The summer before college, my family went on a trip to Los Angeles and the Grand Canyon. At seventeen, I wanted a final hurrah with my close-knit group of high school friends, and I opted out of the Grand Canyon leg.
I flew home early to spend the waning days of summer in Vancouver – my bright-eyed attempt at stretching time under those pastel-colored sunsets. Perhaps, even before it ended, there was a feeling that there was a nostalgic finality to it all. Looking back, I didn’t know for certain at the time that there would be a very distinct possibility that I would build a brand new life in America and stay here.
Like Miami, Arizona was never at the top of my bucketlist for travel. I was dreaming of Lagos, Naples, all of Australia, and Zanzibar. My mood catered to a safari or a getaway with white sand and clear, calm seaside.
I first visited Arizona in June of last year. I had a brief spell of heatstroke in Vietnam, and the experience was jarring enough that I try to avoid visiting hot zones during the height of the heat. When I thought about Arizona, I always envisioned retirement central. Golfing and extreme temperatures came to mind, neither of which I am particularly attached to. As an aside, I think I could be fairly lethal with a gold club, so I have avoided the sport since my high school days on the driving range with friends.
To my surprise, I found Arizona so delightful that I also ended up in Arizona voluntarily this year.
Below is a round-up of some of my favorites!
When I travel, I usually stay in Airbnbs. I couldn’t find many Airbnb listings in Arizona, and the ones that I did find were slightly questionable, so we’ve always stayed in hotels.
Four Seasons Scottsdale – In 2017, we spent our entire Arizona holiday in Scottsdale. I called the friendly concierge desk in advance to book some adventures. The hotel offers star-gazing nights, early morning hikes and horseback riding trips. All of these adventures start bright and early (5-6 AM) due to the intense heat that kicks in around noon. The landscape here is a cacti wonderland. The dining options here are plentiful and you’ll feel completely relaxed, tucked away from all the stimuli of city living. I’m not the type of person who enjoys lounging by the pool for more than a day, so we had an action-packed trip that concluded every night in our lovely and spacious room that looked out towards stunning rock formation views. If you’re looking for a relaxing and luxurious getaway, this is it.
Poco Diablo Sedona – In 2018, we spent the majority of our trip in Sedona. Poco Diablo doubles up as a golf resort. The front desk here is really hospitable, and I wish I had more time to spend at the hotel, because they had a huge jacuzzi in our room that I took a long soak in until my fingers resembled prunes. It’s been years since I’ve had the time to just take a long, hot bath and it was wonderful to revert to an old childhood habit. The rooms are capacious and overlooked the Sedona rock formations.
Orchards Inn Sedona – My team had an offsite in Sedona, and we stayed at the Orchards Inn, which offered stunning views of the Sedona rocks. When the golden hour struck, the rocks were gleaming a magnificent red-orange. The rooms aren’t particularly large, but you’ll be right in the heart of Downtown Sedona. Restaurants, bars and shops were all within a 3 minute walking distance.
Frank Lloyd Wright Taliesin West House – We took a guided tour at Taliesin West, home to Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert laboratory. This was his winter home and the birthplace of his architectural school. This is a majestic property that is worth a visit!
Cave Creek Outfitters Horseback Ride – “Like horse, like rider.” If the slogan holds true, my horse enjoyed snacking as much as I did because she kept on stopping to eat dry grass along the trail. This was one of my favorite experiences in Scottsdale. We started at 7AM and saw blooming cacti and mountains on the horizon. It felt reminiscent of an old western and this was a quiet and serene way to see the natural wonders surrounding Scottsdale. Be sure to wear sunscreen!
Pink Jeep Tour Sedona – I wanted a Jeep after I saw its abilities on full display. This tour is incredibly fun and takes you up front and center with the iconic red rocks of Sedona. You won’t be able to get to these viewpoints without a four-wheel drive and a seasoned driver. This was a hoot!
Soldier’s Pass Trail Hike in Sedona – A 4.1 mile hike that ended up being a meditative reflection. You will see at least 4 different types of micro-environments on the trail.
Vortex Points Sedona – Sedona is a very spiritual town, and you’ll see many crystal shops and vortex points here.
Sedona Fudge Company – Sweet Tooth.
Buck and Rider – Seafood & Steak.
Barrio Queen – Try their freshly made guacamole that has a dash of pomegranate seeds. Margaritas!
Talavera – Contemporary Spanish Steakhouse.