Monday, March 24, 2014
- by Ann N. Yungmeyer
Springtime in Arizona’s “Valley of the Sun” means there’s a good game in town. As we landed at the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport along with numerous jersey-clad baseball fans, we were reminded that March is Cactus League spring training for 15 major league teams. But instead of watching homeruns at the ballpark, my husband and I were tuned in to another attraction – the majestic Sonoran Desert landscapes.
The Phoenix/Scottsdale area is a getaway destination for golf and spa retreats, cultural arts and outdoor adventure. Celebrating milestone birthdays, we booked a short stay at two premier resorts where we could experience the desert scenery and focus on hiking, fitness and Southwestern cuisine.
Arriving at Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale, we found a true sanctuary for connecting with the desert flora. Situated at the foot of Pinnacle Peak amid craggy rock formations, the resort features panoramic terrace views and desert garden paths leading to beautiful guest quarters in adobe casitas.
From the resort property we took a hike up the moderate Pinnacle Peak trail, joining many locals out for daily fitness and enjoying the 360-degree views. Our guide pointed out various desert flowers and cacti including the teddy bear cholla that seems to “jump” and prickly pear, which we later enjoyed in a flavored margarita.
After the uphill trek, I visited the spa for a Healing Hiker’s massage – a full body treatment utilizing mountain arnica and sage to ease inflammation and soreness. The resort’s full-service spa offers innovative choices from Thai to Golfer’s massage, the latter incorporating stretching and heated golf balls rolled along tight muscles.
Four Seasons maintains an intimate atmosphere and unparalleled service while offering amenities including fitness and family activities and nearby golf at Troon North. Of the weekly scheduled events, we happened to catch a tasting of local craft beers, guitar music in the lounge, and a stargazing program with an amateur astrologer.
Our opportunities to stay active continued at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess, a grand resort and conference center with golf, tennis, pools and the new Well & Being at Willow Stream Spa. Drawing on Southwestern and Asian influences, the unique facility offers innovative fitness and spa treatments and an integrated wellness program. In addition to traditional fitness classes, I enjoyed my first attempt at aerial hammock yoga, a practice that utilizes a suspended sling to allow for more stretch and inversion.
Fairmont’s beautifully manicured grounds include fountains, lagoons and cozy nooks with outdoor fire pits. Guests wanting to explore the vibrant downtown Scottsdale can easily hop on “Ollie the Trolley” and ride to historic Old Town, the canal waterfront and the arts district, where “America’s Original ArtWalk” takes place Thursday evenings.
Our last day, we were back on the trail for an early morning hike with the outfitter Arizona Outback Adventures. We met our guide in the hotel lobby and shuttled to the McDowell Sonoran Preserve to hike the Gateway Loop, a beautiful five-mile trail with moderate elevation gain. AOA’s enthusiastic and knowledgeable staff shared bits of area history, botany and insight on the delicate ecosystem within the desert environment.
On this short escape to the Southwest, we barely scratched the surface with desert hiking, and it’s easy to see by the multitude of choices in outdoor adventure and cultural activities that there’s more than one game in town.
Scottsdale also boasts world-class galleries, shopping, and a lively restaurant scene. From fine dining and western steakhouse to sophisticated comfort food and farm-to-table fare, we sampled a few favorites: Talavera for the best patio views in outdoor dining, La Hacienda for its flaming coffees and unparalleled tequila bar, and True Food Kitchen, a hip and healthy food spot developed in partnership with author Dr. Andrew Weil.
We left plenty more to explore for another trip to the Valley of the Sun, and next time I plan to wear my ball cap and join the bleacher bums.
If you go: Scottsdale offers a wide selection of hotel choices from moderate to deluxe. Best deals are found off-season with great summer rates at top resorts. Visit www.scottsdalecvb.com.