Urbane Renewal


After a particularly busy month of work, I needed to escape and unwind. I needed renewal.

But where to go? The answer came in the form of an invitation to visit Phoenix. A friend of mine is in charge of public relations there, and he has for a long time asked me to visit. I always had an excuse not to because of other travel commitments and priorities. Phoenix — a sprawling Sunbelt city, conservative, older, and filled with rich retirees — why would I want to go there? I wanted renewal, not boredom.

My contact, Doug, asked at the right time. I had no other plans the weekend he proposed. Plus, a good friend of mine moved there recently, and I really wanted to see him in his new natural habitat. He could also help me research the gay and lesbian scene so I figure this was the right time to go. Off I went.

Best travel decision I’ve made in a long time! Phoenix is indeed sprawling, with a number of squeaky clean posh communities like Scottsdale and Paradise Valley. It perhaps skews a bit older and can be incredibly self segregating with whites in their neighborhoods, Latinos in theirs. There’s a lot of interesting developments happening in Phoenix that make it well worth a visit, however, including snazzy new resorts and urban hotels, a dynamic food scene, a fun, integrated (gays and lesbians together) nightlife, and new museums, including the stunning new and unique Musical Instrument Museum, a $250 million development displaying 3,000 instruments of a 12,000-instrument (and counting) collection.

There’s also the perennial attraction of its happy-to-be-alive weather (best experienced October through April), the gorgeous Desert Botanical Garden, which explicates and celebrates the richness of the desert Southwest’s flora and fauna, and the must-see and must-climb-if-you’re-in-reasonably-good-shape Camelback Mountain (see picture above).

I stayed at the InterContinental’s one-and-only resort hotel, the InterContinental Montelucia, a gorgeous Spanish-Colonial complex with several lovely restaurant options, including Prado with its emphasis on farm-to-table choices and Italian cuisine, and Joya, an elegant and very restful spa. I also stayed at the urbane Hotel Valley Ho, a sophisticated update of a famous 1956 property that fell into disrepair for a few decades. Its spa is also fantastic, but smaller and more a day spa than a destination spa like the Joya at Montelucia.

After climbing Camelback and having my sore muscles pampered at these spas, then spending a night star-gazing in the desert, I felt renewed and ready again for New York.

About The Author

In dot 429's words: "dot429's Travel writer, Ed Salvato, is highly regarded as a journalist and LGBT travel guru. Salvato's work has been published by some of the most important LGBT media outlets, including Out Traveler, The Advocate, Out Magazine, OUT & ABOUT, SDGLN.com, TripOutGayTravel.com, and PlanetOut.com. Ed's also the on-air call-in travel expert for the Derek & Romaine Show on Sirius/XM OutQ and Proud FM Toronto. Recently Salvato joined OutThink Partners, a communications and marketing firm, where he is excited to focus on travel, tourism, and the LGBT market." "Salvato is dedicated to connecting LGBT travelers with unique, interesting, and exciting experiences offered by hotels, resorts, and attractions that invite and welcome their business. Salvato is an active member of the dot429 professional network and editorial community." I've also been developing an expertise in social media. I have managed two large social media campaigns this year. One was for a $10M 3-week-long arts festival in Philadelphia (PIFA; PIFA.org) ; the other for Philly's 11-day Independence Day festivities (Welcome America; WelcomeAmerica.com).

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