Up-Scale Western Hospitality Defined

Story & Photos by Ed Stone

Carefree Resort & Villas

As the hint of daylight break crossed the darkness of night in the foothills of the Continental Mountains, a couple of coyotes howl in the distance to welcome the day at this beautiful and peaceful place known as Carefree Resort & Villas. Carefree Resort is an elegant desert resort filled with the history of the old west and the must-have (and then some) amenities of modern day standards. Set among 26 acres of pristine Sonoran Desert near Scottsdale and only 35 minutes from downtown Phoenix, Carefree offers 369 suites, luxuriously appointed one- and two-bedroom villas, a new (and might I add wonderful) full-service spa, 30,000 square feet of meeting space, three refreshing swimming pools and superb dining options, making it a lively, but peaceful escape. The name says it all, this is the perfect place to stay and play in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area. It is truly the epitome of Western hospitality and home to a genuine Arizona experience.

Before arriving, I expected to find a beautiful place with all the typical resort amenities. What I did not expect to find was the rich history, the outstanding cuisine, complete spa and the priceless landscape. I discovered the resort was built in the early 1960's and played host to some of Hollywood's brightest stars. The Carefree Inn, as it was known, was a favorite retreat for the likes of Dick Van Dyke, Lucille Ball, Bob Hope and many others celebrities. At that time, this was the only destination resort in the then-remote area, now known as Carefree. It was literally like an oasis in the desert and a very popular and elegant oasis.

The Resort continues to celebrate its heritage

The Lariat Grill

Outstanding cuisine

Carefree Resort & Villas continues to celebrate its unique Arizona heritage with its authentic southwestern decor and architecture. Each of the spacious suites echoes the rustic Southwest setting. All rooms are thoughtfully designed for ultimate comfort and include refreshment centers; private patios or balconies with mountain, courtyard or pool views, king- or queen-sized beds and relaxing living areas. With all these features, more and more celebrities continue to visit this resort; and, a lot of guests such as myself.

My first night at the resort, I choose to dine at The Lariat Grill. The Grill is referred to as Carefree Resort's signature restaurant. Sitting in front of the fireplace with a nice glass of Merlot is just about as close to perfect of an atmosphere for dining as you would want. Adding to this ambiance are created artworks specifically for the resort depicting the rugged Old West by local artist, Steven Voita.

Carefree Resort Lobby

Just next to the Lariat Grill is the beautifully decorated Mesquite Dining Room, graced with custom-made bronze light fixtures, Arizona flagstone and giant flagstone columns supporting the ceilings. The resort's authentic 1800's Red Horse Saloon features a festive atmosphere offering casual dining, pool, darts and a big screen TV, and is a favorite among guests and locals. And for those techies, like me, who cannot be away from modern day technology, the Roadrunner Internet Cafe is adjacent to the lobby. Featuring specialty coffees, domestic and international wines€¦this intimate and functional area is just perfect.

For those needing meeting or conference space, the Carefree Resort has it. More than 30,000 square feet of meeting space makes this a grand setting for business meetings, weddings, conventions and corporate retreats. Function space includes 25 dedicated conference rooms (including such luxurious office amenities as ergonomic chairs, individually controlled lighting, heating and cooling and soundproof walls) an 11,000-square-foot, Santa Fe-style Opera House, and a multitude of outdoor patios and scenic venues. The resort features a full-service Media & Business Service Center, complete with rear screen projection capabilities, a state-of-the-art video editing system and a full range of on-site support and creative services.


Carefree Resort's Pool

The resort's most popular jewel (in its crown of many) is the spa, an exclusive, and unique spa retreat with six treatment rooms, including two massage rooms, two facial rooms, two wet treatment rooms and separate hand and foot treatment area. The Spa features an array of massage therapies, body treatments, facials and wraps for men and women, in addition to a variety of overnight and day spa packages. If this fully loaded spa still doesn't sound good to you, then the robes will. That's right, everything right down to the bathrobes is designed to make you feel relaxed and at ease. Let's just say it worked for me.

The resort's fitness center features floor to ceiling windows with scenic mountain views and offers all the fixings; Cybex circuit stations, elliptical machines, treadmills, recumbent bicycles, and free weights. In addition, the resort offers guests a wealth of recreational options including three heated swimming pools, preferred tee times at some of the Valley's most renowned golf courses, five lighted tennis courts, full-court basketball, nearby mountains for hiking and biking as well as desert jeep tours and hot air balloon rides. Guests will also enjoy the resort's proximity to downtown Carefree and Cave Creek and its eclectic shopping and charming atmosphere. 

