After spending my first three nights in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale at the colourful boutique Saguaro I spent the remainder of my Arizona encounter at the sprawling Fairmont Scottsdale Princess. Picture a shimmering 65 acre oasis overlooking the Sonoran Desert and the majestic McDowell Mountains. The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess is a newly-redesigned retreat blending alluring Spanish-style architecture with a contemporary edge. The grounds offer a mystical landscape of lagoons, fountains, fire pits, colourful desert plans and expansive green spaces – a lush contrast to its Arizona desert surroundings.
While the property is truly massive, the resort design has been structured to create an intimate vibe where one feels as though they are strolling through a village. Highlights include 650 luxuriously appointed rooms, five award-winning restaurants and lounges, five sparkling heated pools, two championship TPC golf courses, 44, 000 sq ft Well & Being Spa, two modern fitness centres and five tennis courts.
After strolling through the resort I arrived to a cluster of Fairmont Gold accommodations which are located at the properties southeast corner. My 650 sq ft suite featured a plush king sized bed, two LG flat screens, L-shaped sofa sleeper, oversize bathroom with granite countertops and dual sinks, swoon-worthy soaker tub and separate spacious shower with glass door.
With its dramatic Spanish Colonial architecture, open plazas graced by fountains, and locally inspired art and decor, the resort offers a blend of comfort and style that captures the charm and grace of the Southwest. Rising from the resort’s beautiful Hacienda Plaza is Well & Being Spa, which also pays tribute to the Arizona landscape. Inspired by a hidden oasis deep in the Grand Canyon called Havasupai (hah-vah-su-pie), the design of this alluring spa is drawn from nature’s primary elements – air, water, earth, wood and fire. These essential elements, combine with innovative treatments designed to inspire and rejuvenate.
I arrive an hour before my treatment in order to give myself just enough time to poke around the expansive space. I spot a group giggling while enjoying a session of Aerial Hammock Yoga before heading to the spa’s rooftop where tan fans soak up the sun around a pool which thunders below creating a meandering waterfall and river system through the spa’s palm adorned al fresco backyard. I opt to indulge in the Well & Being Signature Massage, easily drifting away into a dream-like state as rhythmic massage lull’s and lime oil scalp treatment leaves me feeling fresh.
Sips & Nibbles: Scottsdale is Arizona’s culinary mecca with no shortage of fancy feasts for the discerning foodie. Enjoy finger-licking-good spicy ribs, pulled pork and beef brisket at Bryan’s Black Mountain BBQ. Celebrate an authentic Mexican bacchanal at Fairmont’s own La Hacienda. Indulge in an intimate “wandering Mediterranean” dinner at award winning Virtu Honest Craft.
First opened in 1951, the now famous Buffalo Chip Saloon has come a long way since its humble beginnings as a feed and bait shop. The original building was only 800 square feet while today it has grown to encompass 5 acres and is now ranked as one of the most authentic cowboy loving dance halls and saloons in America.
If you’re keen on having a Wild Wild West experience in Scottsdale be sure to pop by on a Wednesday or Friday night when brave cowboys put on a Live Bull Riding show as excited fans cheer from the stands set up in the bars backyard. If you prefer to dance you can spin your partner to the toe tappin’ sounds of Pick o’ the Litter. Friendly locals are happy to teach newcomers how to master the square dance. I find myself sitting in front of a few billiard tables sipping a margarita while my group huddles around a gas flame roasting marshmallows for an indoor s’mores experience. Flaming roasted marshmallows, rich Hershey’s dark chocolate sandwiched between two crunchy graham crackers. That’s heaven in a hand basket!
The following morning we were picked up by the friendly folks at Arizona Outback Adventures for a drive into the desert. We’d spend the next two hours paddling in inflatable kayak’s along lush green riverbanks and towering red cliffs. We floated down the relaxing, class-1 Lower Salt River surrounded by unobstructed views of four different mountain ranges. Flowing from the mountains in Northern Arizona, the Salt River is captured by four dams and released for use by Phoenicians and farmers. The area is teaming with wildlife and on my short adventure spotted great blue heron, bald eagle and a herd of wild Mustang which splashed into the river for a late morning thirst quench.
If you’re looking to get up close and personal with Arizona’s desert landscape hop on a horse to explore the cactus adorned open range with two handsome cowboys. Fort McDowell Adventures offers daily trail rides through 25,000 acres of spectacular open desert owned and managed by the Yavapai native community. Enjoy a morning on dusty Saguaro dotted trail and giggle with glee while marching through the Verde River on horseback. Splish-splash and giddy-up!
Beat the heat while finding refuge at Scottsdale’s quirky Musical Instrument Museum. MIM is the world’s only global musical instrument museum, with more than 360 exhibits featuring instruments from every country and territory in the world. Guests are able to see and hear the instruments in their original cultural settings through the use of state-of-the-art audiovisual technology including wireless headsets and high-definition video monitors that are incorporated into the exhibits. I had an hour to wander through the two-storey building, exploring exhibits which are broken into themed galleries: Geographical Galleries (Native Canadian indigenous flutes, Scottish bagpipe, Mongolian bells), Mechanical Music Gallery (cylinder music boxes, player pianos, mechanical zithers), the Artist Gallery (featuring an ode to musical icons such as Johnny Cash, Elvis and Taylor Swift) and the Experience Gallery which allow guests to touch, play and hear an array of instruments. That last one is a bit chaotic as kids go to town on massive gong and delicate drums. If you’ve forgotten to administer your child’s daily dose of Ritalin best to leave them here unattended for an hour.
Frank Lloyd Wright thought of Taliesin West as a home, workplace, and architectural laboratory. Design fans descend on the famous property on the daily to experience the splendor Frank Lloyd Wright created in the Arizona desert. Taliesin West is a National Historic Landmark offering a totally immersive tour experience. Guests are welcomed into every room and space – nothing on the tour is behind ropes or under glass.
Wright and his apprentices built Taliesin West out of the stone and sand that surrounded them in the Sonoran Desert at the foothills of the McDowell Mountains. Many of these apprentices (“the Fellowship”) who worked and lived alongside Mr. Wright still live at Taliesin West, as do the current students and faculty of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture – making Taliesin West an ongoing, vibrant community. Anyone interested in architecture or design will feel as though they are wandering through their own version of Disneyland while those curious to know more about one of the world’s most famous architects quickly feel as though they are traveling back in time and wandering through the breezy desert property with Mr. Wright at their side.
My visit to Arizona was a press trip coordinated by Experience Scottsdale. Flights, accommodation, restaurant visits and activities featured in this destination guide were complimentary.