Best Of Our Valley 2014 – Best Escapes in Phoenix

You voted for more than 4,000 nominees in nearly 400 categories (equaling 1.5 million-plus views at AZFoothills.com). Now, it is time to get to know your Best of Our Valley 2014 winners. From your favorite restaurants and resorts to your choice schools and shops, Arizona Foothills Magazine presents Best of Our Valley 2014.

As great as the Valley is, sometimes we all crave a little escape—perhaps to the snowy slopes of Flagstaff or sun-drenched shores of San Diego. Here are your picks for best Valley escapes.

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BEST SEDONA HOTEL – L’AUBERGE DE SEDONA 

For 30 years, L’auberge de Sedona has provided luxury among Sedona’s red rocks. The resort sets itself apart thanks to unique amenities and activities, like outdoor showers and the popular 8 a.m. duck feeding that is always a huge hit with families. But it is the scrumptious creekside dining at L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek and the resort’s well-appointed accommodations that truly make it a rock star among Northern Arizona resorts. www.lauberge.com.

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BEST ASPEN/ TELLURIDE RESORT – HOTEL JEROME 

Though people head to Aspen for rugged pursuits, there is nothing rough-and- tumble about Hotel Jerome. The rooms are decked out with down bedding and flat-screen TV’s while the hotel offers access to the new Auberge Spa, an impressive lineup of restaurants and lounges as well as a partnership with Aspen Club and Spa, which has a fitness center with mountain views and an outdoor heated pool. The icing on the cake? Hotel Jerome just unveiled an extensive renovation and design transformation, making it the top spot in Aspen to spend any off-slope time. hoteljerome.aubergeresorts.com.

BEST ARIZONA SKI RESORT – FLAGSTAFF NORDIC CENTER

Offering the best in cross-country skiing only about 15 miles from downtown Flagstaff, the Flagstaff Nordic Center is located at the San Francisco Peaks in the Coconino National Forest. (Snowshoeing and snow biking are also available.) To offer comfort and cozy quarters after a day on the slopes, the center has a variety of yurts (small or large) and log-sided cabin huts to call home. www.flagstaffnordiccenter.com.

BEST MOUNTAIN ESCAPE – HUBBARD’S YELLOWSTONE LODGE

With elevations of 6,000 to 9,000 feet, Montana’s Hubbard’s Yellowstone Lodge is not only a prime destination for moun- taintop activities, but it is a full working cattle ranch that spans almost 25 square miles and invites guests to come along on the cattle drive. Plus, fishermen flock to this lodge to see what’s biting at the private 85-acre trout-filled lake, Tom Miner Creek, Yellowstone River, three spring creeks and numerous different locations throughout Yellowstone Park. www.hubya.com.

BEST SEDONA BED-AND-BREAKFAST – THE CREEKSIDE INN

Whether you’re heading up north to take in the galleries and dining or hit up the hiking trails, a lovely home base is The Creekside Inn, whose innkeepers are Mark and Tammy Charlesworth, formerly of Scottsdale. Rooms at this bed-and-break- fast are outfitted with jetted bath tubs, fireplaces, antiques, complimentary snacks and beverages and more while the three- course breakfasts may include such tasty delights as maple cornbread, berries in cream and a Sonoran frittata. www.creeksideinn.net.

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BEST SUN VALLEY RESORT – KNOB HILL INN 

Come snow or shine, Idaho’s Knob Hill Inn is a great all-weather destination for outdoor pursuits like mountain biking, hiking and cross-country skiing. After a day on the slopes or the bike paths, settle into one of the inn’s 29 newly renovated guest rooms and suites that offer oversize tubs, radiant floor heating, a wet bar and—last but not least—balconies on which to take in the stunning Sun Valley views. www.knobhillinn.com.

