Spotlight :: Hip Scottsdale

[trip style = sun + spa + weekend getaway]

{Editor’s Note :: Today is the last act in this month's Destination Phoenix feature covering girls’ getaways, a stay at the Arizona Biltmore and The Saguaro, and outings like a Spring Training baseball game or a hike up Camelback Mountain.}

Blame the 330 days of sun. Blame the arid, yet surprisingly lush desert climate. Blame the mid-20s heat. Blame the cool breeze.

Knowing a place like this exists in winter and early spring, while Vancouver temperatures flirt with freezing and rain pours with reckless abandon, is equally disconcerting and comforting. Instead of holding an ice scraper/umbrella in one hand and an extra-hot caramel macchiato in the other, Scottsdale locals double-fist a book and a prickly pear margarita. Do you see what's wrong---or SO right---with this picture?

Year after year, north of 600,000 Canadian sunseekers pack their shades and fly South. Having just returned from my third visit in three years, I get it and I suppose I'm climbing the ranks of the northern army descending on the desert with an arsenal of mojitos and sunscreen.

In the past I had a blast, which is the reason I'm addicted, but I always had a sense there was more to discover, more to taste, more to conquer. Figuratively speaking, I longed to find a Scottsdale home. A place to hang my hat. A place to stay with a savvy scene. A place to walk everywhere and wander. A place to eat out with locals. Simply, a place that inspired. Third time's the charm. Here are my top eat, do and stay tips to point you homeward in Scottsdale.

Eat FnB Ask any in-the-know Scottsdale foodie and they'll urge you to eat at FnB, a refreshing gastropub that walks the talk delivering seasonal, local and organic cuisine with an Arizona-only wine list. Put FnB at the top of your restaurant hit list. Open Wed-Sun, 5-10pm.

The Mission One of Scottsdale's most hotly reviewed restaurants. Think modern Mexican cantina with black walls, crystal chandeliers and a fireside patio. Go on Sunday at lunch when they roast a pig and serve pork tacos until they run out. Pair with an Aguacate avocado-flavoured margarita for maximum southwestern flair.

"Wine Me, Dine Me" at SWB Seated at the bar in front of a kaleidoscope of bubbling-over Le Creuset pots, a herb garden's worth of cilantro and buzzing chefs, you're taken through a chef-led, four-course southwestern meal with tequila and wine pairings. Catering to all your senses, Chef Juan Solorio's enchanting tableside manner was as instinctual as his cooking, both of which left a smile on my face. For the level of service and curated menu prepared in front of your eyes, $70/person is the best money you'll spend on dinner.

La Hacienda Simply put, La Hacienda is my happy place. For the 364 days a year I'm not eating the table-prepared, mortar-and pestle-mixed guacamole, I dream about it, and am quite certain it would be the item {avec tortilla chips} I'd bring if I was banished to a deserted island. Add a 200-bottle collection of sipping tequila and appetizers like the famed lobster tacos, and this in-vogue Mexican meal just got serious. Trip Styler Tip: savor happy hour al fresco at a table with a fire pit in the centre.

Distrito Gloriously irreverent and splashed in competing shades of pink, gold, blue and neon green, one of Scottsdale's newest restaurants is helmed by the Food Network's The Next Iron Chef 2010 winner, Jose Garces. This casual and hip hangout puts the fun back into eating out with refined street-style Mexican food like tacos de pollo or arroz con crema {served in a shot glass}. Oh, and it's all served on sparkly tables under chandeliers adorned with colored clothespins.

Do Spa Avania Spa Avania is the first spa I've encountered to synchronize every moment of the experience with the body's natural rhythm. Morning, noon and night each have a unique repertoire of music, scents, lighting and beverages to rejuvenate your body based on its needs at that time of day. Rock walls and water features lead you into a full day's worth of relaxation including a fireside patio, steam, sauna and hot-cold plunges. Finish at the palm tree-lined pool with minerals flown in from France---best enjoyed in the shade with cucumber slices on your eyes.

Arizona Food Tours I'm not usually a fan of tours, but I tip my hat to the gang at Arizona Food Tours and suggest one of the well-executed walking tours as a means of getting to know Scottsdale's history and culinary scene one taste at a time.

Hike Networks of steep climbs and flat trails await as close as 20 minutes from the city.

Contemporary Art Appropriately housed in a renovated movie theater with strong minimalist undertones, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Art thinks big in a digestible space that allows you take in its forward-thinking art, architecture and design without a multi-hour investment. One of the current exhibitions, economy of means---creating sculpture and statement using basic materials from lean US economic times---is one of the most thought-provoking and cheeky/creative shows I've seen in a long time.

Stay The Saguaro Hip cats congregate at the Saguaro. This recently opened hotel resembles a contemporary artist's canvas, blending gallery whites with pops of color. From $289 in peak winter season and $109 in the summer. No resort fee. Internet is free in the lobby; avoid the $9.95 in-room wifi charge if you join the hotel’s Joy of Life loyalty program. Parking $14/day. Bark meow--pets are free.

Other Scottsdale hotels we LOVE: the 1956-built and meticulously restored Hotel Valley Ho and the cowboy-chic Fairmont Scottsdale Princess.

Getting There Direct, daily, three-hour flights from Vancouver to Phoenix's Sky Harbor International Airport start at $400 return via US Airways or WestJet. Scottsdale is a 25-minute drive from the airport.

[all photos taken by @tripstyler (except fnb) while a guest of Scottsdale]