Friday, May 16, 2014

Destinations: I'm Going to Scottsdale!

I'm traveling to Arizona at the end of this month. In the almost two years that we've lived in New York City, I've been lucky enough to visit, I think, about five times. The first time I went home after the big move was barely a month later for a work-related conference and I remember how different everything already seemed.

It all looked so much...grander. I always admired the blue skies and wide open spaces, but this time around it all held much more meaning. I wasn't bumping into people on my trek for morning coffee. I saw sunrise and sunset without much effort. There was green and blue and purple and yellow and red everywhere - and I'm not talking about buildings!

Standing in my parents' backyard, peeking over the fence, I could see what looked like the rest of the Valley, jutting out from every side of a massive tilled field. In the distance, the two "humps" of Camelback Mountain stuck up in the air, clear as day some 30 miles away.

My melodramatic teen years aside, I always loved Arizona. My earliest memories are of swimming pools and cotton candy-colored sunsets, running like crazy outside any time of year because you could be outdoors any time of year. (Yes, even in the summer.) As an adult, I tried to take advantage of the benefits whenever I could, too.

But it's true what they say - you don't really learn to appreciate something until you're removed from it. My trip this month includes some quality family and friends time, but the main reason I'm going is to check out the latest and greatest that's happening in Scottsdale. And there's a lot that I'm looking forward to.

Scottsdale has a rep as Arizona's "poshest" city - the "Beverly Hills of the Southwest," it's been called. There's a good reason for that; there's a lot of luxury in Scottsdale. But to focus just on Scottsdale's plush side would be to miss the mark. This is a city where hiking trails start in your backyard and lead you through one of the world's most diverse ecosystems - the Sonoran Desert - around pathways surrounded by Saguaro cacti and blooming wildflowers.

It's a place where you can pop into an award-winning restaurant, sometimes with no prior reservation or notice, and then move on to a night of flowing Arizona wines or inventive cocktails. And the next morning, you can nurse away the hangover poolside or at one of the spas, which are always full of visitors and locals alike. That's really the great thing about Scottsdale - the people who live there revel in it just as much. It's at the same time lively and relaxed.

But just because Scottsdale offers a taste of the sweet life doesn't mean it's pretentious. This is the laid back Southwest, after all, and that means two things: flip flops, cowboy boots and hiking shoes are a part of the local uniform...and there are a crazy amount of hidden natural wonders to discover. I'm talking some of the country's best hiking, biking and mountain climbing excursions right outside your door.

I've got a fairly aggressive Scottsdale itinerary, because there's always something new to explore. But I'm especially excited for:

Singh Farms - Yes, things grow in the desert! The biggest misconception about Phoenix and its surrounding cities like Scottsdale is that it's a barren scene. In fact, agriculture was the area's first major industry. One of Scottsdale's main roads was once lined with citrus trees. I finally get to visit Singh Farms this time around, a 20-acre urban farm that hosts a Saturday morning market.

Mixology 101 at jade bar - I love to cook, but the art of cocktail-making has always escaped me. How much liquor do I add? What goes well with what? I'm great at pouring wine or bourbon, but that's about it. I'm hoping to pick up some tips during our session at Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain's jade bar. (Side note: it's my first time ever staying at Sanctuary!)

Well & Being at Willow Stream - I often write about spas and fitness, and Scottsdale has some of the best spas in the country. Fairmont Scottsdale's Willow Stream underwent a major renovation in the past year or so and added on nutrition and exercise programming to its already great list of facials, massage and body treatments. I'm taking my first-ever aerial yoga class! Assuming I suffer no clumsy mishaps and can still type, I'm looking forward to giving a full report.

Eating, Drinking and Eating and Drinking - I'll be stopping at longtime favorite FnB, and visiting a few new restaurants along the way, including Barrio Queen. Alas, probably the best part about going out in Scottsdale is the vast choices of actual happy hours. I'm not talking $13 for a "happy hour" margarita (*cough* NYC *cough*), but deals on fresh, handmade cocktails where the only thing from a bottle is the booze itself.

UNION at Biltmore Fashion Park - This enclave of all independent shops at Arizona Biltmore's outdoor mall opened just before I moved, so I never got the chance to really explore. I'm looking forward to trolling through all of its Arizona-only boutiques. While I'm out that way, I'll probably hit up the Phoenix Art Museum, too, because I hear the Hollywood Costume Exhibit is a must.

Really, there's so much! I also can't wait to lace up my sneakers and get outdoors. I've got hikes planned at both Camelback Mountain and the McDowell Sonoran Preserve. And I'm traveling with some of my favorite fellow bloggers - Kirsten Alana (Aviators and a Camera), Matt Stabile (The Expeditioner), Julie Wampler (Table for Two) and Nicolette Mason (Nicolette Mason). (See you all in the Southwest!)

If you've got more recommendations on new things that I can't miss, give me a shout either in the comments section or on Twitter.

Speaking of Twitter! I'll be taking over Experience Scottsdale's Twitter and Instagram accounts during my trip. So be sure to follow along for my favorite moments from the road: @ScottsdaleCVB and @scottsdaleaz.

It'll be full of travel inspiration, I promise!

PHOTO BY: Stjepan Alaupovic
Taken at Desert Botanical Garden in 2008 on film!


  1. I've heard a lot of good things about Scottsdale. It seems like a beautiful place to escape NYC for a bit :)

  2. Yes! I can't wait to be should visit some day. :)