Two long, travel-free years and in need of a recharge, we grabbed a gal pal and headed to Scottsdale, Arizona, for some friend-based fun in the desert sun. —Noa Nichol
STAY + PLAY
There’s no shortage of fabulous, friend-worthy places to stay in Scottsdale, but we may have discovered the top two on this trip. Nestled on 65 acres in the scenic Sonoran Desert, the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess boasts big, beautiful rooms with plenty of room for two (double sinks in the bathroom mean no fighting for the faucet in the morning) and those famous Fairmont beds that really are like sleeping on a cloud. There are no less than six pools at this resort, plus one of the finest Mexican restaurants in the city, La Hacienda, on site. Start your meal with as-you-like-it tableside guacamole (get the sampler and try more than one kind) and end with an iconic flaming coffee with tequila, coffee, cream and cinnamon in an unforgettable presentation; no matter what you order in-between, you can’t go wrong. Hotel No. 2, The Phoenician, is, in fact, second to none; the pinnacle of luxury, this resort greets guests with a breathtaking (actually, jaw-dropping) backdrop of Camelback Mountain and a signature lobby scent you won’t soon forget (not even with 2,500 kilometres, the distance back to Vancouver, between you). Multi-tiered aquamarine pools—some kid-friendly, others adult only—cascade down to a standalone spa, complete with treatment rooms (emerge anew after an 80-minute Phoenix Rising scrub and massage) and all the elements needed for a self-guided personal wellness ritual (sauna, steam, cold shower, hot tub and cool shower). We cannot wait to return.
SEE + DO
It may be tempting (very tempting) to stay on property at either hotel, but don’t deny yourself or your bestie these awesome area adventures. MacDonald’s Ranch offers cowboy-led horseback treks through the desert with colourful commentary about the local flora and fauna—read, all sorts of cacti, roadrunners and (watch out!) rattlesnakes. (Bonus: if you’re with a pal, it’s likely you’ll get saddled up on BFF broncos, who’ll stick together throughout the ride.) Next up, and up, and up: hot air ballooning. Completely worth the 4 a.m. wake-up call, Scottsdale’s Hot Air Expeditions will take you vertically away for a bird’s eye (sunrise) view of the desert. Floating several thousand feet above the ground, this is an exceptionally peaceful way to start the day; the only sounds you will hear are the clicks of cameras and rustling of desert animals below, as well as the occasional use of the burner by your pilot. After landing, a mimosa breakfast is served while the crew puts the balloon and basket away. Back at the Phoenician, sign up for a (not quite so early) morning yoga walk that will take you striding and stretching across the grounds, passing by luscious green lawns and through the hotel’s cool cactus garden! Last but not least, a health adventure for two awaits at Second Nature Clinic in Old Town Scottsdale, where Dr. Meghana Thanki and staff administer IV therapy via single shots or cocktails—try the immune boost, including vitamins, minerals and amino acids to enhance your immune system, battle fatigue and repair your cells.
EAT + DRINK
Speaking of cocktails, mosey over to Hula’s Modern Tiki, also in Old Town, and raise a glass to being on holiday with your hoaloha. This colourful Hawaiian eatery serves tropical drinks like the Pink Bikini Martini (vodka with pineapple, watermelon liqueur, triple sec) and Lilikoi Margarita (tequila, passion fruit, orange and lime juices) that are share worthy—both in the friend and social sense. Head to Postino and order a bruschetta board, which allows you to try four pieces of toasts with toppings like: brie, apple and fig spread; fresh mozza, tomato and basil; and ricotta, dates and pistachio. Another good lunch option is Farm & Craft, where a seasonal wellness menu features four paths to optimal health, including an anti-inflammatory diet, increasing probiotic levels, maintaining high levels of antioxidants and reducing overall stress (offerings are delicious, too). Before dinner, toast your friendship with Arizona wines at Carlson Creek Tasting Room, then it’s off to savour the most delicious Italian fare by chef Gio Osso at Pizzeria Virtù. Our server helped us settle on the perfect classic meal for two: burrata with sweet figs to start, margherita pizza and pastasciutta with pomodoro and parmigiano. We were stuffed and, sadly, had no room left for dessert (the sign of an excellent meal).
SHOP + TALK
Vintage rules in Scottsdale; travelling pals will have endless fun uncovering preloved treasures within the secondhand scene—and chatting with the colourful players who star in it. First stop, the famed Fashion by Robert Black. Having turned totally to private shopping post pandemic, you’ll need an appointment to enter this Old Town boutique and peruse, with the guidance of staff (and likely even Robert himself), racks upon racks of the most fabulous vintage (designer, and other) pieces from the last century, in pristine condition. Need a bag to go with that 1920s summer dress? Walk just a few blocks to Vintage by Misty, where owner Misty Guerriero maintains the most dazzling collection of Chanel, Gucci, Hermes, Missioni, Pucci and Yves Saint Laurent accessories. In fact, the boutique recently doubled in size, making even more space for luxe finds and, right next door, Misty has opened a gift shop, Regency Modern, where she stocks candles, cards and all the gorgeous fashion titles you need to dress your bookshelf—in style. “The vintage side is my passion, the gift shop is my therapy,” she says. “People go in there an spend hours laughing at the humour cards; they tell me they come out feeling happier, and so do I.” Finally, also in the vicinity, is Luv Luxe handbag resale, where the authentic designer carrying pieces are lovely but the adjoining Luxe Bar ice cream and frozen yogurt shoppe may be the real treat, with appropriately themed menu items like the S’more Dior Please (graham cracker, toasted marshmallow fluff, chocolate drizzle), Birkin Bar (pretzels, caramel drizzle, sea salt) and Oh So Coco … Chanel (cake crumbles, powdered sugar, raspberry and white chocolate drizzle). You and your gal pal are guaranteed to walk out holding something—and dripping, to boot!