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BEST LAS VEGAS CASINO – THE VENETIAN LAS VEGAS 

Excitement and elegance come together at The Venetian casino. Marble floors and hand-painted frescoed ceilings provide plenty of pretty for any guest while gamblers appreciate more than 300 state-of-the-art video poker games; 1,700-plus slot machines; the high-limit salon with 20 table games; and the sprawling 14,000-sq.-ft. poker room. www.venetian.com.

BEST LAS VEGAS RESORT – WYNN LAS VEGAS

Wynn happens to be the winner of the most Forbes Five Star awards in the world, and its Las Vegas resort is a stellar example of Wynn’s first-class amenities and style. A must-stay for a special occasion, the three-room duplex in the Encore Tower Suites boasts two stories and 5,829 square feet. And diners can’t go wrong with any of Wynn’s vast selection of fine and casual restaurants, bars or lounges, with the sexy new Andrea’s being a favorite. For the latest in live entertainment, check out the resort’s Le Rêve-The Dream. www.wynnlasvegas.com.

BEST LOS ANGELES RESORT – THE BEVERLY HILLS HOTEL

For more than 100 years, those hitting Sunset Boulevard have been captivated by The Beverly Hills Hotel (a k a the Pink Palace). The resort exudes timeless glamour set against 12 acres of tropical gardens and exotic flowers. A big draw for visitors is the palm tree-lined pool which was recently outfitted with newly updated private cabanas. www.dorchestercollection.com/en/beverly-hills. 

BEST LAS VEGAS POOL – TIE: ENCORE BEACH AT WYNN LAS VEGAS AND ENCORE RESORT AND REHAB AT HARD ROCK HOTEL AND CASINO

To lap it up in the, well, lap of luxury, Encore Beach Club is a three-tier pool complex complete with verdant landscape, pagoda showers and lily pad water lounges. For a real retreat, cozy up in a cabana or one of the eight two-story bungalows. Rehab at Hard Rock Hotel and Casino touts itself as the ultimate Vegas pool party—which recently celebrated its 10th anniversary—with three acres of tropical paradise including sandy beaches and 50 poolside cabanas that have plasma televisions and poolside spa services. www.encorebeachclub.com; www.rehablv.com.

BEST ORANGE COUNTY RESORT – THE RITZ-CARLTON, LAGUNA NIGUEL

It celebration of its 30th anniversary, The Ritz-Carlton, Laguna Niguel is hosting pearl-theme experiences (traditionally, a 30th anniversary is honored with a gift of pearls) with luxury cultured pearl jeweler, Mikimoto. Take part in the fun with the Pearls of Inspiration experience, the Iridescent Pearl Facial or a very special Mikimoto art of the craft experience, to name a few of the resort’s special anniversary-year happenings. www.ritzcarlton.com/laguna30years.

BEST SAN DIEGO RESORT – PARK HYATT AVIARA RESORT

This AAA Five Diamond resort, Park Hyatt Aviara Resort is home to 327 spacious guest rooms, including 43 suites that overlook the beautiful sun-soaked Pacific Coast. Guests are invited to dive into the on-site pools; play a game of tennis or golf at the Arnold Palmer- designed 18-hole championship course; and get pampered at the Aviara Spa (which happens to have special capabilities for couples like an intimate lounge area with a marble fireplace and a shower for two). www.parkaviara.hyatt.com.

BEST NAPA WINERY – BRAVANTE VINEYARDS

Using varietals of the historic Howell Mountain Appellation in Napa Valley, winemaker Duane Dappen and the team at Bravante Vineyards create a mouthwatering selection of award- winning wines. To really familiarize yourself with Bravante’s bottles, sign up for the wine club to try the Trio, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, the limited-edition Simpatico and many more of the winery’s top-notch whites and reds. www.bravantevineyards.com.

BEST TRAVEL WEB SITE – TIE: EXPEDIA AND TRAVELOCITY.COM

When it comes to finding the best deals on airfare, hotel stays, cruises, car rentals and much more, locals turn to two sites: Expedia.com and Travelocity.com. The user-friendly Web sites make it a snap to check flight statuses, create fun vacation itineraries and much more.

Story by Melissa Larsen 

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