Scottsdale, Arizona: Fun, Without a Lot of Sun
I usually like to head to tropical climates for some post-Christmas sun and relaxation. But this year, I had less time at my disposal so I decided to stick a little closer to home instead.
Hotel Valley Ho may not be the best name for lodgings, but this mid-century modern hotel in Old Scottsdale is in a good location and is very well priced. A party hotel during the warmer months, during my stay the property was relatively quiet. (If you are looking for a quieter room, ask for one in building 5. It’s away from the pool.) Breakfast at Café Zuzu was tasty, though the service was somewhat sluggish.
Hotel Valley Ho, Scottsdale, Arizona
There is no shortage of fine dining establishments in Scottsdale and there are enough steak houses to keep cattle ranchers in five states in business. Red meat isn’t my thing, and the one steakhouse we did go to (Mastro’s City Hall) is pricey and portions are so large that they verge on unappetizing.
I much preferred a few of the other restaurants I tried, including Cowboy Ciao in Old Scottsdale, home to a wicked margarita and the Stetson chopped salad, one of the best I’ve ever had. Zinc Bistro in Kierland Commons is a “European” bistro perfect for lunch. For a lively dining experience, try Sapporo. Decent sushi, considering you’re in the middle of the desert. The bar is the place to be during happy hour.
Stetson Salad at Cowboy Ciao (Photo: Cowboy Ciao)
The weather was fairly cool (3-4 degrees C at night and 10-15 during the day) and some days were overcast, so definitely not pool weather. Golf is a big draw here, but it’s not one of my sports.
Luckily, shopping is! Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter are large outdoor malls across the street from each other, and home to major retailers like Restoration Hardware, H&M, Apple, and Barnes and Noble. (You’ll even find Vancouver-grown Lululemon here.) Fashion Square is the biggest mall in Arizona and counts Nordstorm, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Barney’s as its anchors. Let’s just say one can do (and did) some serious damage here.
When you’re tired of the shopping and the wining and dining, check out the iPic Theaters in the Quarter. We pre-booked our reclining seats and then ordered food and a bottle of wine to our seats. You pay a premium – $27 US per ticket – but you do get free popcorn, a pillow and a blankie. It is definitely one primo movie-going experience. I’m a movie buff so it was well worth it, plus, is a lot more affordable than most live shows. iPic, come to Canada, pretty please!
To get the blood pumping I hiked Pinnacle Peak, a 3.5 mile trail near DC Ranch in North Scottsdale. The terrain is moderate but the trail is quite busy and I recommend a hat and lots of water if you’re doing it in hotter temperatures. Some great vistas of the area and well-marked local flora make for an interesting trip.
Checking out the view from the top of Pinnacle Peak
Desert flora at the top of Pinnacle Peak, Scottsdale, Arizona