Stop what you’re doing and book a trip to Scottsdale, Arizona. I returned to this famous destination in December of 2018 and I am so glad I did. There’s just something about this iconic place that is special to me, and frankly, the reasons are too innumerable to mention- but I’ll try.
First of all, flying into Sky Harbor International Airport is where the transformation began. I was there to host an episode of Beyond Your Backyard. My mind was squarely focused on creating the best television episode I could. I stared out the airplane window and saw the vast brown openness of this part of the country. Like you, I carry my own luggage, so after a brief stint at baggage claim, I was off to the rental car center to punch in the coordinates of the hotel. As I try to do on my travels, I arrived during the day before rush hour, so getting to the resort took about 20 minutes. The valet greeted me and the check-in to Mountain Shadows Resort was effortless. The saguaro cactus reminded me that the vibe here is unique. The dry heat was a refreshing change from NYC in December, and I was reminded once again that this trip was an excellent idea.
On this trip we stayed at Mountain Shadows Resort in Paradise Valley, which is a sister resort to the urban chic and very retro Valley Ho in downtown. This property has a very historic past, originally built below Camelback Mountain in 1959 but after a $100-million-dollar complete rebuild, re-opened with great fanfare in 2017. My room was spacious, and the bedding was very luxurious. But I’m not here to give a Trip Advisor review, I’m here to remind you that your lodging choice is just as important as the destination itself. I instantly felt this property embodied the free spirit of the West and the staff was as friendly as can be.
I first visited Scottsdale in 2007 and have been holding a slow burn candle ever since. My first day was an early start as we were whisked away for a hot air balloon voyage that was out of this world. The company we chose was Hot Air Expeditions and our Captain was fantastic. There is a reason this pastime is a popular one with both visitors and locals alike. After an eventful landing, a champagne toast was had by all in the desert and it was an excellent way to start the shoot. Also, on this journey we toured the Museum of the West and WOW, just WOW. We strolled along the downtown streets and dropped in on the art galleries. Old Town Scottsdale boasts world class art, especially along main street in the heart of the Arts District. We drove about 30 minutes from the town center and took a nature hike in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, where there are 30 acres of recreation and conservation area and miles of prime hiking and biking trails. Again, the sky was big, the vistas were gorgeous, and the work was simply easier and more fun because of the natural beauty. We had an excellent guide from McDowell Sonoran Conservancy Stewards and the Scottsdale official tourism bureau. We didn't have time to go horseback riding, off-road driving or play a round of golf. All of which win awards for exceptional experiences. Perhaps next time!
With more than 900 restaurants in Scottsdale frankly, I’m not sure where to start with the local cuisine. Every meal we had was bursting with flavor. The Mission was one of my new favorites. We also spent time with chef/owner Brett Vibber at Cartwright’s Modern Cuisine in Cave Creek. His passion for the destination runs as deep as the menu choices. Oh, and for breakfast, make a stop at The Hash Kitchen & Bar for eggs benedict made with a giant soft pretzel topped with thick cut bacon, two poached eggs, fried onions and a beer cheese hollandaise sauce.
Again, I cannot quite put my finger on WHY I am a huge fan of Scottsdale, I just am, and you will be too after your first visit. So, stop what you’re doing and book a vacation to Scottsdale.
If you are so inclined, watch the video to see how amazing it truly is! And PLEASE share your thoughts and questions about Scottsdale in the comment section below.
I am on a mission to get you traveling more often. As the host of the nationally syndicated television television for PBS and the Create channel, "Beyond Your Backyard," I travel (on average) 25 weeks per year. I am very grateful for the opportunity to meet cool people, experience new places, eat delicious food and work with the best production crew in the world. Hopefully, through this blog, you will join me on my travels and be reminded just how exciting it is to be alive!