Ruben Hernandez

Nature’s respite

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It’s mid-morning brunch-time at the Westward Look Resort in Tucson.

The west-facing dining patio of the award-winning Gold Room restaurant offers spectacular views below and to the west of the city of Tucson and the far off Tucson Mountains. Hungry diners enjoy the cool morning breeze and the mild warmth of the southern Arizona sunshine.

“I saw a bobcat in the arroyo from the balcony of my room,” says one of the diners in a Texas twang. “From its small size I think it was only a teenager. When I called Bob to come look, it ran off.”

Digging into my eggs Benedict, I mentioned that I had spotted a quail family and cottontail rabbits in the arroyo behind my guest room, and a hungry Cooper’s hawk soaring high above, searching for its breakfast.

A small crowd of audacious, tweeting sparrows gathered on the empty chairs of my breakfast table, hoping to guilt-trip me into tossing some muffin morsels their way. Then a waitress showed up, and with a scolding, gently shooed them off.

The seamless merging of vacationers with local wildlife and lush desert landscape is only one of many charms of this grand dame of home-grown resorts in Tucson.

The Westward Look takes as its motto “The Soul of the Southwest,” and staying at this resorts showcases Tucson’s most soulful attractions: A harmonious partnership and proximity to nature over its 80 acres, mild temperatures and sunshine most of the year, and city and mountain views that make a 2-hour trip from Phoenix an investment in restoring urban spirits to a simpler, more relaxed state.

The Westward Look Resort grew from an elegant, Hacienda-style family home built in 1912 by William Watson and his wife, Maria. Set in the foothills of the Catalina Mountains, it offers 244 suite-size rooms, two award-winning restaurants, tennis courts, pristine Sonoran desert for day hiking and night vision tours, a Native American labyrinth, bicycle and horseback riding, three gardens and a rare, producing avocado tree that supplies the restaurants with fresh ingredients.

The resort has undergone a $10 million renovation project, which updated the main lobby, guest rooms, the Gold Room restaurant and Lookout Bar & Grill, convention meeting spaces, the fitness workout center and two pools.

Alan Klein, the Westward’s general manager, says the renovation was designed to enhance the resort’s historical charms. He also says management is making an active effort to reach out to Hispanic visitors and tourists.

Part of the push for Latinos is because one of the owners of American Property Management hotel chain is Michael Gallegos, who got his start in the resort business in Albuquerque. The Westward Look has designed programs with the Latino culture in mind.

One Latino-themed innovation is the “favorite family recipe” program. The resort’s new executive chef, James Wallace, and his staff will solicit family recipes from locals for tamales or menudo, and then treat resort guests to dishes using the recipes.

In addition, the resort has instituted special tequila tastings for resort guests and drop-ins from the local Tucson community.

Klein says that from January on the resort will offer special vacation packages that if visitors book three nights at $139 per night, two additional nights are thrown in for free.

So can I be lured back to Tucson by the promise of tamales and tequila? ¡Como que no!

Westward Look Resort
245 E. Ina Road, Tucson

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