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Tucson: all-season training ground.

TUCSON: ALL-SEASON TRAINING GROUND

There's a good reason the Cleveland Indians have migrated to Tucson each spring for the past 41 years: the "Cactus League" training grounds receives more sun than any other U.S. city--360 days a year. Now, as elegant new full-service resorts crop up like tumbleweeds in the local foothills, you don't have to be a die-hard "Wahoo" fan to enjoy this area's breathtaking desert environment. Following the opening of Tucson's third major "destination resort," its bases are loaded with a full lineup of activities for every level of sports fan--from major-leaguer to couch potato. Among its more than 13,000 hotel rooms are the following big names, as well as lengthy roster of smaller hostelries. Although none includes an actual baseball diamond, each of those listed below is situated at the base of the 9,000-foot Santa Catalina mountains, providing the most dramatic of outfields for whatever personal spring training you have in mind.

* The latest to appear on the scene is the Westin La Paloma. A rosyhued village on 880 acres of rambling desert landscape, this place seems to spell "time-out." Fitness fanatics might want to put in some time on the Jack Nicklaus-designed, 27-hole golf course or one of ten lighted tennis courts. For the aquatic-minded, there's a free-form swimming pool with water slide and swim-up bar, plus three therapy pools. But for those armchair athletes who like to ease into their training, it's the "Personal Services Center," with massages, facials, body wraps, and beauty treatments. After such an intense "seventh-inning stretch," the body will need serious nourishment. Nine different restaurants and lounges serve every possible culinary whim, and the Cactus Club is Tucson's most popular disco.

* When it comes to understated elegance, many consider Tucson's MVP to be Loews Ventana Canyon Resort, with its natural water course and 80-foot waterfall. In addition to the usual range of health-oriented options, the Ventana's 93 acres include 2.5 miles of fitness trails. Those still on the bench (or pool chair) might be more interested to learn that even a standard room here has two telephones and an enormous, spa-size tub. High tea at 3:00 p.m.!

* The first major complex to discover this area five years ago, the Sheraton Tucson El Conquistador just completed a grand-slam, $4 million remodeling program to even the score with its new competition. It sprawls on 150 acres in Oro Valley to the north, augmenting the regular golf-tennis-jacuzzi tripleheader with four racquetball courts and a stable of 40 horses. Back in the dugout, four restaurants serve everything from Continental/Southwest cuisine to two-fisted steaks, and live entertainment is featured nightly.

* If your idea of the national pastime is to be massaged, manicured, pummeled, and pampered, then Tucson National Resort and Spa hits a homer. Formerly a private golf and country club and for 15 years the site of the Tucson Open golf tournament, Tucson National became a full-service property in 1986. It provides a more intimate and private experience than the resorts mentioned above and attracts such privacy-enthusiasts as Elizabeth Taylor, George Hamilton, Billy Joel, and Christie Brinkley. But it's the spa here that is the resort's cleanup hitter. Russian steam baths, saunas, inhalation rooms, Orthion weightlifting equipment, and a full beauty salon are just a few of the amenities offered.

* After such a vigorous workout, you may be wondering what else Tucson has to offer. History, for one thing. Still nicknamed the Old Pueblo, Tucson has lived under four national flags in all. The Indians (natives, not from Cleveland) have been calling this area home for 25,000 years, the longest continuous human habitation in North America. The Spaniards arrived in the late 1600s and claimed the area as their own until Mexico declared its independence in 1821. In 1853, the Gadsden Purchase passed the region from Mexican to American hands. Then, during the Civil War, Tucson served as an outpost for Confederate troops. When Arizona entered statehood in 1912 it had a total population of 205,000. Today, Tucson alone boasts a metropolitan populace of 650,000, with 2,000 new residents each month.

Local places of interest generally celebrate the city's two greatest assets: her history and her natural habitat. Herewith, a sampling:

El Presidio is Tucson's easily walkable historic district, including the colorful Pima County Courthouse, Old Town Artisans complex, Tucson Museum of Art, and a variety of authentic adobe houses. Nine miles south of town is the 200-year-old San Xavier del Bac Mission, known as the "White Dove of the Desert" and not to be missed. Fifteen miles to the west is the Saguaro National Monument, an oxymoronic "cactus forest." It's a nine-mile scenic drive through Sonoran Desert vegetation with saguaro cactus sprawling as far as the horizon. Nearby, Old Tucson has been used as the location for nearly 200 Western movies and TV shows--among them, Stagecoach, "Little House on the Prairie," "High Chaparral," and Three Amigos. In the same area lies the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, rated by the New York Times as one of the ten best museums in the country. This living exhibit features more than 200 species of indigenous animals and 400 varieties of plants, along with an earth-sciences center; a mountain-habitats exhibit; a tortoise enclosure; a desert garden; a walk-in aviary; and more snakes, spiders, and creepy-crawlers than you thought possible. It's Tucson's most popular attaction.

For more touring ideas and a detailed downtown walking tour, contact the Metropolitan Tucson Convention and Visitors Bureat at 450 W. Paseo Redondo. If not already convinced, you'll undoubtedly soon be voting Tucson MVP of the Cactus League.
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Copyright 1988 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:resorts
Author:Mickelwait, Kirsten
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Mar 1, 1988
Words:934
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