Arizona: Idyllic Desert Destination

Joe Leary and Jim Gordon | April 2012

While perhaps best known for being ‘The Grand Canyon State’, Arizona is so much more. Greater Phoenix alone—which includes the cities of Scottsdale, Glendale, Chandler and Tempe—boasts a population of some 4.2 million people and covers 2,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of Delaware.

Located in the heart of the lush Sonoran desert, the Phoenix area is home to more than 200 golf courses and enjoys an abundance of spectacular weather. With a mean year-round temperature of 23 degrees Celsius—and sunshine for 85 per cent of its daylight hours—Phoenix welcomes more than 16 million visitors annually, including many ‘Snowbird’ Canadians.

Arriving at Phoenix Sky Harbour Airport—ranked among the ten busiest in the United States—we were immediately taken with the sheer expanse of this vast desert destination.

With two daily departures from Vancouver International Airport, Phoenix and the surrounding area are easily accessible and only slightly more than three hours away.


Westin Phoenix Downtown

We were housed at the luxurious Westin Phoenix Downtown for the first evening of our three-night Arizona stay. This towering facility offers 242 beautifully appointed guest rooms in a sophisticated and elegant setting. Nature inspired the colour palette in the hotel’s sleek lobby, with furnishings that reflect both classic and contemporary styles.

Westin’s ‘sensory welcome’ includes its signature White Tea by Westin fragrance, customized botanicals, mood lighting and soothing music.

It’s a gem of a hotel in the heart of downtown Phoenix and within a short walk of both Chase Field and US Airways Center.

Hotel Valley Ho

Our second day took us to neighbouring Scottsdale, which covers an area of 184.2 square miles—stretching 31 miles north to south—and is billed as ‘The West’s Most Western Town’. Home to various restaurant choices from casual to fine dining, Scottsdale features amazing shopping, art galleries, Native American arts, Western culture and plenty of outdoor desert activities set amidst a spectacularly breathtaking natural backdrop.

We were taken back in time to an era of Hollywood glitz and glamour upon our arrival at the beautiful Hotel Valley Ho, an urban oasis that pays loving homage to its original classic mid-century design. This ultra-cool facility harkens back to the time of the celebrity desert hideaway, providing generously sized guest suites with all-glass walls that open onto airy patios and balconies—you’ll be hard pressed to find more chic accommodations anywhere in North America. It’s hip, it’s cool, it’s funky and it is definitely one of the most amazing designs and layouts of any hotel properties we’ve ever experienced.

Phoenix: Dining

Matt’s Big Breakfast

It’s one of the cosiest downtown breakfast spots you’ll ever encounter and a clear favourite among locals, as evidenced by the lineups. Owner Matt Pool serves tasty comfort food using farm fresh ingredients and organic produce. Get there early—it’s always busy.

Los Dos Molinos

Arizona is home to some of the world’s best Mexican cuisine and Los Dos Molinos is a Phoenix institution, with menu specialties imported from New Mexico. If you like your food with heat, this quaint spot serves some of the spiciest Southwestern food in the entire state.

Beckett’s Table

This cool and casual neighbourhood dining spot specializes in seasonal American cooking as prepared by one of the area’s most acclaimed chefs, Justin Beckett. The menu is full of homemade classics with inventive flourishes—we particularly enjoyed the chicken meatballs and the sumptuous pork chop.

Phoenix: Nightlife

Crescent Ballroom

Just two blocks from the Westin, the Crescent Ballroom is the city’s newest live music facility, housed in a block-constructed structure built in 1917. It’s a funky lounge with full bar service offering free live music every night. Great tunes!

Scottsdale: Dining

Distrito at The Saguaro

One of Scottsdale’s most popular establishments, Distrito is a modern Mexican restaurant and bar that features some of the area’s most spectacular and wonderfully diverse fare, created by Food Network’s Next Iron Chef 2010 winner Jose Garces.

This signature desert hot spot offers over 100 varieties of tequila amongst an amazing array of inventive drinks. This place is a must-visit!

Mabel’s on Main

Located in historic Old Town, Mabel’s is a mid-20th century downtown speakeasy.

The menu offers Prohibition-era inspired cocktails, aged wines and mouthwatering choices such as oysters Rockefeller and devilled eggs with caviar.

Cloaked in mystery, Mabel’s boasts a private dining room with a one-way mirror that can only be accessed through a secret door.

Glendale: Dining

Haus Murphy’s of Glendale

Being Canadian, we simply had to see hockey in the desert. Prior to attending a Phoenix Coyotes game at the fabulous Arena in nearby Glendale, we sampled award-winning German fare at this legendary eatery in the city’s historic downtown area as featured on Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives.

The vibe in this unique spot is fun and the food is phenomenal!

To Do:

Ponderosa Stables

When in the West, act like a Westerner—and Joe Leary took the opportunity to ‘get his cowboy on’, enjoying his first time ever on a horse. With forty years of experience, Ponderosa Livery offers guided horseback riding over more than fifty miles of trails that traverse the area’s cactus-laden terrain.

Mystery Castle

While Joe was out ridin’ fences, Jim Gordon checked out one of Phoenix’s oddest points of pride: Mystery Castle, located in the foothills of South Mountain Park.

Built in the 1930’s by a very eccentric figure, the castle was constructed with found materials such as stone, car parts, rail tracks and telephone poles, all held together by mortar, cement and goat’s milk—really!

800 East Mineral Road, Phoenix, AZ

Musical Instrument Museum

No trip to Phoenix is complete without a visit to this one-of-a-kind facility—the first museum in the world dedicated to the celebration of the musical instruments of the world—with some 15,000 on display.

Tony Bennett has proclaimed it his favourite museum and in addition to scores of interactive, hands-on displays, the main floor’s Artist Gallery is home to a number of pop culture’s most iconic items.

When departing from Vancouver International Airport, Joe Leary and Jim Gordon enjoy the luxurious comfort and serenity available in the Plaza Premium Lounge, a Van City Hot Sheet travel partner.

You too can enjoy the exclusive comfort of Plaza Premium Lounges, found in both the domestic and international terminals at YVR and offering travellers comfortable seating areas, computer stations, light meal service and showers.

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