Have you ever thought of visiting Scottsdale, Arizona for your summer vacation? Is it hot? Sure, but it’s also cool: fewer crowds, great hotel rates and the same fantastic shopping and restaurants. Think pools, spas, early morning kayaking and lots of ice cream.
“Resort rates are a key driver for summer visitors,” said Laura McMurchie, Experience Scottsdale Vice President of Communications. “Many of our luxury resorts are 60 percent off in the summertime—and also have specials on spa treatments, special dining offers and a lot of on-property programming. We really try to show people how to do summer in Scottsdale—get up early for outdoor activities, brunch, lay by the pool around lunch time before it gets too hot, then have a siesta, get inside or do spa during the heat of the day. Then once the sun is down, go out to dinner and drinks in Old Town Scottsdale like a local.”No matter what you like to do, Scottsdale has it: relaxing spas, award-winning golf courses, outdoor adventures, world-class shopping, delicious dining and more. The fun goes up a notch with pool parties, late-night events under the stars and vibrant downtown spaces perfect for an evening stroll.
Experiencing Ultimate Relaxation at The Phoenician
The Phoenician, a Luxury Collection resort, combines three distinct styles in one ultra-luxury destination: newly-renovated contemporary guest rooms, suites and casitas with superior access to the grounds. A fourth option, The Canyon Suites, provides even more exclusivity, as the only AAA Five Diamond and Forbes Five Star hotel in the greater Phoenix area.
“Guests love The Phoenician because it’s a perfect combination of destination – nestled at the base of Camelback Mountain surrounded by the beauty of the Sonoran Desert – and service, providing a AAA Five Diamond, personalized experience with great attention to detail,” said Denise Seomin, Director of Public Relations for The Phoenician.
The resort recently underwent substantial renovations, including new dining and lounge spaces, a three-story spa, athletic club with fitness center, golf course and an expansive pool complex.
The pools are the perfect place to chill out in the summer heat, and I spent hours relaxing under a reservable cabana and taking dips inside the sparkling oasis.
Multiple pools are at your disposal, including an adults-only pool and hot tub, Kids Zone with splash pad, all-ages water slide (there is a minimum height requirement) and a new bar and grill to satiate your appetite while sipping cocktails poolside. The Phoenician is hosting poolside events all summer for adults and kids.
In summer, guests will find the best room rates of the year, along with dining, spa and golf specials. “The Phoenician Golf Course re-opened in November 2018 after a 10-month redesign,” said Seomin. “In transitioning from 27 to 18 holes, we were able to reroute the course, creating a more natural rhythm and flow. Many people think, because of the summer desert heat, it is impossible to enjoy a round of golf; but that is a misnomer. It’s all about timing. Playing early in the morning or late in the afternoon can really be enjoyable.”
Brunching at Mowry & Cotton
After checking in, I dropped by for brunch at one of The Phoenician’s delicious on-site restaurants, Mowry & Cotton, for some modern American cuisine, a lively atmosphere with pool views.
Chef Tandy Peterson creates seasonally-inspired dishes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and a weekend brunch. Many are prepared in a large hearth oven in the center of the space. “Popular brunch dishes include the green chile pork shank with cotjja, radish, pico de gallo, cilantro, egg, lime and tortilla. For dinner, the charred hanger steak, with wild mushroom, pickled blueberry and sunflower pesto is excellent,” said Seomin.
Relaxing at The Phoenician Spa
Once I had my fill at brunch, it was time to unwind at The Phoenician’s newly constructed, three-story spa. In true Scottsdale spirit, The Phoenician spa offers a menu of marvelous treatments designed to instill beauty, peace and tranquility – from facials and massages to specialized bodywork therapies, as well as hair, nail and fitness experiences.
The spa also features a rooftop pool with 360-degree views of the resort, eight private cabanas and an outdoor fireplace for those chilly desert nights.
I indulged in a 50-minute aroma design massage. It began with a blending session, during which a custom massage oil was created specifically for my treatment. This added a lovely personal touch I appreciated.
After my massage, and a relaxing dip in the rooftop pool, I headed downstairs to the spa’s Drybar for my appointment. I received a professional blowout and styling that got me ready for The Phoenician’s luxurious, after-dark Champagne Saturdays.
This new event is held every first and third Saturday from 7 to 8:30 pm. Guests opt for their favorite champagne (choose from Perrier Jouet, Grand Brut; Ruinart, Blanc de Blanc; or Dom Perignon), as well as lemon poached shrimp, miniature Wellington, vegetable spring rolls and beautiful little desserts.
With live music and the stars shining outside, it was the perfect experience to end my first day. *special thanks to Wanda and her “Champagne Saturdays” Team. You know how to make a girl feel pampered.
