The desert has long been known for its spiritual and restorative properties. We agree. A weekend in Scottsdale is just a plane ride away and certainly a weekend you won’t soon forget its W Hotel hipster allure and the scores of attractions the area offers.
By Lance Avery Morgan
Photography Courtesy W Hotels, Scottsdale Convention and Visitors Bureau
Sure, some call Scottsdale a desert version of Miami’s South Beach. I emphatically agree for good reason. Also known as “the West’s most western town”, it is also a grounded retreat that prides itself in its rich Western history with an undeniably hipster vibe.. How does this mix of old and new work so beautifully together? That’s simple. It is the region’s friendly and welcoming essence that attracts both youthful entrepreneurs and retirees alike.
Interesting to note is that the city is the spring training home of the San Francisco Giants, who practice at Scottsdale Stadium in Downtown Scottsdale. Scottsdale Stadium also hosts the Scottsdale Scorpions, a minor league baseball team in the Arizona Fall League. The Colorado Rockies and Arizona Diamondbacks began sharing a new spring training facility, Salt River Fields at Talking Stick, located on the city’s eastern border with the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community. So, the vibe of the city evolves during that time. Year ‘round there is always something to discover and embrace in this desert getaway.
Take for example the newish W Scottsdale. It is at once both old West and five-minutes-from-now hip as a new Tom Ford ensemble. And, it fits just as well with its deserty feel of architecture and style aesthetic. Both sizzling hot and sparkling cool simultaneously, the hotel reflects the fore-frontier of exhilarating arts, sophisticated shopping, destination golf courses, world-class spas and indulgent nightlife, where you can well, resort to world-class culture in what is surely one of country’s most livable city.
Upon the first steps in the lobby inspired by the arid surroundings, the W Scottsdale offers where you go with the flow. It’s no mirage. The hotel is infused with natural water elements throughout: where you can glide through with the W Scottsdale’s meditative energy, set adrift on waves of perfectly balanced luxury and comfort, or make a splash in the cool WET pool, the centerpiece of the hotel’s desert oasis just up from the rocking lobby-turned-nightclub, The Living Room where its visitors live life to the fullest. The bar, which runs the entire length rocks day or night.
Sexy is as sexy does at the W Scottsdale. My two bedroom three bath WOW suite was a recently converted condo that whispered quite chic which offered a glam respite in between the rejuvenation treatments at Bliss® Spa and the activities around the area. The hotel offers 230 Guestrooms including 27 Suites, 5 WOW Suites, and one Extreme WOW Suite. Need I say more on why, with so many choices nearby, that this is the place to be, do and stay?
Old Town Scottsdale is the area with many streets, old-fashioned stores, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, and western art galleries that represents the town’s charm. The city’s main cultural district is also in this area, which includes the upscale Scottsdale Fashion Square Mall and it is also one of the twenty largest malls in the country. Shopping for art? There are many choices from which to choose. Scottsdale’s galleries, studios and museums that are open to the public are in downtown Scottsdale. Besides Old Town, the Scottsdale Arts District can be seen in two other areas: Main Street, home to the largest and most diverse collection of are genres, the more contemporary Marshall Way Arts District. It is an outdoorsy city and it also offers many gallery tours to help navigate the arts scene and the Scottsdale Artwalk is held every Thursday evening, so maybe leave a day early for your jaunt to enjoy that.
Treat yourself to a feast for the design senses. The legendary estate of Frank Lloyd Wright and his apprentices in the 1930s was constantly expanded and modified by the architect until his death in 1959. “Finally I learned of a site twenty-six miles from Phoenix, across the desert of the vast Paradise Valley,” said Wright retrospectively. “On up to a great mesa in the mountains. On the mesa just below McDowell Peak we stopped, turned, and looked around. The top of the world.
A tour of it is like knowing the man himself. Crafted from the essence of the desert by literally gathering rocks from the desert floor and sand from the washes to keep the design in balance with the surrounding environment, you might feel inspired to create a little more modernism in your own domain. The site is considered among foremost experts to be one of the Wright’s greatest creations since it was designed be a live/work/play space; Wright’s personal home, studio and architectural laboratory. The 90-minute guided tour is the oft-recreated Taliesin West Living Room, called the “Garden Room” by Wright, and the recently renovated Wright living quarters. I recommend Weiss Kelly, whose prolific knowledge of the estate and its surroundings is insightful and engaging.
Want to fly high? Look no further as you hop into one of thy city’s myriad hot air balloons and see the view from the top of why the Sonoran Desert is a uniquely beautiful place from upon high in its expansiveness and grandeur. The sunrise and sunset flights can provide magnificent vistas of desert terrain and towering mountain ranges. I did the sunrise tour and completely recommend it and the view from the balloon’s handcrafted wicker basket is virtually unobstructed. After landing the welcomed back to earth happens in the traditional manner with flutes of champagne and breakfast, a custom dating back more than 100 years. There are numerous ballooning services, yet I recommend Hot Air Expeditions.
At the W, Sushi Roku is known by insiders in Los Angeles and Las Vegas for its flawless cuisine. It is a seen-and-be-seen eatery that delivers both a wonderful meal and a big city dining experience. Saunter from there to the where the hotel’s guests and locals feel like insiders when socializing in Shade, the destination nightlife lounge. Then there’s recessed oasis in the sun indulging poolside at Sunset Lawn that offers glimpses of high fashion as well as hijinks
The next recommendation is nearby is downtown at the city’s wildly popular Citizen Public House and its upstairs bar, Citizen R+D, The speakeasy vibe, complete with sexy banquettes and ottoman and low tables make the drinks and those who enjoy them the main focus. Want a dramatic new twist on a cocktail? Pull up a chair. Take for instance the classic G & T (that’s a gin and tonic to those who may be far more knowledgeable in wine). The master mixologist blends premium vodka that’s boiled at the table with secret botanicals to produce a tasty gin. The floorshow is worth every penny. Then there’s the Paint Can Punch, which includes Bois Genever, falernum syrup and fresh citrus that’s shaken with ice using a vintage paint can. Enticed? Uh-huh, thought you might be. Know that the bar is a tough entry. You first have to be granted access. The entrance to the exclusive 30-seat Citizen R+D is through a mysterious alleyway staircase on the back of the building. When you arrive, you have to call the number displayed on the door and request entry.
It is worth the effort, though and after you have wetted your whistle downstairs is the delectable dining experience at Citizen Public House. One glance is all it takes to realize this caters to the city’s hoi polloi who love to dine among their own, as well as newcomers to share the experiece. You’ll enjoy starters like gorgonzola-emmental mac-n-cheese and entrees like pan-seared scallops served over roasted sweet corn grits, snow pea greens, bacon, and cola gastrique. Craft beers and more classically contemporary cocktails make this a home-run evening in Scottsdale.
Actually, everything you may choose to do in Scottsdale will be a homerun and with all the choices of activities this desert oasis offers, you’ll soon be planning additional trips there because of the long list of sun, fun and frolic to be had.