Jessica Posel has had an eighteen-year career in marketing working with well-known brands and start-ups, but most of all she loves to write, travel, and discover new places. As our guest blogger, she shares one of her journeys to the Sonoran Desert and all the best spots she found there. @JessicaPosel, http://www.linkedin.com/in/
Arizona in the summer is a best-kept secret. Incredible resorts, tranquil spas, delicious bites, great off-season deals and jaw-dropping landscapes (the kind that make you go “look at that!”). So, I have a new love for the quick summer getaway, the resort-laden Scottsdale area.
My husband and I were looking to plan a somewhat last minute four-day jaunt. After much research, I couldn’t resist The Boulders, a Waldorf Astoria resort in Carefree, bordering Scottsdale on the north side. The rates were half of those of the Colorado resorts we considered, and the amenities looked incredibly better, plus they offered $25/day resort credits. I was in!
The trade off to all of this is that it is hot. And yes, it’s a dry heat, but it is hot nonetheless. Prepare yourself for that. It’s still worth it.
The Boulders looks like it sounds—boulder formations at every glance, incredible saguaro cacti, enveloping nature, plus the expected resort amenities—multiple pools, spa, restaurants, golfing, and shopping. We were lucky to stay on the fifth hole in a remodeled second floor of a casita. Be aware if you go that they expect you to valet and call their golf cart service to go everywhere. We are more independent than that and were pleased that the one self-park lot was close to our room. Request that if it’s a concern.
We enjoyed lunch at The Spotted Donkey – Mexican fare – located in El Pedregal, the marketplace at the resort. I found the quesadillas to be among the best I have ever had. Fun margaritas (of course) topped off our meal. This is not the place for shopping though, as there were few stores and most weren’t open.
So, we wasted no time getting checked into the Golden Door Spa for our massages. Because it was off season, we practically had the place to ourselves, and last minute upon arrival, I was able to add a pedicure on to my services at the time of my choice, no worries. I found the spa and its attendants to be at least as nice as most others and the outdoor area to be a real star, with magnificent boulders close in, a peaceful, private pool (one other person), a labyrinth walk meant to calm your mind and release your stress, and a delightful, fresh herb garden. But my highlight was one of the best pedicures I have experienced– relaxing, wonderful lotions and scrubs, and a long and perfect pressured leg and foot massage. We also enjoyed complementary smoothies, thanks to my Hilton Gold status (the property is part of the Hilton family).
I will warn you, the resort is super quiet. It’s the place to go to escape it all, slow down and enjoy your surroundings. I could have passed the hours away just on our balcony watching nature play below me. From Gamble’s quail to desert cottontails, to the ducks in the pond or the various birds chirping, singing, chasing each other, it was a natural delight within a beautiful backdrop.
Longing for a little bit of life after enjoying the tranquility, we took our two Hilton Gold complementary wine passes up to the club house’s Discovery Lounge. I was pleasantly surprised with The Boulders’ private label Pinot Noir. The bartender, Jenny, was a pleasure to chat with, and we enjoyed a good old fashioned round – or two, or three – of checkers.
A short drive from the resort, the Heard Museum North was an enjoyable excursion. The main Heard Museum in downtown Phoenix is renowned for Native American art. I found this smaller outpost to be the perfect size for our brief visit. While we didn’t eat at The Café there, its covered outdoor area and beautiful sculpture garden exuded charm.
For a diversion, we ventured into Scottsdale proper, as I was dying to return to Cowboy Ciao, a restaurant I discovered on a prior visit. It did not disappoint. I enjoyed their famous Stetson chopped salad and their birthday cake (flavors rotate– this time it was a brandy butter cake – yum!). I also enjoyed the lychee cocktail, although I found it a bit sweet. Their wine list is amazing, albeit a bit overwhelming. My husband indulged in the “BLT with TLC” and some locally crafted beers.
For interesting shopping, stay close to The Boulders in the towns of Cave Creek and Carefree. Cave Creek is an eclectic old west town loaded with unique shops as offbeat as the town. My favorite was The Lazy Lizard, a mix of new and consignment, which has lots of furniture, but also plenty of home accessories and even cowboy boots, jewelry and more. I took home a terracotta tortilla warmer and salsa bowl and scoop for $10 total!
Another favorite was the Black Canyon Trading Post. I fell in love with their local artist and the handcrafted clay necklaces for just $15 with a hand-dyed ribbons or $10 for the pendant alone. The Antique Emporium is also worth a look, which is where I found my vintage Vera scarf (ah, love it!). And Roxie’s Charity Boutique and Gallery, supporting Animal Guardian Network, offers an array of the latest feather styles for hair or ears and an impressive collection of consignment designer handbags. Needless to say, my suitcase was a bit heavier upon departure.
After enjoying all the sunshine, nature, spas and shopping, it was time to step into something a little less pristine and chow down on a burger from Big Earl’s Greasy Eats. Let’s just say Big Earl’s food, service and kitschy-ness were so fun, we were compelled to return twice during our trip – once for an incredible malt, and again for breakfast. (Fun fact: The movie Jolene featuring Dermot Mulroney was filmed there.)
From Cave Creek, we headed to Easy Street, Lucky Lane and Ho Hum Road in the neighboring town of Carefree, featuring the third largest working sundial in the Western hemisphere and plenty of photo ops. To beat the heat, we ducked into the newly-opened restaurant and bar, Venues, for some cold refreshment. Seated at the bar, I was pleased to hear it was always ladies happy hour. So, for $10, I had all the sangria I could drink. Given more time, I would definitely return for dinner. I was also charmed by The English Rose Tea Room. I only had time for browsing, but having tea there is on the To Do list next trip. At last, we made a stop at the AZ Wine Company in Carefree, picked two local varieties and enjoyed some wine and cheese in our casita for the evening.
Like most getaways, they usually end a little too soon, but we will return to the beautiful gem of the Sonoran desert that is The Boulders, or to one of the other neighboring resorts.
Thank you, Jessica!