Tagged Phoenix

El Dorado Scottsdale — Our Boutique Hotel Soul Mate

Written by Nadia Ibanez, Photos courtesy of El Dorado Scottsdale

El Dorado Scottsdale: It was Love at First Click

Every now and then, we come across photos of a new boutique hotel opening that we just absolutely fall in love with. We simply have to see the photos of the property on the website to instantly know that we need to visit immediately. We can tell by the hotel’s story and amenities that the environment is unlike any other boutique hotel we’ve seen before. Whether the space is a couple hundred miles away or in another state, we fall in love pretty hard.

How could you not want to ride one?

We only had to read a brief snippet about El Dorado and its grand opening in Scottsdale, AZ to know that we had found our hotel soul mate.  With beach cruiser rentals, shabby chic furniture blended with vintage decor, colorful three-bedroom suites, and an extremely inviting pool area, this boutique hotel in the heart of Old Town Scottsdale is just the type of off-the-grid destination that inspired this magazine.

The Courtyard at Night

El Dorado was originally built in 1960 during the height of the mid-century modern period and its 2012 revitalization definitely brings a nod to the era. The space is hidden within an alcove in Scottsdale, but is extremely close to the popular shopping districts and nightlife.

The Suites at El Dorado Scottsdale

We’re absolutely in love with the Garden style suites, which are decorated with retro chic decor and feature fully equipped kitchens, organic bath products, luxury bedding, and more. But we can imagine that every guestroom would lure us into never leaving. El Dorado just opened in late September and we’re finding every excuse in the book to drive out to Scottsdale for a visit.

For more information, visit http://www.eldoradoscottsdale.com.

Holiday Festivities and Hotel Deals in Scottsdale

The Arizona Holiday Tree, a Saguaro — Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

By Nadia Ibanez

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.


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.

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

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.


Check out the Ice Rink at W Scottsdale — Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

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.


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.


The Botanical Garden’s Las Noches de Las Luminaries — Photo courtesy of Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau

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.


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.

If you’re looking for a wintery destination without the sleet, snow, hail and rain, you must discover the best hotel deals in Scottsdale. To learn more about hotel deals and other holiday festivities, visit http://www.experiencescottsdale.com/one-night-free-in-scottsdale/.

From High Tea to Craft Cocktails, Here are Our Favorite Places to Drink in Phoenix

Written by Nadia Ibanez

From high tea designed by a tea maitre’d, to craft cocktails and healthy elixirs, here are our favorite places to drink in Phoenix and the surrounding area.


Liberty Market at Night

Just a short drive from Downtown Phoenix, Liberty Market is the perfect place to grab a coffee or glass of wine when you’re looking for a retro scene. Located in the quaint community of Gilbert, Liberty Market has a deeply rooted history. Drop by the restaurant for a coffee at its adorable E-61 Espresso Bar, or come in for a meal and have an Arizonian grown beer or wine. I recommend any white wine from Pillsbury Winery or a seasonal ale from 4 Peaks Brewery. The Market is also known for its house-made desserts so drop by the bakery case and order everything that looks appetizing.

The Salt River Bar from Liberty Market

Oh, and don’t forget to visit the bathrooms. They’re unbelievable.


Jeffrey Hattrick, the Tea Maitre’d

If you’re feeling a little fancy or just need a couple hours to unwind among crystal chandeliers and pop-music playing piano players, I insist you visit the Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix. Jeffrey Hattrick is the Tea Maitre’d in the adorable white, three-piece suit and bow tie. Whatever your taste buds fancy, he’ll be able to conjure up a tea blend that suits you best.

High Tea at the Ritz-Carlton, Phoenix

I recommend the White Tea Peach and the Provence – a blend of blueberries, berries, rose hips, hibiscus and lavender. And if you’re not sure about what type of tea you like, Jeffrey will be more than pleased to assist you.

If you’re looking for the full, afternoon tea experience, you must taste all of the food offerings. Jeffrey has managed to infuse nearly every food item with one of the teas offered, making for one amazing culinary affair.

Bites and Nibbles at High Tea

Go for the black currant chicken salad with a bergamot sage cream, served in a spinach cornet. The shrimp salad poached in a turmeric ginger tea served in a sundried tomato tart shell is also to die for, along with the goat cheese mousse infused with raspberry green tea.

