When thinking of the wonders of the United States, some people think of the skyscrapers in New York City or Chicago. Others think of the picture-perfect beaches of Florida, or the lush vineyards of northern California. Not me. Before moving to the U.S. 11 years ago, I romanticized the American Southwest—the mountain ranges dotting the desert terrain, cacti the size of single-story houses, and the hazy landscapes depicted in Georgia O'Keeffe paintings. It was, of course, a simplistic vision of an entire region, whose history of hardships I knew nothing about yet.
But the allure of the area is one understood by many. When I told my American friends that I was going to Scottsdale, Arizona, a few months ago, I was met with, "I've been wanting to go there for so long," proving that it wasn't just my foreignness that led me to glamorize states like Arizona and New Mexico. Credit millennials' current obsession with O'Keeffe, succulents (and all other houseplants), and the Southwestern-hacienda and Art Deco décor, and it's easy to see why places like Sedona, Palm Springs, Marfa, and Santa Fe are suddenly seeing a rise of visitors from that demographic.
Having made my way to Scottsdale in November, I can say that this dreamy desert destination exceeded all expectations I had previously conjured up. You can't help but feel small and insignificant in contrast to the expansive sands, towering mountains, and the wild and rugged desert landscaping untamed by the man; it's humbling and freeing.
Should you make your way to this oasis, one that also managed to seduce the great Frank Lloyd Wright, here's where you should stay, eat, drink, and shop, and what you should do.
Where to Stay
Mountain Shadows: One of the newest (and most stunning) accommodations in Scottsdale, Mountain Shadows, which derives its name from the shadows cast by the breathtaking Camelback Mountain (it serves as the property's backdrop), is where Hollywood royalty like John Wayne and Elizabeth Taylor stayed in the '60s. Having reopened just last year after a 13-year hiatus and a giant renovation, this Paradise Valley property is a minimalist's dream with exquisite rooms that boasts see-through showers, free-standing bathtubs that overlook the impressive landscape, individual balconies and private patios, and stylish furnishings. If your trip extends to the end of the weekend, check out Hearth '61, the property restaurant that one Sunday a month features a guest chef, a local supplier, and a winery or a distillery coming together to create a paired four-course dinner and conversation. I caught the Mumm vs. Mumm Napa one, and it was something special.
The Scott Resort & Spa: Fact: You will want to photograph every single corner of the perfect lobby and outdoor area of this recently renovated desert sanctuary that combines the colors and feel of old Havana with Southwestern decor and New Orleans' knack for flair. From the wood, leather, and wicker detailing and furniture to the lush indoor plants, Bauhaus-inspired bar, palm print bathroom wallpaper, and lagoon-like pool, The Scott is what I imagine Cuba looked like during its heyday—that is, if you added lots of millennial touches. Make sure to spend at least one dinner at The Canal Club, the onsite restaurant that specializes in traditional American cuisine with a contemporary Cuban twist, where I had the best El Floridita outside of Havana.
Andaz Scottsdale Resort & Spa: The fashion-forward types should check out this sophisticated property, known for its Instagrammable main pool and surrounding cabanas. If you can get away from your stylish bungalow-style rooms, check out the spa that offers ingredients from a local botanist in its natural healing treatments.