A hot-air balloon ride with Hot Air Expeditions

8. PHOENIX/SCOTTSDALE
These Arizona hot spots offer a dependably sunny disposition and a multitude of fitness and wellness choices — both indoors and out. Few cities can boast the luxury resorts and outdoor beauty of Phoenix and Scottsdale, both of which are especially wonderful when you’re leaving a cold, gray winter or early spring behind elsewhere.

A quick way to hit the ground running is to book an excursion with Arizona Outback Adventures (www.aoa-adventures.com). Try mountain biking in the expansive McDowell Sonoran Preserve, a 21,000-acre desert wonderland amid the striking McDowell Mountains. Anything but barren, the desert contains lush cactus forests (did you know a Saguaro cactus is around 60 to 90 years old before it ever sprouts an “arm,” and the Teddybear Cholla Cactus never wants to let you go?). Kayaking and river-rafting might not jump to mind when visiting the Scottsdale area, but the Lower Salt River is a playground for water sports — and often a venue for viewing magnificent wild horses grazing on the riverbanks.

STAY:  Super-convenient for visitors, most of the resorts in the Phoenix area offer world-class spa and fitness options as well as fresh and healthy dining choices. The JW Marriott Scottsdale Camelback Inn Resort & Spa (camelbackinn.com) is in tip-top shape after a multiyear renewal project, and recently unveiled its 150-acre Ambiente Course. Stay in a casita near the spa and its healthy Sprouts restaurant for a dreamy wellness immersion, including yoga classes, a private spa pool with terrific views, and guided power walks through upscale Paradise Valley neighborhoods.

Location, location, location. W Scottsdale (wscottsdalehotel.com) has it, and guests can walk to the area’s best shopping and the nearby Entertainment District. The WOW Suites energize with loads of natural light, thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows throughout. Private high-tech kitchens make it a snap to eat healthy, or stroll downstairs to the deliciously hip Sushi Roku. Want to revive your radiance? Bliss Spa’s signature Triple Oxygen Facial to the rescue.

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain (sanctuaryaz.com) recently reopened Jade Bar, featuring garden-to-glass cocktails with many ingredients right from the bar’s cocktail garden. Satori Retreats offers multiday, custom-designed wellness activities. The Satori adventure challenges with mountain biking and hiking the region’s most rugged desert trails, in addition to nearby rock climbing, kayaking, and horseback riding options. Included are spa treatments and healthful meals created by chef Beau MacMillan. 

There’s nothing quite like having a mountain outside your back door to up the exercise quotient. Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North (fourseasons.com/scottsdale) is situated in the picturesque Sonoran Desert, with Pinnacle Peak Park just steps away. An expertly guided hike is just one of a full slate of fitness classes offered. Later in the day, soak up the amazing sunset from the Onyx Bar & Lounge patio, then dine at Talavera restaurant. Even health nuts tout moderation in all things, and if the mood strikes you, don’t miss the decadent one-of-a-kind cheeseburger topped with deep-fried bacon and bourbon molasses onions at the cool-and-casual Proof Canteen. It may just be the fuel you need to tackle another Pinnacle Peak hike.

DINE:  For dining out in Phoenix and Scottsdale, it doesn’t get much fresher than True Food Kitchen (foxrc.com), co-founded by healthy-living guru and best-selling author Dr. Andrew Weil (drweil.com). His cookbook, True Food, contains many of the coveted restaurant recipes. The handsome, upscale T. Cook’s restaurant (tcooksdining.com) at the quintessentially classy Royal Palms Resort and Spa offers locally grown and sustainably raised fare. For a refreshing casual meal, Original ChopShop Co. (chopshopco.com) and Nourish (nourish123.com) are especially popular with in-the-know locals.

GET FIT:  Many of the luxury spas offer reasonably priced day passes, making it easy to indulge in some healthy “spa-hopping.” The Arizona Biltmore (arizonabiltmore.com) and The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection Resort (thephoenician.com) are at once classic and cutting-edge, offering serious fitness options like hiking Piestewa Peak and Camelback Mountain. Get the whole family moving at The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa’s (kierlandresort.com) Adventure Water Park. Try the Kierland FlowRider, a boardsport simulator combining surfing, skateboarding, and snowboarding. Aerial yoga or a health tune-up with medical assessments and nutrition consults await at Fairmont Scottsdale Princess’ Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa (scottsdaleprincess.com).

PLAY:  Still have some energy? Go for a flight with Desert Splash Adventures (desertsplashadventures.com) that starts at Scottsdale Quarter and curves its way through the Salt River Valley before landing on Roosevelt Lake. Fort McDowell Adventures (fortmcdowelladventures.com) will take you horseback riding in the Sonoran Desert, or take a tomcar (a self-driven vehicle) expedition through the desert with Green Zebra Adventures (www.gogreenzebra.com). Perhaps a hot-air balloon ride with Hot Air Expeditions (hotairexpeditions.com) is more your speed. Whatever you choose, you are sure to come back from Phoenix (visitphoenix.com) and Scottsdale (experiencescottsdale.com) more fit and energized.  — J.T.