As the mercury in the thermometer starts its downward trajectory, the days get a bit shorter and Arizonans are forced to trade in their beloved flip flops for actual shoes. While it’s getting colder, the opportunities are heating up to score a deal at the state’s top destination resorts. Tourism experts advise that now is the time to act.

Debbie Johnson, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, touts the Valley’s mild winter climate, great sporting events and diverse outdoor offerings as a big reason why the state’s resorts fill up fast.

“Diverse travel opportunities and beautiful warm winter weather make Arizona an incredible destination,” Johnson said, who previously served as head of the Arizona Lodging & Tourism Association. “Arizona’s great winter offerings also make the state a very popular destination. Travelers should plan early to ensure they get to have the Arizona experience they really want.”

Those available Arizona experiences really run the gamut. In the southern part of the state, residents and visitors hike, bike and golf all year-round. A short drive in nearly any direction from the Valley puts visitors near several top-notch ski and snow recreation resorts. Arizona also plays host to the largest sporting events in the country, including the Fiesta Bowl, College Football Playoff National Championship, Waste Management Phoenix Open, NASCAR events and Super Bowls XLIX, XLII and XXX.

“We have such an impressive and varied geography that you can literally go skiing in the morning, jump in the car and drive to another part of the state to enjoy a round of golf in the afternoon,” Johnson said. “Arizona is a unique destination that truly offers something for everyone to enjoy.”

[ Click here to view a multimedia map featuring perfect Arizona getaway spots ]

Johnson recommends the state’s official travel and vacation planning site, VisitArizona.com, as a great place to find the myriad of winter activities awaiting visitors.

And after spending the day skiing, hiking or on the links, Arizona has several great resorts to help you relax, rejuvenate and enjoy a world-class meal.

The Arizona Grand Resort & Spa invites guests to splash around at the property’s sprawling, seven-acre Oasis Water Park, which is offering day passes for the first time ever during Thanksgiving weekend. While it might sound odd to swim outdoors in late November, Arizona Grand General Manager Paul Gray assures visitors that they won’t be cold!

“Oasis Water Park certainly sets us apart,” Gray said. “The park will be open – and water heated – over Thanksgiving weekend!”

For the slightly less ambitious, the resort also offers an 18-hole golf course and a 20,000-square-foot athletic club and spa. Hiking at South Mountain, America’s largest urban wilderness preserve, is available right next door. The resort also features six unique dining venues.

“Guests can park their cars, check-in and never have to leave the resort!” Gray said.

Gray urges visitors to take advantage of Arizona Grand’s special holiday travel packages now, before spring when higher prices arrive.

A 15-minute drive north on Interstate 10 will bring travelers to the heart of downtown Phoenix and to the Hotel Palomar, which is offering a wide array of holiday travel packages.

The Stay & Skate package helps hotel visitors get into the holiday spirit. In addition to offering 10 percent off of the best available rate, this package includes two tickets to CitySkate, the ice skating rink at CityScape. Guests also receive two Palomar-branded beanies to keep their ears warm and are invited to enjoy a hosted wine hour and hot toddies in the hotel’s living room lobby each evening from 5 – 6 p.m.

For many, the holidays inspire the desire to give to others. Hotel Palomar’s Bed for a Bed package helps visitors donate to a very worthy cause. During booking, visitors can choose to donate an amount from $1 to $100 to Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Hotel Palomar’s Outlaw the Inlaws package was designed with Arizona residents in mind who are gracious enough to try and host the whole family at their place for the holidays. This deal offers a complimentary room upgrade and, perhaps more importantly, two complimentary drinks at Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails, the hotel’s award-winning restaurant and bar.

“Hotel Palomar is in the middle of it all at CityScape – Phoenix’s very own Rockefeller Center,” said Marty J. Bertone, area director of sales & marketing for the Hotel Palomar. “We offer a great package for locals to be a part of the holiday.”

Another 15 minutes further north will bring guests to the historic Arizona Biltmore, A Waldorf Astoria Resort. In addition to the timeless beauty of the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed resort, holiday guests are invited to enjoy special Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s dining options in Wright’s at the Biltmore and Frank & Albert’s all while surrounded by festive holiday décor.

The Biltmore also offers guests the chance to ice skate, screen holiday movies, participate in outdoor yoga classes, hike and bike. Guests can also book under the Best of Waldorf promotion which includes a daily $50 credit that can be used for food, at Spa Biltmore or at the hotel’s retail shops.

General Manager Sheila Foley stresses that the time to book a room at the Arizona Biltmore – where famed composer Irving Berlin penned “White Christmas” – is now.

“Waiting to the very last minute could create a booking challenge during the dates that a guest is looking stay,” she said. “The Arizona Biltmore is the perfect place to be during the holiday season!”

–written by Josh Coddington, marketing and communications manager.

Posted by Alexie Chavez