Debra, Jacqueline & Caroline
Posted: 04 July 2014
Las Vegas in Nevada and Scottsdale in Arizona are about a four-hour drive apart so can easily be twinned, but Debra, Jacqueline and Caroline recommend including Amangiri in Utah or The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain in Tucson, Arizona for a desert adventure. If you’re travelling with children, you’re unlikely to include Las Vegas on your itinerary, but Amangiri or The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain would be great to team with Scottsdale. And, don’t forget the Grand Canyon and the red rock country of Sedona, both of which can be combined with a stay in Las Vegas and Scottsdale.
Many people have the perception that Las Vegas is simply about flashing lights, gambling and tackiness, but we have it on good authority that it also offers a whole host of upscale things to see and do. Love it or hate it, Las Vegas is a must-see destination and truly has something to offer everyone. The girls were reminded exactly where they were as soon as they entered the airport, due to the slot machines in the baggage hall... just in case you can’t wait until you arrive at your hotel!
Debra, Jacqueline and Caroline spent three nights at the outstanding Wynn Las Vegas, a mecca of tranquillity at the southern end of ‘The Strip’. Although it is big (like everything in Las Vegas), it has been so well designed by the master creator of Las Vegas hotels, Steve Wynn, that it never feels overcrowded, and the Tower Suites, where they stayed, is an exclusive hotel within a hotel with a separate entrance, check-in, Concierge and a private lift.
Most of the dining options are located around the casino floor, but are small and intimate, offering romantic dining, if that’s what you’re looking for, or simply the opportunity to watch the joy and despair unfold in the casino. The girls particularly enjoyed Lakeside Seafood which served the ultimate comfort food − we're told that the Hawaii Long Tail Red Snapper or Lobster Mac & Cheese are ‘must try’ dishes − accompanied by views of the nightly show that takes place on the Lake of Dreams. There is a celebrity Chef at every turn in Las Vegas, including Joël Robuchon, Jean Georges Vongerichten, Michael Mina and Wolfgang Puck, to name just a few, making it perfect for even the most discerning foodies.
Las Vegas offers some of the most creative and awe-inspiring shows in the world, including a variety by Cirque du Soleil, as well as a range of musical concerts and shows by world-class stars that have chosen to make Las Vegas their choice for long-term residency. Wynn’s show, Le Rêve, which is a mystical, whimsical, aqua treat for the senses, is simply breathtaking. Taking the Wind Dancer helicopter tour from Las Vegas also comes highly recommended. It takes you from The Strip, over the Hoover Dam and Lake Mead, then through the Grand Canyon before touching down in a scenic spot within the canyon to enjoy snacks and a glass of bubbly. The girls say that the area that the Grand Canyon covers is so vast and the colours are so incredible, that no pictures can truly do it justice. If they'd had more time in Vegas, they'd loved to have experienced the golf, the amazing shopping, more of the incredible nightlife and enjoying relaxing in the sunshine by one of the fabulous pools.
After collecting their hire car they drove through Nevada, and in and out of Arizona, finally arriving in Utah where they pulled off the highway and made their way to Amangiri, which they describe as a very special place, that not only blends in with its surroundings, but also enhances them. Even the pool − its stunning centrepiece − has been carved around one of the many rocks. It’s the ultimate contrast to Las Vegas in every way and the girls say that the silence is very noticeable, making it a great place to really get away from the stresses and strains of everyday life. Amangiri gives guests a great opportunity to experience the sights and sounds of the Colorado Plateau and activities include morning and afternoon hikes. The girls took a guided hike to the caves to see original Indian petroglyphs, but if you'd prefer to self-guide, the trails are easy to navigate. You can also learn basic rock-climbing and for those looking for something a little slower paced there are morning yoga and afternoon Pilates classes – a great way to start or finish the day. In the warmer months there is even more to do including a host of water-based activities at Lake Powell which is just a five-minute drive away.
Throughout the day the sunlight turns the rocks surrounding Amangiri to vivid shades of red and orange, while in the evenings the star-gazing is sensational as there is no light pollution. Or, enjoy the ‘smores’ school with the Chef on Wednesdays and see what interesting sweet creations you can design!
Next stop on the road trip was a long, but easy drive, to sunny Tucson in Arizona where the setting is just how you’d imagine the desert to be... cacti growing as far as the eye can see, beautiful and serene. The Ritz-Carlton, Dove Mountain, nestling in the Tortolita Mountains, would particularly suit families wishing to explore the area and The Ritz Kids’ Junior Rangers programme provides a fun, educational way for children to learn about the desert and local culture. There is the opportunity to meet ‘Rocky’ the tortoise and a number of desert critters too!
Adventure activities include mountain-biking, geocaching (where you follow clues around the canyon to find hidden treasure) and hiking along some of the twenty plus miles of trails with a Guide who will teach you about the flora and fauna, and help you find the petroglyphs of the Hohokam Indians. Sunset is a magical time, made extra special by the soothing sounds of a Native-American flautist. The girls recall savouring a special 'Sonoran Smoke' cocktail, but if you choose to do the same, be warned: beware of the kick from the chilli! Dinner is a real treat and CORE’s creative American cuisine has a strong 'farm to table' ethos with highlights including beet salad accompanied by creamy goat’s cheese and the short rib − cooked to perfection and melt in the mouth.
Next, the trip took Debra, Jacqueline and Caroline along straight roads, that were easy to navigate to The Phoenician in Scottsdale in Arizona. The hotel is ten minutes by car from the centre of Scottsdale, so is a great base from, which to explore. The Canyon Suites accommodation has its own private reception, Concierge, pool area and poolside restaurant, with each of the One or Two Bedroom Suites featuring signature amenities including a daily wine and hors d'oeuvres hour, as well as a chauffeured car service around the resort or to Camel Back Mountain and Fashion Square Mall.
The hotel boasts the fabulous J&G Steakhouse by Jean-Georges Vongerichten where there are stunning views of the resort’s nine pools which look beautiful when they’re all lit up at night, whilst Relish Burger Bistro has a fun sports bar setting and an extensive burger menu – from small sliders to ‘build your own’ with as many toppings as humanly possible. When it comes to fun, families will love playing at Surge Splash Pad which has a 165ft waterslide and children aged 5 to 12 years old can join activities at The Funicians Club. On Friday and Saturday evenings there is a birds of prey demonstration for all guests to enjoy, while big kids can also indulge at the Centre for Wellbeing or with twenty-seven holes of championship golf.
As well as the fabulous golf courses for which it is renowned, Scottsdale is a place where the old west meets the new. A handful of classic saloons feature live country music, and there is a strong Mexican influence and Native American culture. Meanwhile, Fashion Square Mall is the third largest in the US and in Downtown there are boutiques showcasing local crafts, designers and jewellery. There are over one-hundred art galleries and plenty of interesting sculptures around the main streets too, while the choice of dining options is both huge and eclectic. The table side guacamole, made fresh to your liking while you watch at The Mission, is a must, but there is a fantastic array of American options and fun places to mingle with the locals too. The temperature most of the year is suited to enjoying outdoor activities such as hiking and cycling through the mountains, segway tours, Jeep safaris and hot-air balloon rides (which the girls experienced). Leaving at 5.15am, they were driven into the desert where they were greeted with the beautiful sight of balloons being inflated until they stood tall and took off, effortlessly.
With Scottsdale being just thirty-five minutes from Phoenix Airport it was a great place to finish their road trip, but the girls all agree that they would love to go back and explore further in the not too distant furture.