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In Phoenix, find a winter getaway that’s a desert delight

There’s a dramatic contrast to Florida without the inconvenience of cold.
The Arizona Biltmore in Scottsdale is among the many stunning resorts in the greater Phoenix area.
The Arizona Biltmore in Scottsdale is among the many stunning resorts in the greater Phoenix area. [ Arizona Biltmore, a Waldorf Astoria resort ]
Published Feb. 6

Looking for a winter getaway but your knees and aversion to the cold rule out a ski vacation? Try Phoenix and its upscale neighbor Scottsdale.

With its craggy mountains and desert landscape, the Phoenix area provides a striking contrast to Florida but with the same delightful winter weather — daytime highs in the 70s. And as one of the nation’s largest metro areas, it’s replete with fine dining, great shopping, outstanding museums and world-class resorts.

A friend and I spent a long weekend in late fall at the Hilton Scottsdale Resort & Villas. Thanks to my Hilton Honors membership, we were upgraded at no cost to a two-bedroom, two-bath villa with a full kitchen, private patio and a pool just a few steps away. The villa could easily have accommodated a family. Other fabulous Scottsdale resorts include the Phoenician, with panoramic views of Camelback Mountain and Paradise Valley, and the classic Arizona Biltmore, designed in the 1920s by a protege of architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

Scottsdale resorts boast gorgeous flowers, palm trees and brilliant skies.
Scottsdale resorts boast gorgeous flowers, palm trees and brilliant skies. [ Susan Taylor Martin ]

Scottsdale is a shopper’s mecca. Fashion Square, one of the West’s largest malls, has everything you’d find at Tampa’s International Plaza and much, much more. Lining Fifth Avenue in the city’s Old Town district are numerous boutiques along with restaurants, cafes and galleries. But our favorite stop was TBC, which bills itself as the “finest in luxury resale” — in other words, an upscale consignment store. The first dress we saw on entering was a one-of-a-kind strapless Balmain. Price: $18,000. That and racks full of Versace, Chanel and other couture fashions speak to the great wealth in Scottsdale, where mountainside mansions can top $20 million.

In downtown Phoenix, 25 minutes from Scottsdale via broad palm-lined streets, we spent an afternoon visiting the city’s stunning Phoenix Art Museum with its vast collection of works ranging from the Renaissance to modern day. A must-see here, especially for dollhouse lovers, are the miniature rooms that replicate in amazing detail an Art Deco Manhattan apartment, an 18th century French music room and other period settings. Among 100 rooms designed by Indiana native Narcissa Niblack Thorne, they are made to 1/12 scale and even include original artwork.

The Phoenix Art Museum has a vast collection of works.
The Phoenix Art Museum has a vast collection of works. [ Airi Katsuta ]

We enjoyed lunch in the museum’s Palette Restaurant, which has seating both indoors and in a lovely courtyard, before heading to the nearby Heard Museum. Founded in 1929 to house Dwight and Mae Heard’s personal collection, it has grown to be among the foremost museums of Native American art and culture. Exhibits here include exquisite jewelry, hundreds of Kachina dolls and a sobering look at the 19th century boarding school experiences of Native American children.

A miniature Manhattan Art Deco Room at the Phoenix Art Museum
A miniature Manhattan Art Deco Room at the Phoenix Art Museum [ Thorne Collection, Phoenix Art Museum ]
Works at the Phoenix Art Museum, whose lobby is pictured, range from the Renaissance to modern day.
Works at the Phoenix Art Museum, whose lobby is pictured, range from the Renaissance to modern day. [ AIRI KATSUTA | Airi Katsuta ]
The Phoenix Art Museum.
The Phoenix Art Museum. [ Airi Katsuta ]

If you want to get some exercise, the area has more than 200 golf courses and challenging-yet-scenic hikes in the mountains. But my friend opted for a pedicure and I for a shampoo and blow dry at Scottsdale’s elegant Spa Lamar, Arizona’s largest resort-style day spa. With its low humidity, Arizona has one big advantage over Florida: Every day is a great hair day!

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