Day 3 In Scottsdale

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Early Bird Catches The Desert Sunrise

Our final day in Scottsdale was an early one for me.  I booked a facial at Agave, The Arizona Spa at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa.  My appointment was at 8am…sunrise was around 7:30am, so I decided to try to venture out a little early to see if I could get a beautiful sunrise picture.  I wasn’t positioned correctly from either the villas or the hotel to get the epic sunrise picture I so desperately wanted with the sun coming up behind the mountains…but I did get a couple of cool shots like the picture above and these two below.

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The colors in the sky that morning were beautiful.  This area really is pretty!  For me, it’s an unconventional pretty…as you’re there you start to seek out the massive saguaro cactus…seriuosly, they are massive!

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Cactus, mixed with palm trees, and mountains in the desert…it doesn’t even sound right trying to group all of those objects together…but add in some of THE MOST PERFECT weather, and somehow this beautiful hodge podge becomes soothing to your soul!  I am convinced that there is absolutely no way that someone could visit this area and not leave relaxed and refreshed.  Needless, to say…I’m a fan! And, I’ll be coming back!

Spa Time

As I stated earlier, I had an early facial on our last day in Scottsdale.  Agave, The Arizona Spa did not disappoint!  Y’all, this spa was beautiful!  From the high end robes you are given to wear while you’re there, to the super posh and comfy lounge room…this spa was impressive!  The staff was friendly and thorough.  The hot tub in center of the locker room was gorgeous and inviting.  There are wet and dry saunas, and the showers were roomy and spotless!  This was a spa that definitely fostered relaxation!

For reference, I get a facial on almost every vacation that I go on.  Massages are great, and I do love them, but I feel like you get a little more bang for your buck when you do a facial at a spa.  Massages vary greatly depending on who you get as a masseuse.  I’ve had some great ones, and I’ve had some not so great ones…and at the rate that you pay for a massage at a resort…it’s too much of a crap shoot for my taste.  A facial on the other hand…even if your esthetician is not the best, it’s more about the products that they use on your skin…that just feels like it levels the playing field a bit.  Plus, during most facials you get little mini massages in the “wait times” while the products work their magic on your skin.  So for example, during my facial I received a hand massage and treatment, a foot massage and treatment, and a neck, shoulder, and scalp massage…it was AMAZING!!!!  Almost felt like a 2 for 1.  The price for an 80 minute massage was the same price as my 80 minute facial.  That’s a win in my book.  At any rate, my facial was really good…to keep in theme for the weekend, I chose the Wellness Facial.  Honestly, I didn’t love the smells of some of the products, but I did love the way my skin looked and felt when my treatment was done!

Lazy Saturday Brunch

When my facial was finished, I went back to my room fully relaxed, face glowing, ready to tackle trying to repack my overstuffed suitcase.  Being in a little zen-like state made a huge difference in trying to tackle that task…much easier than state of panic I was in when I packed the suitcase for the trip out!  I hate packing!

Elizabeth and I packed our belongings, said goodbye to our beautiful home away from home for the last couple of days, and headed out to Old Town.  We had reservations for brunch at a place called Olive and Ivy   Ugh!  This place was soooo cool!!!!

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Olive and Ivy has the perfect weekend brunch patio and atmosphere!  The patio overlooks the river.  There were 20 somethings there celebrating birthdays, and snowbirds enjoying a late breakfast.  #BestFriendGoals  It was like one of those posh restaurants that any Real Housewife of _____________ (fill in the blank) would go to catch up, make up, or pick a fight with someone!  For me, eating at a restaurant is just as much about the atmosphere and the service as it is the food.  Think about the last time you went to your favorite restaurant but had terrible service…the food is the same…but your experience isn’t.  At any rate, Olive and Ivy had great atmosphere, great service and incredible food to boot!  Our waiter, Larsen, literally told us that he is not allowed to tell us NO to anything!  It’s a food allergy and picky eater’s dream!!  Larsen is pictured below…if you go make sure to ask for him…and tell him Girl You Tripping sent you!  We had lots of fun with him!

