The Littlest Passport taps into the advice of well-travelled parents to provide you with the intel, accommodation reviews, and itineraries you need to plan a wonderful vacation for you and your baby or toddler.   

Review: The Westin Kierland Scottsdale Arizona with a Toddler

Review: The Westin Kierland Scottsdale Arizona with a Toddler

Kid-friendly resort in Scottsdale, the Westin Kierland

Travelers: Brandi, Owais and Safiya, 2.5 years

Hometown: Brooklyn, NY

Destination: Scottsdale/ Phoenix, Arizona

Month traveled: February

What made you decide to stay at the Westin Kierland in Scottsdale, Arizona?

My husband and I wanted a winter family vacation where we could thaw out a little bit, but we wanted something different from the Caribbean vacations we’d taken for the last two winters. We were feeling more ambitious this year. Now that our daughter is two and a half, it’s easier to journey out of a resort with her, and we thought she’d really enjoy activities like short hikes, going to museums, and day trips.

We were considering a vacation to San Diego, which has a ton of activities for toddlers and adults. But then friends of ours mentioned that they had stayed at the Westin Kierland with their children (slightly older, at 8 and 10 years old) and enjoyed it. At the same time, the New York Times Travel section posted a 36 Hours in Scottsdale column, and some of the activities sounded really interesting. The desert has a romantic allure to me - the idea of the dry, healing air and the exotic terrain. So we decided to visit Scottsdale, and to take our friends’ recommendation for the Westin Kierland.

How long did you stay?

One week.

Would you recommend the Westin Kierland to families vacationing with a baby or toddler?

I would definitely recommend Scottsdale/Phoenix as a destination, especially for families looking to vacation within the continental US, or looking for a Zika-free destination. There’s a lot of fun things to do in the area with toddlers.

I’m just not sure that I would recommend this particular property for a family traveling with little ones.

I know that many parents like the convenience of separate living and sleeping spaces during a resort stay. And for families staying in a traditional hotel room, a balcony or terrace is key for parents to sit and relax while their little one sleeps.

The first thing that I would flag to young parents is that almost all of the Westin Kierland rooms are traditional hotel rooms - the resort has very few one or two bedroom suites.

All of the rooms do have terraces and balconies, but Arizona’s weather is erratic. It can be surprisingly cold and wet in the winter, uncomfortably hot in the summer, and temperatures drop after the sun goes down.

We weren’t able to use our balcony at all during our vacation, which meant that nap times were a challenge. And having to be lights out - or at least lights dimmed - and quiet after our daughter’s bedtime, with no escape to a separate room or balcony, was a real bummer. My husband and I didn’t get quality down time, which made the vacation feel less fun.

Kid-friendly Traditional Room with Golf View at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa.

Kid-friendly Traditional Room with Golf View at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa.

So a one bedroom suite would have made your Scottsdale vacation with a toddler more comfortable?

Definitely. Especially because, at two and a half, our daughter is transitioning away from naps. So, some days she naps, and other days we insist on quiet time. But it’s next to impossible to get our daughter to read and play by herself in the crib if she can see us!

We realized on this trip that, with our two year old, we needed to be able to put her in her crib, close the door, and leave the room.

What room type did you stay in at the Westin Kierland?

We stayed in a Golf View Room with 1 King Bed. It’s considered an upgrade due to its view overlooking the golf course. The Westin suggested this room after we requested a quiet room for our daughter’s naps.

It’s on the opposite side of the building from the pools, and far from the elevators, which eliminated most hallway traffic. It was super quiet, which was great.

Although, if you have a baby that sleeps around sunset - I should warn that you’ll hear the daily bagpipe session!

Westin Kierland kid-friendly quiet rooms for baby and toddler naps.

Westin Kierland Villas- considered a separate Marriott property but located on the resort grounds - offers one and two bedroom villas with kitchen and kitchenette options. Did you consider the villas for your stay?

We didn’t, because the one bedroom villas were more than $800/night during our vacation dates.

That brings me to another caveat about the property. Room prices range widely depending on time of year and occupancy.

Traditional rooms averaged $450-500/night during our stay - resort fees are an additional $35/night, and self-parking is $15/night. My husband and I didn’t feel like the service quality and resort offerings aligned with that price point.

However, I’ve seen advertised room rates as low as $179 for an April stay, and villas in the low $300s. At this lower rate, it would be much easier to recommend the resort to parents.

Can you talk more about the Westin Kierland’s service quality?

