Ring in the New Year Desert Style

Phoenix has become my go-to for a quick hit of winter sunshine. My husband and I have rung in the New Year in Scottsdale two years running. I’m expecting that this will be the craziest one yet, as we’re bringing our sassy toddler along for the party.

The city’s halls are always well decked for the holidays. “ZooLights” at the Phoenix Zoo is one of my favourite events. There are an astonishing 3.8 million lights that illuminate 700 sparkling displays. This year ice sculptures, live musical performances and a 4-D showing of Polar Express will be added to the line up.

Another beautiful luminary event is the Desert Botanical Garden’s Las Noches De Las Luminarias. For 16 nights more than 8,000 hand-lit luminaria bags cast a soft glow among the gardens. Storytellers, mariachi and stargazing with the Phoenix Astronomical Society are a few of the entertainment highlights this year. The temperatures can drop below zero in the evening during winter, so bundle up well for any outdoor activities.

The Fairmont Scottsdale Princess puts on an amazing Christmas display with 1.8 million lights – and you don’t need to be guests of the hotel to enjoy them. Our daughter will be over the moon with the carousel and its white sparkling horses, and with the princess express train that takes you around the lagoons to see the illuminated pirate ship, rocking horse, 14-foot poinsettias and candy cane forest. There’s even an outdoor desert ice rink with skate rental and ice dancing shows.

Spanish inspired pool at Montelucia
Spanish inspired pool at Montelucia

Our New Years day morning tradition is a rejuvenating spa treatment. Many of the destination resorts in Scottsdale have world-class day spas and we’ve spent time at most of them. Joya Spa at the Montelucia is 35,000 square feet of relaxation. My happiest moment was sipping post-treatment organic margaritas by the spa’s private rooftop terrace pool, which overlooks Camelback Mountain. If you’re at the resort around dinnertime, Prado restaurant makes deliciously authentic Spanish Paella.

The Spa at Four Seasons Resort Troon North is also first class. The property, located in the foothills of Pinnacle Peak, has I feel the most unique landscape in the area. Towering saguaros, rolling hills and blazing pink sunsets are the norm here. As expected with Four Seasons, my anti-inflammatory facial with gold shimmer oil was perfection. With our daughter in attendance this year we’ve booked treatments at The Phoenician where we’ll be staying. I’ve previously had both a massage and a mineral mud wrap at the resort’s Centre for Well Being Spa, and both were fabulous.

Tasting Menu at Il Terrazzo
Tasting Menu at Il Terrazzo

Foodies visiting Phoenix can indulge in a full spectrum of cuisine that ranges from signature Southwestern dishes to exotic international fare. Cowboy Ciao’s in Old Town Scottsdale is a staple for us – and it is kid friendly! I dream about their Stetson Chopped Salad and have even tried to recreate it at home. If you don’t make it to the restaurant in town, grab a takeaway salad from their airport location before flying out.

Two of our most memorable meals were in Scottsdale – both at resort restaurants. Sunset dining at Four Season’s Talavera is the pinnacle of date nights. We took a culinary journey with the steakhouse’s six course tasting menu. It was was flawless. Il Terrazzo, The Phoenician’s signature Italian restaurant, is another magical dining experience complete with signature muddled-fruit Bellinis, handmade pasta and impressive wine collection selected by the resort’s master sommelier.

Sunsets from Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale Talavera
Sunsets from Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale Talavera

Having visited Phoenix extensively we’ve stayed in many of the city’s resorts and hotels – the majority of which offer New Years holiday packages. For a girl’s getaway, or couples’ spa retreat, the Montelucia is a quiet upscale hideaway. Last year we spent two nights at The Four Seasons at Troon North, and while it is wonderful for couples I couldn’t help but think how much my daughter would also have loved it. There’s a designated kids pool, kid club program and home-style restaurant – Proof – that has an old fashioned soda fountain for milkshakes, malts and floats. The kids staying there were in heaven.

Pool at The Phoenician
Pool at The Phoenician

The Phoenician is another top-class hotel that works well for both couples and families. Its central location, spacious rooms, multiple pools and the recent addition of a kid’s splash park made it an ideal choice for our family this year. The Marriott’s Canyon Villas at Desert Ridge (offering kitchenette suites) and Point Hilton Squaw Peak Resort are two great lower priced alternatives well suited for families.