Ever since I was a child, I've always wanted to visit Arizona. I used to love watching movies such as The Hitcher, Near Dark or Zabriskie Point. There's something magical about sunsets in the desert.
So when my wife bought plane tickets for Phoenix to surprise me for my birthday, I couldn't be more excited. And I was right to be! The first thing we did was book a hotel room for one night at the Arizona Grand Resort & Spa. This beautiful Phoenix hotel has a Spa, an amazing water park, golf courses and some of the most famous meeting venues in Phoenix.
We really liked our room, and it was a great base to explore the city and the surrounding areas. I would recommend this resort, but there are other very nice hotels around Phoenix. Scottsdale hotels such as The Scott Resort are a very good choice because they're in a really nice area. Scottsdale is actually famous for being the Beverly Hills of greater Phoenix!
We decided to relax for the first two days, drinking cocktails in a private cabana at the swimming pool and putting away on the resort's huge golf course. Then, we mustered the courage to leave the resort to brave the Arizona heat. The first thing we did was go to the Desert Botanical garden in Papago park, right in the center of Phoenix. This 140 acres garden is full of beautiful agaves, cacti and other desert plants (more than 21 000!) and it's a very beautiful place to explore. We liked it so much that we just didn't want to leave!
We then visited downtown Phoenix and spent lots of time in CityScape, two blocks where you'll find many restaurants, bars, cafes and really cool, hip shops. Although it was really hot that day, the heat was dry and it didn't prevent us from spending lots of money (too much?) on clothes and souvenirs. In the evening, we went for a bite and a drink at the Cobra Arcade Bar, a really quirky place where you can play video games on old fashioned arcade machines. A geek's dream come true! My wife and I spent the whole night trying to reach the highest score on Donkey Kong. Much more fun than clubbing!
The next day, we decided to visit the desert. After all, this was the reasons why I wanted to visit Arizona. We rented a car and headed for South Mountain Preserve. This Preserve is often referred to as the largest municipal park in the country, and it's a great place for tourists to enjoy horseback riding, hiking and mountain biking. The great thing about Phoenix, is that you can experience the wild in the morning and enjoy downtown Phoenix's big city life in the afternoon!
The desert landscapes were absolutely fantastic, even more beautiful than in the movies I had watched when I was a child. My wife and I felt like we were the only two people left in the world. A really interesting sensation! I had to ask her to drive because I wanted to take hundreds of pictures of the beautiful Arizona desert all around us… Then, once we reached the South Mountain Preserve, we left our car and went for a hike. The views were absolutely breathtaking!
We climbed up for a good two hours, and saw lots of interesting birds on the way. At one point, we got a little bit scared, because a Gila monster was right in the middle of the path leading up! He was standing his ground, and wouldn't move out of the way… Fortunately, he finally got bored of us and went hiding in a bush.
We continued walking and taking many pictures, and the feeling of freedom was incredible. If we could, we would have camped there, but we didn't have the right equipment. So we just sat down to have a little something to eat and admire the desert below us. We then decided to call it a day and went back to our car. Both my wife and I were glad we didn't get lost in the mountain, although it would have been hard with all the signage everywhere! We thought the Preserve was very tourist friendly, and although it looked very wild and empty, we actually met a few other hikers on the way back.
We were so tired in the evening that we stayed in the hotel and had a delicious meal at the Lobby Grill, one of our resort's restaurants. My burger was really tasty and the French fries… incredible! We then packed our stuff to go home, and on the way to the airport, we decided that from now on we would be coming back to Phoenix every year!
This was a big decision for me, because I usually only want to go on holidays somewhere where there's a beach. But who could resist Phoenix and the desert of Arizona?