There were a lot of ways that the Kierland staff and management came up just a little short - things like delivering a courtesy stroller with a flat tire; or refusing our late checkout request so our daughter could nap, despite our Platinum guest status. None of this was the end of the world, but it’s the little touches that make the difference between a satisfactory stay and a great one.

I commented to my husband that all of the staff were professional, some were friendly, but none went above and beyond to provide an exceptional guest experience.

Were there things that the Westin Kierland did well for families with young travelers?

Of course! There were definitely some good points. One of the nicest elements were the toddler amenities for the room. Aside from a standard crib, the Westin provided us with a potty, a step stool, and a large mini fridge for storing food items - all super useful when traveling with little kids. It was all in our room upon arrival.

Before arriving, I stumbled upon a page on the Westin Kierland website that outlined an “Age 3 & Under” amenities list, and I emailed the resort to request the items we wanted.

The resort did not have toddler bed rails, but they provided us with all other requested items. Since the amenities list may not up to date, parents should confirm with the resort prior to arrival about availability.

When traveling with babies and toddlers, it’s nice to arrive at a resort with the room already set up with what you need for your little one.

Absolutely. The Westin Kierland also has strollers available for complimentary use (first come, first serve). The stroller was nothing fancy, just a generic jogger stroller, but it did the job.

However, the tire was flat when we received the stroller, and it took time and multiple requests on my husband's part to get the tire filled with air. It’s a small annoyance, sure, but when traveling with a toddler, I appreciate when hotel staff notice and fix the little things for you, without needing to ask.

Does the Westin Kierland have many toddler-friendly resort activities? 

There were some toddler-friendly activities facilitated by the Westin Kierland staff, but I’d say that the resort seems better suited for families with school aged children.

Westin Kierland provides daily kids’ activities, some of which are toddler-friendly. But expect to venture off-resort to keep toddlers - and adults - entertained.

Westin Kierland provides daily kids’ activities, some of which are toddler-friendly. But expect to venture off-resort to keep toddlers - and adults - entertained.

Parents with babies and toddlers should know that children under 4 can’t visit the Kids’ Club (even with an accompanying adult) or participate in evening drop-off childcare. Although there was the pool and a few activities here and there that were toddler friendly, there were no services or amenities where our child could be entertained for a longer stretch of time while we relaxed.

The age restriction is common at many resorts, though we’ve stayed elsewhere, including other Westin properties, where younger children - babies and toddlers - could stop by and play in the Kids Club when accompanied by an adult. That wasn’t allowed at this property, though.

Similarly, the outdoor play space (the OK Corral) is geared more for older kids. It has a corn hole toss, a couple of ping pong tables, a small climbing wall with ropes, and a full size basketball net. Our daughter happily chased a ping pong ball around for a few minutes, and watched the bigger kids, but she couldn’t really engage with the equipment.

What activities did Westin Kierland have for toddlers?

Our daughter really enjoyed the s’more making on weekend evenings, and getting stamps and pins for visiting different parts of the resort.

The resort also does a story time twice a week. However, it was only three picture books and one song, so the whole event was over in 15-20 minutes.

As a tip - The Kierland didn’t advertise this anywhere, but a staff member let us “check out” some picture books for our daughter at the Kierland Mining Company (the activity room just off of the lobby). So, if you’re at a loss for how to entertain your little one, definitely grab some books.

The resort also offered some paid activities, like tote bag decorating and stuff-a-buddy sessions, though we didn’t do those. 

I’d say that most of the kids’ activities were a good way to keep a child entertained for 20 minutes, if you’re at the resort and looking for something to do, though definitely not worth planning your day around.

That said, there are more toddler-friendly activities offered from March through August, including Bubbles and Bubbly twice a week (bubbles for the kids and $8 mimosas for adults, served poolside); Phoenix Zoo specialists bringing small animals for kids to view; and LEGO Land one afternoon per week. 

So, depending on the time of year that you’re staying at the Westin Kierland, you may find you have more to do at the resort that we did.

The Westin Kierland’s lazy river. Covered private cabanas are also available for rent.

The Westin Kierland’s lazy river. Covered private cabanas are also available for rent.

Did you daughter enjoy the Westin Kierland pool?

The pool was good for splashing around with our little one, though I imagine it getting incredibly crowded when the weather is warmer. There are two pools at the resort, and one is reserved for adults only during daytime hours.

The water was heated - though the cool outdoor temperatures still kept us out of the water four days out of seven.

