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Phoenix Winter Escape

When did we go….

  • Feb 5-14, 2019


Why did we go…

  • we were looking to escape the Calgary winter to enjoy some fun in the sun with the many friends that we know who have places in the Greater Phoenix area and who spend a good part of the winter in the Valley of the Sun


How did we get there…

  • flew Westjet direct into the Sky Harbor airport which is only a three hour flight
  • rented a vehicle from Hertz to allow us to get around to see various friends as everything is very spread out
  • it was an hour drive to our friend’s place in Florence



Where did we stay…

  • we stayed at our friend’s place in the Anthem at Merrill Ranch community in the Florence area (SW of central Phoenix, quieter area far removed from central Phoenix, lots of community amenities)
  • for two nights we stayed at the Andaz in Scottsdale, a Hyatt property, as we dined with friends in Scottsdale and Mesa and wanted a closer location to retreat to after a few adult beverages (spectacular funky facility in a very central location near great shopping and restaurants, exceptional service, beautiful pool area, restaurant/lounge, and work out facility)


Where did we eat…

  • most of the time we dined at our friend’s house which was yummy and gentle on the pocketbook
  • one lunch was at Brio’s in the fashion mall area of Mesa (I have been to other Brio’s in Kansas City and Houston, but this meal was a bit underwhelming compared to the others for some reason)
  • another lunch was at the Queen Creek Olive Mill which has some wonderful condiments for sale and a decent, casual lunch menu (the staff was very friendly and helpful)
  • post hiking we enjoyed chow in Mesa at The Hub Grill & Bar (good service, lots of TV’s, decent grub)
  • one dinner was in Northern Scottsdale at Prestons, and it was decent but a bit underwhelming given how long it has been around
  • met some former business colleagues at Switch in Midtown Phoenix (casual dining, good chow)
  • dined with some Calgary friends at Vitos Pizza & Italian (family run local neighborhood Italian joint, decent chow, very busy spot considering it was early in the week)
  • had lunch at Filly’s Roadhouse in the Apache Junction area and we were shocked to see the walls adorned with six recent posters from the Calgary Stampede (you can ride your horse right up to the restaurant, and there was a true ole cowgirl saddled up to the bar, fun venue to check out)
  • on our final night, we had dinner with our friends at the Olive Garden in the Casa Grande community, and it was quite a bit better than we expected (good service, decent quality food, nice ambiance, reasonable price)



What did we do…

  • within the community, we played some pickleball (fun to finally learn this game), rollerbladed, checked out the show homes (some very nice layouts), went for some walks, relaxed in the backyard, and pumped some iron at the local clubhouse
  • ventured up to Mesa to San Tan Village but did not find anything overly exciting to buy in the designer shops
  • on the way back we stopped in at the Top Golf facility in the same area, and it was interesting to check out this up and coming golf offering as they now have 53 facilities across North America with 24 more on the books for 2019 (it looks like a fun place for a group outing)
  • we toured the historic town of Florence including all the jails, the old-time hardware store (bought some Monkey Butt chafing powder – what a find) and enjoyed some adult beverages at River Bottom Pub & Grill which is a local biker bar
  • toured some properties in the Gold Canyon Superstition Mountain Subdivision as that is where our hosts thought they might want to relocate to
  • dined at San Tan Flat bbq joint and listened to some good ole country music while staying warm by the many fire pits
  • hiked Butcher Jones Trail with some Calgary friends (it is an 8 km trail along Saguaro Lake which is about 20 minutes NE of Mesa in Tonto National Park – see separate blog on this hike)
  • at the Andaz, we took an Instagram photo tour in a 1962 Cadillac around Old Scottsdale and the spectacular estate home on Camelback Mountain (our driver, John, looked like the Fonz)
  • we also hung by the firepits and pool at the Andaz which nice to catch some rays and soak in some Vitamin D
  • on our final day our host, Driver Dave, made a last minute decision to tour us from Apache Junction up highway 88 thru the southern part of the Salt River (Tortilla Flats to Roosevelt) to Globe (the scenery was spectacular, it was like a mini Grand Canyon area as weaved along gravel roads for 22 km of the journey including parts that hugged cliffs with views of Canyon Lake, Apache Lake, and Theodore Roosevelt Lake, it is amazing that there is such beautiful scenery this close to Phoenix)



What did we not do that is on the agenda for next time:

  • the world-famous rock and gem shows were on in Tucson, but we did not have time to get down there (one of my brothers often goes and has scored some great finds)
  • next year we would like to come in January to see the Barrett Jackson car show which is apparently quite the event
  • we always enjoy getting up to Sedona and Jerome, so that is something we missed out on
  • someone mentioned that the Botanical Gardens is worth a visit and it is on the same property as the zoo
  • there are 142 hikes in the Tonto National Forest so it would be fun to knock off a few more of them
  • we did not pick up a golf club, and there are many great courses throughout the Greater Phoenix area
  • I like to hike Camelback Mountain, but I did not manage to drag my carcass out of bed in time to do this on the two days we stayed at the Andaz


Final thoughts:

  • the temperatures were initially on the cool side with the nighttime lows around zero and the daytime highs around 15-20C, but much nicer than the minus 20’s we left behind in Calgary
  • it was great to scope out the various areas and the associated lifestyles in case we ever decide to spend more time or even buy a property in the area vs. Palm Springs or the California coastline