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.