It is a zero entry pool, though it’s still not the type of situation where the adults could sit on a beach chair and watch their little ones splash around. It gets deep for babies and toddlers pretty quickly, so you want to be standing in the water close by.

Our daughter particularly enjoyed the lazy river. She got her own mini tube and floated around beside her dad.

Does Westin Kierland have a babysitter service, and if so, did you use it?

The Westin doesn’t provide its own in-house babysitter service, but there are two contracting agencies that they recommend. The services are $20/hr for a 4 hour minimum.

We considered using the service, but my daughter is slow to warm to strangers. Leaving her with a babysitter probably wouldn’t have gone well, negating the purpose of the babysitter, which is to relax. My daughter is much better about being dropped off someplace where there are other kids she can play with. If she could have visited the Kids Club with a babysitter, we would have used the service.

So what did you and your husband do during your daughter’s nap or quiet time?

Lay beside her … one of us could read, but the other parent had to lie with her to try to get her to at least rest and recharge. We occasionally split off - my husband would go to the gym, or I’d make it to a afternoon yoga class.

A yoga class sounds nice. What was that like?

I attended two different classes - Yoga for Every Body, and Yoga For the Senses. The teacher was very lovely.

In terms of intensity, the yoga classes are what you’d expect at a resort, where the teachers are teaching to a broad range of experience, age and abilities. It was relaxing, and a good stretch - which can be perfect for a mom that has found it hard to get on the mat on a regular basis since having kids (raises hand and laughs). If you’re looking for a challenging class that will make you break a sweat, these aren’t the classes for you.

I was a bit disappointed in the Yoga for the Senses class. It was supposed to include aromatherapy, but the teacher just ran a scent diffuser prior to class. I was hoping for something more indulgent and spa-like, like essential oils and perhaps a quick temple massage in shavasana, say.

Does the Westin Kierland charge for its yoga classes?

Yoga for Every Body and Yoga for the Senses are both complimentary for guests paying a daily resort fee. There is a Happy Hour Yoga that’s an extra charge, for the post-yoga cocktail.

You mentioned that your husband used the gym facilities? How were they?

He said that it was similar to any standard hotel gym. Though he complained that some of the equipment was broken.

Did you make use of any of Westin Kierland’s other resort services and amenities? The spa, or the golf course, say?

My husband isn’t much of a golfer, but he did attend the one-hour Full Swing golf clinic ($40) and found it incredibly useful.

Image Credit:  Arizona Spa Girls

Image Credit: Arizona Spa Girls

I didn’t get any spa treatments on this vacation. The offerings were very standard, what you’d find at any Westin property. I was hoping that the spa menu would include treatments unique to the Arizona desert, which has long been touted for its healing qualities. It’s a bit gimmicky, I know, but other resorts in the area offer crystal healing, or include sound bowls as part of their treatment, or locally sourced mud. I just looked at the spa menu and thought “Oh, I can get these treatments in my hometown.”

I would highly recommend that guests make use of the spa facilities though, even if they don’t get a treatment. The facilities are free for adults to use with the daily resort fee. And the spa is right next to both of the pools - the adult pool and the larger family pool/ lazy river. There are lockers, plush slippers and terry cloth robes, dim lighting, an indoor whirlpool and sauna. My husband and I traded off using the facilities while entertaining the little one at the pool. And then I’d sit poolside in the robe and slippers, which felt warm, cozy and totally luxe on a cooler day.

I definitely wish I made use of the spa facilities more!

The zero entry pool at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale allows for toddler wading. Image credit:  @hillaryfolkvord

The zero entry pool at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale allows for toddler wading. Image credit: @hillaryfolkvord

Did you eat on property?

Yes, we had all of our breakfasts at the Westin Kierland, and dinner on the first and last nights of our trips.

Breakfast quality and selection was very good, which we find to be the case with all Westin properties we visit. We’re ovo lacto vegetarians, and there were many options for our family. We stuck to the cold and hot breakfast buffets, which allowed us to feed our daughter quickly.

Dinners were more stressful at the Westin Kierland. There are two restaurant options, Nellie Cashman’s and deso, the first being a steakhouse and the latter being a fine dining restaurant. So really, there’s one restaurant option for families with small kids, although the check-in staff claimed that deso was also child friendly.

For our family, the Kids’ Menu was limited, given the fact that our daughter doesn’t eat meat. We were left with a small cheese pizza and stick veggies with dip.

