Loews Ventana Canyon Resort is a modern hideaway that makes the best of Tucson’s open surroundings

By Lesley Kontowicz

Full disclosure: I’ve been smitten with Loews Ventana Canyon Resort ever since I accompanied my husband on a business trip here years ago. We were young and could rarely afford such indulgence, so that stay was etched in my mind as the epitome of luxury accommodations—the benchmark for which all other resorts would be measured. Consequently, when I recently needed to hit the reset button and find a new perspective for my blocked writer’s mind, I chose Ventana Canyon.

My husband and I have enjoyed travel at many resorts around the world since then, so I wondered if it would have the same panache for me. But, learning that Loews Ventana Canyon Resort recently completed a multi-million-dollar renovation piqued my curiosity—how could they possibly improve?

Loews Ventana at Night

Escaping into the mountains

Cradled at the base of Ventana Canyon, the resort remained just as I remembered—a solid structure reminiscent of the mountains surrounding it. Twisted, sturdy vines as old as the building clung to its walls, draping over its façade like a blanket, and the natural spring waterfall nestled behind the hotel flowed into a reservoir alongside the golf course. But rather than feeling imposing and dominant, the architecture and landscape complement its setting. In fact, it was built with this goal in mind—all riparian habitats were kept intact during construction.

Strolling to my guest room, I was reminded by the stars on the carpet to try to make time for the resort’s stargazing activity after dinner. When I opened my room’s door, a refreshing aroma welcomed me in, along with plush French linens, quality toiletries, and the same relaxing color palette inspired by the scenery outside. From my balcony, the mountain loomed just beyond reach. There were no barriers between the mountains and me. Just the kind of setting I needed to free myself from my mental blocks.

Open to inspiration

Seeking inspiration to ignite my creative juices, I wandered around the property and saw that blending with nature was still a common theme throughout the resort. Large windows bridged the delineation of exterior and interior, which had been updated with an elegantly modern ambiance, borrowing hues from the surrounding mountains—lavender, burgundy, gray, sage green. Their impressive collection of indigenous rocks and minerals, a longstanding element of the décor, glittered throughout. The vibe was of relaxed luxury.

I found more natural simplicity outside. Footpaths with placards identifying native plants, birds, and butterflies wound through the desert ultimately leading to the 80-foot waterfall, and the swimming pool was like a desert oasis. I overheard two little girls creating a tale about a maiden and her unicorn, as well as a father and son playing a lively game of ping-pong, and learned that each day, the resort offers organized children’s activities with their Coyote Kids Club. The resort provides as much, or as little, activity as you desire, no matter your age. I followed this lead and set my own pace, thinking and exploring without worry of deadlines or blocks.

Later, I enjoyed a delicious dinner at the upscale Flying V Bar & Grill, where I got a taste of one of Tucson’s best gastronomic experiences. Despite not making reservations, they immediately accommodated me at the bar with the full menu, which had a list of seasonal dishes that embrace the flavors and ingredients of the Sonoran Desert. I must admit, I wish I had made reservations on the balcony, where a panoramic view of the golf course, the reflective pool, the resort, Tucson’s city lights, and the twinkling night sky would have only enhanced the pheasant breast I ordered. However, the warm tones of the bar and the pheasant with house-made mustard remoulade and mashed cauliflower were just as inviting. I could definitely taste why Tucson’s was designated as UNESCO’s first City of Gastronomy in the United States.

Since accumulating clouds had blanketed the night sky, I had to save the after-dinner stargazing for another night (all the more reason to return for another stay). In its place, I found myself drawn to the Cascade Lounge. It was alive with music from a local band that rocked a range of tunes to keep the dance floor hopping. I was reminded of my husband and I’s previous visit, when we danced late into the night. What I didn’t recall was the huge, flat-screen TV (the size of a wall, really) that fed the sports nuts while I sipped on a cocktail. When I got back to my room, I still felt energized and immediately grabbed my computer. I didn’t want to ignore my impulse to free write. An impulse I hadn’t felt in too long.

Desert brunch

The next morning, I found I was still curious to explore Ventana Canyon’s lush surroundings. I was going to the Blues, Brews & BBQ Brunch later (a weekly event), so I opted to walk along the “par course” trail—a meandering calisthenics path that starts at the fitness center and skirts sections of the golf course—to get the most out of one outing.

Heart pumping and work out in, I was ready for the brunch. Walking into the Canyon Café, I suddenly felt like I had two-stepped my way into an Austin food and music festival. In the dining room and out on the poolside courtyard, toe-tapping blues floated on draughts of smoke where everything from yellowfin tuna and Sonoran hot dogs sizzled on the grill, and unlimited craft beer and mimosas flowed to wash it all down.

I left the resort with a full stomach and a fresh perspective. Though I tried to compare this stay to the one from my memory, I could not. It’s as though Ventana Canyon is a timeless destination, an unforgettable experience that easily lives up to both age-honored and current-day impressions. And, in the end, the comparison didn’t matter, because my block had been crushed. My mind was refreshed and as free flowing as the desert air and the relaxed pace I found at Loews Ventana Canyon. I came, I saw, I explored at my own pace, and I left better for it.