Since our kids don’t know how to swim yet, inflatable pool rings turned out to be a godsend on our trip to the Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain outside Tucson, Arizona. Easy to pack and only $1.50 each, they gave the kids confidence to paddle all around and me comfort knowing they had some help.
Nobody will be surprised to hear that The Ritz-Carlton Dove Mountain is a beautiful, luxurious destination because well, it’s a Ritz-Carlton. What is surprising, however, is that on top of living up to its posh reputation, this particular Ritz-Carlton is incredibly kid-friendly. From the spacious casitas to the welcoming restaurants, a water slide, wading pools, and fun kid programs, families will be delighted at the options.
First, the room: We stayed in a one-bedroom casita with over 1,100 feet to spread out in. Besides the comfortable queen beds and soothing neutral decor, one of the best features was something they never advertise, a huge walk-in closet where our suitcases, shoes, and everything else could be stowed. It was wonderful to not trip over sandals and kids’ backpacks every time we crossed the room.
A small patio with a table and two chairs surveyed the desert landscape and provided a lovely place to relax and appreciate the view, the warmth of Arizona, and the quiet of this location approximately 45 minutes outside of Tucson.
There were 5 dining options and we enjoyed three of them. My favorite meal was at the centrally-located Ignite where we sat fireside, listened to soothing mystical flute echo around us (there is a live performance every evening at sunset) and watched the (almost) full moon rise.
Although it felt a little strange to order sushi in the desert, that’s what I was craving and their inventive rolls with a slight Southwestern kick were extremely good. The kids’ menu was the same at every restaurant offering all the usual kid-friendly suspects (mac and cheese, pizza, grilled cheese, etc.) but with an upscale flair (no bright orange sauce on the macaroni, for example). The kids were happy with these options and I was grateful for once that my kids don’t read yet — as far as they were concerned, fruit and vegetables were the only options for side dishes and those were generous portions. But don’t feel bad that they missed out on French fries; they still got dessert (sundaes most nights and cookies with whipped cream once) which was also included in the $10 kid’s meal price.
The best breakfast deal was at Core, the hotel’s elegant signature restaurant, where kids 5 or younger can enjoy the lavish buffet for free (be sure to mention your children’s ages to your server). Dinner at Core was also very good but with squirmy kids, we preferred Ignite where the kids had a little more diversions to keep them occupied. We had a casual lunch at the near-poolside Turquesa Latin Grill one day also. Sitting outside, beneath the bright yellow blooms of the Palo Verde trees, and watching people stroll to and from the adults’ pool and flames flicker in the numerous fire pits was lovely.
Speaking of pools, we loved that there was a separate adults only pool so we knew our kids were welcome at the other one. A 235-foot water slide shoots into this absolutely remarkable oasis. Only 4 feet at the deepest point, there is also one area that is only 1 foot, 1 inch deep and another just a foot and a half deep, perfect for kids not yet swimming and delightful for parents as well. This is where we spent most of our time and this is what our kids are still talking about.
The other most-talked-about activity was geocaching. For $60, a family borrows a high-tech hand-held GPS for the day. Along with the GPS comes a map and insulated lunch bag with cold water and trail mix so adventurous families can search all around the property for 6 hidden treasures. Our 5-year-old son was especially interested and stuck with it despite getting slightly over heated and needing to take a break in between searches, one with Dad and one with me.
This activity actually turned into really nice one-on-one time for everyone. Sara and I did some artwork while the boys geocached then later when William and I went searching, Daddy and Sara played hide-and-seek in the room (yes, the casitas are so spacious that she actually couldn’t find him a couple of times).