For most sports fans, March means college basketball, but if you prefer your games outdoors and in the sun, there's nothing better than Spring Training baseball. Florida's the traditional spot for baseball teams to get in shape and give their northern fans an excuse to get a little Vitamin D, but in the past few years, the Cactus League in Phoenix and Tucson has overtaken the Grapefruit League in both style and convenience. This week, we visit the Grand Canyon State, starting with the best places to stay in Phoenix and Tucson...


Aloft, Phoenix
951 East Playa Del Norte Dr. (Tempe)
(480) 621-3300
• Aloft, a division of the W Hotels conglomerate recently opened an outpost in the Phoenix area with a location in Tempe, the city immediately southeast of PHX that's home to Arizona State University. Aloft is positioning itself as W's younger, cheaper sibling, and the Tempe location has all the features you've come to expect from the boutique giant: modern stylings, plentiful common areas, and somewhat coldly-appointed rooms. It's got something of an odd location: bounded by a freeway on one side and the Salt River on another, but it's well within walking/stumbling/cab distance of Tempe's main business district, South Mill Avenue.


Hotel Congress, Tucson
311 E. Congress St.
(800) 722-8848
• You know those old-timey places your parents tried to take you to when you and your little sister just wanted to watch TV and splash around the pool at the La Quinta Inn? Well the Congress is one of those spots, and now that you're (supposedly) a grown-ass person, this is where you'll want to stay. Built in 1919 and a favorite haunt of the Dillinger Gang in the '30s, the hotel is largely unchanged from those times: no TV, no air conditioning, spartan room furnishings. But it's also got two great bars, a nightclub, a fantastic restaurant, and the kind of living (and eating and drinking) history you can't find at a chain or nouveau boutique.


The Phoenician, Phoenix
6000 E. Camelback Rd. (Scottsdale)
(480) 941-8200
• Nestled at the foot of Camelback Mountain on the border between Phoenix and its upscale eastern suburb Scottsdale, the Phoenician is the preeminent resort in the Phoenix area. Yes, you're going to pay a shit ton, but no other spot provides the same combination of amenities and location.


La Quinta Inn Sky Harbor Airport North, Phoenix
4727 E. Thomas Rd.
(602) 956-6500
• Sometimes all you need is a room and a good pool, and the La Quinta on E. Thomas Rd. fills the bill. It's actually not that close to the airport, but it is cheap, clean, and close to both Scottsdale and Tempe, as well as Camelback Mountain. With great access to both Phoenix Municipal Stadium and Scottsdale Stadium, it's also a perfect base for a budget Spring Training trip.