Thousands of Western Canadians seeking reprieve from the chronic wet and cold flock to the Arizona desert each winter. Affectionately known as “snowbirds,” they can usually be spotted out of their natural habitat, sipping cocktails by resort pools, or teeing off for a round of golf as the sun rises against the famed Arizona sky, which has to be seen at both sunrise and sunset to be fully appreciated.
The flight from Vancouver to Phoenix, Southern Arizona’s central aviation hub, is less than three hours, and upon arriving at Sky Harbour International, the options abound.
For instant gratification and pure tranquility seekers, Scottsdale is an affluent suburb of Phoenix less than a 20 minute drive from the airport, and is a desert oasis without extra travel beyond the greater Phoenix area. Sun and golf seekers migrate to The Phoenician – the only Forbes Five Star and AAA Five Diamond hotel in the greater Phoenix area.
It is a world-class resort with an 18-hole golf course, gourmet restaurants, spa, fitness centre – all the qualifying components for a winter anchor drop – and long stays are available. Meanwhile, nearby old Scottsdale has a few hidden gems to discover.
On the town in Scottsdale:
Scottsdale’s Museum of the West tells the tales of the iconic region. Rotating exhibitions on loan from some of the world’s foremost collectors and institutions are showcased at this Smithsonian Affiliate.
Merkin Vineyards Old Town Scottsdale: Merkin Vineyards is on a mission to deliver a 100 per cent Arizona experience. It is focused on highlighting regional,
sustainable varieties. All the wines are produced from 110 acres of estate vineyards in the Verde Valley and Willcox regions of Arizona.
FnB: This culinary innovator is tucked in an enclave off E 5th Ave. Chef Charleen Badman is a recipient of the James Beard Foundation’s 2019 Best Chef Southwest award and is known for her locally sourced, elevated
An hour and a half drive south (self-drive itinerary with car pickup from Phoenix Sky Harbour recommended) beyond Scottsdale, is a desert adventure with epic landscape scenery for those who want to push beyond escapism and experience the mystic Sonoran desert.
Nestled at the base of the Santa Catalina Mountain Range, Hacienda Del Sol is a relaxing refuge with a storied past. Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn are among many of the famous names who've strolled the grounds of this sleek, apartment-style resort, which underwent a redesign in 2015, but maintains its traditionalism. It is included in the National Registry of Historic Places in Arizona and is a member of Historic Hotels of America. The vista views from the infinity pool will mesmerize, especially at sunset.
On the town in Old Tucson:
Sand-Reckoner Tasting Room: This Willcox-based winery’s flagship tasting room is in Tucson’s Warehouse District, and is the only place where you can find their entire lineup of local wines.
Anello is a warm and bustling small room serving wood-fired, hand-tossed pizzas that reminisce Venice’s culinary scene, infused with a taste of Arizona’s signature local spices.
The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum is a zoo, an aquarium, a botanical garden and an art gallery, with 230 animal species displayed in their natural habitat surrounded by 1,200 types of plants. If you want to understand the vibrant Sonoran Desert, here’s where to start.
Mission San Xavier del Bac: This Catholic mission, built in 1783 and located about 10 miles south of downtown Tucson, is the best example of Spanish Colonial architecture in the United States, and captures the beauty and history of this place.
American poet laureate Lucille Clifton said, “the ones who live in the desert, if you knew them you would understand everything.” A bold statement, but, if you are emboldened enough to experience the epic Sonoran desert and to soak in the Arizona sky’s most magnificent colours, you’ll surely carry some home with you.