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Old Town

Olive and Ivy is in a part of Scottsdale called Old Town.  It’s literally old downtown Scottsdale, but it’s been revamped into a shopping and restaurant haven!  The area is filled with shops full of local southwestern art and jewelry, and quaint little fashion boutiques.  There are tons of great restaurants and watering holes.  It’s totally walkable, but Elizabeth and I opted for bikes!  The first ride is free…after that it’s only $1 an hour.  The bikes were super easy to rent…just download the app and follow the instructions printed on the bike.  It was super fun and a great way to get around Old Town!

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Old Town has a couple of different areas to it…all with walking distance…it’s just divided up a little.  The 5th Ave shopping district is literally the old downtown area…lots of southwestern art and jewelry shops dotted with the occasional super cute boutique.  Then there is Scottsdale Riverfront…this is more of the restaurant and bar area.  Lastly, just about a block away is Scottsdale Fashion Square.  It’s your traditional high end shopping mall…complete with Louis Vuitton, Bulgari, Burberry, etc..for a full list of store available at this mall click here.  There is literally something for every kind of shopper in this area.   Visiting Old Town is the kind of experience you can only have in Scottsdale…which made it one of our favorite stops on our trip.  #BuyLocal

I want to leave you with this…Scottsdale is the type of place that you could visit over and over again and not have the same experience twice.  It’s easy to navigate, it’s not overly congested with traffic…if you’re an outdoorsy person, this is a great place to visit…if you’re a shopper, this is a great place to visit…if you’re a golfer, this is a great place to visit…if you’re into spa treatments, this is a great place to visit…if you just want to hang out at the pool, this is a great place to visit!  There truly is something for everyone here…including incredible weather in the winter!!!!

Are you a buy local kind of tourist?  Or do you love to hit up highend retailers when they are in the area?  I’d love to know!!!

Suggestions From Day 3

Agave The Arizona Spa at the Westin Kierland Resort and Spa was AMAZING!  One word for you…Relaxation!  So good!!!

Best Patio Brunch in town goes to Olive and Ivy.  The food is exceptional!  Everything is made in house.  The thing they are known for is their cinnamon rolls…don’t miss out on them!  They were over the top good!!!!  It’s just a great place to relax, have a slow meal, soak up the great weather,and spend time with your family or friends.  Olive and Ivy is a DO NOT MiSS!

And for shopping that is quintessentially Scottsdale…visit Old Town.  Window shop, ride a bike, or grab bite to eat at one of the many cafes and restaurants in the area…this is another DO NOT MISS kind of place!

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Day 2 In Scottsdale

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We Didn’t Die

Look at this picture.  It looks fairly uneventful.  But I need you to really look at the picture.  Do you notice everyone, except for Pinky and Captain Impresso towards the right…I mean EVERY OTHER person in this picture is holding on to railing.  All the folks in this picture look fairly young and in shape.  And for goodness sakes there is fencing on the trail as well…it’s there to keep you from falling to your death!

Day 2 of our trip started here…hiking up Camelback Mountain.  The concierge at the resort literally gave us 14 other options to hike…this is the one we chose.  It was the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback…rated as difficult (strenuous)…lies, all lies!  I’ve done plenty of trails rated as difficult…difficult is the Na Pali Coast trails on Kauai…where there are no fences to protect you from falling 100’s of feet straight down the sea cliff into rough ocean waters.  No, this trail is not difficult…it is some crossbreed trail combining hiking with rock climbing.

At any rate, we did not die!  Thank you Jesus!  Note to self:  when the concierge at the resort tells you that she is not even allowed to suggest Camelback Mountain hikes to the guests, heed the warning!  As I said, there were 14 other options for us to hike that morning.  Honestly though, Camelback Mountain is part of Scottsdale/Phoenix’s identity.  It’s the most well known mountain in the area…it’s the mountain that hotels and restaurants brag about having views of…so we wanted to conquer it.  Us two middle aged, out of shape girls did not fully conquer it, but we took a good stab at it…sucking wind…one rest stop after the other!

