I turned 35 last month and decided that reaching my mid-thirties deserved something more than the typical dinner in Houston. With 2020 a not too distant memory, I decided to search for a domestic location for a weekend trip to celebrate. I wanted to visit a new city and one that leaned more “rest & relaxation” because I am 35 after all! Somehow my sister and I settled on Phoenix. We both had heard about the spas and food, so we decided to spend a Weekend in Phoenix.
What to See/Do
A few things to keep in mind about my visit. We traveled to Phoenix during record heat, in fact one day it topped 112 degrees. Everyone kept saying “it is dry heat” as if it to say it is more bearable than Houston’s humidity. They lied and the truth ain’t in them! The area was also dealing with a lot of wildfires and of course still in recovery mode from the pandemic. As such, some of the things listed here are on my “wish list” and not things I actually got to do/see this visit.
Remember, we aimed to make this a relaxing trip so a spa was an essential stop. Our hotel did not have a spa on property (more on that later) so we were on the hunt for a good spa experience. Prepare yourself, I found the spa packages to be significantly higher than the prices at home. While it was my birthday and I definitely deserved, I just could not see myself paying $300 for a massage, plus tip. There were some cheaper options in town, but they did not offer the vibe that we were looking for.
Something told me to check Groupon, for the first time in years. There I found a 50% offer for the Alvadora Spa in the Royal Palms Hotel. It was everything! Our massages gave us access for the day to the hotel pool, lockers and saunas. We had already checked out of our hotel, so we hung out there until it was time to go to the airport. After finding out we were there for my birthday, they even gave us a glass of champagne.
I would say no trip to Arizona is complete without at least one trip to the spa. Plan ahead, look for coupons/groupons and plan to make it a day.
Desert Botanical Garden
A few of my followers recommended the Desert Botanical Gardens. I actually enjoyed it more than I thought I would mainly because we got to see some many different types of cacti up close. We went early in the morning and it was still 100 degrees so we also made sure to drink plenty of water.
Antelope Canyon Tours
Located in a Navajo park, Antelope Canyon was top of my list for this visit, but unfortunately it was still closed. If you follow IG travel accounts, you have probably seen the beautiful canyon before so I of course wanted to be like every good influencer and have a whole photoshoot there. The good news is they are back open as of July 12, 2021 for guests. So please go enjoy it for me!
If you can make it up to Sedona (2 hour drive from Phoenix), this seems to be the area with the most wineries. We stopped just short of Sedona and drove to Alcantara Winery in the Verde Valley. It was a scenic drive that kind of got scary for me as there are twists, turns and curves through mountains. I prefer to drive on flat land so be warned. The winery though is beautiful and the tasting menu is affordable, friendly staff and beautiful setting. Be sure to take the hay ride around the property down to the water and the chapel too. If you have some time and enjoy road trips, I do think the trip is worth it. Just make sure to snack as you sample so you are good to make that curvy drive back to Phoenix.
Jeep Tour of the Desert
Taking a night tour through the desert in a Jeep seemed like so much fun! Unfortunately, the wildfires made this unsafe. On my next visit though, I will be booking the Sonoran Desert Jeep Tour as soon as my flight is booked.
From the Rooftop
On the recommendation of Dash of Jazz, we stopped at From the Rooftop to watch the sunset. The rooftop bar is on the top of the Cambria Hotel. From there you can get great panoramic views of the city and mountains, plus they have a small pool that you can stick your feet in while you sip.
A lot of folks go hiking when they visit Arizona. We skipped the hikes on this trip though. For one, in the ideal weather conditions that is not really my ministry, but in 112 degrees Ima pass for sure. The wildfires also complicated some of the guided hikes that were available. For the more outdoorsy adventurous types, this is certainly an item for you.
Where to Eat
Brunch ‘n Sip
Right off the plane we headed to this black owned establishment for brunch and cocktails! For this trip, my sister was sticking to a vegan diet which was pretty easy in Phoenix. At Brunch ‘n Sip she ordered a vegan avocado toast with the mimosa flight while I had the short rib has with brunch punch and pancakes. We loved every bit of it. Be sure to add this and their sister restaurants, Lo-Lo’s Chicken & Waffles and Monroe’s Hot Chicken to your list.
If you are from Houston you will see quite a few familiar restaurants in Phoenix. Fox Restaurants (based in Phoenix) expanded to the Houston area with Flower Child and Blanco Modern Tacos & Tequila. We saw these a lot, but make it a rule not to eat at places we can eat at home. Since we do like the ones back home though, we figured their sister restaurants would be worth a try. Culinary Dropout has a cool laid back vibe and a varied menu. My sister went with the vegan curry and named it one of the best dishes she had over the weekend.
Farm & Craft
I generally love the farm to table concepts. They have unique dishes, fresh ingredients and good cocktails. Farm & Craft was no different. If you are traveling with a vegan like me, Farm & Craft is also a good stop as they have a lot of vegan options.
In a word, Toco Madera is a “vibe.” We visited for brunch and thought their food and cocktails were amazing. This spot also becomes a bar at night. In my experience, restaurants are generally not good at doing both of these things, but it seems to work at Toco Madera. Dress up and stop by!
Where to Stay
In most cities, places people say save on the lodging because “you are only going to sleep there.” Throw that advice out the window for Phoenix/Scottsdale. Part of the appeal of Phoenix are the resorts and spas. While you can visit other ones, I would say your best experience will be if you pick a resort to stay at with tons of spa amenities.
Originally we were going to stay at the Arizona Biltmore/Waldorf Astoria in Phoenix. Then I looked at the price again and came back to earth settling on the Hilton Scottsdale Resort. I honed in on the word “resort” and figured it would give me everything I wanted. Well the first clue should have been that the “spa” information was not on their website. Upon arrival we learned that they had a partnership with an off property spa, but no spa on site. Not the vibes we were looking for.
The Hilton isn’t bad and depending on what you are looking for you may enjoy it. However, if I could do it over I would splurge on one of the resorts. For example we drove by the Fairmont Scottsdale and the amenities alone make that price difference worth it. They had several pools, water slides, laser tag and movie night at the pool. If you have champagne tastes on a budget, check out hotels.com for deals and even groupon. After I was already booked, I found the Fairmont Scottsdale on Groupon for a great deal. Other quick note, just from my review it seemed that Scottsdale had the better resorts and gave me more “touristy” vibes.
We really enjoyed Phoenix and cannot wait to go back! On a second trip though, I will make sure not to go in June when it’s 100+ degrees everyday. For those who have visited Phoenix what were some of your favorite spots?