Arctic blast. Blizzard. Whiteout conditions. Snow days. I’ve had enough! This winter has been brutal and if I believe the latest viral posts on Facebook, I have to “hang in there for 35 more days” until spring arrives. I cannot get out of the Northeast quick enough!
Well & Being Spa at Fairmount Scottsdale Princess, Scottsdale Arizona Michele McIntyre
It’s the traditional February break for school kids, a tradition that dates back to the 1970’s when schools would close for a week in the winter to help defray heating costs. If you’re stuck at home in a snow globe (and don’t happen to be fond of wind chills that are 20 degrees below zero), February break can be a tough pill to swallow. By Tuesday, you’ve done all the indoor and outdoor activities you and the kids can handle and you’re ready to ship them back to school. The solution: travel!
Our destination is Scottsdale, Arizona. My travel companion? My 12-year old son who is more than halfway to 13. We’ll be visiting family, seeing the sights and checking out what Scottsdale has to offer for the almost teenage set. This age group can be tricky: they’re too old to enjoy activities for younger kids, they’re aging out of most kids clubs (which typically end at 12) and their appetites often exceed portions on kids menus. Plus, prying their electronic devices out of their hands can get exhausting. We’re in search of interesting, active and interactive activities that can hold the attention of an almost teen.
When we land in Phoenix within a few minutes of schedule, I’m simply amazed. The northeast was a mess when we left with cancelled flights stacking up like pancakes on a Sunday morning. We high five each other. Ten months of planning and we’re beyond thrilled to be here.
Here is where to stay, what to do and where to eat in Scottsdale with a ‘tween or young teenager:
Fairmount Scottsdale Princess
Stay: My son and I have a special place in our hearts for the AAA Five-Diamond Fairmont Scottsdale, having stayed here for a week in 2011 when he was 8. You can click here to read about our previous visit. It was perfect for both of us then, but would it live up to our memory? Would the resort meet the needs of a 12-year old? We arrive in the dark so the exploration will have to wait until morning.
We’re staying in room B4090, a deluxe room with a beautiful view of the golf course and lagoons. I love everything about the room, but the spa-lover in me notices the fluffy towels, the high end bath products and the robes. The robes in the guest room might be my favorite robe. Ever. The are the perfect weight with no bulk and a subtle stretchy fabric. It is perfection in a robe.
The luxury quotient at the Fairmont Scottsdale is high and the service is excellent. I sleep well in the plush bed, but I’m too anxious to have a look around to stay in bed past first light. Besides, I know that in 168 hours I’ll have to pack up and head back to the cold. I want to make the most of every minute in this beautiful climate. I can sleep when I get back to winter!
Spa: It’s 62 degrees when I wake up and I can’t wait for my skin to feel the warmth. I throw on a pair of running shorts, grab my bathing suit and head for the spa.
At the Well & Being Spa, I dutifully head to the sparkling clean, brightly lit fitness center with plenty of modern equipment. Shhh. Don’t tell my trainer back home, but this is the only workout I will make time for on this trip. Sweat accomplished, I make a beeline for the rooftop oasis pool. I float weightlessly under a sky that I can trust never to drop snow or ice on me. I take photos on my iPhone and make a mental note of the images that I can call on and refer to once back in the arctic. The spa offers plenty of amenities: aerial yoga, a spa cafe in an enclosed atrium and healthy snacks and beverages. Standing under the waterfall in the outdoor relaxation pool for what seems like an eternity, the warm water pummels my shoulders which are sore from endless hours in a cramped airline seat. It all comes back to me how much I love it here.
Play: For ‘tweens: The Trailblazers Kid’s Club is for kids ages 5 to 12, but this property offers plenty for older kids too! There is a recreation center with all the stuff that older kids like to do: Playstation, classic arcade games and board games or rent poles to fish in the stocked lagoons. Animal-loving teens can learn about the desert animals. And the pools will keep kids busy for hours. Sonoran Splash is where we spent most of our time enjoying the two 200-foot twisting water slides. The East Pool offers a variety of activities throughout the day.
Eat: Take a free resort shuttle to Toro Latin Restaurant and Rum Bar at TPC Clubhouse. The table-side bread service alone is worth the trip. The best thing I ate in Scottsdale was Pan de Bono – a gluten free traditional Columbian bread made with yuca flour. These little discs are crusty on the outside and sweet and soft on the inside. Toro serves the bread in little mesh baskets with garlicky salsa. I’d also recommend the parmesan crusted sea scallops and the chipotle pork belly mac and cheese – the best macaroni and cheese I’ve ever eaten.
Bottom line: You can always count on impeccable service in a traditional inspiring setting at the Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.
Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia
Stay: At the Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia, we are in room 1123 with stunning views of Camelback Mountain from our balcony. Our guest room has a rich color palette of jewel tones in gold, red and blue. The bathroom is fit for a queen with an oversize shower, separate soaking tub and rich wood features and fixtures. The property is long and narrow, made up of several two-story buildings that line a gorgeously landscaped path that circles the perimeter of the property and all lead back to the common dining, shopping and family swim areas.
Eat: Breakfast on the terrace at Prada on the terrace with splashing fountains in the background. I’d recommend the perfectly prepared Eggs Benedict.
Play: Kids will love the cool water fountain in the Kasbah pool and the gelato in Crave. This resort is a great location for spotting wildlife. At night, the stars will shine brightly thanks to Paradise Valley’s dark sky ordinance designed to control the use of outdoor artificial illuminating devices emitting rays into the night sky which have a detrimental effect on astronomical observations.
