I know what you're thinking. "Scottsdale? Really? As in that place in Arizona?" For us blessed Californians, we have access to an almost endless roster of beautiful, scenic destinations where we can spend our leisure time (and hard earned cash): from Palm Springs to SF and everywhere in between. It seems rather superfluous, then, to imagine spending a precious weekend out of state; sometimes I feel like Californians have the tendency to become that terrible guy that Miranda dated in Sex and the City who claimed he never needed to leave Manhattan. Why leave California? We have everything we need here! #CalExit
But occasionally, it might be nice to see what else is out there. "Broaden horizons" and all that jazz. The last time I was in Arizona was high school, and I can't remember much. So naturally I had my reservations when I was initially planning this trip to Scottsdale. I also had a lot of questions, like "what is the difference between Scottsdale and Phoenix," and "can I really ditch work and go there and back in 24 hours?" First, for the fellow ignoramus, Scottsdale is in the greater Phoenix area, just like how Santa Monica is in the greater LA area, but is considered its own city. This is confusing to so many people because Scottsdale has done an incredible job of branding by distancing itself from the stereotypes of Phoenix, which has maintained its upscale allure. Second, yes...you can absolutely travel there and back in 24 hours.
Last month, I got up early on a Tuesday morning, headed to the airport with just a carry-on (I'm still proud of myself for downsizing to sample sized beauty products), and boarded a short, 45 minute flight to Phoenix. By 11am, I was checking in to the beautiful Mountain Shadows resort; nestled into the hills of Paradise Valley, the 60-year-old resort has been revitalized in recent years, undergoing a massive rebuilding and renovation. It boasts a golf course, club house, and private residences, in addition to the midcentury modern and contemporary guest rooms, pool, cabanas, fitness center, bar, and restaurant. After a poolside yoga class, I relaxed by the pool, enjoyed a cooking demonstration from Chef Christopher Brugman, and then took a nice long soak in my room's gorgeous tub overlooking the resort.
Dinner that evening included delicious bites from FnB, a critically acclaimed restaurant that opened in 2009 and helmed by Chef Charleen Badman. Everything was incredibly fresh and seasonal, with a global influence but local focus. One of my favorite dishes included grilled asparagus on top of a super satisfying crispy polenta with a beautifully fried egg. Another was the Chicken Spring Rolls in a crispy wonton, which were outrageously delicious! After dinner, I headed back to the hotel as I had an early morning the next day because...
Yepp...I went hot air ballooning the next day! I dragged myself out of bed at 4am, headed to the office of Rainbow Ryders, and then drove out to our launch site. Rainbow Ryders sends one or two dozen balloons out during their morning rides, each one carrying between 4-15 people. The balloons fill up quickly, and before I knew it, I was climbing into the tight basket and lifting into the air. Admittedly, I was a bit nervous-- I'm not a great flyer, so the idea of being trapped in a basket held by a balloon for an indeterminate amount of time was pretty daunting. But once you're in the basket, you don't even realize you're moving until you look down and realize you're no longer touching the ground. Thankfully, the ride was incredibly smooth and easy, and even when we were apparently moving at 20mph or more, it felt like we were standing still. We were also lucky to have such an awesome pilot, who was super professional and did a great job navigating.
After the hot air balloon ride, I headed back to the hotel and then to the airport for the quick flight to LAX. I was sad to leave, as 24 hours was definitely not enough time to fully experience all that Scottsdale has to offer. But I will be back soon, hopefully for more poolside relaxation and outdoor adventures!