children floating on the lazy river at the family resort JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix AZ
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Relaxing Family Vacation in the Valley of the Sun

children floating on the lazy river at the family resort JW Marriott Desert Ridge in Phoenix AZ
photo courtesy: JW Marriott Desert Ridge

Located in the Sonora Desert where Phoenix and Scottsdale meet in sunny Arizona, the JW Marriott Desert Ridge offers a family vacation to remember.  When looking at Phoenix family resorts, look no further than Desert Ridge.

What’s the area and weather like?

Even in November, when the temperature is in the high 60’s and low 70’s, in the sunshine, it’s still pool weather.  In the shade it feels the cool temp that it is, but the Arizona sun is strong and 70’s feel like 80’s.   It’s very nice.  The best weather according to locals is April and October.  The nights and shade are a bit warmer, and the sun is nice and hot.

Nearby the Desert Ridge Marketplace is home to Target, a movie theater, shopping of all levels, restaurants galore and a central gathering place with outdoor fireplace and fountains.

What makes it kid-friendly?

The lazy river, serpentine water slide, two other shallow pools and a splash pad are great for kids.  Salt water is nicer on tender skin than chlorine, too. There is an adults-only pool, but it’s over by the spa and we didn’t see it.

Each of the 10 restaurants on property has a kid’s menu.  Roy’s goes the extra mile with a full keiki (kid’s) menu  with activity booklet

and pineapple drink cup, as well as a special amuse-bouche just for kids.   Meritage and Roy’s seemed to put the most care into the presentation of the kid’s food, but to be fair, my son enjoyed them all.

Our room had 2 double beds, so our son had a bed and we had the other.  Suites are available in different sizes, as are refrigerators for the room.


What kid activities are offered?

In addition to the pools, there’s tons for families to do year round.  My 7 year-old son loved our morning walks through the Desert Botanical Garden and herb garden.  With his postcard showing the cacti of Arizona and his scorpion keychain, he loved looking for birds, animals, scorpions and cacti that matched his postcard.  Much to his chagrin, and my relief, we didn’t see any scorpions on our walks.

Family Escape is an area near the pools with several family options.  In the morning they have a drop-off program where they do fun activities with the kids.  From noon and later, parents are required to stay with the kids when using the Family Escape center.  Inside the center there are movies, video games, coloring pages, board games and more.  They also often have scheduled family activities like a guided scavenger hunt, cookie decorating, pajama party, rock star party, glamor shots, and more.

There are also random complimentary family events around the resort; we made s’mores by the fire…so yummy!

Tennis and golf both offer discounted kid’s rates and discounted equipment rental rates.  We chose tennis and found it very easy to get a reservation.

This holiday season, the grand lobby will be filled with the scents and sights of a gingerbread village inspired by the Dr. Seuss Who-ville town, and will even be visited by the Grinch himself!

What do parents need to know when they come here?

The lazy river has a pretty strong current – great for keeping the floaties moving, but watch little ones who aren’t strong swimmers even though it’s only 3’3” deep.

Bring and use sunscreen even if the temperature looks like it will be cool.  The sun is strong in Arizona.

Bring and drink lots of water.  It’s also very dry in the desert.  You laugh, but it’s easy to forget when you are surrounded by sparkling turquoise pools.

If you go:  JW Marriott Desert Ridge, 5350 East Marriott Drive, Phoenix, Ariz. 85054

480-293-5000 or Toll Free: 800-835-6206

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Overall, we loved our stay at the JW Marriott Desert Ridge and are very happy to have experienced this Arizona family resort.  We hope you get a chance to experience it for yourself.  If you have already, or know of another great place in Arizona or Phoenix we should check out, share your thoughts in the comments below.

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