Spa: Moms love Joya Spa. Oh boy do we love this spa! From the moment you walk through the doors you’re in for a transforming experience. This is no quick in and out spa, but rather a luxe hideaway to be savored. You’ll want to spend a few hours at the blissfully adults-only Oasis pool, utilizing the unique water features such as the cold plunge shower and the hammam and relaxing in the whisper quiet room on comfy beds surrounded by gauzy privacy drapes. Treatments are as blissful as the surroundings. Don’t miss the Joyambrosia Signature Body Polish if you want to have the softest, best smelling skin ever.
Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa
Stay: At its core, Sanctuary on Camelback is hip, trendy and sexy thanks to dual shower heads, a pass-through window from the bedroom to the soaking tub and plush bathrobes and slippers. We stayed in a Mountain Vista Suite (room 203) which is perfect for families with its living-dining area, wood-burning fireplace and kitchen alcove with microwave and mini-fridge for storing and preparing snacks. The property is simply stunning, perhaps one of the most visually stunning properties in the greater Scottsdale area. Opened in 2001, this resort has aged very well. A night here is intensely spoiling: Frette linens, abundant space and the utmost in privacy. Daytime delights with mountain views and impeccably landscaped pathways. Nighttime is more dramatic with killer views of the lights of Paradise Valley below, fire features and softly lit walkways.
Eat: Jade Bar offers a menu that adults will crave plus a kids menu for familiar favorites. I’d recommend the chinois chicken salad with smokey fried chicken, oranges, carrot, scallions and a sesame soy dressing. For a cocktail as fresh as just-picked citrus fruit, the grapefruit basil will not disappoint.
Play: While this property might be more suitable for older teens, there are still pockets of ‘tween-friendly amenities, like floats and noodles in the horizon-edge pool and kids menus in the restaurants.
Spa: It felt remarkably indulgent to linger in the eucalyptus steam room and soak in the whirlpool tub in a light-filled atrium. Sanctuary spa is built around a central courtyard with reflecting pools, rocks and sculptures, merging nature with architecture. The spa is as zen and tranquil as you want it to be but it’s also quite social. The citrus lavender softening scrub is a contrast of awakening citrus and relaxing lavender in a full body exfoliation and hydrating lotion application. My therapist Debbie delivered a perfect treatment with a thoughtful surprise: warm Comphy Company sheets to drape over me.
Well & Being Spa at Fairmount Scottsdale Princess, Scottsdale Arizona Michele McIntyre
What I love about Sanctuary Camelback is its cool chartreuse color scheme. Hardly a single item deviates from this theme: robes, locker keys, benches, room keys and in-room sandals. Every amenity is branded in Sanctuary’s signature color.
Westin Kierland Resort & Spa
Stay: I’ve driven by the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa and always wondered what it would be like to stay here. This hotel blends manages to blend corporate and leisure travelers in a seamless way. It’s hip enough for adults and cool enough for kids. We have an 11th floor balcony room (1147) with killer views of the golf course and surrounding mountain ranges. The hotel is located within walking distance of two of Scottsdale’s premiere shopping, dining and entertainment districts: Kierland Commons and Scottsdale Quarter.
Eat: Don’t miss the breakfast buffet in Nellie Cashman’s Monday Club Café. It’s reasonably priced, has something for everyone and will fill you up well past lunch. I’m still craving the chocolate croissants.
Play: Kids will love the lazy river and 110-foot water slide and Kierland Flowrider. In the lobby, there are snake and Gila monster habitats that always draw a crowd. The FUN team at the OK Corral provides the kids with hours of fun through exciting, structured activities. Every Friday and Saturday nights families gather around the Kierland Campfire to roast Arizona S’mores. The best part? Guests of the hotel who are paying a resort fee can enjoy this amenity complimentary. Adults will love the nightly sunset celebration in Dreamweavers Canyon where a bagpiper plays traditional Scottish tunes while guests enjoy cocktails, light bites and the views. Do not miss this event that is unique to this property.
Spa: Agave, The Arizona Spa offers treatments inspired by traditional practices handed down through many of Arizona’s native cultures as well as therapies infused with healing traditions from the Far East.Agave features 20 treatment rooms, a movement studio, WestinWORKOUT® fitness studio, men’s and ladies’ locker rooms with a whirlpool, sauna and steam room, juice bar and a full-service salon
What to do in Scottsdale
Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West – This newly opened museum of the history of the American West is a western history buff’s dream. Teens learning American history can relate the exhibits to their coursework. We found helpful curators, interactive exhibits and a fun selection of saddles, spurs, and other quintessentially western items like guns and and weapons.
Taliesen West – A National Historic Landmark and the home of the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation and the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, Taliesen West offers tours ranging from 1 to 3 hours. The Panorama Tour is just long enough to leave you wanting more and may be the perfect length to hold the interest of ‘tweens and young teens. Older teens and budding architects may enjoy a longer more comprehensive tour. When the school started in 1932, tuition was only $650 per year and 25 students were enrolled. Now, tuition is $40,000 per year and there are 20 students enrolled in what is known as the “smallest school in the country”.
Taliesen West boasts stunning architecture, unique history and pleasant surroundings.
Michele McIntyre is a freelance writer who covers spas, travel, fitness, wellness, beauty and healthy living/eating. She is happiest when lying face up on the treatment table, writing about her spa and travel experiences or testing new products to share with her readers. She lives near Syracuse, NY with her husband and son. Michele is a regular travel contributor to LivingBetterat50+ and has written for Today’s Central New York Woman Magazine and online at Tripology, TripAtlas, and Splash Magazines Worldwide. Michele blogs about the spa and travel industry. When she isn't writing about or visiting spas, Michele loves traveling, hiking, skiing, camping, yoga and reading. If any of these pursuits can be combined with a visit to the spa, even better!