I should know by now to never say never. I’ve said many a time that I’d never ever make a “Top 5/10/20/100” or “top anything” list and yet here I am making a Top 5 Scottsdale list.
When I arrived in Scottsdale, they actually had the most lovely packet waiting for me in my first hotel room, with 5 colorfully numbered cards. Alongside the cards was a request to use them during my trip to rank my experiences. It was such an adorably presented request, I wanted to oblige. Yet a day into my trip I knew the greater problem was not going to be breaking my own never rule, but rather playing favorites at all. Judging from the itinerary, I just knew I didn’t have a prayer of choosing my Top 5 Scottsdale things out of the many to favor.
So why am I now? Frankly, because I am a people pleaser. And because the more I’ve thought about it, the more I actually think it makes it easier for me to to organize ALL the thoughts I have about my experience this summer in Arizona. I could probably publish 20 posts about the trip but then I’d never ever catch up on blogging about anywhere else. And I have a lot of catching up to do.So without further ado, my Top 5 Scottsdale Experiences:
Top 5 Scottsdale – #1 Architecture!
I’ve been a fan of Frank Lloyd Wright‘s work for as long as I can remember. So of course visiting Taliesin West while I was in Scottsdale was my number one priority. (More on the tour itself in a future post.) However, it was the second architectural tour I embarked upon during my trip that really sealed the deal for me in terms of finding Scottsdale’s architectural climate at the top of my favorite things list. Cosanti was the studio and home of Paolo Soleri as well as a school. Since he passed it has also become a foundation. There is an incredible store on site selling his works and those made by the artisans who continue his traditions. They use the same molds and techniques that Soleri himself did. Like Wright, I believe he was far before his time. And though I am not a huge fan of modern art and architecture, there is something in the work of both men that — though modern in ways — is anything but. I’m not sure I can put into words what I was so enamored with at Cosanti but that is why I am sharing so many photographs of it. Perhaps you can see what I cannot spell out with words.
Top 5 Scottsdale – #2 Ace in the hole at Hotel Valley Ho
I mention Ace Bailey along with the Hotel Valley Ho because she works there as a concierge and a tour guide. But to confine Ace to only either one of those things would be seriously shortchanging this wonderful woman’s abilities and worth. She led us on a tour of the spectacular Hotel Valley Ho and on an architecture tour of Cosanti. By the last afternoon, I’d invited her to our farewell dinner and she had invited me to her home. It’s a place that’s been personalized to her exact specifications. A celebration of all the places she has been before and of all the people she loves and of course, includes a nod to all the interests she has.
If you’re in Scottsdale, my very top tip would be to track Ace Bailey down and befriend her for yourself. If you don’t adore her as much as I did, then you’ll be able to knock me over with a feather. After that, make sure you stay at the Hotel Valley Ho. And make sure you order the Toffee Pancakes (shown here) for breakfast. They’re TO DIE FOR. Also, make sure you stay in one of the tower rooms (also shown here).
Top 5 Scottsdale – #3 Singh Farms & Ken Singh
Ken Singh took a triangle patch of land that lies next to the interstate in rural Scottsdale and made it into an oasis in the truest sense of the word. It was a patch of land that was barren and had been declared “unfarmable”. If it were in the middle of the Sahara, I would be no less surprised than I was seeing it in Arizona. Such is the difference between Singh Farms, named in kind for its proprietor, and the surrounding land.
Arizona is a bit of a wonder in irrigation to begin with. Many patches of land that seem as if they should be nothing but sand, are, thanks to irrigation, abounding in flowering plants and trees. However in most parts of Scottsdale, you can tell that the land has been coaxed into an artificial state of green. Nothing about Singh Farms seems man made, even though it is. The true genius behind it, is that Ken did nothing more than revert back to safe farming practices. He simply put back into the soil what we long ago stripped out of it. Without pesticides, without man made fertilizers, without anything that wasn’t natural – now, it is an oasis. During the week, it is now a massive garden. On the weekends, it opens to become a farmers market and series of cafes and fresh-pressed juice stands. There is a pizza oven on site, a booth spilling over with fresh flowers of every type and kind you can imagine and children running through mists of water as if it were the best day of their life, with smiles you couldn’t wipe off if you tried. I challenge you to visit Singh Farms for yourself and not have a similar thought run through your head. That’s the man himself, just below, between myself and Julie from Table for Two blog. He’s as fascinating as the farm itself.
Top 5 Scottsdale – #4 Tacos!
When I visited Barrio Queen it was helmed by James Beard Award Nominee Chef Silvana Salcido Esparza. Just before this published, she announced her plans to split with the partners of Barrio Queen. I can’t imagine it without her. Don’t get me wrong, the tacos were AMAZING, as was the Horchata and the black bean dip, the guacamole that was freshly made table side (!!!!!!!) and the churros and every other morsel of food and drink. Still, it was when Silvana sat down with us, told us her life story and shared her life’s guiding philosophy with us that I literally cried. She is an inspiring woman and I will be following her career. Anyone that espouses this as their life’s guiding principle, is a person worthy of a following:
“With love, you can change anything.”
Top 5 Scottsdale – #5 Spa Treatments
I was blessed with spa treatments both at Sanctuary at Camelback Mountain and the Hotel Valley Ho. I now understand why so many people spend money on visits to the spa. BECAUSE IT’S AWESOME. I hate photos of me with my mouth open, smiling, but LOOK AT ME (in the middle of that group of 3 women) — I couldn’t contain my joy. And my feeling of being utterly and completely relaxed to the point of not even caring what I looked like in a photograph. IT WAS AMAZING. You need to book treatments at these spas the next time you are in Scottsdale!
There’s a whole lot more to still talk about. Stay tuned….
One of the things that I worried about was that it would be too hot, but it turns out that “it’s a dry heat” is so true. I thought that the summer heat of Scottsdale was more bearable than the humid heat of NYC. Still, it’s hard to convince people of this until you’ve been.
Scottsdale’s low season is actually occurring right now…which makes it the best time to visit if you want to score a deal. There are many to be had. The Summer in Scottsdale site is a great place to start with your planning. Rooms start at just $89/night.
My trip to Scottsdale was sponsored but as is true with every trip I take, I maintain full editorial control over what I publish about my experience and all opinions are my own.