Working on My Fitness
The next morning, I grabbed a light breakfast and headed to the new two-story athletic club. The first floor is all about having fun in the 2100 square-foot game room with arcade, video and board games, shuffleboard, pool and foosball tables, a lounge area with TV, and more.
The second floor is home to the luxurious 4,600+ square-foot, state-of-the-art fitness center with Matrix workout equipment, from free weights and weight machines to ellipticals and treadmills. All offer beautiful, panoramic views of the resort and Valley beyond.
Lunch at Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale
After my long workout, I ventured off the The Phoenician grounds to have lunch and wine at Merkin Vineyards, which opened in March, in Old Town Scottsdale. The wine bar delivers a tried-and-true Arizona experience, offering locally-sourced menu items and wines from around the state.
“We have a wide range of unique wines, and popularity seems to always shift with the changing seasons,” said Jim Cunningham, Merkin Vineyards Restaurant General Manager. “Right now it is rosé weather. We have six different rosés that run the range from our light and delicate 100% Sangiovese, Shinola Rosado, to fuller-bodied and fruit forward, Jane Pink, to the fun and adventurous sparkling canned rosé, Puscifer Queen B Monastrell.”
Merkin’s owner is MJ Keenan, a Grammy award-winning vocalist for Tool, A Perfect Circle, and the multimedia cabaret troupe Puscifer. Keenan was born in Ohio, and grew up in West Michigan, working in and on the local orchards and farms. He has lived in Jerome, Arizona since 1995 and has two children with his wife Jennifer Lei Li Keenan.
“Maynard has taken that same musical genius and passion from his bands and translated that into his hand-crafted wines,” said Cunningham. “Like any true artist, he is constantly learning and striving for perfection. Each year he pushes his winemaking limits by trying to best last year’s vintages. He’s constantly searching for ways to express the unique terroir of Arizona and tell the story of what this land is capable of giving back.”
Every wine on Merkin’s list is produced on its 110 acres of estate vineyards in the Verde Valley and Willcox regions, and the fruits and vegetables are grown in its Verde Valley greenhouses, gardens and orchards or sourced from local farmers.
These local ingredients create delicious food pairings for Merkin Vineyards’ wines, and their house-made gelato and sorbet selections were the perfect choice before I headed back outside.
Dinner at Fat Ox
After roaming around Old Town Scottsdale, exploring the city’s many boutique shops and sights, I ended my second day in Scottsdale by dining at Fat Ox, where Chef Matt Carter serves up modern takes on classic and hearty Italian cuisine.The stylish dining room of Fat Ox perfectly matches the contemporary menu, filled with simple yet delicious dishes like 25-layer lasagna and Barolo-braised Creekstone short ribs. With fresh, house-made pastas and meat cuts that are roasted inside an impressive wood-burning grill, there’s something for every taste here.And, of course, no Italian dinner would be complete without a selection of wine from their impressive international wine list or a creative hand-pressed cocktail in hand.
“The heart and soul of Fat Ox has to be our house made pastas that we handcraft with our own unique flavors and techniques to reflect the traditional dishes of Italy. We use the best ingredients from Italy as well as the best local Arizona products that mirror those ingredients,” said Chef Carter.
With my stomach full and my eyes heavy, I headed back to The Phoenician for another night of restful sleep.
The next morning, I made my way to Hash Kitchen, a creative Scottsdale eatery serving craft bacon boards, (um, YES!) brunch bruschetta, cornbread and carne asada hash. Perhaps most notable is the build-your-own bloody Mary bar, featuring an extensive selection of over 40 toppings to pair with in-house, infused vodkas.
If you love cereal, and are over 21, how bout Hash’s shooter flight featuring Cinnamon Toast Crunch with blended spiced rum; Fruity Pebbles with blended fruity vodka; Captain Crunch with hazelnut liqueur and Coco Puffs with coffee liqueur. If you’re seeking a lively dining experience, with unique tasty bites and drinks, Hash Kitchen is sure to please.
Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Bungalows
After brunch, I traded modern luxury at The Phoenician for an urban oasis at the Andaz Scottsdale Resort and Bungalows. Located on 23 gorgeous acres of desert landscape at the base of Camelback Mountain, Andaz Scottsdale offers visitors an artistic, social atmosphere with colorful, midcentury modern décor.
I adored my peaceful bungalow, complete with a terrace offering a gorgeous view of the grounds. All 185 bungalows and suites have modern amenities, like free wi-fi and 65-inch televisions, as well as access to the resort’s gathering spaces and activities.
The entire resort is set up in clusters to provide community as you meander along its many pathways and courtyards.
