A warm-weather winter getaway that’s family friendly By Marguerite Cleveland
Phoenix and Mesa are the perfect holiday location for a winter getaway. Mild temperatures and resort hotels that are destinations in themselves and a short flight via Alaska Airlines (so you can utilize the free bag check for a case of Arizona wine) make this an easy trip to enjoy. This is foodie heaven with an up-and-coming wine region, farm-to-table restaurants, year-round fresh produce and agritourism attractions.
Where To Stay
The Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort is a desert oasis with a 4-acre waterpark that makes it a great choice for families. Room options are all suites, which gives families more room to spread out. Casitas with one or two bedrooms are also an option. There is a kids’ camp, giving parents with younger ones a childcare option. They have dinner sessions so you can have a date night on your vacation. Amenities abound with a full-service spa and multiple dining options. For more economical options, consider lodgings in Mesa like the Residence Inn by Marriott, which has larger accommodations with kitchens—a great way to save money while traveling. A substantial breakfast is offered each morning and included in the room rate. If money is no object, you can step it up to the super luxurious AAA Five Diamond Phoenician Resort, which has a three-story spa. The resort began an extensive renovation in 2016 that was recently completed. It is lovely with a fresh, contemporary vibe throughout the resort. Where To Eat The foodie scene in Mesa and Phoenix has really evolved with local restaurants serving farm-to-table food inspired by the vibrant cultural diversity in the area. The Bario Café is s smaller restaurant, so be sure to make a reservation. Chef Silvana Salicido is a five-time James Beard-award nominee. Her food is authentic traditional Mexican food and utilizes local producers as much as possible. It is subtle little things like adding pomegranate seeds to a fresh simple guacamole made from avocados left in big chunks, tomatoes, red onions, a hint of cilantro and lime that turns this dish into something special. Chiles En Nogada is a roasted stuffed poblano pepper filled with chicken, apple, pear, dried apricots and pecans covered with a delicate almond cream sauce garnished with cilantro, pomegranate seeds and queso fresco. It is an unusual dish packed with flavors that just meld together. Perfection. On the other end of the spectrum is Jalapeno Bucks, a dive joint built in old shipping containers nestled in the midst of an orange grove. Don’t wear good clothes because you are here to try the ooey, gooey, extremely messy peanut butter and jelly brisket sandwich. OMG! So good. Words can’t describe how something that sounds so strange can be so delicious! Don’t miss the excellent salsas concocted by Buck. It’s how he started and earned the nickname Jalapeno. Pick the size salsas that you want and order a bag of chips, served in a paper bag. The medium was grocery-bag sized! The mango salsa is a favorite and has a sweet and slightly spicy taste the goes well with the freshly made tortilla chips. What To Do The Fresh Foodie Trail is a great way to spend a day or two traveling to urban and rural destinations for those who love food. There are 11 stops on this culinary journey, and each will give you an insight into how food is produced. Visit everything from a vertical urban farm at True Garden to the Hayden Flour Mills at Sossaman Farms. The Windmill Winery is one of the furthest stops and is in the town of Florence. The drive gets you out in the Sonoran Desert with lots of old growth Saguaro Cacti. The farm is beautifully landscaped with a lovely wine tasting room. After the drive through the desert, it feels like an oasis. Most grapes are sourced from Wilcox, Arizona, but owner Harold Christ can grow Barbera grapes on his farm. Arizona currently has two AVAs, and the quality of the wine is very good. A case of Barbera can fly free if you fly on Alaska Airlines.
The Desert Botanical Garden has more than 50,000 desert plants on five thematic trails. The plants come from deserts all over the world, and the unique displays are so lovely. Plan your day to arrive when the gardens open so you can enjoy strolling before the heat of the day. For great views of the mountains, the gardens and Phoenix, you’ll want to hike to the top of the Sonoran Desert Nature Loop Trail. There are two shops, one a garden shop and the other a gift shop, that are worth a visit. A grow-your-own cactus in a box makes a perfect souvenir or gift.
The Musical Instrument Museum is an unexpected treasure. Rather than just statically display the more than 6,800 musical instruments that come from all over the world, the museum uses state-of-the-art audio and visual technologies to enhance the experience. Each visitor is given a headset with an audio tour; as you step up to each display you begin to hear a musician performing with the instrument and can observe the video as well—a truly immersive experience with incredible performances. Visit the Experience Gallery for a hands-on opportunity to play instruments from around the world. Music buffs will love the Artist Gallery with icons such as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, John Lennon and more modern artists such as Maroon 5.
A spa day at the Phoenician is a luxurious experience that will have you relaxed for days. Treatments are available for both men and women in the new three-story building which is home to the spa. Soothing music and soft lighting helps set the mood before your treatment. Arrive at least 45 minutes before your appointment so you can indulge in the Personal Spa Ritual, a 30-minute hot-and-cold contrast hydrotherapy which improves the benefits of your treatment. There's no need to rush after your spa treatment, as you'll want to take advantage of all the amenities such as an adult-only pool deck, where you can enjoy an alfresco lunch.
The greater Phoenix and Mesa area will have you feeling relaxed and refreshed after a nice winter break. Infusions of vitamin D from all the sunshine will chase away your winter blues. With amenity-filled resorts, an eclectic food and craft beverage scene, and tons of family friendly activities, it is the perfect destination.
For More Information
Where to Stay
Pointe Hilton Squaw Peak Resort SquawPeakHilton.com
The Residence Inn Mesa Marriott.com/Mesa
Where to Eat
The Bario Café BarioCafe.com
Jalapeno Bucks JalapenoBucks.com
What To Do
Fresh Foodie Trail VisitMesa.com
The Phoenician Spa
Desert Botanical Garden DBG.org
Musical Instrument Museum MIM.org