Vegetarian options were also limited on the regular menu. The only vegetarian offering at Nellie Cashman’s was an Arizona stir fry with squash, snap peas, kale, quinoa and other vegetables. It was excellent, but with only one dinner option we did have to go off property for most dinners.

Also, service was quite slow, and didn’t seem trained in catering to young families. I chalked some of it up to the restaurant’s atmosphere - it didn’t want diners to feel rushed. But anyone with young kids going to nice restaurants knows that you want to get the little ones fed quickly, so that if there is a melt down as the kids get tired and impatient, you can cut and run.

It took a while to get our order in, and then approximately 25 minutes for the food. When it became clear that the staff was waiting to bring our daughter’s food out with our meal, we had to ask for it to come earlier. On our second dining experience, we had to even ask for bread for our table, since none had come after 20 minutes.

It wasn’t the end of the world, but we’ve stayed at other resorts that seem more attuned to how to make things less stressful for parents.

Do kids eat free at the Westin Kierland?

Yes, though they don’t drink free. Given the limited food options for our daughter, we would often order her a $8 smoothie, which we paid for.

So where did you eat off property?

There are a number of options close to the property. There are several restaurants in Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter, two shopping complexes right next door to the Westin Kierland. If you’re vegetarian or just looking for a healthy plant-based option, try True Food Kitchen. On another night, we did a quick pizza option at Fired Pie.

When traveling, we always try to have some prepared foods and snacks ready in our hotel room, so that we can feel our daughter quickly if she’s getting hungry or tired (or both!) So we did a Whole Foods trip on our second day. The Scottsdale Whole Foods has a dine-in area, where you can bring in prepared foods or order from the kitchen and bar. We were all really pleased with our Whole Foods dinner. It’s a 10 minute drive from the resort, and it’s directly on the way to the Musical Instrument Museum, which we found to be a great attraction for our two year old.

The best restaurant meal we had on our vacation was in Phoenix, at Doughbird. It’s a pizza and rotisserie restaurant, with a great happy hour on cocktails and appetizers. Our daughter liked the hummus and flatbread, guacamole with tangerine and green apple, as well as the pizza. The restaurant has high chairs, booster seats and Etch a Sketches; our order came out quickly and everything was fresh, high quality and delicious.

Doughbird is not close to the Westin Kierland, but it is a short drive from the Phoenix Botanic Garden and Zoo, so well worth checking out if you happen to be in the area!

Happy Hour is a great time to dine with little ones - the kids haven’t completely melted down from exhaustion, and the restaurant is not packed, overstimulating or slow. A number of restaurants in Scottsdale and Phoenix offer Happy Hour specials as well as Kid’s Menus.

You mentioned the Phoenix Botanic Garden and the Zoo. How close is the Westin Kierland to the various attractions your family visited?

The Westin Kierland is in Scottsdale, which is not Phoenix proper, of course. I’d say that many of the attractions in Phoenix - the Children’s Museum of Phoenix, the Phoenix Zoo, the Desert Botanical Garden, and the Sky Harbor International Airport - are all a 25-30 minute drive, outside of rush hour.

There are a few closer attractions in Scottsdale - the Musical Instrument Museum, and the McCormick-Stillman Railroad Park are a 15 minute drive away.

What tips would you give to parents staying at the Westin Kierland with a baby or toddler?

Make sure you have a car, and expect to use it. You’ll want to go off resort for activities, playgrounds, and dining.

Consider booking a one bedroom suite or the Westin Kierland Villas to enjoy some relaxing adult down time while your little one sleeps. The weather isn’t always warm (or dry) enough to sit on the room’s balcony or terrace.

Request baby or toddler amenities for the room prior to travel, and ask about being placed in a room away from the pool for quiet nap times.

Use the spa facilities, even if you don’t get any spa treatments. It’s probably the best - and quickest - way for a parent to relax on the resort.

Westin Kierland Resort & Spa  

The Westin Kierland Villas

All information is current at time of publication. We recommend confirming all information with the hotel prior to booking. The Littlest Passport did not receive promotional consideration for this article. 

Where to Eat, Play and Explore with Babies & Toddlers - Phoenix / Scottsdale

Where to Eat, Play and Explore with Babies & Toddlers - Phoenix / Scottsdale

One More Question to Ask Before Booking an AIRBNB on Your Family Vacation

One More Question to Ask Before Booking an AIRBNB on Your Family Vacation