It’s funny…the question on every hiker’s mind while they are recovering and trying to catch their breath from the massive spikes in elevation is…how many more of these gastly inclines do we have before we reach the top???  The second most common question among the hikers…did you make it?  Trust me, almost as many do no make it as do!

For a self proclaimed research hound, I did not do enough research on this hike.  In my defense, I was fairly certain that I could talk Elizabeth out of this hike, instead, somehow she talked me in to it!  In a way, I’m glad she did…however, we agreed that we were lucky that both of us were able to walk off the mountain unscathed.  It was definitely not the safest activity that we could have picked for ourselves.  We walked that fine line between foolishness and empowerment.  Even though we did not make it to the summit, we looked back feeling like conquerers for what we did accomplish.  Would we do it again? Heck no!  But are we glad we gave it a go?  Absolutely!

Thing 4’s Business Advice

We did a couple of live Facebook feeds during the hike.  So when I got off the mountain I had a couple of text messages from Thing 4, the 13 year old.  For context, his comment on my Facebook feed said:  “good job mom plug ur merch” (a comma anywhere in this statement would have made it so much easier to read!)

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Gotta love the YouTube generation!  The conversation we had after the text was me telling him I’m not selling shirts on the blog, for now it’s just informative and entertaining.  But I love him for taking an interest in what I’m doing and wanting to see the blog succeed!  He loves being Thing 4 in the blog and has requested to make an appearance as often as possible!  So, of course, I’ll try!

What You Really Come to Scottsdale For

I think we would have made it to the top of Camelback Mountain if we would not have scheduled massages for after our hike.  We all know, the real reason girls trips are so popular in Arizona is for the spas!  There are no shortage of amazing spas in the area.  I opted for a more therapeutic massage.  I talked Elizabeth into it as well.  We chose to get a Lymphatic Massage from The Lymphatic Healing Center.  This particular massage is said to help the body detox, and aide in weight loss.  The massage is followed by the opportunity to sit in a Far Infrared Sauna.  Lots of you will have never heard of either of these two “treatments”.  If you click on the link above it will give you a quick break down of the benefits of the massage and sauna.  All I know is that when I came home from this trip I had lost 1.5lbs…so I’ll take it!  Just so you know, this IS a massage…but if you looking for the type of massage that really works to get the stress out of your back and neck…this is not the massage for you.  I did hop off of the massage table feeling super relaxed, but in the 90 minute session my therapist, Lyn, rarely touched my back or neck. If you go check this place out make sure to ask for Lyn…she was great!

Smoothie Stop

By the time we had finished the massages and sauna time, we were starved!!!  I think my Garmin estimated that we had burned somewhere around 1800 calories range in just  2 hours on our hike…couple that with the calorie burning of the Far Infrared sauna…we were super hungry.  This late in the afternoon we didn’t want to load up on a huge meal since dinner was drawing near, and we wanted something on the lighter, healthier side since we were kind of on a roll.  We found a smoothie shop called Nekter Juice Bar.  Holy yummy!  I opted for a Pink Flamingo…it was yummy and refreshing, and Elizabeth had an Acai Peanut Butter Bowl.  Now, us midwest girls don’t have the option for Acai Bowls back home….so one of us…the one without all the weird food allergy stuff…had to try one!  Elizabeth said it was amazing!   It may have been one of the best things she had while on the trip!  Nekter is a chain, but there are not a ton of locations…inside looks like farmers market meets Joanna Gains farmhouse…super cute.  Definitely a place you could meet a girlfriend to gab and catch up over something healthier than a triple, venti,  half sweet, non-fat, caramel macchiato.  Just saying.

