If last year left you feeling especially jaded and, like me, you’ve recently resolved to be more open-minded, then consider Scottsdale, Arizona your dream 2020 travel destination. Sure, you might currently think of Arizona as just a land of retirees, PGA tours, and wild bachelor parties, but in fact it’s so much more: a calming natural oasis, a sophisticated luxury escape, and a burgeoning wellness capital. Meaning not only is it the perfect place to unwind and reset — it’s also a place ready to teach you a healthy lesson about the power of overcoming skepticism.
Granted, anything self-care-adjacent deserves to be approached some level of skepticism. Few can argue that digital detoxes and deeper investment in one’s mental, physical, and spiritual health are beneficial pursuits, but the wellness industry doesn’t always make it easy to take these things seriously. A lot of the challenge comes from the fact that wellness tourism has evolved into an industry expected to generate almost a trillion dollars by 2022. With that kind of popularity comes the sort of places that are all gimmick, no gains — and seeking out authentic experiences takes work.
Admittedly, I did not expect the holistic holy grail to be found in Scottsdale. But it turns out this land of endearingly eclectic contrasts lets you cherry-pick relaxation and rejuvenation activities rooted in actual nature. Even better, it still allows for the occasional indulgence, too.
Take the following as a prime example: on the evening of my arrival in Scottsdale, I feasted at a Spanish steakhouse on Santa Carota carrot-finished striploin paired with a robust glass of Tempranillo — then woke up at 4am the next morning for a B12 vitamin injection and a meditation hike up to Pinnacle Peak that proved that something advertised as “zen” can still be pretty intense.
When I discussed the stark contrast of my wine-to-wilderness itinerary with my hike guide and Zonie (a term for local Arizonans), Marla, she didn’t find me to be as hypocritical as I felt. In fact, she believed there was absoutely nothing wrong with my approach. “You should always feel free to live out wellness on your own terms,” she said.
With Marla’s encouragement, my rigid constructs started to break down. I felt the crisp air tickling against the back of my neck, and looked out in admiration at the rising, radiant sun and a cotton candy sky being mixed like a watercolour painting. At last, my cynic’s soul was beginning to feel — dare I say it? — a kind of otherworldly satisfaction. Here’s how to kick-start your own year of relaxed fulfillment.
Rest and Relax:
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North
Situated on the foothills of Pinnacle Peak, the five-star property is a beloved sanctuary in the Sonoran Desert and is located a 20 minute drive north of downtown Scottsdale. The property is set upon 40 acres of verdant desert blooms where guests can luxuriate in one of 210 guest rooms and 22 suites. Upon arrival, ensure you meander down to their full-service spa and book an appointment with their Alchemist to participate in their Aroma Design Bar and Massage experience. After a guided assessment, you’re given a custom essential oil recipe which is then mixed into an organic body butter. This cream is used by your masseuse to soothe and target any holistic and/or physical ailments. Bonus: the remaining and unused body butter is gifted to you for home use. It might sound hokey — but you can’t argue with the results.
Omni Scottsdale Resort & Spa at Montelucia
Tucked at the base of Camelback Mountain and set upon 35 acres of desertscape is this oasis setting inspired by Spain’s romantic Andalusia region. With intimate archways, tranquil fountains, and floral walkways, the 293-room property is an ideal place to get a restful night’s slumber. For extra euphoria, seek out their massive 31,000-square-foot Joya Spa. Envisioned as a modern Hammam, their award-winning services go beyond traditional massages and span Nutritional Consultation — think diet tweaking, illness recovery, or all-out healthy life coaching — to best empower visitors. Sessions identify triggers, learn to control emotional reactions, improve time management, and reduce stress — all with an aim to enrich your quality of life.
A Spanish steakhouse that puts equal emphasis on quality and quantity. Portions are generous and dishes are seductive — think paella teeming with local seafood; and vegetarian tortilla espanola layered with sweet potato, poblano pepper, and jamon serrano. As much as possible, ingredients are mindfully cultivated to showcase the terroir of local Arizona farms. Credit for that goes to the gastronomic leadership of 29 year-old James Beard nominated Chef Samantha Sanz — one of the youngest epicurean badasses to lead a Four Seasons restaurant kitchen.
Farm & Craft
It’s hipster, it’s healthy, and it offers all-around holistic vibes. The community-minded atmosphere boasts a seasonal wellness menu structured to promote an anti-inflammatory diet, increase probiotic levels, maintain high levels of antioxidants, and reduce stress. If that sounds hard to process, here’s the straightforward version: all dishes here are sustainable, gluten-free, organic, and use hormone-free ingredients. Best of all, nachos are considered a health food here. Quinoa flax chips are topped with black beans, pickled onions, roasted tomatillo salsa, pico, pepper jack cheese, and smashed avocados. Wash wholesome eats down with a heart-healthy juice like the popular Secret Stash — a potent elixir of beet, apple, ginger, and lemon that enhances liver support. In our books, that means you can follow it up with a beer.
The James Beard Foundation’s 2019 Best Chef (Southwest) Charleen Badman is known as the Veggie Whisperer. Even the most die-hard carnivores will salivate over her spicy grilled broccoli with meyer lemon aioli, mustard and feta delicata squash, and shiso-infused japanese purple potato — but if those still don’t cut it for you, she does offer many meat-based options that you can sink your teeth into. The preferred spot to tuck into these dishes is at the restaurant’s intimate eight-seater bar, which is a favorite amongst wine lovers because the sommelier highlights a different local winery every month.
LDV Wine Gallery
Yes, wine can be in your wellness wheelhouse. This cozy and lively tasting room features award-winning wines from a family-owned vineyard in Arizona. LDV Winery Owners/Winemakers Peggy Fiandaca and Curt Dunham champion the vibrant viticulture of their home state, cultivating Rhone varietal grapes such as Grenache, Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Viognier. Sure, there are plenty of wine bars in the city, but considering this duo are the OG of pioneering grape-growing and winemaking practices in Arizona, rest-assured that their varietals shine with finesse and flavour.
Brown’s Ranch Trailhead Mountain Biking
Situated in the McDowell Sonoran Preserve, Brown’s Ranch Trailhead is considered the major access point to a vast network of trails in the area, such as Granite Mountain, Cholla Mountain, Brown’s Mountain, and Cathedral Rock. Highly recommended for visitors is the Browns Mountain Trail Loop which is about a solid six-kilometre circuit with a moderate difficulty level. While you can opt to explore the area on your own, the smart choice is to book a guided mountain biking tour with an adventure company such as Arizona Outback Adventures/REI Co-op. Then, you can remain on #vacationmode without having to worry about planning logistics, food, and gear. Not to mention that guides are very knowledgeable about the region and happy to educate about the history, flora, and fauna of the Preserve.
Pinnacle Peak Zen Hike
Through the spa/fitness services at Four Seasons Scottsdale, you can sign up for a guided morning zen hike up to Pinnacle Peak. As you snake your way up to the highest point of the trail (2889 feet in elevation), you’ll make a few pit stops for mindful meditation and hold different yoga poses that exercise your patience, posture, and concentration.
Happy Hour at Second Nature Clinic
No hangovers here — this isn’t that kind of happy hour. Dr. Meghana Thanki is the owner of Second Nature Clinic whose natural medicine hub focuses on making Naturopathic and Ayurvedic Medical Therapies a second nature part of your self-care routine. If ever there was a place to try IV Drip therapy or a vitamin shot, it’s in her Zen Lounge. It might all sound a bit hippie, but then again, so does Jefferson Airplane. And we love those guys.