When I planned our spring break getaway for this year I knew it had to be someplace for healing and renewal.
So, what better place than sunny, warm, and dry Arizona (although it wasn’t any of those things for most of the trip, but we’ll get to that later)?
We spent a little over half the trip in the Phoenix-area, mostly in Scottsdale. Then, we spent a few days at the Grand Canyon.
Phoenix Day 1
Our plane landed at 6:40am, so after we picked up our rental car, a bright red Fiat 500 (because, why not?), we drove to DeSoto Central Market. I chose this place, because of a drink called Teaspressa, which I saw featured on Shark Tank. It’s tea brewed like coffee and crafted into latte drinks. It’s available at Tea and Toast Co., housed in DeSoto Central Market.
Let me tell you it was worth the stop. Turns out tea brewed like coffee is pretty darn tasty. We also had a small breakfast and some time to rest and recover from the flight.
Our next stop was the Japanese Friendship Garden, which was only a few blocks away from DeSoto Central Market.
We arrived as the garden opened, so there were very few people there. As we made our way around the loop more people filtered in, but it didn’t take away from the experience.
I would definitely recommended buying the Koi feed for $1. That alone provided an hour of entertainment.
From there it was only a short distance to the Phoenix Public Market, a daily farmer’s market in the middle of downtown Phoenix. It was good to be in a place where most of the taste tests were gluten and dairy-free. We had lunch at the organic Cafe on site.
From there we drove to Papago Park. I’d seen images online of the “Hole in the Rock” formation and wanted to see it for myself.
It was an easy short hike up to the formation.
Our top notch hotel let us check in early. I definitely recommend Hotel Valley Ho in Scottsdale. I mean look at the room. Mid-century modern paradise:
Being up since 3am we took a catnap before dinner. After the rest we headed to dinner at Cien Agaves, a short walk from the hotel. Tacos, tacos, tacos.
Then, what I’d been waiting for all day - “An Evening with Ana Gasteyer.” I’ve adored Ana Gasteyer ever since her start on SNL. People have said I look like her and I take it as the greatest compliment. I love all of her SNL characters from Martha Stewart to Celine Dion. When I found out she was going to be in Scottsdale the day we arrived, performing at a venue only a short walk from our hotel, I jumped on it. The show was FANTASTIC. Two hours of songs and stories. As expected, she was brilliant and hilarious.
After the walk back to the hotel we crashed. It was a long day, but the perfect way start to our vacation.
Phoenix Day 2
We woke up early hoping to beat the Easter brunch crowd, but still had a bit of a wait at Butterfield’s Pancake House. I loved the waffle lights.
A major reason we chose Phoenix as our travel destination was spring training baseball. Zach is a huge Cubs fan, and while the Twins are my team, as a Chicagoan I back the Cubs as well.
Sloan Park is a small, well-kept ballpark, bustling with Cubs fans, both transplants and travelers. Our seats were in the first base deck.
In the middle of the game a swarm of bees attacked the center fielder and cleared some of the lawn seats. I got texts from friends asking if I was getting stung. Luckily, we were far away from the swarm.
At one point Clark the Cub walked by our seats. I had to get a picture with him and Zach.
The Cubs didn't have the best outing and lost to the Mariners 12-9, but it was a great experience.
For dinner we hit up a local restaurant called Brat Haus. Their food consisted of many different sausages. It was nice to eat outside.
The atmosphere trumped the delicious food with outdoor games, like giant jenga. And it was super dog friendly, so there were lots of four-legged friends roaming around. I took the chance to write on the giant chalk board wall.
An end to another successful day.
Phoenix Day 3
Road trip day started with breakfast at U.S. Egg. Another breakfast establishment with a gluten-free menu.
We took the scenic drive toward the mountains from Scottsdale to Apache Junction. There we took a stop at Goldfield Ghost Town. A fun tourist trap with the backdrop of the Superstition Mountains. Fun fact, the Superstition Mountains are the 2nd most photographed landscape in Arizona. Second to The Grand Canyon.
In the Ghost Town we took a tour of a brothel, took an epic old timey photo, and rode the train.
We continued on the drive to Tortilla Flat, a tiny town with a population of 6. The drive is one of the most scenic in Arizona and we stopped along the way for many photo ops.
It was a very twisty turny road, but Zach navigated it like a pro. Probably due to his mountain driving experience in Ireland.
We ate lunch at the famous Superstition Saloon with bar stools made of saddles and dollar bills covering every inch of wall space in the restaurant. Good atmosphere, but very little food for spoonies.
For dessert, we headed over to the General Store and had some famous Prickly Pear Gelato. It’s gelato made from the fruit of the Prickly Pear cactus. It was not Lyme Diet friendly, but I allowed myself the treat. How often do you get to eat gelato made from a cactus?
In the evening we took a stroll around Scottsdale, past the Arabian Horse Fountain in the middle of a shopping district.
We ate dinner at The Original Chop Shop Co., which quickly became my favorite meal spot of the trip.
Then, we walked along the riverfront on the way back to the hotel. Ah, palm trees.
We ended the evening with a lovely sunset.
Phoenix Day 4
Our last day in the Phoenix area started out with breakfast at Daily Dose. From there is was onto Ponderosa Stables for a trail ride. I’ve always loved horses, but since childhood, never really rode one. We signed up for the hour long trail ride.
When it came time to choosing horses, we made sure the wrangler knew we were beginners. One of my favorite moments from the trip was when they put Zach on a gigantic Clydesdale named R.J. My horse was a tall, white horse named Diamond. We held up the back of the line, because R.J. was the anchor. Diamond was a pretty slow old girl, but made me feel safe as we scaled up and down the rocky hills.
I can’t wait to do it again. Maybe next time, on flat Illinois land.
After the trial ride we took a break at the hotel before our next destination. We drove to Taliesin West, Frank Lloyd Wright’s southwest masterpiece.
We took the hour and a half tour of the property and learned a lot about the life and architecture of FLW.
For dinner, we met up with Zach’s aunt Margie, who calls Scottsdale home. She took us to a fabulous place called Tru Food Kitchen. The kitchen was exposed and you could see a ton of fresh fruit and vegetables.
Then, it was back to the hotel to rest up and pack for our next destination, The Grand Canyon (look for future post).
“We don’t have anything in common. You love horses. I don’t trust them. Their shoes are permanent. Who makes that kind of commitment to a shoe?” - Arthur Bach, Arthur (2011)