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Mexican Food In The Southwest

I mean you can’t go to the Southwest and not eat Mexican food, right???  Honestly, this is the one item that I probably did the most research on…so many options!  I definitely wanted to get it right!  We opted for Blanco Tacos & Tequila and it did not disappoint.  Food was great, atmosphere was fun, service was good!  They had an interesting array of tacos…like a short rib taco and a bbq taco…that bbq taco was my fav!!!!  You can also do a tequila flight tasting there…Of course you can dance…signed, Tequila.  It was just a great end to our busy day!  Tacos and girl time go together like Wilma and Betty, Laverne and Shirley, Thelma and Louise…one just isn’t right without the other…

Suggestions From Day 2

Do not hike the Echo Canyon Trail on Camelback Mountain!!!  If you must hike Camelback choose the Cholla Trail.  But seriously, unless you are incredibly fit and an avid hiker…just choose a different mountain all together….there are plenty!

For a health promoting massage, the Lymphatic Healing Center was really nice!  Other really well known spas in the area include Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Spa, Joya Spa, and Agave, The Arizona Spa @ The Westin.

For a light healthy meal or snack, Nekter Juice Bar is your go to place.

For Mexican food in a fun, vibrant atmosphere…Blanco Tacos & Tequilla is where it’s at.  Other places that made my short list are Barrio Queen in Old Town, Sol in the Kierland Commons, El Chorro for beautiful views of Camelback Mountain. But, the Mexican restaurant that got the best reviews in my travel groups was The Mission.  The Mission’s menu looked a little too adventurous for my guest, so we gladly went to Blanco, which had more of a girls night out kind of a vibe.  But, if you are a foodie…The Mission is the place to check out!

What’s your “I’ll never do that again” story??? I’d love to hear it!

Day 1 In Scottsdale

Girl Time

Now the fun stuff…Girl Time!!!!  This is a rarity for me as Things 1-4 are all boys!  I love my boys, but not a one of them is interested in hanging out on a patio on a beautiful 75 degree day for girly, fruity drinks and appetizers.  Oh the inhumanity of going to a restaurant on vacation and not ordering at least one thing off of every section of the menu…nope, the Things would not have any part of that!  Buuuuttttt, on my girls trip, with my person, Elizabeth, that’s exactly how we kicked things off!  Drinks and appetizers on the patio at Tommy Bahamas with a dear friend, Brooke, who is from our area. She happens to have a vacation home in Scottsdale.  Brooke was still in Scottsdale soaking up the beautiful views and sunshiny weather over our kids Winter Break.

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Ever catch your friends while your on vacation?  It’s the best! ” Vacation you” is generally so much more relaxed and fun to be around, am I right?  I love running into friends while on vacation…no rush of school schedules, practice schedules, or what you’re gonna get on the table for dinner, or even worrying if you’re gonna get anything on the table for dinner at all.  “Vacation you” can be present without being preoccupied…it’s the best!  So, we hung out for a couple hours drinks in our hands, catching up, one coconut shrimp at a time.  Yum!!!  Seriously though, the appetizers and drinks were really good, the whole patio is shaded, and the tables were not sitting right on top of each other. It felt more like we were at home hanging out on one of our own patios instead of at a restaurant, which is nice!  On top of all that I got a lesson in microblading…do you even know what that is?  Am I the only one Late To The Party (LTTP)??? I think in a house full of boys and sports and never ending laundry and endless amounts of food, I’m always LTTP.  For those of you that don’t know what microblading is…it’s like semi-permanent eye brows.  I see the allure of it…not having to fill in your eyebrows every day…that’d be nice.  Not sure I can see myself doing it, but Brooke has done it and it looked amazing on her!

Tommy Bahamas Restaurant and Bar is located in the Kierland Commons, an outdoor shopping center in Scottsdale. So, of course we took in a little retail therapy before we parted ways.  The Commons is one of the better places for shopping, restaurants and bars in town.  It’s a beautiful area with plenty shops for all types.  Click here for a list of shops if your interested to see what is there.

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Elizabeth and I peeled ourselves away from our patio dining and retail therapy session to go check in to our room at The Westin Kierland Villas.which just happen to be less than a mile away from the Commons!  Bonus!!  We got checked in…our room is beautiful and spacious, and this property has just finished renovating the rooms.  We are in a one bedroom suite that has a full kitchen, a living area with fireplace, and a huge balcony overlooking the golf course and mountains in the distance.  It is just what us two mommas need to help us #unwind on our trip.  We unpack, get settled in to the room, then decide we’d like a few items from the store for our room…since we have the kitchen and all.

