6 Southwest Destinations Delivering Holiday Cheer

By: Merilee Kern
Happy couple with luggage entering in hotel room during vacation Getty Images / Abel Mitja Varela

With an abundance of blue skies, refreshing breezes, and every kind of terrain—from sandy beaches to snow-capped mountains to desert dunes…and much in between—the U.S. Southwest is a spectacular place to succumb to some much-needed R&R over the holiday season.

To help ease and expedite your respite, here are six destinations in the region indelibly keeping travelers enchanted, energized, and duly entertained.


Renaissance Esmeralda in Indian Wells, California

First, you just can’t go wrong in the Coachella Valley’s lush enclave of Indian Wells, where Renaissance Esmeralda resort & spa offers one of the most popular vacation spots in greater Palm Springs.  The newly transformed Renaissance Esmeralda offers golf, spa services, holiday activities, and the area’s largest pool complex, complete with a sandy beach, waterfall, and cabanas.

Supreme comfort awaits in 560 beautifully renovated guest rooms—the largest individual accommodations in the Coachella Valley. These include plenty of connecting and adjoining rooms and suites making shared vacations convenient for friends and family. Restaurants include the popular SPC Italian restaurant, Cava, for relaxed American cuisine, as well as the pool bar, nightly sushi, and The Place—a fabulous spot to be after a long day at the pool, spa, or playing golf, complete with the most colorful cocktail selections in the desert.

The award-winning Spa Esmeralda is an oasis of calm with treatment rooms, gardens, and its own private outdoor pool—and an acclaimed new fitness center redefines the hotel workout experience with stunning interiors, fitness-on-demand classes, personal training, customizable apps, and functional zone activities. Plus, guests have access to the Peloton commercial bike—a technological first for regional travelers. Also new is the acclaimed Max-Trainer and new Life Fitness cardio machines, which synch with Apple GymKit. The world-class Indian Wells Golf Resort also lies just steps away, featuring two award-winning, championship courses.

They also have a fabulous holiday package called ‘Experience Esmeralda for the Holidays’  featuring a $100 resort credit, kids’ gift, and children 12 and under eat free. Holiday fun includes camp Esmeralda, movies, s’more-making, stargazing, a huge walk-in snow globe photo booth, kids’ New Year’s Eve dance party, and many more activities for the whole family. The package is available from Dec. 13 through Jan. 1 and starts at just $219 per night, based on availability (note that conditions and resort fee do apply).


Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, California

Next in California, don’t miss out on the action at Pechanga Resort Casino in Temecula, which recently completed a $300 million expansion making them the largest west coast casino resort property.  Their beautiful, two-story spa and salon, the largest in Temecula valley, was just rated four stars by Forbes travel guide. Not surprising since their unique treatments are all inspired by native botanicals and elements from the area.

Pechanga now also boasts 1,090 rooms and suites, a huge 200,000 square foot casino, and a 4.5-acre pool complex open year-round. There’s a swim-up bar, water slides, cabanas, fire pits, and live entertainment.  Their golf course, Journey at Pechanga, is challenging and exciting, built around ravines and the mountainside.

There are 13 on-site dining options, including the AAA Four Diamond-rated Great Oaks Steakhouse plus a comedy club, theater, rooftop nightclub and lounge, and a super trendy bingo hall.


Queen Mary in Long Beach, California

If you’re in Southern California and find yourself in the Long Beach area (or are willing to get you and yours there for some marvelous merriment), you should know that The Queen Mary is embracing the holiday spirit with its Queen Mary Christmas event being held Nov. 29 through Jan. 1 on select dates. Here, you can start your adventure at the outdoor North Pole Village with ice skating at the True North Ice Rink circling a 26-foot Christmas tree, then jump aboard the QM Express Train or the Grand Carousel for more festive fun.

Enjoy strolling performers, gingerbread house making, stocking decorating, or a sweet treat or libation as you watch live entertainment on the outdoor stage before climbing aboard the Queen Mary to take in the dazzling decor.

The revelry continues aboard the ship, where you’ll find Mrs. Claus reading stories to little ones and Ol’ Saint Nick hosting meet-and-greets in his Captain’s Quarters. The Queen Mary’s 4-D Theater will screen a special version of The Polar Express movie, complete with hot cocoa smells and snow flurries for a magical movie experience.


Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, Arizona

Next, outside of California, is another truly stellar southwest desert destination: the Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North. Situated in the scenic foothills of North Scottsdale,  this luxurious retreat is perfect for a sun-filled winter getaway.

Guests enjoy spacious, newly renovated guest rooms and suites all featuring breathtaking towering cacti and dramatic rock boulder views. Amenities include a well-appointed spa and fitness center where guided meditation walks and yoga hikes are all perfect ways to rejuvenate. Nearby, enjoy priority privileges on the renowned courses of Troon North Golf Club, or set out for a desert hike right from the resort’s grounds.

The resort’s inviting pool with negative edge waterfall is also custom-designed for relaxation with private cabanas and refreshing poolside cocktails. In the evening, indulge in acclaimed dining with James Beard award-nominated chef Samatha Sanz as she creates bright and flavorful contemporary Spanish cuisine.


Well & Being Spa at Fairmont, Scottsdale Arizona

Also, anytime you visit the Scottsdale or Phoenix area, do yourself a huge favor and schedule a visit to Well & Being Spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. It offers an innovative fusion of energizing wellness experiences and soothing spa treatments all within a space designed to be your sanctuary in the desert.

Inspired by the majestic natural surroundings of the blooming Sonoran desert, each customized treatment delivers sensory awakening. With relaxing treatments and inspiring evidence-based wellness activities, Well & Being Spa believes happiness and health were made to go together. Life can be a delightful alliance between the good … and the good for us!

Every resort experience is enhanced by Well & Being Spa’s focus on enjoying life.  Heal and strengthen. Indulge and pamper. From fitness to beauty and meditation, discover a holistic haven for your whole self at this extraordinary spa at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.  The three-day “Live it Well” room and spa package at the Princess provides the perfect desert escape.


MGM Grand Las Vegas

Finally, from one extraordinary desert destination experience to another, check out The Hunger Games: The Exhibition at MGM Grand Las Vegas, which celebrates Katniss Everdeen’s journey from District 12 to her rise as the Mockingjay!

The new attraction’s interactive galleries include the Hall of Justice, President Snow’s office, the Tribute Train, District 13, and a 60-foot wide interactive archery training experience—a first on the Vegas strip!  Fans can revel in original costumes, genuine props, and set recreations from Lionsgate’s record-breaking cinematic series.


So if you’re hungering for holiday cheer while you’re traversing America’s southwest, these six options veritably guarantee a stellar experience.