Phoenix, Arizona: Cos’ Cactus Are Cool!

As a travel enthusiast I feel there is no better experience than being taken completely by surprise by a destination!

For me growing up as a travelling Australian and spending a number of years working in the industry means that this is not a situation I find myself in often. Usually I visit destinations that feel so familiar it’s almost like I have been before, a result of often having spent years learning about them and creating custom built itineraries for clients to experience.

In this way, Phoenix was different; it is one of those more undiscovered places for the mainstream Aussie traveller. Phoenix would be described as “off the beaten track” for the usual Aussie’s American itinerary. This delightful desert city was one of those unexpected destinations that I visited by chance due to work.

I literally had no preconceived idea about Phoenix. I knew so little about this desert oasis that I literally learnt on route that it was in fact another gateway to the Grand Canyon.

From the moment I arrived Phoenix had a surprise around every corner just waiting to be discovered. This unusual paradise had it all; gorgeous sprawling tropical resorts, massive water parks in the middle of stunning desert terrain, scrumptious restaurants, spectacular scenery and more than a handful of bucket list experiences to engage even the most experienced traveller.

What To Do:

Hot Air Ballooning

For a number of years, similarly to many others, my bucket list included hot air ballooning and to finally tick this item off in this desert wonderland will be an experience I will treasure forever!

There is something extra special and surreal about cruising in a giant balloon high above the Earth, entertained by kilometres of spectacular desert landscapes slowly passing by.

This adventure is like being on another planet, the heat coupled with the seemingly unguided journey through the sky is a thrill that I urge every one to experience.

High Tea at the Arizona Biltmore

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post this unassuming destination offered many a fond memory for me and perhaps the most surprising of all of these was High Tea at the Arizona Biltmore.

I will be honest I am a bit of a high tea fanatic and will eagerly participate in any High Tea adventure thrown my way. But this is without a doubt the most amazing High Tea experience I have had to date and this accolade is not to be sneezed at considering I have been privileged enough to enjoy High Teas in some of the most enviable locations around the world, including the Burj Al Arab in Dubai, The Fairmont Hotel Victoria, Spicers Balfour Brisbane and The Shangrila Vancouver, just to name a few.

So what sets this experience apart from the rest? Firstly, the setting, this resort was built back in 1929 and is spectacularly captivating from the moment you arrive.

This hotel is as if you have stepped straight into a bygone era, which is impressive enough but that coupled with the impeccable service and exceptional knowledge of the staff make this experience memorable from beginning to end.

The food was absolutely delicious and the array of teas served by the tea sommelier were enough to impress even the most experienced connoisseur.

I truly believe a journey on this High Tea Adventure should be a must do activity for every Phoenix visitor.

Arizona Outback Adventure Kayak

I am a firm believer that exploring a destination from the water provides a unique perspective and often allows me to experience the true authenticity and get to the very heart of a destination. This was particularly prevalent in Phoenix paddling through the spectacular desert terrain.

This was a truly unique and breathtaking experience. The lay of the land and the spectacular contrast between the green of the trees, the arid brown desert landscape and the blue of the sky made this a beautiful encounter and an absolutely photogenic scene.

I really enjoyed this experience, the paddle was easy and relaxed and is highly suitable to almost every person from the adventure traveller to families with children.

Where to stay:

JW Marriott Phoenix Desert Ridge Resort and Spa

For me one of the most surprising aspects of Phoenix was the grandeur and beauty of the resorts. Considering they are in the middle of the desert surrounded by towering rock formations and a million cactus each and every resort I visited was like its own tropical oasis complete with water parks, world famous restaurants, emerald green golf courses and even huge shopping malls.

The JW Marriott was one of these lush resorts of Phoenix that I was lucky enough to experience first-hand. This sprawling resort covers a massive 316 acres complete with onsite golf course, six pools, water slides and 869 rooms. This resort seriously has it all.

I loved the large amounts of choice that this resort gave you especially when it came to activities and the 6 onsite restaurants – even when this resort is busy there is still plenty of space for everyone.

The rooms are newly renovated, large and well decorated with huge big comfy beds, enough to ensure that everyone’s stay is a pleasant one.

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Laura Leal

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