Ooh we’ve got the winter blues baaaad. Remember all those happy pictures of cacti, fresh citrus, and magic cloud-less skies we posted a few weeks ago? Yeah, me neither. Now that Chicago has turned all rainy, cold, and icky, we are trying to figure out how we can become snowbirds and ditch this winter weather.
Have you ever been to Arizona? It’s oddly not a place many people think to visit, unless you are an actual snowbird, and then it’s probably at the top of your list. The hubs and I live in Phoenix for a quick year while he was going to graduate school & I can honestly say it was one of the best years of my life.Between the weather (sure the summers are hot, but there is nothing better than having 75 degree Januarys), the rad landscape (read: cacti & mountains everywhere you look), the amazing food, & array of adventure activities – it was an absolute blast. Earlier this month, I had the pleasure of going back to the desert for a week with Visit Mesa & Visit Phoenix and it was nothing short of exactly what the doctor ordered.
For all you cold weather dwellers that go to Mexico, Florida, or Palm Springs to escape the weather, this is my note to you on why you should absolutely make Arizona your winter getaway.
#1 – THE SCENERY
Let me tell you, nothing shakes the dust off faster than waking up in the morning and going for a good hike. By the end, you have worked yourself out of that funk, kicked those winter blues, and accomplished something major all by 9am. It is the absolute best & both Mesa and Phoenix have amazing hikes.
Usery Mountain is gorgeous & so do-able if your hiking skills need a little work. The switchbacks aren’t steep & the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. I mean, just look, there are giant saguaros everywhere.
For those more advanced, you can’t visit Phoenix and not take a trip to Camelback Mountain. This is an absolute must for a sunrise hike. Watching the sunrise over the city is such a cool experience. Again, a little more challenging, but who says you have to make it to the very top? There are plenty of places to take in the scenery and watch the city wake up.
#2 – THE FOOD
You think New York, LA, and Chicago have great food? Just wait until you’ve tried some of the local spots in Arizona. If farm to table is up your alley, Mesa has this great Fresh Foodie Trail that you can follow all along the Valley. From a local olive mill to urban gardens and back, the FFT allows you to eat your way across the desert while learning about why sustainable food is important and actually kind of cool.
Now if you consider yourself a bit of a foodie, downtown Phoenix is the stop for you. Sam Fox, owner of Fox Restaurant Concepts, is the king of the food scene in Arizona. From the most delicious local lunch spot, Flower Child (go, it’s amazing, you won’t want to eat anywhere else) to the swank, highly Instagram-able neighborhood spot, The Henry, you literally can’t go wrong. I recommend going on a self-guided tour of his spots – I promise, you won’t be disappointed!
#3 – THE ACTIVITIES
Okay, now it really starts to get good. You’ve got great hikes, amazing food, now you just need stuff to fill in the gaps. Get ready for some of the most fun you’ve had in a long time.
Last week I did yoga with goats (read about my hysterical experience here), flew on a trapeze, and watched the sunrise in a hot air balloon. I did all of those things in the span of 24-hours. I mean, that’s insane!
If you are looking for something to get you out of your comfort zone, I could not recommend a flying trapeze class more. It is such a wild ride. Here is the thing; I am not a big heights person. My toes tend to go numb and I start swearing a lot and my palms get all hot & bothered, it’s really cute. But once you grab ahold of the trapeze bar and swing in the air for the first time, you are hooked. You are more than safe, hooked in at all times, and you’ve got like three nets under you at all time – so you can relax about that. You fall, you flip, you even do some fancy Cirque thing where someone catches you – it’s an absolute blast. We flew with iFly Trapeze at The Phoenician and it’s so easy to sign up. Just visit their website, show up, and have Marco & Robin teach you how to become trapeze masters. I am serious, go – you won’t regret it.
Have you ever taken a hot air balloon ride? If not, it really is a bucket list item. Again, not crazy about heights, but after riding with Hot Air Expeditions in Phoenix, I can honestly say there is nothing to worry about. The initial take off is super slow and smooth & you just kind of glide. There is nothing fast about the process and you don’t shake or swing, it’s just nice and steady. We flew over the Sonoran desert at 6,000-feet watching the sunrise along the Valley and it was truly breathtaking. After about an hour at varying different heights, you land in the middle of the desert to a champagne breakfast – very classy. Our guide, John, shared a brief history of hot air ballooning and we cheers-ed over a successful trip, a beautiful landscape, and amazing views. It was epic.
#4 – THE AMENITIES
Half of the fun of visiting the desert is getting to stay at one of the many amazing hotels. We stayed at The Phoenician in Scottsdale and it was an absolute dream. Their rooms are so well designed & lux (between the marbled wallpaper and gigantic tub, I wanted to move in) and the property is stunning. You are tucked at the base of Camelback Mountain so no matter where you look, mountains surround you – it’s very cool. Plus their spa is a dream. Rumor has it that the spa is getting a major upgrade next year, so that alone is an excuse to book a stay.
With seven pools, several tennis courts, a fabulous gold course, and incredible restaurants, there is literally something for everyone. It is so serene and quiet; you can’t help but just melt on to a lounge chair and relax the day away. Can you tell I already want to go back?!