When in Scottsdale, Arizona, do as the locals do.
We recently enjoyed an exciting long weekend in one of the top Spa / Resort cities in the country. Scottsdale, Arizona offers not only great beauty, but great resorts, as well as outdoor activities. Yes! Enjoyable outdoor activities in the desert. The highlight of our trip was staying at the Andaz.
Andaz – Scottsdale Resort & Spa
Our picturesque Arizona nights were spent at the Andaz - Scottsdale Resort & Spa, a "World of Hyatt" resort that I had only heard great things about from friends out west. Driving up to the resort, walking to my Saarinen Bungalow, I could see why they loved the Andaz brand so much.
The bungalows bare the name of Finnish American architect and interior designer Eero Saarinen, designer of Washington Dulles International Airport and the St. Louis’ Gateway Arch. The largest bungalows the resort offers are 485 sq ft, with one king bed, spacious mid-century modern interiors, an oversized dual-fixture shower that could fit nine people comfortably, a banco terrace, as well as a private patio with luxurious outdoor lounge seating. The comfort and design of the bungalows made it hard to depart any of its 7 amazing spaces: the shower, the separate multiple sitting area inside and out, the bed, and even the walk-through closet/changing area wowed us.
Once we were able to gain the internal strength to leave our beautiful bungalow, the rest of the resort did not disappoint. Any resort in Arizona needs a pool and the Andaz has three. The Turquoise Pool is the central pool of the resort where cabanas can be rented and bar food and drinks enjoyed. The Palo Verde Spa & Apothecary pool was a pleasant surprise to find after our spa treatment. The views from every part of the resort were breathtaking, but the spa pool kept us in awe for some time. The third pool, the Retreat Pool, is a little more private as it is among a cluster of private cabanas and only useable by those guests.
The main building housed reception as well as Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen, where we had most of our meals, unless it was the phenomenal room service. Two recommendations – get room service to bring you breakfast one day as it is epically wonderful – and – get the dirty hash when you go to Weft & Warp. Most of the menu is breakfast items that you can order throughout the day, but the dirty hash danced all over my taste buds, especially when I added the homemade hot sauces.
Living in Florida, I know heat and humidity. I had not been to Arizona in well over a decade and I could not remember what the dry heat felt like. It did worry me knowing that temperatures would easily reach triple digits, but as a heavier set man that sweats at the drop of a hat, as long as there was some shade, the Arizona dry heat was so much easier to handle than the Florida humid heat.
And not knowing how that heat was going to be, I was rethinking a couple of my planned activities in Scottsdale. I went forward with them anyway and I am so happy I did.
Kayaking the Lower Salt River with Arizona Outback Adventures
A water adventure in Arizona? Why not? We were picked up at the Andaz for the simple van ride out to the Lower Salt River. The plan was to float down the relaxing, class-1 Lower Salt River surrounded by spectacular and unobstructed views of four different mountain ranges. But there is enough water in Arizona to make this happen? Flowing from the mountains in Northern Arizona, the Salt River is captured by four dams and released for use by Phoenicians and farmers.
The paddling was more like floating and pointing on that day and we didn’t mind one bit. Some of us had never kayaked before and this was an easy and great first experience for them. We saw many different birds, like the great blue heron, as well as many wild horses. I would take anyone on this kayaking journey again. Wear a bathing suit and a light shirt and a hat and you’ll have to wear shoes so bring some water shoes or sandals and they will provide you with a life jacket. www.aoa-adventures.com/daytours/half-day_kayak_tours.html
A Balloon Experience by Hot Air Expedition, Inc.
So, yeah. I did that. We left the Andaz at 4:30 AM for yet another short van ride to go and experience something I cannot wait to do again. If you’ve ever been on a plane, this is 1,000 times easier. If you’re afraid of heights, don’t worry. By the time you realize you are off the ground, you’re smiling from ear-to-ear. Just don’t look straight straight down. The view from the balloon’s handcrafted wicker basket is virtually unobstructed during your approximate hour-long flight.
