Calling the Canyon Ranch a spa is like describing the Smithsonian as a museum.
Spread over 70 acres, the original Canyon Ranch near Tucson, Arizona, inspired a new breed of health resorts and day spas. With outposts in Lenox, Mass., Las Vegas, Miami Beach, and aboard cruise ships, Canyon Ranch is an international phenomenon.
But nothing compares to the original.
A timeless serenity pervades the place. Arriving at the Clubhouse, little seems to have changed since my first visit 30 years ago. Although the spa complex has doubled in size, it blends into gardens vibrant with desert colors, ancient oaks and tall cypress trees.
The weekly schedule now lists 200+ activities, from ayurveda to walks, as well as fitness classes, motivational and medical talks, workshops, and evening programs on an amazing variety of subjects related to living a healthy lifestyle.
The spa is actually the smallest part of Canyon Ranch. To reach the reception desk you navigate a network of six gyms, yoga dome, lounges, footwear advisor, and computer station. Inside the locker room, every detail for relaxation has been provided, including indoor whirlpools and secluded patios for sunbathing.
Active sports are housed next to the spa. Join a game of racquetball,, squash, or wallyball. Need to practice? No problem; sign up for introductory sessions. Program advisors are on hand to help schedule your day and make spa appointments. Options range from personal fitness training to Pilates workouts. Or challenge yourself at the high ropes course. My personal favorite are hikes in nearby Sabino Canyon to enjoy the dessert with a likeminded group of ranchers.
The serious side of Canyon Ranch is across the road from the spa complex: a health center staffed by medical and nutrition specialists. And the Life Enhancement Center, which has a structured week-long program. This is where my personal turn-around began back in 1985, learning and observing how lifestyle changes can enhance your health.
Mel Zuckerman, founder of Canyon Ranch, would start the week with his personal epiphany. Now 85 years young, Mel lives with his wife Enid in their home amid the guest casitas. He likes to tell how promising his dying father that he would loose weight and stop smoking led to his building a better spa. Today the entire community benefits from the Zuckerman endowment of the University of Arizona College of Public Health.
Perhaps the most impressive change is Canyon Ranch cuisine. Gone is “rabbit food.” The menu approaches gourmet quality, even if portions are calorie-controlled. Pasta and salad bars allow you to be creative. And you can have seconds.
In addition to three meals served at the Clubhouse, you are free to mosey over to the Double U Cafe, a recent addition that offers Southwestern specialties, seating outdoors as well as at the chef’s counter, and a swimming pool. The cafe’s name pays tribute to the dude ranch that became Canyon Ranch.
Next to a Thai massage, my favorite exercise at the ranch is in the water. Watsu (water-shiatsu) floats you through choreographed waterborne movement in the hands of a certified bodyworker. This is the only health resort in America with an indoor complex of pools just for Watsu. Like most of the spa and healing services, Watsu is charged per session ($155) or can be covered by the daily credits that come with your accomodations.
True to its roots, the ranch has no hotel. Guest rooms are in adobe-walled casitas spread among cactus gardens. Designed for a cattle baron or cowhand, interiors range from lavish to four-star quality. Located a short walk from the Clubhouse and Spa, I had complete seclusion with all modern comforts. Plus CD selections from the ranch library.
The freedom to explore comes at a price. Seasonal packages offer best value. Included is transportation roundtrip from Tucson International Airport, where your driver presents bottled water and a weekly program.
An accessible haven, drawing people from all walks of life, Canyon Ranch will change the way you look at life.
Contact: www.canyonranch.com; 800/726-8040