A Desert Oasis

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Scottsdale has become a perennial favorite for relaxation and has developed some serious cache as a premier foodie and shopping destination. – By Jason Sanford

Scottsdale’s golfing, spa hopping and art collecting scene has become renowned in the West—this, of course, without saying a word about its mighty dining, poolside and nightlife scene. Its beautiful surroundings, saturation of warm sunshine and bevy of activities make it one of the finest jewels of the desert—any desert—and leaves even its most ambitious visitors pondering what to explore next.

A great way to start enjoying all that Scottsdale has to offer is by spending some time enjoying the finer things in life, whether that’s with 9-iron in hand or slathered in aromatherapy massage lotions. One can’t help but get caught between the always-difficult choice of challenging hiking trails, acclaimed golfing, renowned shopping or relaxing the day away at one of the many decadent area spas.

Play and Stay

Golf is the foremost sport in town, and with dozens of courses offering challenging greens and winding natural fairways, lovers of the game will have plenty of places to tee off from. Talking Stick Golf Club is among the most well appointed golf destinations in the state, and even offers the challenge of both a North and a South course to choose between. Another pick-your-own option is The Phoenician Golf Club, a 27-hole championship three-course property located adjacent to Echo Canyon Park, making for a scenic and challenging outing that lets golfers choose which 18 of the 27 holes they’d like to play each particular visit.

When searching for the perfect place to stay in town, the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa is a well-appointed, 732-room retreat that seamlessly blends the traditional beauty of classic Arizona style with the exciting opportunities that today’s Scottsdale has to offer. Boasting a regal 27 holes of championship golf itself, playable via segway or climate-controlled cart, the backswing will never get rusty on the resort’s very own links. And after a good (or good enough) round, the Agave spa has everything needed to relax and unwind from the day’s pursuits, whether it be a classic Swedish massage or an immersive acupuncture and full body therapy treatment. Relaxation and reinvigoration are never very far away.

Also offering a memorable stay in town is the opulent Hyatt Regency Scottsdale, with a full service on-site spa and adjoining golf course at Gainey Ranch. The Firesky is another local resort that answers the call for a comfortable, enjoyable stay in a more modern, edgy Western setting.

But it’s Scottsdale’s restaurant scene, exciting nightlife and first-rate shopping that make it a glorious epicenter of hedonism for visitors seeking some fun in the moonlight. It is a place where innovative cuisine prepared by world-class chefs and served in unforgettable outdoor environments takes diners’ breath away, and simultaneously challenges them to try and save room for dessert. One of those innovative hotspots in town is Cowboy Ciao, where a markedly Southwestern menu is constantly repaved with the chef’s latest whims (as the menu itself says) and the unexpected can (and should) be expected on the plate. Another favorite place for a quaint and tailored dining experience is Café Monarch, also known as the Chris Van Arsdale one-man show, where aforementioned chef-owner shops, chops and prepares all the food that is served every single evening—perfect for impressing and sitting snug with your date. Scottsdale’s growing live music scene, bountiful happy hours and fantastic shopping also keep visitors feeling good and on their toes. A couple of the can’t-miss shopping destinations in town include the Scottsdale Quarter and Kierland Commons, where high-end shopping meets the beautiful natural environ of the desert.

Of course, hiking the picturesque McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Camelback Mountain or any of the hundreds of miles of other local trails is a great way to make room for the next great culinary adventure. Most local trails are easily within reach for a morning or afternoon adventure, and different trails allow for hikes of varying lengths and degrees of difficulty. Hiking is a favorite activity amongst the locals as well, including the unparalleled nighttime hikes when the summer daytime temperature is warmer. Nighttime hikes are the perfect time to spot wildlife such as owls and get chills from the braying of nearby coyotes.

Underdog of the Valley

The West Valley is the underdog of the area. However, more and more, it is becoming a booming sports and entertainment epicenter in the desert and recently added a brand new Major League Baseball Spring Training facility shared by the White Sox and Dodgers.

University of Phoenix Stadium boasts incredible fan amenities and the only removable real grass field. It has hosted both pro and college football’s biggest games, with a Super Bowl and a BCS National Championship Game under its belt. Also right next door is the home arena of the NHL’s Phoenix Coyotes, with a nearby shopping and dining district that keeps both home and away fans free from hunger and thirst.

Of course, those very fans will need someplace comfy to kick off their shoes and team jerseys after the big game. Glendale’s crown jewel for visitors is The Wigwam, a 330-room hotel that features four pools, a water slide, a sprawling wedding garden and an impressive 54 holes of championship golf to test even the most ambitious, seasoned competitors. The Wigwam is a historic marvel, beginning as the Goodyear Tire company’s personal ranch for its employees that worked the nearby cotton fields of the ’20s, before expanding and opening to the public as a hotel.

And when visitors have had their fill of amazing, challenging golf, they can explore the enchanting history of local Native American culture at the Heard Museum, stroll through an impressive collection of cacti and succulents at the Desert Botanical Garden or take their time perusing the shops and enjoying a drink at the Westgate City Center. The Westgate City Center is a central part of the vibrant retail area that surrounds the Glendale sports and entertainment complex.

Batter Up!

Baseball’s most devout fans flock to the warmer locales of Arizona to welcome back their favorite ballplayers and get a sneak peek at some of the fresh new faces on the team every spring. Smaller, more intimate ballparks host the markedly more casual fan experience, as fans soak in the mild springtime sunshine that bathes the valley, including both great seats behind home plate and lazy spots in the grass beyond the outfield wall.

Virtually all of the Cactus League ballparks are located within an hour of each other by car, making it easy to enjoy peanuts and Cracker Jacks while catching the home team—even if they’re playing on the road.

For those fans that have never experienced spring training, it is a must, as there is no better way to get close to the action and enjoy the game of baseball in a uniquely beautiful desert setting. LBM

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