Arizona: Guided Tours on Camelback
My Facebook status read, “Has anyone ever taken a camel ride? I am this weekend in Arizona. Are they mellow?” The responses, “In Morocco. I only got as far as mounting the camel – needless to say I was petrified.” another “They walk funny. Have fun!” and the best one, “They SPIT!”
Prior to the trip a friend had encouraged me to “take a tour on camelback,” after hearing about my upcoming stay at the Phoenician. “How brilliant is Phoenix to provide camels for their visitors?” I thought, “Do they fly them in from Morocco?” On my arrival at the Phoenician hotel, however, the bellhop encouraged me to take the guided tour of Camelback Mountain. I paused and my face turned red. I innocently asked him, “Are there camel back rides on Camelback Mountain?” As he held back laughter, he informed me there were not, and kindly assumed that my friend had misunderstood. Desert or no, there wasn’t a camel in sight. Instead I could take a guided tour of a Camelback Mountain…on foot.
Arizona — Where to Stay and Play
Arrive and view art and water (but no camels). Boasting a $25 million dollar art collection, the Phoenician sets the tone for your stay with the entrance sculpture, “Resting at the Spring,” by Native American artist Allan Houser. Throughout the resort are 11 Houser sculptures in bronze, Indiana limestone and Pink Tennessee marble. Photorealist, David Kesslers’ waterscape paintings are also on display and can be viewed along with the sculptures with a complementary self guided audio tour.
Nine pools, spread across the resort provide relief from the sun and spark daredevil dreams on the 165-foot waterslide. Private cabanas include ceiling fans, computer hook-ups, robes upon request, fresh fruit, bottled water, lounge chairs, a cushy love seat, private bathroom and shower. If you must leave the cabana to nap in your room, you will find equal amounts of luxury and comfort in your suite as the Phoenician doesn’t miss a premium customer service beat.
6000 East Camelback Road
Scottsdale, Arizona 85251
North America: 1-480-941-8200
Cooking can be an art form, and shopping for organic ingredients can bring happiness to the spirit. The Phoenix Farmers Market is located on the Southeast Corner of Central Avenue & McKinley Street. Vendors offer fresh flowers, fruits, vegetables, meat and dairy products, roasted coffee, mouth-watering jams and honey, baked goods and prepared foods. I wandered upon Dave, the “Egg Man” from Two Wash Ranch, and it was his last week selling goose eggs. He sells eggs from chickens, geese, duck, and any type of bird when they are lying—even peacock. Dave is very approachable and will provide ample information on his eggs and their nutritional value along with many interesting facts on farming in Arizona. A word of advice, if you visit the market in the height of summer, eat the peaches with a towel.
The Phoenix Farmers Market
721 N. Central, Phoenix
Saturdays – 8am to Noon
Wednesdays – 4pm – 8pm
Quiet thought and serene beauty are found in the Heard Museum. World-famous for its Native American Indian cultural art, fine art and unique exhibits, this non-profit organization was founded in 1929 and holds 10 exhibition galleries and a beautiful sculpture garden. With the exhibit Remembering our Indian School Days: The Boarding School Experience, the Heard Museum explores the controversial 1879 U.S. federal government mandate designed to civilize, assimilate and Americanize American Indian children by sending them to Indian boarding schools. Eye-opening and moving sounds and photos from that time period depict the isolation of children as they were sent to the boarding school where most never saw their families again.
“Visible prayers,” “books in the wood” and “art” all describe the Heard Museum’s collection of Hopi Katsina Dolls made from Cottonwood, sought after by collectors worldwide. Your day is spirit-driven as you see these dolls on display in rows covering entire walls. Katsina Dolls were traditionally used as teaching tools and are the carved representations of the Katsinam, the spirit messengers of the universe.
2301 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix
Monday-Saturday: 9:30am – 5pm
Sunday: 11am – 5pm
The Desert Botanical Garden
Green prickly plants with sprouted flowers in a parade of cactus and succulents rest on 50 acres in The Desert Botanical Gardens. Plan to spend over a few hours gliding through the gardens that hold over 139 rare, threatened and endangered plant species from around the world. Recommended trails are the Desert Discovery Loop and the Desert Wildflower Loop. Make sure you visit the Herb Garden that holds desert-adapted herbs featuring Picante, Tea and Medicinal.
The Desert Botanical Garden
1201 N. Galvin Parkway, Phoenix
Open daily: 7am – 8pm | 6 am for members, wed & sun
The challenge is the frost, not the high heat at Stronghold Vineyards in Cottonwood, Arizona. Maynard Keenan, lead singer of the band, “Tool” and winemaker Eric Glomski are founders of the Vineyards and winemaking award-winners. In Maynard’s words, “the climate in Northern Arizona is perfect for making wine, harsh yet mystical.” Visit Stronghold Vineyards and Page Springs Cellars in one day and spend your weekend in the quaint town of Jerome. The town will take you back 100 years in its architecture and provide plenty of Maynard’s beautiful wine at Caduceus Cellars.
Arizona Stronghold Vineyards
1023 Main Street
Page Springs Cellars
1500 Page Springs Road
158 Main Street
Ocatilla at Arizona Biltmore
A hotel within a hotel, the Ocatilla offers privacy and luxury without feeling pretentious. A private lounge caters to the guest by offering a continental buffet breakfast, comfortable couches, plasma screens, internet, cocktails in the early evening and concierge service to assist your every need. Ocatilla signature services include: a personalized morning start, therapeutic turndown bath, pre-departure services, two hour pressing, Wii gaming and much more. The Ocatilla offers a pool and outdoor lounge area including bar. Wake up in the morning, walk a few steps to delicious coffee and crumpets and lounge poolside all day.
A highlight at the Biltmore is the live music. While staying there, Miles Mosley and his band were in concert straight from Hollywood, Los Angeles. Click here to read more about Miles Mosley.
Ocatilla at Arizona Biltmore
2400 East Missouri
Gnocchi made from scratch with homemade sausage and in-season peaches from the garden. This dish melted in my mouth on my visit to Quiessence Restaurant at The Farm. Hardwood floors in an old world house, candlelight, a cozy atmosphere and romance took me back to my trip to Florence, Italy without ever leaving Phoenix. Award-winning Chef Gregory LaPrad creates specialty dishes for his friends, cooking vegetables from his farm out his kitchen door. If it’s not on his farm, he obtains it from his neighbors’ farms. Before dinner, walk through The Pecan Grove on your way to your seat and count the Pecan trees. Simple, easy and relaxing, stroll into Quiessence and let the chef do the work for you. A few more of my favorites are the Creamy Fennel Soup with shaved Apples and Chopped Hazelnuts and Calamari with white wine and crushed tomato sauce with grilled bread and Salsa Verde.
Located on the Farm at South Mountain
6106 S. 32nd Street
Open Tuesday – Saturday: Dinner 5pm-Close
Finally, for those interested in that camel-free Camelback tour, simply grab a map, head to the mountain and start hiking!