TUCSON, Ariz. — Loews Ventana Canyon Resort is the kind of place that builds stay anticipation.
There are two Tom Fazio golf courses here. Surely, everything else is going to be ultra plush?
Only, it's not. Loews Ventana Canyon is a nice enough stay. But it's not going to live up to your golf trip wild dreams. In some ways, it's sort of a mundane experience.
The golf itself is good, yet you can stay at a number of Tucson resorts and still work in a few rounds at Ventana Canyon. These days a Tucson hotel needs to bring it in all the other areas to qualify as a must stay.
Ventana does all right, but it's much more par than birdie. And with $200-plus high season rates, you're probably going to be expecting wows.
Instead, you might end up in a room with a view out onto the parking lot. All of Ventana Canyon's brochures show the waterfall and golf course looks, but entire sides of resort wings look out on asphalt.
So much for that desert retreat wonder.
That may be the biggest knock against Ventana Canyon. It feels like a hotel rather than a getaway resort. The only place there seemed to be to hang out once the sun went down was the lobby bar area — and even this came off as a little cramped.
Forget about wandering through long corridors and stumbling upon restaurants and eclectic shops like at many expansive high-end resorts.
Ventana Canyon doesn't do hip sprawl. It has the only AAA Five Diamond awarded restaurant in Tucson in the Ventana Room (where jackets are requested) and little else in terms of character.
"It gets boring here," a businessman type in for a conference said, nursing a drink in the lobby lounge.
It's difficult to imagine someone saying that at the JW Marriott Starr Pass Resort across town with everyone hanging around the huge outdoor patio with fire pits, drinking tequila, staring up at the extra bright Tucson stars. Or anyone feeling that at a place like Scottsdale's Fairmont Scottsdale Princess with its 24-7 Olympic-sized pools and fawning staff.
That is one Loews Ventana Canyon's biggest problems: location. It's in a state with a number of unforgettable resorts. You need to be special to stand out.
The drive to Loews Ventana Canyon actually heightens the anticipation. You go past a downtown dependent on the University of Arizona and after another 15 minutes, end up on a slightly twisting road with towering rocks overhead.
The resort is secluded enough that even a trip to the drug store is no quick, brainless hop.
Ventana Canyon's best features come in its surroundings. There are world-class hiking trails right off the resort. They include desert vegetation and wildlife booklet guides in all the rooms, a nice touch.
If your sports tastes run beyond golf, there are eight lighted tennis courts.
The coolest features in the room themselves are the mini bathroom TVs, which says more about the rooms than the TVs. Even the peanut butter cups in the mini bar were stale.
The standard room stayed in on this trip was pretty much a cookie-cutter hotel room with nothing remarkable, except perhaps the balcony, which looked out on a parking lot — one you have to pay $9 to park in even though Ventana Canyon is out in the foothills and parking is plentiful.
At a great resort, all the little extras are not going to bother you too much. They bug you at Loews Ventana Canyon.
There are many better high-dollar places you could stay in Tucson than the high-dollar Loews Ventana Canyon. Make the trek out here to play the showy Tom Fazio golf — Mountain at Ventana Canyon ranks third in TravelGolf.com's Arizona Top 10 for good reason.
Kick back and sleep somewhere else.
July 24, 2007