My stay was a 2 bedroom apartment with a modern kitchen and a shared backyard with the host, William and his 2-year-old Bernedoodle, Charlie. Charlie had about 20 pounds on Nova but they became fast friends and they played in the backyard often. One day, I found Charlie sitting outside my door holding his tug toy and patiently waiting for Nova to come out.
Most of the backyard was turf, which I’ve come to notice seemed to be the direction a lot of homeowners have taken in water challenged areas such as Phoenix. Nova wasn’t allowed to use the bathroom on the turf for sanitary reasons so, while I had a backyard we could hang out in I couldn’t just let her outside to use the bathroom so we still had to go on our regular walks.
December morning walks in Phoenix were very different from those back on the coast so I didn’t have much to complain about.
In New York City, there were a lot of large metropolitan areas within a hour or two drive but Phoenix felt like a giant blob of metropolitan areas all tuck together. One large area seemed to bleed into another and they all seemed to have their own personality. Next to Phoenix is Glendale, AZ were the Arizona Cardinals play it felt like an older piece of the city. I spent a lot of time in nearby, Scottsdale, AZ hiking trails, visiting Frank Lloyd Wright’s west coast outpost and enjoying a cute little shopping district. I went to Mesa, AZ to visit the Holiday lights at a local farm and saw holiday lights on display at a Nature Preserve in Gilbert, AZ. I drove no more than 30 minutes to each of these areas and the transition from one city to the next was seamless.
When I was researching where to go for the month of December, I ultimately decided on Phoenix because there was so much to do in town. There were holiday markets, light displays and festivals and I really wanted to get in the holiday spirit. Phoenix did not disappoint. Some of the many Holiday events I explored in Phoenix include:
- Lights at the Farm at Vertuccio Farm – which was completely outdoors and dog friendly. They had gorgeous displays and photos ops that took full advantage of. There was also a petting zoo, synchronized light shows, ice skating rink, mazes, pony rides, outdoor games and sweet shops.
- Riparian After Dark at Riparian Preserve – Another dog friendly activity for a very affordable price Nova and I enjoyed a walk around the preserve and enjoyed the light displays. It was relatively short but there were food trucks in the parking lot if I wanted to make a longer stay of it.
- APS Electric Light Parade – This tradition happens after dark in Phoenix and has a parade of cars, float, buses and really anything with wheels you can imagine completely decked out in holiday lights and decorations. I didn’t realized how big of an event this was, I tried to find a spot to stand just as the parade was about to start and the entire sidewalk was packed shoulder-to-shoulder. People seem to make a whole day of it and have cook outs and coolers with lawn chairs.
- Scotttsdazzle Holiday Extravaganza – Not a singular event but I’m adding it to the list because they had some gorgeous decorations to explore and I walked by a couple of outdoor paint classes that seemed pretty cool. It happens in Old Town were all the cute boutique shops were so I could get some shopping done and swing by and look at the directions. They have a calendar of events over a two month period and some looked genuinely fun.
- ZooLights – This was one of my favorite events. This wasn’t dog friendly since it takes place at a zoo but the decorations were just incredible. The entire zoo was decorated and there was a massive synchronized light show over a lagoon.
Phoenix had been my first winter and first Christmas season outside of New York and it felt so bizarre to be walking around holiday shows at night in a light jacket or a hoodie. It felt a little challenging to get in the Holiday spirit in such warm weather and it felt comical when booths were selling hot chocolate on a warm Phoenix night.
Of course, hiking was on list in Phoenix, AZ though if I were being honest I was getting a bit sick of the desert terrain. Everything was just brown or that red clay. My hiking boots and sneakers were stained from hiking in the ashy, red clay. I admit that I saw my first saguaro cactus in real life I was giddy like a child. But they were so common around the area that got pretty accustomed to them. Like old trees with thick trunks and towering branches, large saguaros could have started growing long before I was born, and probably were and there’s just something incredible about plants that have been around for so much.
My favorite artist, Dale Chihuly had a couple of exhibits going on in Phoenix; one at the Desert Botantical Garden and another at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Taliesin West. I managed to visit both installations
I most recognize the name Frank Lloyd Wright from that famous house he built that is on top of a waterfall that circulates around social media often but there are a lot of people I know that are huge Frank Lloyd Wright fans. I’ve never really familiarized myself with his work and didn’t even know that he build himself two homes; Taliesin in Wisconsin and Taliesin West in Scottsdale. I bought tickets as a part of a short tour through the house and got to learn a bit about Wright, his family and his work.
While I can understand that he was an incredible architect there were some qualities of his personality and seemed to toe the line between eccentric and asshole.
For example, portions of his home were originally constructed without windows but once Wright and his wife decided to move to Phoenix full-time they needed to install windows and air-conditioning to put up with the desert heat. While the team was installing the windows, they informed Wright that a couple of large vases would have to be moved to install the windows. Wright refused to move the vases and the team instead had to CUT HOLES IN THE WINDOWS to work around the vases.
Also forgetting to mention that he had an entire team of apprentices working on the house while living in tents in the rugged Arizona desert while he and his wife stayed at a nearby hotel and drove up to the sight everyday.
My last week in Phoenix felt more like winter than the first week. I took myself to a few of my old haunts my last week, as I usually do, I went to Cartel Coffee Roasting Lab in Old Town Scottsdale and forced myself to write a little bit after being couped up due to the dreary weather.
I made the mistake of saving some of my bucket list, touristy hikes for the end of trip which had proven to be a big mistake. Most of the hikes I’ve wanted to do were short but popular rock scrambles that have been inaccessible over the holidays either due to traffic or weather. The other day I got to the parking lot for Echo Trail, the popular trail that leads up Camelbak mountain but by 9:30am on a holiday Monday the parking lot was already closed. The weather for the rest of the week wasn’t as cooperative.
I’m sad to say that the Echo Canyon (Camelbak) hike didn’t happen this visit but I’ll be back another time to conquer it!
Tuesday, I drove out to Tom’s Thumb Trailhead. It’s another popular trail but it’s more of a strenuous uphill hike than a climb which meant I felt comfortable doing that in wet weather. However, the weather managed to hold off for the most part and Nova and I stayed dry for our entire hike.
On my last Monday the host who I’ve become very friendly with left for a trip to Mexico with his pup Charlie. I was sad for Nova since Charlie and her had become such good friends but I was also weirdly sad myself to see someone I had grown familiar with over the past month leave. I have been going through this weird cycle of being sad at the end of a trip by excited for my next adventure and as I was packing up in Phoenix and getting ready to say goodbye I was excited to move on to my next stop, Palm Springs, CA!
So my adventure continues