We All Do It

So how many of you go to the the same places on vacation that you always go to at home???  We all do it!  The first evening of our stay, Elizabeth and I went to Target…it was to pick up water, a few snacks for the room, and blister bandages for the blister I got on my heal from my Chuck Taylor All Star shoes…because I just haaaddd to try to look cute for the flight out…ya know, pictures and all (insert eye roll here).  At any rate, back to Target…it is a well known fact that no one can go in to Target and only purchase the things they went in for…duh.  Here we are, on our girls trip adventure, wandering aimlessly through the isles, oogling and googling over all the cool stuff that we don’t have at our home Target yet.  One new shirt (because the shirt I’m currently wearing in the Target has a hole in the armpit…hello hotmess), one new fabulous pair of earrings that I don’t need, one case of water, a few healthy snacks, and one box of blister bandages later and we are out of Target…only to move on to………Whole Foods.  Seriously?

So here’s the silly conversation I have in my head…with myself…Me: Hey, how was your vacation?  Also Me:  Awesome, I flew 1,065 miles away from home, rented a car, and stayed in a hotel so that I could shop at Target and Whole Foods.  Two places that are literally 3 mile away from my actual home!

In my defense, I have weird food allergy stuff…so I stop at a Whole Foods in almost every city that I visit.  The bonus is that with great authority that I can tell you…not all Whole Foods are created equally.  For instance, this particular Whole Foods that we visited in Scottsdale had the largest beer and wine section I’ve ever seen at a Whole Foods.  Come to think of it…this store is easily the largest Whole Foods store I’ve been in thus far.  It had an awesome grill area, beer and wine on tap…it was impressive.  Talk about a great place for singles to meet that isn’t a bar…

Between our Target raid and Whole Foods run and getting up at 3:30am for our flight…we are beat!  We decided to skip getting fancied up for a nice meal, and instead headed to a place called the Shake Shack.  It’s small cheeseburgers, thick milkshakes, rootbeer and local beer both on tap.  The menu is easy, it’s super clean, great outdoor patio seating, and it’s in the Keirland Commons shopping center area.  So, was super close to our room.  It was the perfect way to wrap up our busy day.

Suggestions From Day 1

The Westin in Scottsdale has both a resort and villas in which you can stay.  The resort is over the top amazing…check it out here. Both are close to each other, and super close to the Kierland Commons and the Scottsdale Quarter.  The hotel has a walkway that leads over to the Commons, and the Quarter is just on the back side of the Commons.    We did not make our way over to the Quarter, but it looked just as amazing as the Commons.  It’s another outdoor shopping area with restaurants and bars as well.  Click here if you want to check out stores and restaurants at the Scottsdale Quarter.

The patio at Tommy Bahamas was super chill…go for happy hour!  Happy hour offers small plates and drinks at a discount.

We came in to Scottsdale on a Thursday. The concierge at the Westin suggested that we eat in the bar area of Dominick’s Steak House.  Apparently this is the thing to do on Thursday nights! This particular concierge was spot on for a couple of other suggestions, so I’d say this is probably a good suggestion as well.  This was our Target and Whole Foods night…we were just too tired to do anything that evening.

Our flight was early and our layover was short…so by the time we made it to Scottsdale we were starved and brunch sounded good.  We had brunch at a place called Butterfield’s Pancake House.  They had some unique pancakes that were really yummy!  They even had a gluten free option that tasted good.

A couple of other breakfast places that got good reviews, but we did not visit were Snooze and  Lo-Lo’s Chicken and Waffles.  Snooze is located in the Kierland Commons.  If you stay at either of the Westin’s, it would be really close!

I’m a research hound!  What are some of the ways or websites that you use to research your trips?  I’d love to hear from you!

