It’s hard to believe that the holiday season is pretty much here. Us Southern Californians are still enjoying our Indian summer, while the rest of the world is experiencing torrential rainfall and the turning Autumn leaves.
One of our favorite destinations this time of year is Scottsdale, AZ. By now, the summer heat is heading out of dodge and local residents are getting back to their normal routines after leaving town to avoid the outrageous temperatures. To get residents and visitors in the holiday spirit, a few local hotels are offering some fun seasonal perks and surprises.
Here are a few of our favorite ways to spend the holidays in Scottsdale.
FOR SOME SEASONAL PAMPERING
The Hyatt Regency Scottsdale Resort and Spa at Gainey Ranch is the ideal destination if you need some pampering, while also getting in a round of golf or spa treatment. Take in the picturesque mountain ranges and modern architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. Stay three nights and you’ll get the fourth free, plus a $100 credit to use at one of the property’s restaurants.
We already fell in love with the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa when we visited earlier this year and loved adding it to our list of hotel deals in Scottsdale. Their range of kids activities, golf course, and unique dining options are perfect for the holiday season. Stay at the resort for four nights and you’ll get the fifth free, plus a $100 food and beverage credit.
FOR AN URBAN HOLIDAY GETAWAY
If you’re heading to the downtown area, you must make a date with the W Scottsdale. Holiday visitors get a fourth night free and the chance to experience CHILL, the city’s first and only outdoor hybrid ice skating rink. The hotel’s pool deck will also be transformed into a holiday-themed wonderland, with music and faux snow.
FOR FAMILY TRAVEL
If you are traveling through with your little ones, make a reservation at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess from November 27 to December 31 for the complete Christmas wonderland. Take in all of the festivities and lighting displays, including an ice skating rink and 40-foot Christmas tree with synchronized lighting and music.
FOR SOME OUTDOOR LIBATIONS
If you’re in the mood to take advantage of the desert scenery during winter, check out the Desert Botanical Garden’s Las Noches de Las Luminarias, a nighttime event that pays homage to the Southwestern tradition of lighting luminaries. From December 7 to 30, take a moonlit walk through the garden, where pathways are lit with 8,000 luminaria bags, while sipping on your favorite holiday beverage and listening to live music.
FOR THE ARTSY FARTSY TRAVELER
Beginning on November 8, the city’s inaugural Scottsdale Fall of the Arts will commence with a four-day festival celebrating the vibrant cultural area. There are more than 125 art galleries, museums and performance spaces in Scottsdale and it’s no wonder there is a whole art festival dedicated to the city. Visitors can expect auctions, live artist presentations, art walks, music, and more. Click here for more information.
We’re off to LA this weekend to walk the streets of Venice’s Abbot Kinney road, a couple different flea markets, Melrose’s shopping district, and more! And there’s even word about spending a few hours inside a Korean Bath House! We want to see the unique and vibrant nooks and crannies of LA that aren’t infested with out-of-towners. Where do you play in LA?
Send us your recommendations for restaurants, boutique hotels, shopping districts, flea markets, farmer’s markets, and wherever else you go in LA!
Written by Nadia Ibanez, Photos courtesy of Nobu Hotel
Two-thirds of the Wander team is heading to Las Vegas this weekend to celebrate Karina’s last few weeks of singledom. Why not toast to a fantastic Bachelorette party with a sneak peek into Sin City’s newest additions set for this October.
Nobu Hospitality’s partners Chef Nobu Matsuhisa, Robert De Niro and Meir Teper have teamed with Caesars Palace to open Nobu Hotel. The first of its kind under the Nobu brand, the new hotel will offer hip luxury with its 180 rooms and make way for the largest Nobu Restaurant and Lounge in the world with more than 11,000 square feet of dining space.
Once the hotel opens later this year, guests can expect design elements like wood tiles; smart touch-screen elevators that use algorithms to get visitors to their destination quicker; carpets that resemble cherry blossoms and Zen gardens; in-room custom calligraphy; and origami-inspired fixtures. The natural and elegant designs within the Nobu aesthetic are promised to blend seamlessly against the Vegas backdrop.