We did partake in the morning flight, but afternoon flights occur, too. Both provide magnificent views of desert terrain and towering mountain ranges, as well as the opportunity to spot local plant life and wildlife – all from up to 5,000 feet. We could not tell what some of the animals were as they ran around, but once the shadows were elongated, we could tell most were rabbits. Breakfast/evening hors d’oeuvres are provided immediately following the balloon ride. You are welcomed back to earth in the traditional manner with flutes of champagne and delectable gourmet cuisine, a custom dating back more than 100 years.
It is recommended that you wear sunglasses, sunscreen, and closed-toed shoes. The temperature in the air is the same as on the ground, so dress for the day’s anticipated temperatures. We would also recommend wearing a hat and a thin long-sleeved shirt as the heat from the balloon’s fire is intense so any way to block that direct heat from your skin is advised.
Other Places To Stay
The Andaz Resort & Spa was a great place to call home for a couple of nights and the summer rates are quite exciting. Definitely check out the summer deals as some are great discounts, many waive resort fees, and others provide some free adult libations, and some do all three and more! We learned that in the summer, when rates are lower at hotels, resorts, and spas, the locals will find these great deals and have staycations or pampering days. We met many wonderful locals enjoying the summer pricing.
We desired to check a couple of other places to stay while in town.
The Scott Resort & Spa was a refreshing palate for this Floridian’s eyes. The mix of natural wood and elegance gave this downtown Scottsdale resort a feeling of warmth and comfort.
Both The Canal Club Restaurant and The Canal Club Poolside helped us fill up on amazing food and drinks our first night in Scottsdale. We also checked out the two pool areas the next day, with one being a sandy beach pool, where sand castles are definitely encouraged.
The Spa was not as large as others in the area, but for the amenities it offers, it ranks a respectable 7th best spa in Scottsdale, a town of resorts and spas. If I had more time, I would work in another stay at The Scott.
This simple yet well designed hotel was my last place to stay for the evening. When I arrived at Hotel Adeline, the pool was hopping with a great young and attractive crowd enjoying a live dj. I was told that I had a great room overlooking the pool and one of the more perfect spots to enjoy the live music later that evening. I was worried that the hotel would be hopping all night long, but the bustling crowd must have been out and about in Scottsdale as Hotel Adeline was a quiet place to lay my head.
Places to Eat
Besides the amazing room service and the Weft & Warp Art Bar + Kitchen at Andaz, we tried out a couple of other places.
Tucked inside the charming and historic Craftsman Court in the heart of downtown Scottsdale, FnB, short for Food and Beverage, owes its praise and passion to its owners, Chef Charleen Badman and Front of House Manager and Beverage Director Pavle Milic.
As chef and co-owner of the award-winning FnB restaurant in Scottsdale, Charleen Badman is one of Arizona’s most celebrated chefs. A four-time James Beard nominee for Best Chef of the Southwest, Charleen is known as the “veggie whisperer” for her ability to coax the very best flavor out of locally grown vegetables, which are featured prominently – although not exclusively – on the FnB menu. Her unfussy, yet boldly flavored menu changes seasonally, and sometimes even week-to-week with tweaks based on what’s currently available from local farmers.
We ate family style at the restaurant. I'm a meat and potatoes kind of guy, but the way that Chef Badman worked her magic with a large variety of vegetables (and meats), I was a fan and will be a fan of her work. Others are fans, too - “Best Chef Southwest Nominee 2014 + 2015 + 2016 + 2017” by the James Beard Foundation Awards.
This chain restaurant was one I had never heard of when in Maine or Florida so when my friend from Tempe recommended it, I was up for something different. We were well taken care of by the polite staff and our server Sarah. Muscles for an appetizer as well as a brussell sprouts dish kept us going until the main dishes came out. We would recommend Culinary Dropout and basically anything on the menu.
If you find yourself passing through Arizona and cannot decide on which part to prop your feet up in, our vote is for Scottsdale. The over all feel of the area, the artistry, the welcoming and happy people, as well as the views and opportunities to go hiking, kayaking, ballooning, and other outdoor activities make this part of the desert a beacon for travelers, adventurers, and those seeking relaxation.
Here are some other pictures from our trip.
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