Happy Healthy New Year in Scottsdale

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Happy New Year

It’s January 9th.  Happy New Year!!  I can still say that, right?  It’s not just a phrase reserved for December 31st and January 1st…at least I hope it’s not.  Are you still plugging away at your New Year resolution or have you already puttered out???  Me…I’m not really sure.  I haven’t actually made a New Year resolution in many years.  I do, however, always try to strive to be some better version of myself…sometimes I hit the mark and sometimes I totally miss it, but the goal is there nonetheless.  Side note…the last time I gave myself a resolution it was to be better at sending out cards…you know, greeting cards, birthday cards, thank you’s, etc.  I’m terrible about it…better than I used to be, but still could use some work.

Back to the subject.  While not a resolution, I’m always on a quest for better health…my close friends can attest to this truth in my life.  So, I decided that the first trip for the blog and the New Year needed to be somewhere with healthy living and beautiful weather to soak up some Vitamin D!   So, like any traveler I start making a short list.  On the list…San Diego, Miami, Phoenix, Sedona, Denver sort of makes the list, but the weather isn’t what I want for this trip.  Then, one of two things happens for me…I either start looking at flights, or I check out hotels.  Those are typically your two biggest expenses on any trip.  From time to time, there are ways around those expenses with flight miles and loyalty point programs, a subject that hubs has mastered, and a subject that I’ll talk frequently about here.  Ever wonder how our family of 6 travels as often as we do for as long as we do…points!  The truth is most people do not know how to use them, so they seem to have little value to most…I hope that by following this blog that I’m able to change your mind about that a little.

Phoenix, Actually Scottsdale It Is

After a little research, I was able to find airline tickets on United Airlines for cheap.  The deal got even sweeter when I added frequent flyer miles to mix.  My round trip ticket ended up costing me $72!  I applied frequent flyer miles for the trip to Phoenix, and paid $72 for my return trip back home.  Now, $72 is crazy cheap, so cheap that I opted to save those precious miles on the return trip and pay “cash” for that part.

Here are a couple of other tips when looking and booking airline tickets…Tuesdays around midnight is the best time to book a flight…lots of people know that it’s generally cheaper to fly on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Saturdays.  What most people don’t know is that the cheapest time to book flights is around midnight on Tuesdays…experts say travelers save on average about 6%.  So, tuck that away in your memory, and the next time you need to book a flight…set an alarm and go to work!

Here’s my next big secret.  I haven’t paid for a room in 8 years.  Points, points, points!  In some way, shape, or form our family accrues or pays for points, but to actually pay cash or use a credit card to secure a room…hasn’t happened in 8 years!  With that being said, I only stay at Starwood Properties…Starwood is a parent company for Westin, Sheraton, St. Regis, Le Meridian, W Hotels, The Luxury Collection, Aloft and Element…and in a merger last year it now also includes every Marriott hotel, including The Ritz Carlton properties. Without getting into to much detail right now…hubs made some smart vacation decisions for his family starting back about 10 years ago.  It’s a system that just works for our family, but that’s a completely different post or 2!

So, grand total for Scottsdale trip for airfare and room…a whopping $72.  No brainer…YEP, I’ll take it!  Last thing I need to secure is a car and a friend to go with me!IMG_2293

Car…check!  Friend…check!  And just to drive home that point value again.  Through Hertz, I’m able to take the points I earn from their Hertz Gold Rewards program and have them go into my United Airlines frequent flyer miles program.  See, all kinds of things that you can do with points if you know what your doing!  Plus, I got a deep discount and a class upgrade on the car from the vacation ownership program hubs bought into years ago.  Lots of people look down on these programs, but if I’m honest I can only think of 1 other person that could travel the way that our family travels…if she’s reading this I’m sure she knows I’m thinking about her.

So, for a grand total of less than $250 I’m on a girls trip with my person (if you don’t know what a “my person” is go watch Grey’s Anatomy), enjoying the most perfect weather and hoping to get in a couple of health activities to start this New Year off right!  Next post will be all about the Scottsdale, promise!  But today, I wanted to start opening eyes and educating people about the possibility that good travel can be affordable and fun!

What’s the best deal you’ve ever gotten on travel?  I’d love to hear about it in the comments!!!