The suites and bathrooms have caused our ears to perk up a bit once we got a peek into what to expect inside. We’re counting down the weeks until we can reserve our own room and take advantage of oversized walk-in showers, luxury bathroom amenities designed specifically for the hotel, bedside essential oils, and a minibar with blood orange chili juice and chocolate-dipped Pocky pretzels.
One of the other great perks of staying at Nobu Hotel is priority seating and 24-hour access to the Nobu restaurant, along with the first-ever in-room dining menu. We already have our eye on the High Roller bento box, which features lobster wasabi, Wagyu steak, spicy garlic shrimp and an assortment of nigiri and special sushi rolls.
When you think of Phoenix, Arizona, I’m sure the last thing that comes to mind is: “Hey, let’s go fly/drive out to the desert in the middle of summer and run around town in 114 degree weather!”
Well, if you are a seasoned traveler, you know that desert destinations offer their cheapest rates during the summer. Locals take advantage of cheap rates while planning staycations and out-of-town guests capitalize on affordable offers to try something new for half the price.
We were invited to spend the week out in Phoenix to celebrate the Summer Solstice – the longest day of the year – and to see how the Valley of the Sun has changed over the last few years. Read on about our favorite places to stay, eat, see and play.
WHERE TO STAY DOWNTOWN
On my first night in Phoenix, I had the pleasure of staying in one of downtown Phoenix’s newest hotels, the Westin Phoenix Downtown. I had a late flight in and luckily the hotel was only a few short minutes away from the airport. I’m a sucker for any hotel under the Starwood Hotel Group and the Westin Phoenix offers all of the standard luxuries that Starwood Preferred Guests have come to love and expect.
Even after a short flight, Westin’s Heavenly Bed was a godsend and reminded me of the importance of spending a little extra to stay at a luxury hotel. After walking around the block for a bit – mind you, in 90+ degree weather at 10:00 p.m., I stumbled across the hotel’s elevated pool deck to take in the sights and Executive Lounge for a little dessert and refreshments. Some SPG members are granted access to these lounges and I highly suggest taking advantage if you need a place to work and focus while on vacay. There are complimentary drinks and snacks throughout the day and night.which come in handy pretty often if you plan on spending a good amount of time in the hotel.
DINING AT THE WESTIN PHOENIX DOWNTOWN
The Westin opened in March 2011 and is also home to Province, a seasonally-inspired, Latin-influenced restaurant that shops local and organic. The original Province is in Chicago and is the perfect place for cocktails and light bites, or for a full-on meal.
If the weather isn’t scorching, grab a seat outside on the beautiful patio, which has a huge water feature with water trickling down from the infinity pool above. Drop by the lounge for some grub and grog, or sit down in the vibrantly-colored restaurant. Province’s signature pink, cork-topped tables, living walls and whimsical menu holders are girly, yet sophisticated.
To escape from the summer heat, go for the Chilled Gazpacho or Bay Scallop Ceviche. Lucky for me, the restaurant’s house Dirty Martini comes with olives stuffed with blue cheese and chorizo. Heaven. We also tried the Watermelon and Tomato Salad and Flatbread with Chorizo, Manchego Cheese, Olives and Greens. Everything on the menu looks amazing and we can’t wait for our next visit to try the rest of their offerings.
WHERE TO STAY WHEN YOU NEED AN OASIS
At the tail-end of our trip, we spent two nights at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa on the border of Phoenix and Scottsdale. This beautiful resort in the Sonoran Desert sits on neatly 200,000 sq. ft. and is perfect for business, pleasure, hosting events, and pretty much anything else your heart could desire.
The family- and pet-friendly resort offers a golf course, full-service spa, lazy river and pools, a Scottish pipe performance everyday at sunset, a private patio or terrace with every room, and so, so much more. We also couldn’t help but love the special doggy welcome gifts, including a Westin Heavenly Dog Bed, ID tag, and eating dishes.
