december of 2016, stephen and i traveled to scottsdale, arizona (as you may have read in some of my restaurant reviews). we wanted to go somewhere different – someplace that would get us out of the frigid new york city cold, but something that was also not our typical beach vacation. for weeks i hemmed and hawed over which hotel we’d stay at… vigorously googling the distance between the properties and our desired activities, instagram-searching photos from real (and recent) travelers, and talking to friends that had gone before.
what i really wanted were unparalleled desert views – a spa – luxury accommodations – and a true, authentic southwestern feel. scottsdale is a city, and while many of the hotels were beautiful, they didn’t offer the #desertvibes that i was hoping for. that’s when i found copperwynd resort & spa, situated about 30 minutes outside the city proper in fountain hills, arizona.
copperwynd is gorgeous to look at. it’s built right into the mountains. there’s a swimming pool, a lap pool, fire pits, tennis courts, a spa, a boutique, a restaurant, a state of the art gym (not your average hotel gym – this thing is huge and the equipment is top notch.) but my favorite feature at copperwynd? the smoothie bar. yes, you read correctly. there is a full-on smoothie bar waiting for you as you exit the gym. organic snacks, juices, sandwiches, and my precious protein shake: all at my fingertips. this would make sense, considering copperwynd advertises themselves as a “wellness retreat”.
but we wouldn’t be in the hotel too often… our itinerary was jam-packed! on day one we filled our tummies at cartel coffee lab and diego pops. then after a rest and a good workout in the facilities, we watched the sun set over the mcdowell mountains (see above photo!) and spent the rest of the night in. we had initially planned for a dinner at the four seasons, but between travel exhaustion and the hubby’s epic migraine, we decided to lay low so that the rest of our trip could be easy breezy – and it was.
the next morning we got up at 5:30am, which was surprisingly simple because of the time change. we made our way to hike lost dog wash trail, which is most amazing at sunrise. it was about five miles total, with some steep terrain beginning half way through, which provided an excellent workout. the desert landscape was gorgeous. tons of photo ops on this trail.
we finished our hike and went for a delicious pancake brunch, before heading to tour taliesin west, home of famed architect frank lloyd wright. this tour was so interesting. the grounds of this estate – now used as a prestigious masters program for the architectural elite – are crafted with precision. if you are lucky enough to be accepted into this program, you’ll be living outdoors for two years, in a hut you conceptualize and physically build for yourself. needless to say, not everyone who begins the program ends up sticking it out til graduation! my favorite aspect of mr. wright’s home were the entryways. when you walk into a room, it’s whatever. four walls, a ceiling…. the usual, right? in an effort to get you to fully appreciate a space, mr. wright built hidden doors that were low, and slightly cramped passageways that have you doing a bit of a zig-zag before the “ahhhhhhh” you feel when you finally enter one of his spacious rooms. a tiny bit twisted… and totally genius.
the weather was nice enough to spend the rest of the afternoon by the pool, before heading out to dinner.
day three began with a trip to the desert botanical gardens, where i had lots of photography fun:
…. and it was capped off with an amazing couples’ massage at our resort’s spa, dinner, and some dancing at the mint – where the music was on point. and did i mention it was a wednesday night? scottsdale knows how to party.
the next day was an epic one, and easily one of the best single days of a trip that i’ve ever had…. so i’ll try to keep this day’s recap to the bare minimum: it was another 5:30am wakeup call. this time we boarded an intimate van, and were led to the grand canyon by a very funny tour guide with no shortage of dad jokes. we stopped off in sedona to see the red rocks and explore which was super cool – but before you knew it, we were on the road again.
when we arrived at the canyon, the rest of our van was led to the south rim viewing point. stephen and i, on the other hand, were led to the maverick heliport. our first glimpse of this true world wonder was caught as we flew briskly towards the opening. all you see is forest until – just like that – the ground seems to drop beneath you and your vision is flooded with miles of clay-colored, magnificent natural beauty. it was the same “ahhhhh” you felt walking into one of frank lloyd wright’s rooms, except on the wildest, largest scale you could possibly imagine.
our 45 minute ride over and through the canyon flew by (no pun intended) and we met back up with our group to hit some viewing points on foot. i still can’t believe the grand canyon is real. on our way back to scottsdale, we drove through navajo nation, the native american reservation where many modern-day navajo live and work. while on their turf, we stopped at their legendary cameron trading post, where we tried some navajo fry bread (kind of like a funnel cake) and, of course, bought some turquoise jewelry, handmade right there on the grounds. my only complaint? i wish we had more time in navajo nation. i returned to the hotel and started googling all of my questions about our country’s native people. and then i passed out hard. what a long, exhausting, amazing day.
and now this brings me to our last day in arizona. we decided to close out our trip with another hike, this time at pinnacle peak. another 5-miler, this trail was different from lost dog wash because it was packed full of people. everyone knew about this trail… but we were still determined to make it to the grand viewing point.
then we headed to old town scottsdale to do some last-minute shopping, before the most epic dinner of them all (review to come!).
we dropped our mustang convertible back off at the enterprise (as i shed a tear remembering that car isn’t actually mine), and began our journey back to the east coast. arizona provided us with an unforgettable vacation, and we will absolutely be going back. if you’re looking for a gorgeous, affordable and fun getaway within the united states – arizona is chock full of pro’s as a must-go!