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What I Learned From Escaping to the Desert

Highlights from an R&R weekend in Scottsdale

I was itching to get away, if only for a weekend. I wanted to escape the smoky Bay Area air and get some much-needed rest. I wanted to feel restored and rejuvenated. I wanted to go somewhere that wouldn’t make me feel guilty for sitting by a pool for hours or checking myself in for a handful of spa treatments.

And so I landed on Scottsdale, AZ – easy and cheap to get to with a variety of wellness-focused properties offering exactly the R&R I was looking for.

My husband was open but hesitant – what exactly would we do there? I wasn’t entirely sure but I had a romanticized vision of what this desert city could offer us so I convinced him and we went.

It was exactly what I needed and more: sunshine and quiet and pool time and spa treatments and good food and fiery sunsets that wrap you in wonder and awe. I got re-grounded in all of that earth energy and soaked in the desert heat.

To save you time in planning your own getaway to the desert, here are my greatest hits:

Civana for the spa Down to Earth and Sea Body Detox treatment. I’m a regular on a massage table, but rarely do I treat myself to a full body exfoliation – and this treatment included the application of seaweed and mud to detoxify before I got an incredible full body massage. I was at the spa for hours and left deeply relaxed with the softest skin. The best part of Civana is that it seems everyone is at the spa there – or just coming or going there; you’ll find almost all of the guests walking around in robes. Apparently, the spa is 22,000 square feet! So it’s no wonder. Also, their restaurant Terras has great (and diet-conscious) food if you’re hungry post-treatment. Their sweet potato fries are excellent if you’re not so diet conscious!

The Mission Old Town for dinner. This place is a hot ticket so you have to get a reservation or you’re out of luck. And there’s a reason: the food is awesome and the ambiance is super fun. My favorite were the Mahi Mahi tacos and the made-to-order tableside guacamole, but it seemed like everyone was raving about everything. We way overate but it was worth it.

Four Seasons for a facial. I generally think that resort facials are fru-fru and unproductive, but my skin needed one badly, and my intention for the weekend was to give myself some major TLC, so I decided to go for a 50-minute custom facial. It was worth every penny (and every minute not spent at the pool). I lucked out and had a facialist named Dale, whom I will forever be grateful for leaving me with a revamped skincare routine and happier, fresher looking skin.

Scottsdale Waterfront for a stroll. We went during a 10-day art event called Canal Convergence, featuring light-based art installations centering around the theme of “The Story of Water.” There were huge crowds and we learned a thing or two about water conservation and some interesting indigenous narratives about water. Event or not, it’s a nice place for a stroll and is surrounded by great restaurants. It’s also a short walk to Old Town if you want to check out art galleries, jewelry stores (lots of silver and turquoise!) and touristy shops.

Four Seasons to stay. I hardly need to share why a Four Seasons would be a great place to say, but I will say the property is gorgeous, the service is fantastic (of course), and it has that perfect Southwestern aesthetic that gives you a special sense of place. I would also highly recommend a meal at their restaurant Proof, which is American classic food a la Four Seasons. Their pastrami short rib was out of this world.

Next visit, I’m making a stop at the Botanical Gardens and Frank Lloyd Wright’sTaliesin West, which has been made a UNESCO World Heritage site, and taking more hikes in those beautiful cacti-studded landscapes. But for now, I’ll appreciate a perfect few days in the desert.

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