Suites at The Phoenician also received a complete remodel, which took place in summer 2016. thephoenician.com.
AFM Fave! Best Relaxing Resort Pool: Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa
Kick back and relax in Arizona’s largest infinity-edge pool. In between working on your tan, cozy up in a cabana or lounge chair while savoring snacks and cocktails and taking in the unbeatable views of Camelback Mountain. For even more zen, guests can take part in paddle board yoga. The in-pool activity combines yoga poses and breathing exercises to fully chill participants out. sanctuaryoncamelback.com.
AFM Fave! Most Iconic Valley Resort: Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort
Fans of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural style will revel in this historic hotel located at the base of Phoenix Mountain Preserve. Since 1929, the glam destination has hosted Hollywood’s elite and even presidential greats. Today, the elegant resort has all the modern-day amenities one would expect, like the 20,000-sq.-ft. Spa Biltmore, eight swimming pools, championship golf and multiple dining outlets. For a sip of history, visit The Wright Bar, where legend claims the tequila sunrise was created. arizonabiltmore.com.
Best Movie Theater: Harkins Theatres, harkins.com.
Best Pet Resort/Boarding Facility: Sonoran Desert Pet Resort, sdpetresort.com.
Best Valley Hiking: Pinnacle Peak, pinnaclepeaklocal.com/hike.