I can’t say enough about the homemade scones. They’re unlike any scone you’ll ever sink your teeth into. Ask Jeffrey about the availability of the Provence tea-infused scones and make sure to try all of the accoutrements. The Devonshire cream, lemon curd and fruit preserves are out of this world and the chocolate bowls they are served in are delicious.

Scones with All of the Fixings

And if you can muster enough room in your belly for more decadence, the Ritz offers even more tea infused chocolates and cookies to cap off the experience. The roasted banana pana cotta with crushed coconut oolong tea topped with a roasted pineapple sauce is unlike anything I’ve ever tasted at a High Tea.

Tea-Infused Sweets


Inside Blue Hound, Photo Courtesy of Blue Hound Kitchen

One of the newest additions to the area’s bar scene and places to drink in Phoenix – and frankly, the gastropub scene – is CityScape’s Blue Hound Kitchen & Cocktails. The cocktail list look like something you’d find at your local speakeasy, but without the secret passwords. The menu resembles a novel and after several minutes of perusing, you’re bound to find something delicious.

Craft Cocktails from Blue Hound Kitchen

Try the Floradora, with gin, lime, raspberry syrup, ginger and soda. Or go for the Rising Sun, with tequila, lime, spiced pineapple syrup, lagunitas pilsner, and a celery salt rim. All cocktails are $10 or less, which is unheard of within the craft cocktail scene in Southern California, so try them all.

You Can Never Go Wrong with House Made Tater Tots

The food at Blue Hound is definitely not to be missed – and you might want some grub to soak up all of the alcohol. We tried nearly everything on the left side of the menu and recommend the Caramel Popcorn with butterscotch and ancho chile; Tater Tots with smoked bacon and a chive and French onion dip; Roasted Beet Salad with lavender cured feta, watercress and hazelnuts; and the Gorgonzola Flatbread, with rosemary, cured lemon and red potato.


Inside True Food Kitchen, Phoenix

Finding solace from the blazing desert heat is much needed when you’re traveling through Phoenix. Luckily, True Food Kitchen offers a menu of refreshing beverages and healthy bites to keep you hydrated and light on your feet. While the restaurant’s seasonally-inspired cocktail list is appealing, its Natural Refreshments are perfect when you’re looking for a non-alcoholic drink to guzzle down.

Try the Hangover Rx, with coconut water, honeydew and pineapple juice, or go for the Kale-Aid, a mixture of kale, apple, cucumber, celery, lemon and ginger. What’s nice is that all of these beverages are freshly pressed, so if you feel like adding a little extra fruit, or substituting one juice for another, it’s completely possible.

Refreshments at True Food Kitchen

If you’re in the mood for food, you can order nearly everything off of the menu and have no guilt about it. Based on Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, you’ll know that everything you’re eating is natural and good for you. For a light bite, go for the Edamame Dumplings and the Herb Hummus.

Taking a moment to get out of the heat and recharge is mandatory when you’re traveling through the desert. Luckily, Phoenix has a wide array of restaurants and bars to keep you invigorated. What are some of your favorite places to eat and drink in Phoenix?


Where to Rest your Head while Exploring Phoenix, Arizona

The Views Never Get Old in Phoenix

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.

Catching Aerial View of Phoenix Below, with Hot Air Expeditions

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.


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.

The Westin Phoenix Downtown at Dusk

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.

Guestrooms at The Westin Phoenix Downtown


Province Restaurant 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.

The Patio at Province

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.

Inside Province at The Westin Phoenix Downtown
Bay Scallop Ceviche at Province

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.

Spice Rubbed Shrimp Tacos from Province; Photo Courtesy of Cassandra Tomei


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 Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in All of its Glory

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.

Doggie Love at The Westin Kierland
Kierland at Dusk

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.

Art by Nelson Garcia-Miranda at deseo

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.

Shrimp Chicharron from deseo

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.

Mahi Mahi and Beef Tenderloin at deseo

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.

The Chocolate Cigar at deseo

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.

See you soon, Kierland…Real, Real Soon.




Summer Lovin’ in the Desert — Phoenix and Mesa, Arizona to be Exact

The Westin Kierland Resort & Spa

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?