Arizona Dreaming


The Pima and Maricopa tribes appear committed to meeting your every possible desire at their Sheraton Wild Horse Pass & Resort. For the foodie (and who among us isn’t at least a bit of one?), there is Kai, the only Native American restaurant in the United States that can call itself the finest dining establishment in its home state. Named after the Pima word for ‘seed’, Kai was recently awarded AAA’s top honors, making it Arizona’s only five-diamond establishment. Using local ingredients from their Gila River farms, Kai creates dishes like the Cheyenne River Tribe’s famous grilled tenderloin of Buffalo, or local pecan crusted Colorado lamb with native seeds. Every Thanksgiving, Kai offers a full turkey meal for families which can be delivered pre-prepared.  This is something to think about next holiday season if you want to impress. You could invite guests and pretend you slow-roasted the 18lb turkey yourself, sourcing the local herb rub at the nearby farm, making the buttermilk mashed potatoes, creamed sixty-day corn, scrounging the dessert for the sage you used to scent the cornbread stuffing, and foraging for local pine nuts to use in your green beans, which of course contain fresh cranberry relish with blood orange. Then whip out your mesquite cooked sweet yams.

Recognizing that often a ‘family vacation’ is an oxymoron, the tribes made sure there were a variety of pleasures for children and adults. Wagon rides, horseback riding, and a frontier town theme park called Rawhide offer a lot of excitement. There are also poolside movies, arts and crafts, and a storytelling program that includes what everyone knows makes for focused listeners, S’mores.  Of course kids aren’t the only ones who need to be pampered, and as Arizona, and the southwest in general, is home to some of the country’s best spas, few combine the essentials with signature Native American techniques in quite the way the Aji Spa & Salon does.  Even if you’ve never heard of Burden Basket Pima Mediation or a hydrotherapy tub steam capsule, you’ll appreciate them immediately.

There are those of us who need a little more adventure, and only a mile from the resort that’s exactly what you’ll find at the Bob Bondurant School of High Performance Driving. Either learn to drive an actual race car, or, if you are a true thrill seeker, you can go in for the super karts. These little demons include the 6-speed, 125cc Shifter Kart, which goes from 0 to 100mph in six seconds. For people who prefer their carts to be of the golf variety, you can go play 18 at the Bird Golf Academy on site.

For the eco-conscious among us, the Wild Horse Pass & Resort is a GeoGreen Resort.  It is 100% owned by the Pima and Maricopa People of the Gila River Indian Community, with all food and beverage outlets using locally grown and indigenous ingredients from the Gila River Farms. Sustainable farming practices are used by all on-site restaurants, as is the use of hormone free beef and line-caught fish is.  The resort recycles cooking oils, composts manure from the Equestrian center, and donates old linens to the community. You will even hear native Pima language used at check-in and check-out.

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Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
So where is this Kai restaurant? I’m guessing Phoenix.