Number 18 at Legend Trail Golf Club
No. 15-Legend Trail Golf Club
No. 9 on Acacia Course at Kierland


There are some 350 golf courses in the state of Arizona. These are some of the best courses in the world. Guests of the Carefree Resort & Villas can enjoy preferred tee times at some of the Valley'€™s most renowned courses including Legend Trail, Rancho Manana, Tonto Verde and Grayhawk, among others. The resort also partners with Legend Trail and the Golf Digest Schools for golfers looking to improve their game. The closest golf course to Carefree Resort is the Legend Trail. This 18-hole "desert-style" course if one of the best in the area. Playing the course is a must for visitors to the area as you will not only enjoy every hole, but will use every club in your bag...bring plenty of balls if you have just the least bit of a slice or hook. As luck would have it, my visit allowed me to meet one of the course's Legend Members, Alice Cooper. What a nice guy!

Capt. Mike England provides a toast after a beautiful hot air balloon ride

Hot air balloons pepper the Arizona horizons early most mornings and late afternoons. My first experience on a hot air balloon flight was piloted by Capt. Mike England of Hot Air Expeditions. One of the most affable gentlemen you will ever meet. This company runs the best operation in the Phoenix, Scottsdale and Carefree area. They have the best-trained pilots and total service. In addition to being a true adventure, it is most educational with just enough commentary to give you a sense of appreciation and understanding of the flight, the Sonoran Desert, the flora and fauna, etc. Trust me, it is an experience you will not forget.

Just down the road is the town of Carefree with a bit of a whimsical history. In 1958, two friends and business partners created the town when they discovered their common goal as developers. Tom Darlington, an engineer, and K.T. Palmer, a second-hand dealer and frustrated lawyer, became friends in the 1940s and decided to establish a real estate company. It was then; they discovered their shared vision of creating a new town, and in 1955, purchased a local goat ranch for $44,000. Gradually they acquired more than 2,000 acres of property adjacent to the ranch and formed a company they lightheartedly named Carefree Development Corporation.

With the same whimsy, Darlington and Palmer took it upon themselves to name the streets of the town. As history recites, they attended a dinner party and a play one evening with friends, and during the long intermission and a few beverages later, Palmer remarked that he was scheduled to present the town€™s plat to county officials the next day and that he had not yet named any of the streets. Th e group proceeded to suggest many of the roads present day names such as Primrose Path, Tranquil Trail, Rockingchair Lane, Nevermind Trail and the intersecting Ho and Hum Roads. The first bank in Carefree stands on the corner of Wampum Way and Easy Street.

Arizona wildflowers

In addition, the two pioneers erected an enormous sundial as a central focus for Carefree's new business district and community. Only second largest in size to a sundial located in India, it can still be seen in the center of Carefree today.

Saguaro Cactus

Along with stunning desert vegetation and scenic mountain vistas, an abundance of wildlife call Carefree home, including coyotes, javelina (it's not as pretty as it sounds, it looks like to a wild boar), quail, dove, white wing hawks and jackrabbits. Black Mountain, located just west of the resort, rises to nearly 4,000 feet and bears a split personality. The eastern half is light in color and strewn with massive red boulders while the western half is studded with multiple cacti and emits a darker, greenish color. Just north of Carefree are the Continental Mountains, part of the renowned Tonto National Forest with an altitude of 4,500 feet.

Today, the community of Carefree, with a population of approximately 1,800, is a unique mix of upscale homes, eclectic shopping boutiques and lush natural desert surroundings that offer a true sense of Arizona and its historic heritage. Having just celebrated the 20th anniversary of incorporation, the town lies at an elevation of 2,500 feet and is 1,000 feet higher than downtown Scottsdale allowing for slightly cooler summer temperatures. Carefree is located within minutes of Scottsdale and only 35 minutes north of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport.

For further information:
Carefree Resort & Villas
Phone: 480-488-5300
Toll free: 888-227-7066

Legend Trail Golf Course
9462 E. Legendary Lane Scottsdale, AZ 85262
Phone: 480-488-7434

Hot Air Expeditions
Toll free: 800-831-7610

The Carefree Resort & Villas are managed by Bridlie Hospitality Management, Inc. (