When I wasn’t relaxing in my room, I was taking a dip in Andaz’s turquoise pool, which has a lively vibe on Saturdays with a DJ, refreshing cocktail pitchers and spiked popsicles.“We have three pools to choose from,” said Andaz General Manager, Mike Waddell. “The spa pool has panoramic views of Camelback Mountain, and we are offering our guests $30 off spa treatments in the summer. The retreat pool is in an exclusive, quiet area of the resort surrounded by 20 bungalows.
Guests who book a room in the retreat area can enjoy two signature cocktails per day, breakfast for two and access to Palo Verde spa and apothecary pool and facilities included in the room rate.”
Tour at Cattle Track Arts Compound
After a day of pure relaxation, I headed to the Cattle Track Arts Compound, an unforgettable artists’ colony dating back to the 1920s.
“We collaborate with local artists at Cattle Track to source the art and furniture for our resort, in addition to local farmers and purveyors for our cuisine,” said Waddell. “Guests of Andaz Scottsdale are treated to tours of the artists’ colony, where you can meet the innovative artists who live and create there. Right now, artists at Cattle Track have many things in the works for Andaz that focus on their art program, music, special events and custom furnishings.
“The unique part of working with Andaz resort is the depth and breadth of our collaboration. Our fingerprints are across the entire property,” said Cattle Track resident and artist, Mark McDowell. “Cattle Track is part of the history of Scottsdale. We have been here since before it was a city. The families that have made this their home and their place to work have held a common belief that the arts are important to the richness of our lives. It is something that we share happily with visitors.”
In addition to the working studios, Cattle Track maintains a gallery for exhibits and a small stage that hosts a full-time magician, musical performances, lectures and more. Much of the work done here has been featured in museums across the country.
Adventure and Rejuvenation on My Final Day
I kicked off my final day in Scottsdale by getting up early and visiting Weft and Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, located on the Andaz Scottsdale grounds, for breakfast.
Both the restaurant and its cuisine are eclectic, yet inviting, combining modern tastes with traditional Sonoran flavors and using innovative a la plancha (on the griddle) techniques for breakfast, lunch and dinner.
As you munch on a Sonoran breakfast or blue corn pancakes, you can watch the culinary team create its masterpieces inside a glass exhibition kitchen.
Morning Kayak at Arizona Outback Adventures
After brunch, I hurried off the resort grounds to get to the Lower Salt River for an early morning paddle tour with Arizona Outback Adventures. Although the sun was hot, both the morning excursion and the water kept everyone cool.
Shake Things Up at ZuZu
When the kayak tour had ended, I was hungry and couldn’t wait to get to my lunch reservation at ZuZu, located in Hotel Valley Ho back in Scottsdale. The restaurant is known for serving up seasonal American fare with a sophisticated twist. “The menu is often changing with entrees and small plates that incorporate fresh organic ingredients from local purveyors,” said ZuZu’s Executive Chef Russell Lacasce. “The cocktails are inventive, playful and always crafted to perfection and the environment boasts a fun, chic, retro vibe that is continually bustling with high energy.”
Popular dishes at Zuzu include the BLT Chopped Salad because it’s refreshing, yet so fulfilling. Baby gem lettuce is tossed in a bowl with diced heirloom cherry tomatoes, avocado, candied bacon, cucumber, chopped cheddar cheese, and a creamy green goddess dressing on top.
The Planks and Eggs is another hit – the Yukon potatoes are boiled with salt water, sliced thick, deep fried and tossed with spices. The potatoes are then placed over a red chili short rib stew, topped with two fried eggs and finished off with lime crema, cotija cheese, scallions and cilantro.
For dessert, you have to highly decorative and equally delicious “Show Stopper” Shakes. It’s the restaurant’s version of a “freak shake” with an abundance of housemade baked goods and confectionary items on top. The theme changes each month, and it has become a staple in town as one of the best desserts in Scottsdale.
Spa Treatment at Andaz Scottsdale
After a fun and delicious lunch, I returned to Andaz Scottsdale for my appointment at the Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary.
Set amid the magnificent landscape of Scottsdale, Arizona, Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary is inspired by the splendor of the Sonoran Desert. The spa menu includes treatments using ingredients by a local Sedona botanist—providing the ideal blend for your wellness goals, in a space inspired by the artistic culture of the desert.
During my visit, I selected a Water Lily Facial—the perfect choice to refresh and rehydrate my skin after a few days of imbibing cocktails under the hot desert sun.
Afterwards, I had the opportunity to lounge by the spa’s private pool until it was time to pack and fly back to the Bay Area.
Kissing the Desert Sun Goodbye
Scottsdale is one of my favorite vacation destinations at any time of year. The city offers ultimate luxury and relaxation paired with super-fun outdoor adventures, pool parties and nighttime events.
If you’re looking for a unique getaway this summer, consider Scottsdale. The energy, fun, vibrancy and breadth of activities are sure to make the summer heat melt away and the memories last a lifetime.
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