The dining options are enormous at the Kierland. We checked into the hotel in the late afternoon and were greeted with tables full of chocolate cakes, pies, cookies and brownies at the Lobby Dessert Bar, Sweet Shoppe. Drop by for a treat after dinner, or order something special and have it sent to your hotel room for a before-bedtime treat.
We had dinner at deseo, an upscale restaurant inspired by James Beard Award-winning Chef Douglas Rodriguez. We were greeted with refreshing watermelon, mango and berry mojitos upon walking in, along with a gorgeous art exhibition in the lobby by resident artist, Nelson Garcia-Miranda. His beautiful paintings are strewn about the lobby, bar, restaurant and bathrooms and you can watch Miranda paint live during the restaurant’s Unwind Hour.
I suggest you start off with the Millionaire Tacos, which are little bites of lobster, ahi and Japanese Hamachi served in a yucca taco shell. The Brazilian rolls are to die for and are perfect with the cactus-shaped garlic butter. The Shrimp Chicharron is also amazing and resembles a lightly battered and fried shrimp in an Aji Amarillo sauce served with endives and with pickled jalapeños.
The Yuca Wrapped Dorado al Ajillo makes a fantastic entrée and features a beautiful piece of Mahi Mahi with roasted garlic, amaranth and shaved calamari. If you’re in the mood for meat, go for the Beef Tenderloin “Churrasco Style,” which is grilled to perfection and topped with a fresh horseradish chimichurri, served with a bit of crab mojo, Peruvian potato, and tomato.
You MUST save room for dessert when you dine at deseo. We sunk our teeth into the restaurant’s signature Chocolate Cigar. A chocolate cake rolled in ground hazelnut served with cappuccino gelato and an edible matchbook with a cookie cover and marzipan matches.
Kierland has a few other casual dining options and even its own Scottish-influenced gastropub, Brittlebush Bar & Grill. Drop by after golfing for a scotch tasting and indulge in some of their signature items like the warm pretzels or Un-Fondue, which is artisan sausage and dried fruit smothered in a cheese sauce and served with country bread. We didn’t get a chance to dine at Brittlebush but we’ll for sure be ordering the lobster claw Mac & Cheese and Tandoori Chicken when we visit again.
One of the newest programs for the Westin brand is Gear Lending. If you don’t have to room for workout shoes and gear in your carry on, or just find an hour for yourself to sweat on the treadmill, Westin lets you rent a set of New Balance shoes and workout clothes for $5 or SPG points for your use during your stay.
When you stay at a Westin, they really do think of everything and can accommodate nearly all of your wishes. This was my first time back to Phoenix in more than 15 years and I can’t wait to check out the other hotels in the area on our next visit. Stay tuned and read on about our other favorite places and things to do in Phoenix.
We’re honored to have been invited to visit the Phoenix/Mesa, Arizona area this summer! The fine folks over at VisitPhoenix.com will be welcoming us to the area in June to see the region in what people say is the hottest month for the deserts.
In partnership with the Mesa Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Summer Solstice “Wellness” Tour is full of things right up our alley. The beautiful Westin Kierland Resort & Spa will be hosting most of our stay, along with another downtown hotel property that is still under wraps. We’ll be treated to holistic spa treatments at Agave, The Arizona Spa and the wellness doesn’t end there.
We’ll be dining at some the region’s best restaurants and noshing on locally sourced meals. We’ll get our tree pose and downward dogs on during a mountainside yoga session. We’ll visit Arizona’s only family-owned olive mill and farm (where you better believe I’ll be searching for the best olives for dirty martinis when I get home). We’ll get to kayak down the Salt River. And then we’ll round it all off with a night at the ballpark – hot dogs and beer included.
We don’t have the full itinerary as of yet, but if we’ve learned anything from press trips, it’s that there’s much food and frolicking involved. And we’re 100 percent ready to beat the heat, while enjoying what these cities have to offer.
Stay tuned for our stories about our adventures in Arizona as this trip is poised to be unforgettable. What’s everyone else have planned for summer vacation?