SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA – I get to travel to some pretty amazing places in the world, and I check out a lot of great hotels. But I try not to research things too much for fear of raising my expectations and spoiling a nice surprise.
That was definitely the case for my brief stay at the Sanctuary on Camelback Mountain Resort in beautiful Scottsdale, Arizona. I was in town for a travel writers’ conference and didn’t arrive until late in the day. But I was immediately taken with the wonderful lobby entrance and the look and feel of the place, which features softly painted buildings that blend in with the desert and a nice sprinkling of desert plants and flowers, including brilliant pink bougainvillea.
The pool is gorgeous and features awesome views of desert mountains to the north of the resort and, if you walk out away from the hotel a bit and look back, fabulous views of famous Camelback Mountain. A walk up Camelback is one of the great urban hikes in the Phoenix/Scottsdale area, if not all of the U.S., with glorious morning and evening views.
I had a phenomenal suite at the hotel, with a large living room that had a fireplace, a cool carpet with a blue/black butterfly and a sleek modern sofa with several chairs. There was a small fridge and a nice coffee maker for a morning espresso, too. The bedroom was done up mostly in white, with a large bathroom that featured plenty of storage space for a guy who carries too much with him on the road.
Even better than the lovely surroundings was the view out my window to the rugged mountains of Scottsdale. I love the way the desert light changes through the day, and it was fantastic to have that kind of view from my room.
I didn’t get a chance to try the food, but elements restaurant at the hotel features Asian-inspired American cuisine and also features chef Beau MacMillan, a star on The Food Network. Dinner dishes include bison carpaccio with pickled mango salad, spiced peanut bbq pork rinds, crispy onion and mint, as well as kimchi bacon, miso glazed salmon and hoisin-braised short ribs.
The spa features an Asian theme, including a Zen meditation garden, an outdoor Watsu pool and a reflection pond. Treatments include a Harmony Message as well as a Sumatra Coconut Body Ritual. Sign me up for the latter anytime!
The Sanctuary spa was rated in the top five hotel spas in the continental U.S. by Travel+Leisure a couple years ago and has had a four-star rating from Forbes the past four years.
The city of Scottsdale is a marvellous destination with a huge variety of things to do The downtown is walkable and features a ton of cool galleries and also some Arizona wine tasting rooms. They’re making a lot of very good wine in the south and north parts of Arizona, almost always at higher elevations for the air is cooler and more conducive to growing grapes than on the desert floor. I quite liked the varieties at LDV (where there’s also a cool patio) and also at Carlson Creek Vineyard.
Visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s desert home of Taliesin West is always fun for architecture and history fans. This time I also got to Cosanti, where the late artist Paolo Soleri once worked and where you can have a free look around at today’s artists making magnificent bells and other items. It’s a very cool spot and the rooftops are said to have inspired the designs seen in the early Star Wars movies.
On top of that we got to visit with personable and utterly fantastic artists at Cattle Track, an artists’ enclave and work space in Scottsdale where folks make no end of magical art work and also live for part of the year. Among those who’ve resided here of late (or so I was told) is Nils Lofgren, guitar player in Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band.
On more of a natural note, we also had a fantastic hike up in north Scottsdale, checking out a surprisingly lush valley at what’s called Spur Cross Ranch Conservation Area and admiring the rocky hills and towering Saguaro cactus.
Scottsdale is one of the finest travel spots in the U.S. And you can’t get go wrong with a resort like Sanctuary on Camelback.
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