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Tour Phoenix/Scottsdale, Arizona

Travel Tips

Down in the Valley
A New Spirit in the Old West

A hot air balloon ride high above Arizona
Ballooning in Arizona


By now, you've shopped until you've (almost) dropped, done lots of walking and touring and probably need a little time off your feet. So this morning, head north about half an hour from Scottsdale and let the folks at Unicorn Balloon Company in Cave Creek take over (they'll even pick you up, in a "cowboy-wrangled" Jeep, entertaining you on a two-hour tour of the desert with tall tales and true stories of Arizona). A one-hour sunrise balloon ride flies you high above the Scottsdale-Carefree desert, skimming rugged peaks and often capturing intimate views of wildlife roaming the desert below. Finish with a complimentary Champagne toast and pastries.

The charming duck pond at El Encanto restaurant in Cave Creek, Arizona
El Encanto

Next, head into the town of Cave Creek for more only-in-Arizona adventure. Founded as a gold-mining camp in the 1870s, Cave Creek is the last of the Valley towns that still has some true semblance of Wild West character. Main Street is dotted with several steakhouses, saloons and shops selling Western and Native American crafts and antiques. Grab some great Mexican food at El Encanto, a longtime local favorite for Sonoran-style Mexican dishes in a historic mission setting centered around a lively duck pond courtyard. Feast on the pollo fundido, a roasted chicken breast stuffed in a crispy flour tortilla and draped in rich and creamy jalapeno-cheddar cheese sauce.

El Encanto is just down the street from your next destination, Cave Creek's main drag. Spend some time browsing the souvenir shops at Frontier Town and the treasure trove of fascinating galleries, working art studios, trading posts, clothing boutiques and crystal shops that line Main Street. Be sure to cool off with a beer at the new Cave Creek Smokehouse & Pour House Patio.

Saddle up at Spur Cross Stables, just north of Cave Creek, Arizona
Saddle up at Spur Cross Stables

Depending on the season and your energy level, you might want to go horseback riding at Spur Cross Stables, four miles north of Cave Creek. The perfect place to saddle up a pony and located on the site of an 1870 gold mine, Spur's scenic trails wind through the quiet solitude of the desert, on paths once used by stagecoaches to reach the now-abandoned town of Bumble Bee up north.

On the other hand, you may be in the mood for some out-and-out pampering. The Boulders, A Waldorf Astoria Resort is a tranquil escape conveniently located in Carefree, about five minutes away between Cave Creek and Scottsdale. Enter through a labyrinth of million-year-old red boulders for an artful massage, therapeutic baths and rejuvenating treatments. Try the turquoise wrap, a signature treatment based on the Native American belief in the healing power of that precious stone (a plunge into a steaming hot Japanese ofuro bath heals aching muscles, too).

Directly next door to the spa, at el Pedregal, is a playground of shopping and dining, most notably The Spotted Donkey Cantina, which gives traditional Mexican fare a modern makeover.

The tiny, rustic town of Cave Creek is also home to Binkley's Restaurant, one of the Valley's best eateries (and best-kept secrets). Owned by ambitious chef Kevin Binkley, you can expect sophisticated, fresh, seasonal and French-influenced American cuisine, with standouts like duck rillettes, foie gras terrine, grilled fig salad with fried prosciutto and blue cheese, sweetbreads with quince marmalade or bacon-wrapped quail with sweet potato purée and molasses.

The Edge bar at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa in Scottsdale
Edge bar

The Painted Horse, ten miles north at Troon, is another unsung secret featuring chef Bryan Elliott's contemporary-eclectic American cooking. It's difficult to resist delights like Dijon-lavender dusted rack of lamb with a Provençe-inspired reduction and polenta fries, or Muscovy duck breast with lingonberry kumquat marmalade.

Finally, say goodnight to your vacation with a 20-minute drive back into Scottsdale near where your Arizona adventure began. Go to Paradise Valley for a drink at Edge bar, and party poolside at Sanctuary Camelback Mountain Resort & Spa with a "Fiery Mandarin" cocktail blended with vodka, cranberry, lemon and serrano peppers. Perch on the side of Camelback Mountain surrounded by flickering fire bowls and millions of sparkling lights below. You can bask in the afterglow of a memorable Arizona escape while contemplating your three blissful days in the desert sun.

Of course, you've only scraped the surface of the amazing Grand Canyon State. There are so many more shopping opportunities, incredible dining experiences and action-packed adventures awaiting your return.

For more information, visit the Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau official website, and the Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau official website


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Related Content

Arizona Travel Guide

More Phoenix Restaurants

Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau official website

Scottsdale Convention & Visitors Bureau official website

* Images courtesy of Phoenix Convention & Visitors Bureau

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