It’s a new year and a new you. Ready to arise, literally and figuratively, in your mind, body and spirit? Want to push the reset button, rejuvenate and ready yourself for 2016?
Southwest Airlines offers easy non-stop flights from all major markets in Texas into Phoenix and the winter months are prime time to jet away to the desert. Think highs in the 70s and lows in the 60s. Head north about an hour and half to start rising in Sedona.
Located on the Red Rock Scenic Byway, the Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock has renovated and now offers a classy lobby (if you’re lucky, you might be offered a free chair massage), along with their 219 guest rooms (140 of which are suites with a separate bedroom, dual-sectioned bathroom, living room and mini kitchen with dining table). Guests can enjoy tasty dinners on the patio of their restaurant, The Grille at ShadowRock (try Stronghold, an Arizona wine). Amenities include access to the large fitness center, the Eforea spa and three outdoor pools.
See Sedona on a Pink Jeep Tour. Choose from six tours (the Broken Arrow tour is their most popular) and climb aboard the famous pink jeep for some mountain fun. Your certified and skilled driver will drive across breathtakingly steep red rocks to give you the best views of Sedona. This popular tourist activity is like an amusement park ride with amazing views.
The Indian Gardens Café and Market, which was once an old filling station and is now known as an artisanal way station, provides provisions for people going up into the canyon for day trips. You can find fun high-end snacks, delicious pasta salad and an ample selection of Arizona wines and craft beers for a picnic lunch in a beautiful setting. Enjoy a fresh sandwich (maybe a Ferrari, caprese salad on ciabatta) paired with a draft beer (such as the Knotty Pine lager) and enjoy dining in the garden out back under a canopy of trees.
Experience the best nature has to offer with the Water-To-Wine kayak tour along the Verde River. Take a one-hour ducky kayak (a blow-up kayak that gets its name from how easy it is to spin) trip on a scenic stretch of the river, featuring mostly calm waters you’ll need to paddle through with a few fun chutes. The water-based trip ends close to a gravel path which you take up through the vineyards to the Tuscan farmhouse at Alcantara Vineyards for your wine tasting. The tasting room overlooks the vineyards and the rolling hills beyond.
Head from the signature red rocks of Sedona to the bustling city of Phoenix.
The Arizona Biltmore, one of the country’s iconic luxury hotels, was inspired by Frank Lloyd Wright’s unique architectural style and opened in 1929, right in the middle of America’s Golden Age. At the time, there was a fascination with the wild west and this Grand Dame hotel captivated its visitors, going on to become a tourist mecca for the rich and famous. (Marilyn Monroe had a favorite pool and the Reagans honeymooned there.)
Crowned the “Jewel of the Desert,” the Biltmore was erected entirely of “Biltmore Block,” a variation on a textile block first used by Wright to construct private homes. The pre-cast blocks were made from desert sand on-site and created in 34 different geometric patterns inspired by the trunk of a palm tree.
Six million blocks were used to construct the 39-acre wagon wheel-shaped property. Today guests enjoy eight pools, the open Squaw Peak Lawn and six restaurants and lounges, including Frank & Albert’s known for its comfort food (start with fresh guacamole and move to the risotto).
The resort’s 740 guest accommodations range from rooms in the vintage main building and renovated rooms that overlook Paradise Pool to more private villas and cottages. The hotel’s spa, which offers an extensive menu of desert-themed natural healing treatments and restorative therapies, is next to the pool so you can spend a whole day enjoying them both, and even lunch by the expansive pool. (The Spa Biltmore massage + Effective Boost Facial is a perfect combo.)
Arise before the sun and get a degree from the college of hot air knowledge. Hot Air Expeditions gives riders a thrill from start to finish. After you’re picked up at the hotel by the shuttle, the driver is told where you’ll depart (it depends on the wind direction, speed and stability). This aerial tour of the Sonoran Desert provides magnificent vistas of desert terrain and towering mountain ranges. Each balloon’s wicker basket holds 12-20 passengers and even if you have a fear of heights, you won’t be affected because of the sensation of floating. After an exciting landing, you’re welcomed back to ground zero with a catered champagne brunch.
The Musical Instrument Museum (MIM) was founded by the former CEO of Target, Bob Ulrich, to share his love of music (he wasn’t even a musician). Visitors to the museum love that its collections are arranged by geography, providing a lesson in culture, history, sociology and geography all in one.
The museum also has a performance hall (not a bad seat in the place) which hosts performers from around the globe, including Texas’ own Lyle Lovett. Paired with the museum’s Café Allegro, it makes for a great date night.
The museum is currently home to a collection of about 15,000 instruments. Don’t miss the Artist Gallery, which hosts instruments from well-knowns ranging from Elvis Presley and John Lennon to Carlos Santana and Taylor Swift, or the hands-on Experience Gallery where guests can make music with ukuleles, gongs, and even a theremin (the electronic instrument you’ll hear making the spooky sounds on movie soundtracks). You might only need an hour but know that the average visitation time is three hours, 38 minutes!