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.