Find Adventure and Contentment Close to Home

The Valley: Hanging upside down from blue material strung to rafters on the ceiling appeared easy, but looks are deceiving. While the chanting music was reverberating in my head, the situation demanded that I look at the world from a whole new perspective.

This time everything was different. I wasn’t on one of my far-flung adventures, I was home in Scottsdale, on a quest. There is a prayer we are supposed to say every day and the words mean: “Happy (content) is the person who stays at home.” I decided to find out if I could have the best of both worlds: stay home and have great adventures. Since Scottsdale is known as a resort town around the rest of the country, I decided to indulge myself at a local spa and try an aerial yoga class. While my flying yoga was a challenge, relaxing in a spa is easy and Scottsdale has a plethora of top-notch hotels to experience spa treatments and basically the royal treatment.

One place to check out is the Royal Palms, an elegant hotel that opened in 1948. It has catered to celebrities such as Groucho Marx, Helena Rubenstein and U.S. Presidents. Nestled against Camelback Mountain, it boasts stylish rooms tucked between lush gardens and citrus groves, not to mention a spa that always has new inventive treatments. The Royal Palms is also home to T. Cooks restaurant where the atmosphere is inviting and the menu offers tasty options under Chef Paul McCabe, who has recreated the restaurant’s signature offerings. Be sure to stop by the Mix Up Bar, which creates inventive, fun drinks with or without alcohol; be sure to try the ones with fresh fruit.

A real staycation means checking into a hotel in your own hometown. It feels funny packing to drive to stay in a hotel 20 minutes from your home, but the spectacular sunset from my room at the Phoenician Resort convinced me that it’s never a bad thing to pretend you are on an exotic getaway in your hometown. The best part is I didn’t feel rushed that I needed to see and do everything.

The Phoenician has a beautiful golf course, a sensational spa and tasty meals; my favorite was the never-ending, delicious Sunday brunch where everything from the smoked salmon to the fruit platters was scrumptious. I relaxed in the luxurious pools and took time out to feed the fish in the pond, which literally eat out of your hands.

Since the summer deals are so reasonable, my adventure continued at the Four Seasons Scottsdale where, on a clear night, the best adventure is a first-class meal in the form of a picnic under the stars where a local astronomer points out the constellations. If stargazing is not your speed, try the Spa Happy Hour where one can pick a few mini treatments either for the body or face. Either way the experience is delightful.

If you are looking for a mini-Las Vegas type of adventure without the five-hour drive, the Talking Stick Resort is worth a visit. It boasts more than 240,000 square feet of gaming space featuring slot machines, poker games and Keno, and it’s open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Every weekend is also a party with DJ entertainment and pool parties. The Talking Stick also hosts performers from all over the world to entertain guests and locals alike.

Another Scottsdale staycation option that is centrally located is the Hilton Scottsdale Resort &Villas. Guests can walk to nearby restaurants or try the Fleming Prime Steakhouse, which serves steaks and seafood. It’s great for wine lovers as it features 100 specialty wines by the glass. The Resort’s spacious two- bedroom villas offer breathtaking views of Camelback Mountain from your private balcony, or swim in the private pool dedicated solely to the villas. Both the main resort pool and the villa pool feature an Oasis Bar for poolside beverages.

I decided to venture south to see more of beautiful Arizona and found myself in the Westin La Paloma Resort and Spa enjoying mountain views and gorgeous relaxing swimming pools. Amazingly I was even able to sit still and relax and enjoy my book.

Staycations allow a person to take it easy. That said, there is an abundance of activities available in Tucson, but my favorite was visiting the Pima Air and Space museum. The museum, which covers 80 acres, consists of planes housed both indoors and a seemingly endless expanse of them retired to the field outside. It was overwhelming and hard to know what to look at first, from the fighter jets to retired Air Force One planes. Inside there are docents; many are retired Air Force members who are more than happy to explain the planes and the pilots who flew them as well as share their own personal stories.

About 30 miles from Tucson is a quaint artists’ village named Tubac, which is a real gem. The town boasts everything from Native American paintings and handmade jewelry to multicolored pots for the garden. I was shocked if not pleasantly surprised to find Elvira’s, a gourmet Mexican restaurant with décor straight out of the middle of Manhattan. Glass teardrops hung from the ceiling amidst Moroccan style chandeliers shaped like stars. The food was as much of a treat as the atmosphere.

Another resort to check out in southern Arizona is the Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, which is in a dreamy location about 30 miles outside of Tucson. It’s a great place for golfers to indulge themselves with the world-class Jack Nicklaus Signature course nestled against the Tortolita Mountain Range.
A fun and romantic option offered by the resort is “splash dinners.” Guests are seated in shorts at tables placed into the waters of the night-lighted Turquesa pool. Then they wade to their reserved seats partially submerged in the pool. A customized meal is prepared by the chefs of The Ritz-Carlton and then served by a wading server team. Dessert is personally delivered by a chef wearing the aquatic version of chef ’s whites.

Another interesting option for the whole family is geocaching, basically a scavenger hunt in the desert that provides expansive views and interesting points of interest to explore. The hotel provides GPS rentals and maps to find hidden geocache boxes.

Arizona is filled with magical places, but Sedona might be considered the crown jewel. I couldn’t help but marvel as I checked into the luxurious L’Auberge De Sedona. My room was a Vista Suite with an enormous balcony with an unobstructed 180-degree panoramic view of Snoopy Rock, Giants Thumb and Elephant Rock, the glorious surrounding mountains. I marveled at the gorgeous bathroom, which even had an additional outdoor cedar shower. They also have a host of cabins situated by the creek.

L’Auberge has the ultimate concierge service. They will plan gourmet picnic hikes, with a basket filled with a menu created especially to their guests’ tastes, and their romantic package is over the top. Imagine seeing this: From the entryway of your suite to the bedroom, red rose petals are sprinkled along a path leading the way to a heart created of petals on a bed. They will concoct special drinks with bites of homemade chocolate as well as fill the bathroom with lit candles and massage oils.

A must is a meal created by Chef Rochelle Daniel of the award-winning L’Auberge Restaurant on Oak Creek. The wine parings are impeccable as are the outrageously delicious courses, which include Scottish salmon and house-made pasta. Every detail is considered, and the desserts are an experience that should not be missed. The hotel is located beside Oak Creek, which is home to hundreds of playful ducks. These savvy ducks know there is a bucket of food left out for visitors to share with them while relaxing on the lounge chairs or swings.

A great place for a drink or lunch is the Enchantment Resort’s Che-Ah-Chi, which features contemporary American cuisine with a Southwest influence. It is set in its own mini-valley surrounded by tall red mountains. For the day-tripper, Sedona is simple; see all the sites and when you are ready to relax, take your picnic basket to Red Rock State Park. You can dip your toes in the crystal clear water and even swim in a small lake if you walk up the path toward the mountain. The scenery is extraordinary and for a mere $10 park fee per car, you can take the whole family on an Arizona adventure that will really make you believe that the person who stays home is content.

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